big life!


This is the post I’ve been putting off for quite some time now.  It’s not a lesson plan with goals and outcomes, or a PDF of a handout I made, or photographic evidence of my librarianness, so I just don’t know where to begin.  It’s real life stuff, and maybe even some emotion, and most definitely sentiment and nostalgia.  Admittedly not my strongest combination of stuff to blog about.

For that reason, I’ll start with the obvious: I made it through grad school!  I received my public librarian certification in the mail a couple of weeks ago, which means that I am officially karen the librarian!  I even have the portfolio to show for it at my very own domain (it’s in a constant state of maintenance, since I can’t seem to settle on anything, so thanks in advance for your patience).  Saturday is convocation for the iSchool, where I’ll have one last opportunity to bond, reminisce, and celebrate with my digital classmates.  I never imagined how much I would take out of this program.  Thanks to Syracuse University, my great professors, my rad classmates, and my amazing mentors, I feel absolutely prepared to be a real librarian… and I’m insanely stoked about it, too.

Considering the great transitory state of my life right now, I reckon my saga wouldn’t be complete without a shocking plot twist.  Many people already know this, but in just a few short weeks, I’ll be relocating to Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  I never dreamed I’d have a reason to move so far away from my friends and family, but then I met a pretty rad dude.  Now I have solid justification to give this a shot, and I’m very happy about it.

I promise not to write about the sweltering southern summer heat.

And yes, I am looking for a librarian gig in that area, so feel free to pass along a job offer or two.

At some point, not too long ago, I had a pretty huge realization.  It occurred to me that, with graduate school ending, I’m finally arriving at the place that I’ve worked so long to reach.  Twenty years of schooling (!!) and twenty-five years of living, all for this new journey that’s starting to unroll before me.  It feels big and awesome, and every moment of these days is approached with awareness and excitement.  I’m incredibly grateful to be where I’ve been and where I am, and optimistic about where I’m headed.  Every day I realize all over again how blessed I’ve been to have such fabulous people in my life, and I’m so appreciative of all the kickball games, visiting friends, bathroom haircuts, lunches at my favorite restaurants, track meets, golf cart excursions, long talks about life, music listening, pickled garlic eating, poetry readings, and all of the other things that make me feel at home and loved.  I’ll miss all of this terribly, but I know that there are big things in store for me, and I’m beyond excited to open myself up to new challenges and experiences.

I don’t know what I ever did to deserve such an amazing life, but I’m ridiculously thankful for every second of it.  It’s a big life, and I’m happy to be living it.


April is National Poetry Month!  I considered posting at the beginning of the month, but I figured that, if you’re reading a blog like mine, you’d probably heard about it from millions of other sources.

Now that we’re three weeks in, let me remind you:

April is National Poetry Month!

The best part about this is that, every year, my favorite issue of American Libraries arrives in my mailbox.  The April issue is my favorite because it comes with a cool poster to promote National Poetry Month.  Last year was my favorite: it featured a line from Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.

Of course, I also dig this celebration because poetry should be honored for what it is: an art that everyone can connect to in one form or another.  One of my most cherished moments of undergrad was the day that I understood that anyone can write poetry.  Anyone can write poetry, and I can prove it.

My evidence is pretty embarrassing.  You see, I am not a poet.  I know poets, and I know that I’m not one of them.  Even though I would never consider myself a member of this revered group of wordsmiths, I’ve written in verse on sparse occasion, mainly for classes.

One day, way back in the great yesteryear 2006, I wrote one of these poems.  It came to me suddenly, each syllable of the limerick flowing smoothly out after the one before.  When I was finished, I read it.  Then I laughed, and then I handed it in to my professor.

When she read it, she laughed, and then she said, “I’m sorry!  I hope it’s supposed to be funny, because it is.”

I thought it was especially funny, because I’m really not a poet.  And me, this non-poet, had that limerick published in The Angle, my college’s literary magazine.

