Be Authentic

Lately I’ve really felt a yearning to work more with teens. I recently had the opportunity to booktalk some of Adam Selzer’s books to some fifth grade classes, and it was amazing. To prepare, I asked Adam for some fifth-grade related biographical tidbits to share with the kids. One question was, “What did you think about going into sixth grade?” Adam’s answer was, “Getting to be in a different school than my younger brother.”

When I told the kids this information, I added a personal anecdote about how when I started Kindergarten, my sister paid a girl named Stormy five dollars to play with me, so she (my sister) wouldn’t have to be bothered. I told it with the self-deprecating verve of Louis CK, and half the kids laughed while the other half sort of gasped. It was really quite something to see the kids react to my sad little tale. I think they appreciated how vulnerable I was, while being humorous with it at the same time. It was a true story that they could identify and empathize with, and it really got them on my side for the rest of the presentation.

For another example, after showing the kids some pictures of Adam in fifth and sixth grade (which, man, those pictures are awesome), I wandered off on a tangent about hammer pants, scrunchy socks, rolling one’s jeans, body touch clothing, and stirrup pants.(I may also have sung a bit of, with hand actions, 2 legit 2 quit.) The kids had very little idea what I was talking about, but they (and their teachers) definitely responded to my dorky enthusiasm.

I think this trips up a lot of people when it comes to working with teens. They don’t need–or particularly want–you to be into exactly what they’re into, but they do appreciate if you are into your own thing, and can geek out, and therefore understand the feeling when they’re geeking out about something.

Sometimes your interests will overlap (some eighth graders I know share my enthusiasm for Doctor Who, and like that I know quite a bit about memes) but this definitely is not required to work well with teens. What they respond to is whether or not you’re being authentic, real, and genuine. You might have absolutely not idea what they are rambling on about, but if you’re genuinely excited that they are excited, they’ll keep talking to you, and let you in on what inspires, excites, and amuses them. If you’re fake, it doesn’t matter if you’re faking it about all the things they’re really into, they’re not going to like you. Nobody likes a poseur. It makes people feel like you’re not taking seriously something that’s important to them, and that pisses people off. Teens, especially, have finely tuned bullshit detectors. Don’t force squeals about Justin Bieber if it’s really Michael Buble who really trips your trigger (and don’t try to use teen slang if what you’d actually say is trip your trigger, awesome sauce, or 2 legit 2 quit).

I think that teens need to see people who are fully and confidently themselves, when they are in such a period of flux, growth, and discovery. At the very least, it’s a model of interaction that I’ve been able to use with success. What about you? Whether you work with teens or not,  are you able to be as much your authentic self when you’re at work as possible? Or do you feel the need for an elaborate workplace persona?

On the Front Lines

I’m attending a small but mighty conference at the state capital called On the Front Lines this week, and I had the pleasure of presenting Tech for Tots to a lovely group yesterday afternoon. I’ve put together a Pinterest board of all the articles I used while putting the slide show together, so head over there if you want to read further.

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Essentially my talk covered screen time for kids, and the difference between new tablet/touch screen technology and good old fashioned television. My basic philosophy is this: tv is passive, and will do nothing for children, especially those under two. Tablets, and their accompanying apps, are more interactive, and especially when parents spend time teaching their children to use the apps.

Many thanks to Little Big Blog for creating the awesome, mocking Your Baby Can … series (and the blog url is wrong on the slide, sad face!), and to Walton Goggins and Benedict Cumberbatch for being incredibly attractive.

Be The Change

What we need is toolkit for dealing with these roadblocks. Some ideas to get us safely started. I want to make change but am so overwhelmed by all that needs to be done in my system, I’ve no clue where or how to start. Maybe for your next post?
Thanks for helping keep me inspired and energized about my career!

Even though I’m thirty-two years old, I’m way behind in terms of emotional development. My childhood and young adulthood were beyond dysfunctional, putting me at a severe disadvantage when it comes to interpersonal relationships. It’s only recently that I’ve begun to feel that I’m somewhat equipped to handle the world in an emotionally appropriate way. This isn’t to say that I have all the answers, but I have learned many lessons, the most important being: you can’t control anyone but yourself. This is true for any relationship you’ll ever have, personal, professional, and everything in between.

So when it comes to putting together a toolkit for being awesome, that’s where you need to start–with yourself.

Take care of yourself.
Make sure you get enough sleep, exercise, water, and things to eat that are whole and fresh. Get massages when and if you can afford them, or take a yoga class. If you work at a desk, get up every twenty or thirty minutes and walk around a bit.

Speak up for yourself
If someone’s making you feel uncomfortable, threatened, afraid, or just plain icky, speak out. Be polite, be courteous, but be firm. If you need something to accomplish your job–and make sure it is a genuine need, not just a want–ask for it. Any time you speak up, make sure it is from a place of calm. Don’t be afraid to be passionate, but you don’t want to come across as an emotionally unstable harpy, either. Make sure to document any problematic interactions you have. If things have to progress to official channels, you’re going to want things written down and dated.

Educate yourself
If there’s no professional development money, do the next best thing–converse on twitter, read blogs, or ask your boss if you can go visit other nearby libraries to network and gather ideas.

Make an example of yourself
Be awesome in public. Go above and beyond, even if your coworkers snipe at you and no one in administration seems to care. You’re going to know you’re doing a good job, and when it comes time to make a move somewhere better, you’ll be able to speak passionately and truthfully about how you’ve helped your patrons. If you have tons of ideas you’re unable to implement, blog about them–perhaps someone else will be able to make it happen. While that is really not as satisfying as doing it yourself, at least someone will benefit from your wonderful idea.

Easier said than done, sometimes, but these are some guidelines I try to follow in my own life. What about you? How do you handle soul-sucking workplaces, tiresome red tape, and general unawesomeness?

You must be the change you want to see in the world.
Mahatma Gandhi
Indian political and spiritual leader (1869 – 1948)

Let’s Get Digital

I’m using Digital Storytime and the CYBILS site to curate a collection of early literacy apps for my library’s iPad. I’d really like to offer these apps to my patrons who are interested in items such as Your Baby Can Read and Hooked on Phonics, but I’m not sure of the best way to circulate this iPad. Do other libraries allow these expensive items to go out the door? Do you make them in house use only?

Here are some of the apps I’m looking to buy:

Wee Sing & Learn ABC.
The Edible Suit, based on the new vestments by Edward Lear
Dr. Seuss’ ABC (pretty much any Dr Seuss app, actually)
Harold and the Purple Crayon
Richard Scarry’s Busytown
Don’t Let the Pigeon Run This App
I have to get there
Any BOB book apps
Nosy Crow Cinderella
Any Sandra Boynton Book Apps
The Monster at the End of This Book

Go Away, Big Green Monster

Does anyone else use book/literacy apps in their library, either as a collection or as a programming tool? Let me know!