Thursday, November 20, 2014

Are you a reluctant reader?

When you read....   





                                        Are you......?






                                     Or are you....?


After I graduated from my Masters Teacher program I was eager to enter the classrooms of the inner city to enlighten tomorrow's youth with literature, art and lessons from the humanities. I was young, enthusiastic and clearly idealistic and misinformed! Those woeful first months had me crawling into bed before 7 PM and questioning much of my recent graduate training and my sanity. I could not wrap my head around how these kids could not get immediately under the spell of good books like I had always been. I worked really hard to stay away from traditional textbooks and instead provide engaging articles and materials. One day, exhausted and disenchanted, I forgot my presentation for the day, so I turned to one of my all time favorite books, D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths and began to read aloud. My teaching would never be the same. 

My initial misguided approach had been that I thought the kids were not given the right reading material all along, which is why they had become reluctant readers. What I learned is that it has much less to do with the text itself, and so much more to do with the interaction between author and audience. It was my passion for the stories that got the kids engaged and brought them into a suspended reality wherein the 'reading' itself did not matter. 

Many of whom we currently label 'reluctant readers' think of reading as a tedious undertaking.  It's important to remind these 'types' that not all books are physics texts! (No offense to the physics peeps - I'm married to one, in fact...) but when one engages in a riveting tale of adventure or romance or whatever it is that gets the blood pumping, one almost forgets that reading is an active verb. Great reading should feel like it is in the passive voice! The literature becomes a gift to be received rather than painstakingly interpreted. It could be like the analogy of playing your favorite sport versus jogging on a treadmill. Same cardiovascular achievement, but radically different levels of enjoyment, right?

This week we have researched a bunch of different books that have been cited as great reads for the 'reluctant reader'. (Some say that reluctant reader is code word for boy, but this is just not true. There are plenty of  R.R.s without the Y chromosome!) We have filled the electronic classroom with such titles and we ordered a slew of new books that we did not have in our collection. These you can find on the cube near the wall of new books. Look for the "Save a Turkey! Feast on Books!" sign.


Another excuse for many R.R.s is that they do not have enough time. Again, I will make the analogy to exercise. No one has this plethora of extra time in the day for it, but we make a little window here or there and we ALWAYS feel better thereafter. You put one foot in front of the other. Working in a community like Govs, I understand the academic demands can often times feel inhumane, I too attended a rigorous school like ours, and I am sure more than a few of you have heard me refer to it as the pressure cooker! At the end of the day, however, to NOT log on to Facebook, and instead take a moment to check in with a good read, guarantees that pressure cooker will somehow lose a bit of its seal overhead. 

Maybe over Thanksgiving break would be the perfect time to pick up a book for pleasure. And if you don't see anything that speaks to you personally, ask a librarian for some other suggestions.

The Pesky Librarians wish you a peaceful and joyous Thanksgiving!

In Gratitude,
Mrs. Masterson

Monday, November 17, 2014

'Cause I'm All About Those Books

If you have gotten to know me in the slightest, you know that a) I live in Maine and b) I love books!
Well, when I came across this hilarious parody by high school students FROM Maine, ABOUT books, I couldn't resist including it in my blog!

Introducing The Mount Desert Island High School version of
Meghan Trainor's "All About The Bass":

Pretty funny, huh?

There is something so quintessentially Maine about these kids, but I hope this is a quality that is not only found in Maine teens. At first glance, you might call it an innocence of sorts, something that comes from growing up in the sticks with not much to do, but I tend to think of it as the young confidence that comes with education and support. These kids are having a blast singing -  in their high school library no less! They are undoubtedly kids with character, humor and role models.
Think about the videos, vines and instagrams most kids this age are posting. Generally speaking they are not about the joy of reading. Most high school girls are not willing to sing on youtube "You know I won't be no closed-minded, blank-lookling Barbie doll, so if that's what you're into then go ahead and move along".