Here, in all of its embarrassment glory, is my poem:

There you have it, friends.  I love National Poetry Month because everyone really is a poet, even non-poets like me.  So, before the month is through, take a few minutes to write something: sonnet, haiku, limerick, even prose poetry.  Stop your busy life for a moment and enjoy creating something!

POA update!


photo courtesy of Katie, from Fight for the POA Library

If you can remember all the way back to last week, then you’ll recall my post about the then-endangered Physics-Optics-Astronomy Library at the University of Rochester.  When I wrote that post, I had no idea how huge the issue really was, and what kind of audience my words would reach.  It didn’t take long for people to respond.  I heard from librarians on the issue:

The proposal to close the POA Library in order to create an engineering computer classroom is not a decision of the University of Rochester Libraries. This is a case where the library is a tenant of the College. Our short proposal focuses only on how we could best mitigate the harm of closing POA based on the resources available to us; recognizing that there are many essential elements of the POA library that simply cannot be moved or reconstituted elsewhere. The reactions of the faculty and students to the potential closure of POA has beautifully articulated what we already knew; a library is far, far more than a room with books.

Susan Gibbons
Vice Provost & Dean
River Campus Libraries
University of Rochester

I also heard from more people like my friend, who use and love the POA Library:

Hey Karen,

I’m one of the alumni from the University of Rochester, currently working on my doctorate in physics at a different institution. However, the POA library truly is my favorite memory of undergrad. Some people remember their fraternities or their sororities, or some really awesome professor, or some other really deeply impactful college experience. For myself, the POA, the friendships I made there, and the times I spent in that room, were the most deeply meaningful part of my undergraduate years. If you’re looking for a library who’s patrons are devoutly dedicated to the institution, look no further than the POA. I really highly recommend going there if you haven’t been; it’s an experience unlike any other library experience that I’ve ever had.

Call me selfish, but I’m glad that I took a few minutes to join in on the issue, because the passion surrounding this library made my little librarian heart swell with pride.  The beautiful thing was that there weren’t sides to be taken- everyone was working to maintain the best possible library experience.

Within days of my post, my friend followed up to let me know that the plans to move/split up the POA had been scrapped!  I’m sure my blog had nothing to do with it, but it was pretty rad to be in on something that had a real impact on so many students.

For me, there are several takeaways from this experience.  First of all, people really do love libraries!  In fact, lots of people have lots of love for their libraries!  Sometimes I start to think that I’m part of a very select group of people who are so dedicated to libraries and what they can accomplish in the community.  Before I can think that way for too long, an occurrence like this creates tidal waves of optimism and potential that flood far-reaching places that once seemed completely inaccessible.

Secondly, the POA Library is a perfect example of what a group of regular people can do with just one common spark.  This illustrates the power that we actually do have.  The patrons of the POA Library worked together to make a significant difference using positive expression and unyielding enthusiasm.  Who’s to say that we can’t all do that?

My extreme gratitude goes out to those who responded to my initial post.  I consider myself very fortunate to have been a minuscule part of this movement, and I’m beyond happy that the University of Rochester is continuing to provide such fantastic service to all of its patrons.

Yikes.  This morning, I was daydreaming through my morning coffee when I remembered a thought that I had all the way back in November.  As I was registering for my last semester of graduate classes, I boastfully pumped myself up for the Spring, which would only include my practica and graduation requrements.  You’ve made it, Karen, I thought to myself.  Smooth sailing from here on out.

As that memory played in my head with the fuzzy quality of a reel-to-reel, complete with sound effects, I marveled at what naivety I experienced just a few short months ago.  That’s because things around casa de k.t.l. have become an insane rush to the finish line.  Between lesson planning, resume building, studying, exam taking, job searching, kickball leaguing, portfolio developing, et al., I’ve been maintaining a teux-deux list ten miles long.

Speaking of portfolio developing: this is going to be hosted on my website, and somehow integrated with my blog.  I’m not as familiar as web design as I thought, so this is proving to be quite a challenge.  I love this part, though, so I’m reveling in the learning experience.  The point here is that there will be a new up and running sometime in the next couple of weeks, complete with my professional portfolio.  Electric!

