Tag Archives: Day 2

ALA Session: Disaster Response- Lessons Learned

This was my Saturday afternoon session. For some reason, I’m really drawn to disaster recovery. I don’t know what it is,  but I have a sneaking suspicion it has to do with the idea of being ready to respond to details on the fly, while preparing beforehand for as much as possible. I have a tendency to focus on the details that other people don’t think about (but not as much as my mom does!)- in 2007 during the Witch Creek Fires in San Diego, I was the one in the family who took pictures of how the family photos were hanging up in the hallway so as to know where they went when we put them back up, and remembered the little things (like baby books) tucked away in boxes in the garage. So, I like the nitty gritty details, and disaster planning is definitely an area where the nitty gritty becomes the big and important. Also, this last semester in my Records Management class I wrote my final paper on disaster planning, and focused on the cloud (which is also awesome because Sunday morning I went to a session on cloud management! Post here), so I had some background going into this.

I saw Jeanne Drews, the Chief of Binding and Collections Care at the Library of Congress, speak for a little bit on the work that goes into preparing the disaster plan and COOP, or continuity of operations plan for an institution as gigantic as LC. There are a couple of things about planning for LC- like the fact that it has over 140 million items in the collection (upwards of 150 mil, depending on where you look), the oldest building that is part of the LC was built in 1897, it’s got maps, books, A/V recordings, Mary Todd Lincoln’s pearls, the largest flute collection amassed in the U.S….there’s a lot of variety to take care of, so planning has to take all of that into account.

Disaster planning is disaster planning, regardless of what library you’re at. So some of the more important pieces of what I got out of her presentation was the idea of the ICS and the amount of work it takes to create a federal contract. The first, ICS, or Incident Command System, tells you how first responders talk and are trained, because as librarians, we are not going to be first on the scene- we’re going to be second. Having a crosswalk between emergency workers and those who are not would be enormously helpful when trying to communicate in a high tension situation. Think of ICS like a management system that tells people what to do who don’t normally work together. Helpful!

The second bit, how much work it takes to build a federal contract- wow. Just wow. There are loads of different rules that have to be followed, and it’s a very long process. No wonder there are so many lawyers that work for the government!

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ALA Session: Critical Thinking in A Digital Age: Positive Influence of Web 2.0 Tools

Saturday afternoon I went to the first hour of a discussion on web 2.0 tools in education. It was sponsored by American Association of School Librarians, and was pretty interesting. A quick and dirty summary:

Student need for searching and information has changed, because the process of searching has changed and the information available has exploded. The greatest need (because it’s suffered the greatest change) is critical thinking skills. This will come as a surprise to no one, because the educational community has been shouting about it for years now (AMC: I feel like I was even told while in school that we lacked critical thinking skills, but perhaps now it’s less of a motivator and more of a reality?) and librarians and teachers need to work on using tools and programming to help students build skills that allow them to go beyond what the question asks them to write down to what the question asks them to think about.

My favorite part was discussion about the “google-proof question” or the writing of questions that require more than copy-pasting from the homework email into the search box. This term comes from the Electric Educator, and he writes about it in this blog post here. The basic idea is that a google-proof question hits the highest two levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy, synthesis and evaluation. Answering questions as these levels requires thought and commitment, and more than a 30 second search.

As for technology mixed in with education, the web 2.0 part of the session if you will, some things to keep in mind. Students don’t know as much about computers as we like to think we do. When shown a fake website, students in one study thought the whole thing was real. They didn’t know how to evaluate it or how to tell good information from bad information. This is something we need to teach. There are bazillions of tools out there (wordpress, the Google suite, Evernote, Edmodo, Skype, just to name a few) that link students and schools together, boost collaboration, and help with critical thinking that should be used often and with enthusiasm, in order to give kids the skills they need to not just survive, but excel in today’s world of computers. Computers are awesome! the Internet is awesome! But we need to make sure everyone knows why they are awesome. And that’s not a googleable answer.

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ALA Session: Not Another Boring Vampire Romance: Going Beyond the Norm in YA Paranormal Literature

This morning I hit up an author panel moderated by the lovely Angie of fatgirlreading.com. I didn’t get there on time (thus setting the trend for the day) and stayed for about an hour. On the panel were: Kenneth Oppel, Kendare Blake, Jackson Pearce, and Cindy Pon. I hadn’t read anything by any of these authors, but I’ll look for them now! Except I might need a buddy to read Kendare Blake, because it sounds like those books have a dark streak.