That this video has already received thousands of likes and reposts suggests that there is a growing group of cool and bookish teens that aren't afraid to celebrate their intellect. And THAT is pretty cool!

Once upon a time, you all loved to read or be read to. I invite you to spend a bit of time each day trying to reconnect with that inner reader. Maybe grab a book of poetry or a graphic novel, a magazine or a short story, or the children's book you used to love as a child. Don't ever lose that sense of curiosity that brought you into a school like Govs in the first place. At some point we confuse reading with the quest for knowledge and school driven projects. Just remember that books are the foundation for so much of life's adventures and as Emily Dickinson said,

“There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away"

"Cause I'm all about those books, bout those books, bout those books. Start Reading!"

Thursday, November 13, 2014

November Displays!

It might be easy to underestimate the workforce behind this library desk, but let's set the record straight. We have a cast of super talented people on our staff in the library here at Govs, with an array of degrees and ranging talents, but one of our most unsung heroines, is the diva of the display cases, Mrs. Amy Custance! She wears many hats in the library, and is responsible for the amazing display cases outside of the electronic classroom. She somehow manages to create a hall of joy and inspiration with her work.

We hope that you spend some time taking in the array of ever changing displays throughout our library. A lot of time, research and creativity gets poured into these gems. It is always nice when students and staff stop to appreciate them or have a casual conversation with us regarding a display. We strive to pique your curiousity and you consistently prove such an attentive and (somewhat) captive audience.

This month, one case showcases the engineering feat of the Hoover Dam, designed by a Govs alum, no less!

A couple of resources include:

COLOSSUS:   Hoover Dam and the making of the American century

This epic story of the dam—from conception to design to construction—by Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik exposes the tremendous hardships and accomplishments of the men on the ground—and in the air—who built the dam and the demonic drive of Frank Crowe, the boss who pushed them beyond endurance. (Amazon)
627.82 HIL

America's Master Dam Builder : The Engineering Genius of Frank T. Crowe 

A biography of Crowe tracing his career from early on and up through the building of  the mighty Hoover and Shasta Dams.

 627.8 ROC

Great Projects: The Epic Story of the Building of America, from the Taming of the Mississsippi to the Invention of the Internet
From the various engineering feats that knit America together and enable its cities to function, Tobin selects eight creations--and the driving engineers behind them--for hero-scale treatment. Few will disagree with the national significance of his selected projects, except for Boston's controversial "Big Dig" highway, which, although impressive from an engineering standpoint, has experienced huge cost overruns. Tobin's seven other creations have indeed transformed large sections of the country, in particular the still-awesome Hoover Dam. This generously illustrated work is a companion to a PBS series scheduled to air in early 2002 and will dispel our tendency to take for granted the conveniences of electricity, clean water, and flood control. Aside from Edison, none of the figures Tobin profiles are now household names, but they were lauded in their day as mechanical messiahs, and we still benefit from their vision. A winning testament to American ingenuity.  (Booklist)
609.73 TOB

The second display case marks the 25th anniversary of the Berlin Wall coming down.

Highlighted resources include:

Stasiland: Stories from behind the Berlin wall
"During its 40-year history, the German Democratic Republic--East Germany--was, with Soviet assistance, the perfect police state. The organ of surveillance within the GDR (as well as foreign intelligence activities) was the Stasi, which, better than any other modern secret police, had organized a large army of citizen informers. Australian writer Funder thoroughly documents that culture of domestic spying and its effects on a cross-section of East German society. To call the stories that she relates as Orwellian is rather an understatement; the fact that they are true alone goes beyond Orwell: the mysterious death of a husband while in detention, the sudden "nonexistence" of a rock star, a mother's separation from her critically ill infant. What the reader learns from these stories is that evil swings like a pendulum, from the banal to the surreal, but no matter where it is in the spectrum, it always leaves pain behind." (Booklist)
363.283 FUN

