August 21, 2009

A Library's Approach to Books that Offend

In case you haven't seen it already, NYTimes wrote an article about BPL's locked vault containing TinTin au Congo.

I have nothing new to say about this, except to share my favorite comment that has been posted thus far:

I am Czech. The citizens of my country, and many more people in nearby countries, have suffered for generations under various dictatorships and autocracies that, among other things, enjoyed telling them what they could or could not think, say, read, or listen to.

The sight of a locked vault full of banned books has problematic associations with the years of occupation. It makes me very uncomfortable. Therefore, I submit to you that the vault is racially and culturally offensive to Czechs and the entire room should be locked up inside yet another bulletproof vault.
— Marenka

August 18, 2009

Courses Complete!

I am proud to announce that I have completed all my requirements for my Masters of Library and Information Science at Pratt Institute. Although I don't get my physical diploma until October, I am done! Yay!

It's been a crazy year and a half juggling work and school (and fun) all together. I started at Pratt in January 2008 while working as a part time circulation clerk at my childhood library. When we had a Pratt Grad come to visit my Information Professions class in February to speak about working at Brooklyn Public Library, I decided to apply.

I became a Young Adult Librarian Trainee and now understand what the phrase 'trial by fire' is all about. My first summer at BPL, I took a Young Adult Lit class with Jack Martin which introduced me to so many wonderful YA authors (some in real life) and got me revved up for working with this never-a-dull-moment age demographic. I was able to instantly implement theory into my work.

A little over three months ago, I took my current position at West Orange Library as their Teen Services Librarian. It's an incredibly busy library with a lot of town support. Now that I don't have to leave early to attend class, I am working 3 late night shifts (1-9) so I can be here when the teens will be here as well.

It's great to be done, but there is a little worry in the back of my mind that without Pratt's academic atmosphere of sharing and questioning elements of libraryland, I'm slowly going to become removed from the beat of modern libraries. I know this is not going to happen, because I don't want it to happen.

My plan:

- Keep up with this blog (haven't been so good as of late)
- Keep up with other library blogs.
Although many seem to exist in order to get free materials and some even to propel the bloggers into the center stage, there a bunch that always hit up their users with sage advice, important news, and big questions. Library Garden and In the Library With the Lead Pipe are the two that come to mind immediately.
- Get involved with NJLA
I'm most looking forward to meeting once every two months to help decide the Garden State Book Awards for 2010. Meeting with librarians in different situations will no doubt keep me current with what's happening elsewhere
-Keep doing my job.
Especially the part where I listen to what the teens in my community need and want their library to do for them.

July 13, 2009

Self Googling

I google myself fairly frequently. While one of my reasons for doing this is high self esteem (ok, I guess we could call it vanity), I also want to keep tabs on my online footprint. It's pretty easy since to my knowledge, I am the only Emily Chornomaz in the english-writing online world. I recently had to get in contact with an old friend from high school - the webmaster of a site where a group of friends posted poetry.

During a selfgoogle, I discovered that one of my poems on this website was pretty risque (in fact, entitled Risque) and send a message for him to remove it. (The poem wondered if certain letters got upset that they were used together to form the mother of all curse words). He was happy to help and I'm glad it won't be available on a live internet search. But let's face it, it's likely still available on internet archive. I think I'm pretty lucky though, if this is the 'worst' of me on the web.

So imagine my surprise when just minutes ago, I found a half-naked picture of myself online. haha! Don't freak out just yet, it's a baby picture my parents submitted to a Ukrainian newsletter. But really, that's a little jarring. Before the internet, I assumed the Ukrainian Weekly had a pretty tiny (but commited) community of readers. With its digitization, any content published is just a google search away from anyone with internet access.

This is obvious, and I know that I've talked about this before...but people! The internet is changing our world in so many ways on so many levels. There are a lot of potential awful information that can become available online incredibly easily. Librarians are such perfect candidates to inform users about these risks and how to attck a problem when it comes about. Does your library offer any internet safety/privacy workshops or materials?

May 27, 2009

Growing up tech

from Micah Sittig

Has everyone read Texting May Be Taking a Toll in the NYTimes already? Did it kind of freak you out? American teenagers are sending out and receiving (on average) about 80 texts a day - almost double from the year before.