Allison, you might wonder, why go to a YA paranormal author panel if you hadn’t read any of the books by said authors? Because 1, my little sister works for a YA publisher, 2, my other little sister loves YA, and 3, YA books are often the subject of censorship and even though I’m firmly on the side of “teenagers don’t have completely developed brains and therefore, no, are not adults” debate, I believe strongly in the power of YA novels and their ability to fill a space in a community (and culture even) that is magnificently important.

It was a really interesting discussion about why paranormal has reemerged as a YA genre, whether or not the label of “YA paranormal” is correct or even applicable, the role of family and romance in YA paranormal fiction (wow that’s a mouthful), diversity in YA, and how much authors owe to the original fairy tale or whatever that’s (often) being retold.

Highlights!

On why YA paranormal has become a thing again:

Overall consensus was that the Twilight phenomenon was a huge push for an interest in “otherworldly” books. Buffy and  Supernatural were also pointed to as helping with that. Jackson Pearce thought that these kinds of books were filling in a gap that has existed for a bit of time.

On the “YA Paranormal Romance/Literature” label:

Both Kenneth Oppel and Kendare Blake mentioned the fact that genre was the least of their concerns while writing, and Cindy Pon said a lot of it has to do with marketing. Jackson Pearce pointed to the big boom of Sarah Dessen in 2003, 2004 as when YA really took off as it’s own genre (I wondered, did she mean a genre outside of children’s literature? I’m not really up on genre history). Overall, the label is just a label- Kenneth Opper said he tried to be a full service writer and make everyone happy- which wasn’t really possible.

On the role “the family” plays in YA paranormal:

There was quite a bit of discussion about how YA in general allows for more opportunity to feature the family and a protagonist’s relationship with them. YA is generally (clearly) about and features teenagers, and up until that point in someone’s life, self-definition is based on being someone else’s sibling or child, and now the quest is to achieve autonomy.  Kendare Blake said that familial ties ground paranormal- an absurd world needs aspects of realism, and families are a good way to do that. Cindy Pon’s books are based on Chinese mythology, so family figures very centrally to her books, since filial duty and responsibility are of utmost importance in China. Jackson Pearce pointed out, though, that it can be difficult to adventure with parents standing around. Kenneth Opper’s solution to this is to kill off the parents- it’s paranormal, bad stuff happens!

On how romance elements are worked in paranormal novels:

Jackson Pearce started by saying that she never locked eyes with someone across a chemistry classroom in high school and fell in love, and neither do her characters. Instead, relationships are developed over time, and after friendship, maybe romance will show up. Cindy Pon’s quote of the day on why there is so much romance in YA lit: “All those hormones- like whoa!” And Kenneth Opper made a really brilliant statement about how romance in these alternative worlds has to be credible. Those moments of romance “let light in” and show times of humanity while fighting off the monsters. Character reactions in those times are what makes them real, and that’s when an author “can get away with telling your readers anything if they believe in your characters.”

On the criticism that YA doesn’t feature a diversity of characters:

In general, diversity is good, but really hard. Jackson Pearce (very bravely, I thought) said that as a white author, writing ethnically diverse characters is scary, because if you mess it up or get it wrong,you’re in a heap big ton of trouble- to the dog house you go. Cindy Pon thought that she now writes the books she would have liked as a child, but any good author can create characters that anyone can relate to in at least some way. She also pointed out that even dystopian YA still features a largely white, largely straight future- even with all of the ways to be diverse, what will happen to those characters that don’t fit in there?

On owing the original stories:

Jackson Pearce wanted to know how many of us remembered, to the minute, where we first learned the story of Red Riding Hood or Cinderella, to make her point of those stories are just such a part of our collective consciousness that it’s easy to pick and choose the pieces that you want from all of the versions to make the kind of story an author wants to create. It’s harder to do with Hans Christian Anderson tales because there is only one way to do them- ’cause he wrote ’em that way. It’s also interesting to note that she had to take into account the fact that younger kids only know the Disney versions of stories like The Little Mermaid, which definitely does not have the original ending.

Kenneth Opper said they didn’t owe the original stories anything because they were in the public domain!

 

And that was my first session today!

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