"Something to do with the Wall" (DVD)
In 1986, Ross McElwee and Marilyn Levine first shot footage on the 25th anniversary of the Berlin Wall's erection, when the imposing structure was still very much intact as the world's outstanding symbol of the Communist hard line and Cold War lore. They thought they were making a documentary on the community of tourists, soldiers, and West Berliners who lived in the seemingly eternal presence of the graffiti emblazoned eyesore. But in 1989, as the original film neared completion, the Wall came down, and McElwee and Levine were in Berlin again, this time to capture the radically different atmosphere of the reunified city. (Amazon)
DVD 943.087 SOM

Mrs. Custance always creates displays that are both visually appealing and rich with text and images.  And for those who get hooked on a particular subject matter, there is always a host of materials available to check out. You will not find outdated, dusty reference books here, instead  an array of topical DVDs, art books, time lines and current articles. I guarantee that if you spend 5 minutes in front of these display cases each month, you will be a more inspired and intelligent student. Enjoy and Kudos to Mrs. Custance!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Save our Libraries, From Ptolemy to Gaga

A reconstruction drawing of what the Library at Alexandria may have looked like

The fire that burned the great library in Alexandria is one of the greatest tragedies in ancient history. Alexandria was a Hellenistic city founded in Egypt, the epicenter of Alexander the Great's achievements, and a city of wealth and learning. A place where foreign scholars were paid to come and study in honor of the Ptolemy. The great library, built in 283 BCE, had lecture halls, laboratories, an observatory, a dining hall and a zoo! The collection of books supposedly was over 500,000, and at one point, over 100 scholars lived there full time.

The Great Library Scrolls

The scholars did not have to teach or write in return for their studies and the palace supported their research. It truly was an intellectual Shangri-La, if you will. Unlike many of the libraries that existed in the ancient world, the library at Alexandria was open to anyone who could prove themselves a worthy scholar. It was at its very core a democratic institution. The loss of the library at Alexandria was so devastating because the works of many Roman scholars, literary geniuses, and historians were destroyed and lost forever. The fact that this state subsidized center for the imaginative and the intellectual burnt to the ground in one fell swoop is a tragedy that has always pulled at my nostalgic heart strings.

Here comes the devastating part. I recently read an article that disproves the catastrophic fire. The library at Alexandria was doomed mostly to budget cuts. Budget cuts?! How anticlimactic! An all too human foible is to blame for the loss of the greatest library of all time?!

Certainly, Alexandria was known to be a volatile city as Christians, Pagans and Jews lived there together, so surely there was a fire or two. Or three. But recent scholars have suggested that it is not the fires that doomed the library, but the gradual decline in support. Library historian Heather Phillips

"Though it seems fitting that the destruction of so mythic an institution as the Great Library of Alexandria must have required some cataclysmic event . . . in reality, the fortunes of the Great Library waxed and waned with those of Alexandria itself. Much of its downfall was gradual, often bureaucratic, and by comparison to our cultural imaginings, somewhat petty."

Pretty disenchanting rendition, huh? The catastrophic fire is at once heartbreaking and inescapable, while budget cuts seem egregious and way too close to home. How is it that humans could lose site of the common collective for intellectual betterment? Could it happen again and/or is it happening again? It seems like you hear a lot in the news about libraries facing budget cuts across the country. Has history taught us nothing? Research shows that the country’s highest-performing students come from schools with excellent library centers.

As we have recently voted in a whole new sector of representatives for our country, time is of the essence in speaking our minds about how important our libraries are to us and why. I would hate to see the digital libraries of the 21st century be mythologized as ending in a natural disaster of epic proportions. Let's be honest, let's get real, and according to Gwyneth Jones, [librarians] get more like Lady Gaga!

Here is Gwyneth Jones, The Daring Librarian's Blog on how so:

"Times are tough all over for education. Superintendents and administrators are making some hard financial decisions. Any position that does not have constant student interaction, testing expectations and direct grading is vulnerable. Librarians and school libraries are at a crossroads.