I also have some massive life stuff coming up ahead, and it’s going to be huge.  I mean, we’re talking Billy Fuccillo huge here.  However, I’m not quite ready to share it with the world, so you’re going to have to wait.  If you already know what it is, please don’t ruin the surprise.  This means you, cousin Andy.

With graduation just weeks away, life has become an exploding fireball of stuff, work, friends, and good weather.  My goal at the moment is to get it all done well, enjoy the process, and remain fabulous while doing so.

As I’m working on all of that, please take a moment to check out the poster by Carol Harvey that came down the listserv this morning, from Sarah Chauncey, via Dr. Ruth Small:

What is a Library Media Specialist?

Happy Graduation Season, everyone!

This morning I made a casual announcement on my Facebook page reminding my friends that it’s National Library Week.  Of course, this means that you should be sure to visit your local public, academic, school, or special library to check out all the great things it has to offer.  You might even discover why I put up such a fight when someone mentions shushing to me!  If you already visit libraries regularly, go you!  We’re celebrating you, too.

Shortly after my post, a friend of mine responded with a plea to put out a librarian APB, and I wouldn’t be upholding the ethical code of my profession if I didn’t act immediately.  My friend introduced me to a wonderful resource at the University of Rochester that he and many others regularly use for academic and personal research.  The Physics-Optics-Astronomy Library, part of U of R’s River Campus Library System, offers science enthusiasts and scholars like my friend access to lots of specialized research information in those related fields.  I’ve never been there, but it seems to be an asset to the university that students and faculty regularly take advantage of.

From what I can tell, the POA Library closely follows the traditional library model.  There are a few computer workstations and access to a printer, but the focus of this library is on reference materials, bound periodicals, and electronic journals.  There may not be a coffee bar, gaming station, or iPod loans, but those things aren’t what its patrons are after.

The reason why my friend pointed this out to me is that the POA Library is slated to be renovated to include a digital work environment catered to the needs of engineering students.  The existing collection will be moved to various places, including an off-site storage facility.  A small portion of the POA Library space will be reserved as a study area for the students and faculty it currently serves, but the collection will be separate from this space.

So, really, what does this have to do with National Library Week?  Well, this year’s theme is  “communities thrive @ your library.”  It appears to me that patrons of the POA Library are one heck of a community of students and faculty dedicated to these science disciplines, and the proposed changes will create a disjointed library experience for these folks, thus eliminating the communal aspect of the POA Library.

I don’t have much information from the librarian side of this argument, other than a memo that includes a short proposal, so I am obligated to tell you that I might not have the full story here.  Whether or not that is the case, the POA Library does a great job of meeting the needs of the community it serves, and the proposed changes may detract from that effectiveness.  If the library space must be altered, it seems as though the University of Rochester can take greater consideration to maintaining the unity of the collection and its users.

I’m not here to slander the good name of University of Rochester libraries.  To the contrary- U of R has a ridiculously impressive library system that serves an incredibly diverse group of patrons.  My limited experience with the institution’s libraries has been overwhelmingly positive, and I would hate to see that change for such a devoted group of science scholars.  I welcome any comments that include more information from both sides, and really hope that all parties involved can reach a solution that benefits everyone.

To learn more about the POA Library changes and/or to join the movement, stop by the group’s Facebook page.  From there, you can learn what the story is and who you can contact to voice your opinion.

Special thanks to Rich, for pointing this out to me.  Good luck with your efforts!

In the great aught ten, I’ve executed my lesson on plagiarism to students in two schools, reaching an audience that shakes out to be a couple hundred teenagers.

And that shakes out to be several hundred teenaged eyes rolling at my cheesy jokes.  Am I on the way up, or what?