An older item from the CBBC Newsroom said in 2002 that kids' thumbs are getting bigger and stronger. Some young people are even using their thumbs to ring doorbells or point. Motorola calls them the 'thumb generation.'

These are pretty significant changes in thumbs and in personal accessibility! NYTimes points out that the physiological, physical, and psychological effects of this constant connection to peers and parents using the upper extremeties is not fully known.

I have considered my lifestyle as it relates to technology pretty close with teenagers, as it wasn't that long ago that I graduated from high school and only 2 years ago that I graduated from college. Yet the more I read about modern teens tech seems absolutely unrelatable.

I shut my cell off. I don't look at it for entire weekends sometimes. It's acceptable by my family and friends for me to go off the grid sometimes. Doesn't seem like it is for these teens.

This is a significant change and must absolutely be considered by libraries providing teen services. What do you all think about this?

May 18, 2009

Safe Teens = Safe Streets

Last Thursday I had the pleasure of attending Safe Teens = Safe Streets: New Jersey’s First Working Forum on Community Collaboration at the Mercer County Community College Conference Center. The conference was sponsored by the New Jersey State Library and developed in collaboration with a bunch of groups, namely the East Coast Gang Investigators Association and the New Jersey Library Association Urban Libraries Section. Check out the flickr.

From NJLA: The purpose of this one day working forum is to bring together legislators, county prosecutors, youth services commission directors, county social services board directors, educators, gang prevention professionals, librarians, and representatives of other community agencies serving children and their families, to develop strategies and a call to action to prevent New Jersey’s children and teens from joining gangs.

Gangs are a fact in New Jersey’s rural, suburban, and urban areas with gang presence growing in all areas. The State Library is sponsoring this conference in collaboration with several other agencies and organizations to raise awareness of the role that all can play in helping to fight the problems of gangs in our state. It is hoped that this working forum will present an opportunity for collaboration for the participants and provide a stimulus to the development of new ideas and strategies that can be presented to the Office of the Attorney General’s Prevention Coordinating Council.

Cool idea, and pretty well executed! There were a lot of great discussions going on and a lot of resources and methods being shared throughout various agencies.

What left the biggest impression on me was a 'break-out session' presented by the Ocean County Library System. The librarians of Ocean County, determined to unite their community in promoting the prevention of gang activity, involved a number of entities in their towns to create the meaningful and effective 'Gang Wise Project.' Gang Wise educates the audience about the history of gangs, warning signs, and offers advice to parents and teens about avoiding them. Working with the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders, Ocean County Youth Services Commission, NJ Governor's Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, NJ Superior Court Intake Unit Ocean County, Ocean County Health Department, Ocean County Municipal Alliance, and the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office, the library pooled together the area's collective knowledge and support to make citizens aware of what's going on - and how to deal with it.

I was really impressed by this program and not only because of the dedication and meticulousness of the library staff. Libraries are not alone - there are other agencies working towards the same goals as we are. We must collaborate with other organizations to accomplish these goals whether they are about providing education or recreation. Yes, we could do it alone. But it isn't a matter of being a one-stop shop. It's about providing superior services. Use other organizations as resources, as means to amelioration. Build community.

Stepping outside the library is now an intrinsic part of being a successful librarian. Ocean County Library System's Gang Wise Project is a model of collaboration I would like to duplicate some day.

May 15, 2009


My apologies for not posting in much too long. In the past month, I've finished up the spring semester, left Brooklyn Public Library, moved, and started a new position as Teen Librarian at West Orange Public Library in Essex County New Jersey! Way cool!

I learned so much working at Brooklyn Public Libraries and met some wonderful people. Unfortunately, BPL and the other 2 library systems that serve New York City are facing massive budget cuts. Layoffs are looming. Join the Save NYC Libraries! facebook group to find out how to offer your support.

April 8, 2009

Gender roles

From the blog Sociological Images: Seeing Is Believing:

Wow. I saw this a couple days ago and was hoping it was a joke. While the post received clarification for the context of this illustation (via comments), it's still quite shocking. A cartoonist and humorist named Whitney Darrow intended this page and the book it belonged to (I’m Glad I’m a Boy! I’m Glad I’m a Girl!) to be a satire of gender roles. Phew. But wait...

