August 31, 2018
It’s the first week of classes over here and I am BEAT. We have new departments located in the library this semester, and the increased traffic and questions about who is where have certainly bustled up the place. I did get to thinking about children’s book dogs and Clifford is one of my favorites (along with Henry and Mudge). Who are your favorite children’s book characters?
- Hyperbole and a Half, Allie Brosh. This is an old book and I break it out every now and then because it’s so funny and also relatable about mental illness, motivation, and simple-minded dogs. Highly recommend!
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Netflix. Not a reading but I don’t care because this movie was CUTE. A high school rom-com lovingly shot and with excellent source material. I hope Netflix keeps adapting good books (Tamora Pierce fantasy miniseries pls).
100 Ways to Support People with a Chronic Illness, Broadly. “9. Just as a rule: Believe people with chronic illnesses! I can assure you that they are not exaggerating. And they are definitely not using their illness to get out of commitments or get attention. If anything, they are probably minimizing what they are going through, especially if they are a woman.”
and “95. Avoid ableist language. Hearing words like “sick,” “crazy,” and “lame” used pejoratively can hurt people with longstanding symptoms.” I have incorporated two new words to replace crazy in my customer-service-living vocabulary: bananas (thanks to my first library boss Aimee), and buckwild. I feel like both words are more vivid anyway, along with being less alienating.
The Distracted State of the Union. “The average computer user of good faith who seeks regularly to read the news online now has to exercise the type of critical acumen that scholars of literature have always reserved for the analysis of texts: an intense engagement that seeks out secret meanings, hidden biases, hidden agendas.” I developed a new presentation to talk to first year students about the “information landscape,” how the puzzle pieces of scholarship, popular magazines, hugely-popular blogs, and straight-up hoax sites all compete and come at you with the same air of reliability and reason. I’m only picking at the surface of this subject in my talk, but to me it feels like one of the most essential skills in our century. The instinct to say, when you’re reading something, “Who wrote this? What’s their goal in writing it – to convince me? To educate me? To scare me or make me mad? To sell me something?”, I feel this is a vital skill.
What to Do When You Feel Overwhelmed By Your Workload, HBR. Love the suggestions for healthier self-talk regarding workload: “Even though I have many things to do, I can only focus on the one thing I’m doing right now. I’ll feel better if I do that. I would prefer to be able to get more done in a day, but I’m going to accept what I’m realistically able to do. (This phrase utilizes a common cognitive-behavioral therapy technique where it’s recommended people swap out their “shoulds” for “prefer” or “could” in order to relieve anxiety and feel more empowered).” Sometimes I think pieces like this are a little unfair because of how much responsibility they put on the individual to fix their situation, but there’s a lot of great stuff in here! The reality is you might not be able to get your boss to ease your workload, or get the extra support or resources you need at work, and things like this might help you re-frame your workload so that you can thrive.
Have a good weekend, friends!
August 24, 2018
You know when you have a problem that has been bugging you for weeks? Like a door that doesn’t fit in its jamb anymore, or road work on your commute that slows everything to a crawl for a crucial 15 minutes. For me, one of those problems was my desk chair at work. I typically avoid office chairs – the ones that spin, roll around on wheels, tip backward, and are adjustable by height give a fidgeter like me way too many opportunities to get distracted. So for the past 2.5 years, I’ve been making do with this chunky, semi-upholstered old thing. Wooden legs, wooden armrests, and a saggy cushion. But the other day I got to a point where I wanted to go home sick, my back was so uncomfortable from sitting. So I grabbed this other plastic chair, bought a yellow throw pillow from Target to put in the back, and I’ve given that set-up a shot this week. And it’s amazing what a difference a small change like that can make. I had it in my head that this was always going to be my seating situation. Just, “Guess this is my life now.” It was a click moment for me that I could change my circumstances, even slightly, and be able to breathe a little easier.