But that’s not what I’m here to talk about.  You see, friends, in my quest to abolish abysmally incomplete works cited pages from the face of the earth, there’s only one thing I discussed that no one was aware of.  In all the classes I taught, not one single student knew that you have to cite the images that you use.

So I explained to these students that using images in brochures, posters, PowerPoints, and research papers without citing the source constitutes plagiarism.  Just like the words you use, the images included in your work are assumed to be your own- unless you cite them.

More than this, I discovered that students and teachers alike are unaware of a fantastic resource for digital images.  This database of photos, illustrations, and other graphic artwork offers images that kick butt in terms of quality when compared to the results of a Google Image search.  And, unlike Google Images, this resource lets you know right away the terms of use for its content, which means that students understand whether they can use, share, and/or manipulate an image they find.

This resource, undoubtedly sent direct express from heaven, is the Creative Commons at Flickr.

For those of you who haven’t heard of Creative Commons, it’s a nonprofit organization that allows anyone and everyone to easily adapt the copyright of their creative work and subsequently share their work with the world… on their terms.  It’s a beautiful thing, something that I use often, including on this little blog of mine:

For a quick rundown of what Creative Commons is, check out their introductory video.  If you’d like to harness the good faith power of Creative Commons on your own work, visit their website to acquire a license in roughly seven seconds.

There are many more reasons why I recommend Flickr’s Creative Commons page, including the fact that the searches yield many more relevant (and much prettier) results than Google.  Also, it’s a cinch for students to conduct searches, and it includes a SafeSearch filter.

To get the awesomeness rolling, simply type “Flickr advanced search” into the search engine of your choice:

From there, click the link to the page, type in your search terms, and check the applicable boxes from the content/media/date prompts.  Before executing your search, be sure to check the box for Creative Commons content:

Click the search box, and be amazed at the delightful images that appear before your overjoyed eyes.

In case I haven’t lauded its eminence enough, the Creative Commons page at Flickr is great for students because it’s web-based image searching, but with the safety of knowing that these images have been put specifically on this site for an openly expressed purpose.  I’m spreading the word as much as I can, because it’s a great habit for students to get into, and can provide teachers, librarians, and parents with an opportunity to discuss important topics like intellectual property, plagiarism, and copyright.

At the very least, give the Creative Commons page at Flicker a shot.  If you still don’t understand why I’m so excited about it, you can always go right back to Google Images, right?

One notorious rumor about librarians is that we love books.  Common people think that we all eat, drink, and breathe the written word, reveling in the feel of ink on paper and the comforting, musty earthy aroma that lingers in between the pages.

Did I say notorious rumor?  Because what I meant was ubiquitous fact.  Sure, librarians come in all shapes, sizes, and skill sets, but it’s generally safe to say that we dig books.  Even if, like me, we don’t have as much time as we’d like to read titles of our own choosing.

Regardless of our passion for paperbacks (not to discriminate against hardcovers, but I was really going for the alliteration), librarians also understand the value and necessity of routinely weeding our collections.  I just discovered that I’m going to be moving out of this apartment in a couple of months, so I decided to dive right into applying tried-and-true deselection criteria to my personal library.

I was trucking right along, determining what books I could live without, that my back might be spared the agony of hauling my currently massive freight.  I’d gotten almost entirely through my leisure reading shelves when I stopped to admire my progress.  Checking out my weeded pile, I was pretty impressed with my ability to let go:

And then I turned around to examine my pile of keepers, and my sense of accomplishment immediately dropped to the floor and slipped through the cracks in the hardwood:

How am I supposed to let go of any of these?  I love pulling them off the shelves for a second read (or third, or fourth, or twelfth read), sticking post-it flags on pages with particularly fascinating passages, or checking out the notes I scrawled in the margins.

With a few more shelves of novels to go, as well as all of my professional resource books, a load of art/visual publications, and some instructional volumes, I’m approaching full-on heartbreak with a side of anxiety.

Since there’s no doubt that something will have to go, I think I’ve come to a healthy, intelligent decision:

I will just get rid of all my furniture instead.