Intention and reality can be glaringly different.
A commentor, Ellie, quoted some reviews of the book:

From School Libraries, published by the American Association of School Libraries, 1969: ”This warmly humorous book makes everybody glad they are what they are.”

From The Horn Book Magazine, 1970: ”He’s glad he’s a boy and she’s glad she’s a girl. In this warmly humorous book, they tell each other why and conclude that the best reason of all is — because they need each other!”

From the “Books for Children” section in Childhood Education, 1970: ”Simple drawings with line captions designed to help the young child discover his or her appropriate sex role.”

That is just nuts. Three resources librarians use and rely on to assess if materials are worth purchasing seem to have brushed over the satire, embracing the content as serious. How often does this mistake happen - not only in reviewing, but in cataloging? I've been to more than one library that has Borat's Guide to Kazakhstan in the travel section instead of with the humor. I would be devestated if a child picked up I’m Glad I’m a Boy! I’m Glad I’m a Girl in the non-fiction section amongst books like Amazing you: getting smart about your private parts and What to tell your children about sex. Thoughts? Examples?

To end with an upbeat thought ( because I always feel inclined to :) ), it's pretty great to see blogs use their medium to the fullest. Before any comments were added, the image was without author and without context. Readers were able to share their knowledge and complete the thought. What a perfect example of what this tool can do for information.

March 11, 2009

a case of borrowed identity

Since all types of librarians and information professionals have been blogging about facebook lately, I figure it's ok to add to the mix.

This past weekend, my boyfriend Joe got an unusual update on his facebook news feed. Facebook wanted to let him know that someone from his graduating class had just joined facebook. Interesting enough, this user displayed his name as Joe's full name, which admittedly, is common enough. Yet as the day progressed, the news feed updated Joe that this new user now had 10 friends in common....30 friends in common...and the profile pic of Joe2 was now a picture of him (the real Joe) and me. Whoa!

At first, we thought it was someone being clever...a goofy thing to do to a friend. But the more the imposter became friends with Joe's friends, the more we both began to feel uneasy. After texting a friend or two about it, someone let me know that a second Joe had added her on myspace too! She, and everyone else, figured that Joe had simply created another account - after all, it was the right name, right face...a little scary!

We surmised that the profile picture was taken from my myspace - which I keep public for the teens at the library to look at and add me. A coworker who had added Joe2 let us look at his profile, and the imposter barely added any information...

So what was the point of this? No one claimed responsibility with a 'gotcha!', no information was sent out, no new labels were attached... but the threat of those last two remains. Joe (the real one) eventually invited everyone he had in common with Joe2 to an event - telling everyone to delete the 2nd Joe. Joe2 suddenly made his profile pic and friends private, so we can only hope that our friends listened to the event's request.

It's pretty freaky how easy someone can be mimicked online. What kind of protection can we set in motion? Making things private helps a little, but it sure isn't foolproof. Information literacy - critical thinking - this should be emphasized when dealing with interactions online. I have a feeling stuff like this will become more commonplace, and people need to get used to being skeptical about whats going on in facebook.

So just who would be great at information literacy training/ instructional technologies? Why...public and school librarians!

February 27, 2009

A Happy Little Tale

I thought I'd share a sweet story of excited patrons who visited the library yesterday. It's not every day you meet teenagers so excited about the print collection of your branch.

Three Freshmen I hadn't seen before came up to the reference desk and asked for a Blue Bloods book. We had it on the shelf, so I brought them over to our YA section and picked it out for them. I introduced myself at the Teen Librarian and told them about two upcoming programs - our craft for March (discarded book journals) and Nintendo DS day. Their eyes lit up and they almost squealed.
"Oh my god, that's so cool! I have a DS!"
"Me too! I'm definitely gonna go to the craft thing!"
"Guys, now we have a place to go after school!"
They took my flier for all of March's YA programs. I was thinking to myself, these are the coolest people ever, haha. Then I remembered I should mention RIF to them, aka Reading is Fundamental. For those not familiar, it is a program that encourages young people to read books through incentives - ours being free books, to keep. The young women were almost jumping up and down about that! Haha! Only one of the three had her library card to sign up for the program, but the others promised they'd be back today.