- Crying in H-Mart, The New Yorker. “Korean people tend to disavow measurements and supply only cryptic instructions along the lines of “add sesame oil until it tastes like Mom’s.” Though we aren’t Korean, this reminds me of the way my mom cooks too.
“I wonder how many people at H Mart miss their families. How many are thinking of them as they bring their trays back from the different stalls. Whether they’re eating to feel connected, to celebrate these people through food. Which ones weren’t able to fly back home this year, or for the past ten years? Which ones are like me, missing the people who are gone from their lives forever?” This is a beautiful piece that my mom sent me, and I’ll pass along her warning – don’t read it in public (unless you don’t mind ugly-crying in public, I guess). And then if you can, maybe call your mom.
- Spinning Silver, Naomi Novik. I loved this book. It’s a retelling of some familiar and some unfamiliar fairy tales, in a quasi-medieval fantasy version of Poland. It’s rich with Jewish culture and Naomi Novik’s exquisite gift of twists and turns. Something I love about her fantasy novels is that she is somehow able to spin incredibly high, even fantastic stakes alongside believable human motivations. I wish there was more fantasy like this out there.
- America is terrible at summer vacation, The Week. “As has been well-documented, America is the only advanced economy that does not mandate paid vacation time for workers. We also skimp on national holidays, many of which employees have to work anyway.
But even the roughly three-quarters of private sector workers who do get paid vacation time from their employers are leaving that resource on the table. Per Project: Time Off, American workers collectively leave more than 700 million vacation days unused per year — even though that time is considered part of their overall compensation.” Grrrr! It’s so hard to take them, not just because we’re overworked but because of a sense of loyalty, or a feeling like, “Why should I take a vacation if I can’t afford to do it RIGHT?” Girl, just sit on your porch with some pink lemonade. I took a short trip to my best friend’s house, a longer trip to Georgia, and then two short “staycations” this summer, and I’m glad I did. Especially as I look down the mossy, winding path of the new school year!
- Group Cleanse? “As humanity flocks more and more to cities, I support anything that nudges us out of them periodically, and, hell, I support anything that reduces pain and inflammation.” This was interesting to read about. The author didn’t come right out against some of the weirdness (cultural appropriation, how social media influences our experience of nature) but he leads you there. This blog post introduced me to the concept of forest bathing, and while it definitely doesn’t sound like something I’m interested in doing with a group of strangers, mindfully experiencing nature is something I’m always going to be in favor of!
- My Service Is Not Selfless, Veronica Arellano Douglas. “This is my reality: I feel as though service is performative. The ethos of service in libraries makes it solely for the benefit of others. I have to actively work to prevent my service from becoming a drain. … I think we need to value the emotional work we do as teachers, researchers, and librarians and compensate it accordingly. Just because we can’t quantify our relational work doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. It is the bedrock of our profession.” I have admired Veronica Arellano Douglas’ thoughts when I’ve come across them in her blog and elsewhere. I’m glad to join in with other librarians contemplating labor and service.
August 17, 2018
We are almost back to school! And I have a few back to school related reads for you this week, but first. What is your favorite brand of pencil? Mine are Ticonderogas – just the softest lil graphite and a very well-meaning eraser!
- Making Students Care About Writing, The Atlantic. “Analyzing the work of middle-achieving students—rather than just failing or thriving ones—can significantly improve teachers’ effectiveness with underachieving students, McKamey argues. When teachers focus on the work of the lowest-achieving students, McKamey has observed that such conversations often turn into a space to blame the students, their parents, or other teachers, or they veer off into emotionally invasive discussions of a student’s private life. Focusing on middle-achieving students who showed recent improvement helps teachers dispel unrecognized stereotypes—and learn how to notice and build on their strengths.”
- An Underappreciated Key to College Success: Sleep, NYT. This is so important! “Dr. Prichard, a professor of psychology and neuroscience and scientific director of the university’s Center for College Sleep, said the sleep habits of college students represent “a major public health crisis” that institutions of higher learning pay little attention to. Of 26 risks to well-being that colleges consider important to inform students about, sleep ranks second to last, just above internet addiction, she said.”