This is one of the most exciting times to be a teacher-librarian in our country and is also the scariest. A revolution is at hand, and we need to be nimble, daring, digital and shift both our practice and the way the world thinks of school librarians and libraries. Some revolutions compel you to throw everything out. This revolution is easy ... keep what you love but just make a shift.

Author Seth Gordin recently said: “A librarian is a data hound, a guide, a sherpa and a teacher.”
I like that... We are NOT expendable because we are guiding the minds of our students to lead them to become life-long learners, curious searchers, and good digital citizens.
Librarians must teach Google ed and social media ed because we know kids are going to connect and create online, and its better that they do it with knowledge, discernment, responsibility and ethics. We must shift our language, adding words like attribution, tagging, widget, Creative Commons, transliteracy, and authority. 
Shift perception! We need to be more like Lady GaGa than Lady Bird Johnson. We need to establish a clear, pervasive, vibrant, and involved presence in their school, community, and on the web. The more visible librarians are the less likely that they’ll be taken away. Those teacher librarians who are hiding their brilliant programs under a bushel, that’s when they’re most likely to get cut.

We need to stay positive, be proactive, and always be professional!"

I think these two would agree!! 

Claudius Ptolemaeus    

Lady Gaga

                  (And just to be on the safe side, don't play with matches in the library)    

Thursday, November 06, 2014

The Attitude of Gratitude

Gratitude is our theme this month in the library. Having a grateful approach to life, cultivates not only reverence for the way we use our time and resources, but gratitude for the time and things we are granted.

Ms.Chase has been practicing the art of daily gratitude for the past year or so following the simple guidelines from the seventeenth Dutch philosopher, Rabbi Baruch Spinoza.
He suggests that each day for a month, we ask ourselves the following three questions: 


Who or what inspired me today? 

What brought me happiness today? 

What brought me comfort and deep peace today?


Baruch Spinoza
Spinoza believed in a philosophy of tolerance and benevolence. He inspired people to live with an appreciation for all living things, both great and small. Albert Einstein attributed much of his world view to the Rabbi. Spinoza equated God with Nature, which was consistent with Einstein's belief in an impersonal deity. In 1929, Einstein was asked whether he believed in God and he replied, "I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings.

For the month of November, we are decorating the library's foyer columns with gratitude chains, created from twine and tags with your written offerings of gratitude. Please take a minute to express what you are most thankful for. And consider the Rabbi Spinoza's questions, it might just make this Thanksgiving the very best yet.





Monday, November 03, 2014

The Power of the Written Word

Some folks will try to convince you that printed media is dead. Here in the library, we beg to differ. Print is physical, and has a potency one has to acknowledge: pictures and words that live outside of a screen are different. They have a resonance that digital media can not. Images and ideas on the ether are totally cool in their own right, but if you suffer with a nostalgia for permanence and substance for things you can carry with you or leave behind, then you will always succumb to the power of print. I am not trying to start an intellectual debate over which medium is better, rather encourage you to always come back to the written word. (The words that exists on paper, that is!)
I love glossy magazines with pretty pictures of things I want and places I want to discover. I love how my poetry books are tattered on the pages I always turn to. It's hard to feel that way about the bookmarks page on my laptop...

I bring up the argument for printed media because this year we have added some new magazines and journals that are truly worth a flip through. They will neither disappoint nor give you a 404 error message that a "page is not found".

1. The Surfer's Journal

2.Yes! Powerful Ideas, Practical Actions     

 71 Cover LARGE.jpg

3. Vegetarian Times

1114_VT November cover_med

4. The Alpinist

5. Mental Floss

6. Mother Earth News

Right now we are creating a grateful chain in the library in honor of November being the month for gratitude. Come on in and leave a card inscribed with something you are grateful for. Then attach it with twine to the other cards left before you. You can remain anonymous, but you might recognize mine.