It's a thrill to meet patrons so enthused about reading and excited about programming. Unfortunately, this kind of thing is probably not going to happen every day. It sure beats getting ignored, having your programs called nerdy, or simply having a deserted branch!

If you feel so inclined, post a heartwarming tale of excited patrons in the comments section. Librarians, like everyone else, have to remember and cherish the positive so we can use it to lift our spirits during a day that isn't so grand.

February 24, 2009

MLS programs...barriers to entry?

I attended two parties this past weekend, with two different groups of people and a lot of different ages. Interestingly, someone from both groups posed the same question: Is 'library school' really necessary? Not in the sense of securing a job, but for preparing for that job?

My friend Laura, who recently got her masters degree in Economics from UDel and whose mother is a librarian suggested that the MLS requirement seems more like a barrier to entry rather than an indespensible education for future librarians.

From Money Terms: Barriers to entry are anything that makes it difficult for a new entrant to break into a market. They make companies already in the market more valuable as they reduce the risk of new competition.

As we continued in the conversation, I listed some of my course topics and she argued that most of the skills I've been trained in could easily be taught through on the job training or professional development. Laura felt that the MLS is required mostly to limit the number of applicants to librarian positions... to filter all those interested down to just those who are very interested (and i should add those with the means to begin an MLS program). I had to agree somewhat. However, I do believe in the importance of librarian indoctrination that should be taking place while getting an MLS. The reiteration that libraries are to be user-centered, supplying free and easy access to all is critical.

Web design, systems design..these things are probably best taught in a classroom setting...but does it have to be through a masters program? For collection development, young adult services, cataloging... a hands-on experience seems to me to be of infinite more value than a paper or lecture.

Thoughts? Do you strongly agree or disagree? Besides fulfilling requirements on job postings, what makes an MLS essential?

February 18, 2009

Libraries - the physical space

In my Medical Librarianship class, part of our ongoing porfolio project is to draw up a floorplan for the library we are creating. What an eye-opening task this is! My colleague, Nate Hill, recently blogged a post about an open forum in Philadelphia - "Rethinking the Library" that touched a bit on what I would like to deal with in this post.

If print is dead (or at least tumbling out of the spotlight), if the digital divide is widening, if our nation is welcoming more and more people whose first language is not english, if everything that Pew's Future of the Internet says come true... our roles will be changing. No doubt. What also absolutely needs to happen - our physical spaces and buildings must change as well.

From Frieda Weise's 2004 Janet Doe Lecture: "We must advocate strongly the role for the library beyond the “storage facility,” and even the “access facility,” and focus attention on the many other place-centered activities and services that the library can support"

Now of course, with the poor economic outlook, funds for revamping or rebuilding library space will not be easy to come by. But really, how can we imagine shifting the focus of our collections and succeed in meeting our changing objectives in a space designed for other purposes? Rows and rows of shelving for print materials, a small and cramped programming area (or maybe none at all?), no space for more than a handfull of computers, no high-tech classrooms for demos...the list can go on, I'm sure.

Since the floorplan for my fictional Consumer Health Information Center in Camden, NJ (that'd be the Springsteen Consumer Health Info Center) has not really been designed with a budget in mind, I took the liberty in being very creative with the space. I still based my decisions on what professors, colleagues, and the literature has been predicting about the future of libraries. Surrounded by a community garden (with a huge green house for the colder months), with a totally tech classroom, one floor of simply program space, meeting space, lounge area, ample computer space... even though the project is a dream, it's still exciting to give my fake library the space that those who visit it - and work for it - the space that they need!

I'll be sure to post the floorplan once it is complete. If this post has piqued your interest, leave a comment. Do you think new libraries are including the right spaces and innovations? Are there ways of easily and cheaply modifying old spaces? Did you just read a fab article about this? Let me know. I'm getting pretty into all this!

January 27, 2009

so many ideas running through my head!