- Basic Needs, Security, and the Syllabus. This is such a thoughtful idea, to make a statement of needs on your syllabi. “Is this the right thing to do? Will it also help accomplish another goal – communicating to my students that a classroom of learners is, in my mind, a sort of family? Is this language exactly right? Will they respond to it as intended? I don’t know. But I’m glad I put it there.”
This is the statement she is considering for her syllabi this year, and I really appreciate this line of thinking: “Any student who has difficulty affording groceries or accessing sufficient food to eat every day, or who lacks a safe and stable place to live, and believes this may affect their performance in the course, is urged to contact the Dean of Students for support. Furthermore, please notify the professor if you are comfortable in doing so. This will enable her to provide any resources that she may possess.”
- Alternative to Thinking All the Time. I’ve read this before – maybe even linked to it before? But it’s gold. If you are approaching this fall as someone connected to education (teachers, librarians, students, parents of students, or simply people who love bouquets of newly-sharpened pencils), I invite you to remember that you don’t have to think so hard all the time. “Over time, this intention to come back to the present, to see how it tastes, becomes natural. More and more, rich experiences of ordinary things just happen. Without trying, you just start feeling the experience fully, when you’re starting your car, when you’re settling into a lawn chair, when your friend’s voice comes on through the phone. The richness in any ordinary experience, when you’re there for it, can be unbelievable. And it happens more and more.
The whole time, just in the background, accessible in any moment you feel safe to drop the mental busywork of reactive planning and worrying, is a steady stream of sweet, interesting and complex flavors, fresh ones arising in every moment. That might sound like more pretense, but it’s the opposite: it’s the only thing that’s real.”
- Agency, Not Use, ACRLog. “I am not a resource; I am a person. I am a woman with agency, skill, experience, and talent. I do my work for myself and for my community. I am a teacher who facilitates learning. I do not go to work to be used. I go to work to educate, empower, and learn.” I value this perspective as I approach this semester. I’m eager to be helpful, embedded, trusted, and yes – useful. But it’s good to be thoughtful about the words we use for what we do and the implications of them.
August 10, 2018
Sorry this post is a little late – I’m in Athens, GA for Athens PopFest and we got back to our rooms at 1:30 AM last night. I might be getting too old for this, but it’s been really fun to see a bunch of shows and walk around in the hot hot GA sun. Here are some brief reads I squeezed in earlier this week, between reupholstering some one-man’s-trash dining room chairs and snuggling my dog nonstop:
How Publishing’s Floral-Print Trend Came to Rule the World’s Bookshelves, Vanity Fair. “Florals? For spring? Groundbreaking.”
The 100 Best TV Episodes of the Century. How many have you watched? This list made me revisit the How I Met Your Mother episode “Slap Bet,” and it might lead me to some other walks down memory lane. I think this list skews a little bit too much toward DRAMA and ACTION, so now I want to make my own (shorter) list of best TV episodes…
How To Give A Better Pep Talk, the Cut. “You’ve got this,” while dripping with pump-up optimism, is not a line
that accomplishes that. Instead, try something like: “Your talking point
about that thing on your résumé are so well-rehearsed!” Or maybe:
“You’ve prepped so many good questions to ask his mom about, it’ll be
easy to keep the conversation going.” They’re not the flashiest
compliments, but they’re grounded ones. They’re based in facts. They’re
steadying. And for someone awash in a sea of nerves, it’s a relief to
have something to grab on to.” Good, short thought!
11 Writers on Their Most Embarrassing 13-Year-Old Memories. OUCH at some of these stories…Most of my embarrassing middle school memories involve my own tender, overthinking brain and the infinite potential romance of my inner world. I think I was a little weirdo.
Things to Do Before You’re 30: The Try-It-Out, Get-It-Done, Live-It-Up List!, Jessica Misener. I thought this book was going to stress me out, especially since I am aware of several areas of life where I’m pretty “behind” where I “should” be for my age (but I guess this is all subjective), but in fact this colorful little checklist of a book wasn’t all major milestones like Buy A House and Get A Promotion, but included a lot of personal growth steps like Apologize Well or Quit Smoking or Go to A Family Reunion. It was a fun way to think about dreams and goals, and to remember some of things that I have managed to do in my 20s. Like float in the Dead Sea, or spend all day in a bookstore.
August 3, 2018
This picture is pretty old, maybe my senior year in high school. But just look at that freedom, that innocence, that embrace of nature! Where is that girl? I think she’s still walking around in here, but there’s a matte layer of routine and responsibility over her now. And sometimes after a week of flood warnings, storms as you sleep, and furiously flapping windshield wipers, I forget the option to just go stand in the rain.
My wedding was perfect – and I was fat as hell the whole time, Lindy West. “I have never in my life been fatter than I was on my wedding day, I have
never shown my body in such an uncompromising way, and I have never
felt more at home in that body. I was fully myself, and I was happy. We
are happy. This life is yours, fat girls. Eat it up.” I’m going to sneak some extra reads in here because I want to
front-load this weekend with LOVE. Captain Awkward hosted a conversation
on her Patreon about bodies and the online resources and writing that “helped you be kinder and gentler to yourself and others around bodies
and/or eating,” so I shared this write-up of her wedding that Lindy West
did a few years ago. Reading this piece when I was preparing to get
married was the permission I needed to by joyfully and wholly myself
- You Don’t Have to Love Your Body, Ijeoma Oluo. Captain Awkward shared this piece and the next one, which I felt were really valuable: “I also love body neutrality. I love the freedom of slouching and
wearing gross sweatpants and not combing my hair and scratching my butt
and not giving a rat’s ass about my body whatsoever. I like allowing
fleeting moments of body negativity to pass by without so much as a
cursory glance as I get back to forgetting my body exists. I like the
rare and welcome surprise of occasionally getting dressed up and saying,
“hey sexy lady” to myself in the mirror and then once again going back
to forgetting my body exists. I like not having to strive for anything
regarding my body other than basic maintenance in the hopes of keeping
it running a little longer. I like the freedom to ignore even that.”
- The Fantasy of Being Thin, Kate Harding. “So
giving up dieting and accepting my body didn’t just mean admitting I
would never be thin; it meant admitting I would never be a million
things I might have been. (Which, I’m told, is a phenomenon sometimes
known as “maturity.”) I am absolutely not one for settling — which is
where the confusion about pessimism comes in, I think — but I am one for
self-awareness and self-forgiveness. Meaning, there’s a big difference
between saying you can’t be anything other than what you are right now,
and you don’t have to be anything other than what you are right now. You
will probably never be permanently thin, unless you are already, but
other than that, the sky’s the limit. You can be anything or anyone you
want to be, in theory.”
- Your Brain Really Does Get Slower in the Summer, The Cut. “
A new study
found that students who lived in air-conditioned buildings (where the
temperature averaged 71 degrees) performed better on tests than students
living in buildings without AC (which averaged almost 80 degrees).” I knew it! I’m sluggish in the summer and this helps me feel justified.
Mr. Rogers was my actual neighbor. He was everything he was on TV and more. “Fred Rogers’s ethos was unlike any other: scrupulously moderate,
tolerant, and anti-consumerist, driven by cutting-edge models of child
development and infused with dollops of real Christian love. (Rogers was
in fact an ordained Presbyterian minister.) At the same time,
his worldview was steeped in traditional values: discipline, modesty,
self-control — preparing children for the real world of routine and
responsibility. And he was training the parents of the future,
delivering his message across the “vast wasteland” of television and
directly into people’s living rooms.”