The spring semester has begun and I've gotten the chance to attend all three of my classes at least once. Monday night was Instructional Techonologies. The class spent a lot of time in a fruitful and amoebic (spread out everywhere) discussion on the massive question of how technology is changing education. One link I will share thus far - Ayiti, the cost of life - an online game funded by Microsoft Corporations US Partners in Learning designed by Global Kids and a group of high school students. If you're still not convinced that gaming can be used towards education and englightenment, give the game a try.

Tuesday night was Medical Librarianship. All semester long we will be working on one project - a porfolio of a library we've imagined. I am planning a Consumer Health Information Center in Camden County NJ, focused on nutrition. I have sooooo many ideas running around, I can't wait to put them all on paper. We're putting it together piece by piece. This week we're focusing on a mission statement, environmental assessment, and core values. I'm so pumped. We're even gonna get to floorplans and job descriptions!

Tonight is Cultural Diversity and Libraries. We read a an absolutely brilliant and comprehensive paper, Cultural Diversity: How Public Libraries Can Serve the Diversity in the Neighborhood and I'm excited to discuss it. Using examples from all over the world, the paper went piece by piece explaining what is necessary to make an impact with library service for immigrants and people of various ethnic backgrounds in the neighborhood. Perhaps the underlying theme in the paper is that even if all other work goes to plan, if there is not good leadership, a library simply cannot be successful.

So of course, an organization needing good leadership is pretty obvious. Yet it seems as if many do forget and attempt to forge ahead without support from above. Library directors and managers can make or break programs and initiatives. So many other factors need to be in place, but that I believe is the most critical. As a young librarian and likely holder of a future directorial/managerial library position in the future (I say this logically, as I will be in the field for another good 25 years) it will be my responsiblity to initate directives born from the ideals of library innovators and students... to tune into staff and support fabulous programs and innitiatives from the get-go... to push for changes that support the technologies of the time, to make sure the mission statement is consulted and updated, and to remember, "immigrant service is customer service" (Gary Strong, former director of Queens Library).

January 15, 2009

Teen Crafting

Last week on January 7th, the Bushwick Branch had its first monthly Teen Craft: Calendar Decorating. We normally get a good number of participants for our YA programs (Guitar Hero, Rock Band, Anime Art Contests)... but they're the same teens over and over again, and they are overwhelmingly male. Plus, man... there is only so much 'Mississippi Queen' I can take. I wanted to try out a program that might welcome some fresh blood (both male and female).

The description that ran in our monthly calendar:
Decorate and calendar for the new year with collage, markers, sitckers and more! Bring your own photos and stickers for a more personalized look.

I was lucky enough to find about 30 blank non-date specific calendars as a base in our unorganized craft room. It was more or less a regular wall-hanging sized calendar template: with the months and boxes printed up and a big empty space for art. A week after I decided on the calendar making idea, a patron brought in two large bags of a variety of magazines and asked if we could use them...hell yes! It was a perfect selection for collage. Since I used to be heavy into penpal-ing, I brought in a pretty massive collections of stickers that were crowding up my desk drawers at home. Quite easy to gather the supplies. Step one done.

I made sure to individually speak about the program with EVERY teenage girl that came into my branch (boys too, but like I said, we need more female representation) and put a flier right into their hands. I also filled in the dates of each month in my calendar for people to refer to as well as collaging a page as an example.

Fastforward to that afternoon: we had about 5 people show up initially, which I was thrilled about. Since my YA supervisor happened to be at the branch, he came down to help out. I was able to leave the program area and go back out to the floor to grab more kids... and I found a group of about 13 middle schoolers who had just been told by circulation staff (xoxo) to go to the program. Wonderful!!!

So we had a full house. About 25 teens showed up in total, and one even printed out her favorite manga characters to paste onto each month. It was great to see new faces, and I took the opportunity to go around checking out peoples work and introducing myself. I let the new kids know about our other programming and thankfully had February's craft on a flier already. About half of the new group came to this weeks Karaoke. I couldn't be more thrilled.

So what can I take from this, and reiterate with you?

-Introduce yourself and your programs to every middle and high school student that you see. And make him/her introduce his/herself! Not everyone can make it to a program, but a brief acknolwedgement of a teens present will make him/her feel a lot more comfortable approaching you.

-Make sure all the staff in your library knows what's going on with programming. That big group of students might have walked out of the branch looking for something else to do if it weren't for my lovely coworker who encouraged them to go downstairs. Communicate dude, and not just with fellow librarians.

-Try new things. Even if it was only the 5 initial teens who benefitted, it still would have been a success. Lord knows I can only take so much Guitar Hero. New programs (even 'old' ones like arts and crafts) draw in a new crowd, a different part of the neighborhood. It certaintly is wonderful to have additional patrons to serve, befriend, and collaborate with.

January 13, 2009

Spring 2009

Oh boy. Only one week left of break in between semesters. Being away from school a month makes me feel like I've never been there at all! I am truely excited though to start my three courses: Instructional Technologies with Jessica Hochman, Cultural Diversity and Libraries with Jason Baumann, and Medical Librarianship with Helen-Ann Brown (which only has 3 students currently registered including me!). 'Chornomore' aka this blog will hopefully be experiencing more frequent posts from discussions and readings around these classes! A round-up of the other courses I have taken thus far for the MLS:

Information Professions with John Berry
Knowledge Organization with Virgina Bartow
Information Technologies with Charles Rubenstein
Information Services and Resources with Deborah Rabina
Lit/Literacy for Young Adults with Hillias Jack Martin
Lit/Literacy for Children with Caroline Ward

Excellent! Stay tuned...

January 8, 2009

Malmö City Library

Wishlist for the world's libraries:
-remain pertinent
-constantly integrate emerging technologies into service
-support seasoned and new patrons

I stumbled onto Malmö City Library's page this morning and was inspired!

interior view

It's not 'new' news, but an exciting feature here is one can 'check out' a person: engage in a 45 minute conversation with someone in an entirely different pair of shoes from you (as far as religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, nationality...)

That is awesome. A helpful and fun feature, and catchy enough to be mentioned outside of libraryland (I found an article about it in the Advocate). Innovative! Smart! Marketable!

And what about this. Suggest-a-purchase form for when patrons can't find what they are looking for in the library's catalog. These seemingly small innovations make huge differences. Let's take the time to notice these types of add-ons and services that make a library stand out and get attention...and more (and more satisfied) patrons.

January 2, 2009

My first published review

I'm unabashedly excited to have my first libraryland review published. From the January 1st 2009 copy of School Library Journal:

BRASHARES, Ann. 3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows. 336p. Delacorte. Jan. 2009. Tr $18.99. ISBN 978-0-385-73676-3; PLB $21.99. ISBN 978-0-385-90628-9. LC number unavailable.

Gr 7–10—Incoming freshmen at the same high school that the original sisterhood attended, Ama, Jo, and Polly are learning that falling out of friendship is an unfortunate part of growing up. They're spending the summer apart—uprooted—dealing with divorce, unmet expectations, and, of course, boys. Fans of Brashares will likely be thrilled to get their hands on Willows, yet the story falls short of offering the chick-lit genre anything new. Undoubtedly, though, readers will become involved with the girls as they grow their separate ways, ultimately realizing that the roots of their friendship have never really come undone. The sweet (near sappy) novel will find a place on the to-read list of many tweens and teens.—Emily Chornomaz, Brooklyn Public Library, NY
link to the slj page

It feels pretty great to have this out there, like it's an official announcement of my librarianhood. Under the recommendation of professors (John Berry, Caroline Ward, and Jack Martin) I filled out an application and submitted two sample reviews (positive and negative) to School Library Journal. Probably 2 months later, The 3 Willows galley proof arrived by mail.
I read the book (which wasn't exactly of my favorite genre), wrote a first draft, consulted Jack, and submitted the finished project. Not sure whether or not it would be used, I was happy to at least receive a second book to review about a month later. Brent Runyon's Surface Tension will hopefully be my next SLJ review! I didn't know for sure my review would be printed until I saw it in their today. They also sent me the hardcover first edition in the mail about a week ago, which I thought was extremely generous. advice - find some way to get involved in libraryland besides the "job". Whether its reviewing or committees or blogging or strictly social librarian gatherings, the experiences are enriching, allow for networking, and usually add a notch to your resume. Mad cool.