Currently Reading, End of Vacation Edition

I’ve had an absolutely lovely vacation, packed to the gills with lots and lots of reading and enough jewelry making to keep me very happy – not to mention all the time spent by the woodstove with the cats (which helps explain how much reading I’ve done!).

I’m still chipping away at Joe Jackson’s musical memoir, A Cure for Gravity, and it’s one of the best books that I’ve read in a very long time. I’m definitely a fiction reader, and I don’t often seek out nonfiction (my husband is the exact opposite – he is always reading nonfiction, usually about music or history), but Jackson’s memoir has held my interest because it is witty, wise, fascinating, laugh-out-loud funny, and has expanded my musical horizons. The book is dense, and draws you into Jackson’s life (mostly his professional and artistic life) in a way that makes it hard for me to read more than twenty or so pages at a time; I find I need to take breaks from the book in order to fully appreciate it, if that makes sense. He is an amazing person, and as a very longtime fan it is so cool to learn about his journey from working-class Portsmouth kid to the Royal Academy of Music in London (from which he graduated with a degree in percussion) to the cusp of stardom (my bookmark is on page 210, which is 1976). I’m looking forward to reading about his experiences from 1976 to 1999, which is when the book was published. Highly recommended, even if you’re not a Joe Jackson fan.

On the flip side, I’ll admit to being very disappointed by Neil Patrick Harris’s The Magic Misfits, which I read for the 4th grade book group. I found it to be poorly written, but, more importantly, incredibly condescending to its intended audience. In my experience, children are pretty good at figuring out the meaning of words they don’t know from the context clues that they can find around the unknown word – and as a former teacher of reading, I know that use of context clues is something regularly taught in schools. Children are not stupid, and many children actually love to puzzle out the definitions of new words on their own. So I was annoyed by Harris’s constant defining of words and terms for his audience. I’d include an example here, but I hated the book SO much that I returned it to the library immediately in order to get it out of my house. Blech. Having said that, though, the 4th grade book group members absolutely loved the book. I kept my mouth shut about my own opinion, and let them carry the discussion on their own, since I’d hate to wreck a book for them that they love so much. Once again, a children’s book that shows the divide between what an adult “expert” thinks makes for good children’s literature, and what the intended child reader actually enjoys. There will always be a disconnect here on some level for every children’s book; I see my duty to be to nurture the love of reading in kids while also gently encouraging them to try some of the deeper, better written books in addition to the books that they will pick up on their own. Sort of like having your vegetables along with the dessert – a body can’t exist on dessert alone, just as a mind can’t exist on bestsellers alone. But dessert sure is nice, and makes life a lot more fun.

I’ll quickly list two books here that I was also disappointed in, though I know from the starred reviews both earned that I’m a bit alone in my harsh opinion of them. The Secret Horses of Briar Hill by Megan Shepherd feels to me like a book that was written with the hopes of winning an award: it’s very conscious of how lovely and unique it is, and for me that puts it in the two stars out of five category. It’s not a bad book, and I enjoyed it to a point, but I wish that it had been less obvious in its intent.

I’ve also heard great things about The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty, but for me it didn’t quite live up to the hype. I think this is partly because I so love Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin, a book about a similar type of character. Lightning Girl (Lucy) has OCD and acquired savant syndrome, which sets her apart from her peers, while Rose is autistic and misunderstood by both her father and her classmates. But Martin’s depiction of Rose feels more genuine, understanding, and complete than McAnulty’s portrayal of Lucy, and I was left wanting much, much more from McAnulty’s book.

On the happy surprise side, I loved Monstrous Devices by Damien Love. Unique, creepy, breathlessly exciting, and hard to put down, this book is one of my recent favorites. I wish that the 6th grade book group hadn’t already decided on all of their books for this year, because I would love to share it with them (but at least I can tell them about it!). I don’t want to give away the plot, because it is so unique, so I’ll just say that fans of fantasy that is based in reality (think Harry Potter) should give this book a try. Even better: the sequel is due out soon, so if you read Monstrous Devices now you won’t have to wait long to find out what happens next…

Finally, I just started The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert, and so far am enjoying it. I like Albert’s writing style, and I’m intrigued to see where she goes with the plot. I’ve also started Lalani of the Distant Sea by Erin Entrada Kelly, and can’t wait to read more. Of these two fiction books that I’m currently reading, I think that I’ll finish Lalani first, since I have a suspicion that it’s a contender for the Newbery Medal…we’ll see if I’m right about that soon enough.

And that’s been my reading for this vacation, in addition to various magazine articles and the Sunday Boston Globe. A little more jewelry making is on the docket for today (before and after the Patriots game), and then it’s back to work tomorrow!

On Process Art

I’ve always been a proponent of process art, though I didn’t know that official term until about ten years ago. When I was growing up, my mother – who was a Kindergarten through third grade teacher and also an artist – would talk to me about teaching art to young children, and about how important it is to not limit children by presenting them with a set, teacher-made example that shows the children there is only one correct way to make art, thereby squelching creativity and artistic exploration.

Her lessons stayed with me through my time as a camp counselor in my late teens and early twenties, and through my multiple regular babysitting gigs through high school and college, and even through my time teaching special education students at an elementary school, though I was responsible for teaching them reading, writing, and phonology and not art. And when I became a children’s librarian a little over fourteen years ago, I knew I finally had the venue to really engage young children with art in the most creative, explorative sense.

As I tried to figure out how to implement this type of art, I searched the library catalog and the internet for inspiration…and somehow the first search term that I entered turned out to be the correct one: process art. Perhaps my mother had used this term, and I just don’t remember her saying those words, or perhaps I was able to distill the concept down to its bare essentials, but however I got there, I was able to find some amazing materials available for use in my programs. The most useful resource that I found in that initial search, and which I still use regularly today, is MaryAnn Kohl’s book Preschool Art: It’s the Process, Not the Product. Along the way I’ve found some other print resources that are hugely useful, such as Asia Citro’s books and also Meri Cherry’s books, as well as some blogs that focus on process art and preschool education.

For yesterday’s Art & Stories for 4’s & 5’s I needed a process art project that was simple but wintery, since I was doing a themed winter storytime with the group. The books I read yesterday were The Storm Whale in Winter by Benji Davies and Here Comes Jack Frost by Kazuno Kohara, so I wanted a project that was complementary to the books. Happily, I found a wonderful, easy project on the Stay At Home Educator blog that used materials I had readily available.

I gave each child a nice thick piece of watercolor paper, a large paintbrush, and a palette loaded with three colors of paint: white, royal blue, and turquoise. It was great to see how different each of their paintings turned out – all in wintery blues and whites, but each completely unique. As each child finished the painting part of their project, I handed them a bottle of white glue and let them have at it squeezing glue on their paintings. Interestingly, the one six year old in the group kept painting far longer than the other children; developmentally, she was in a different place when it came to the painting portion of the project.

So much glue was squeezed on, in lots of cool formations: some large and goopy blobs, some delicate gluey tracings, and one that was just glue along the bottom of the page while the blues of the painting covered the top of the page. And then when they were each ready I passed them a small cup with a couple of tablespoons of sea salt in it (I didn’t have Epsom salt on hand, and the sea salt worked quite well). The group had a great time spreading salt over their paintings, and it was also great fine motor skill practice and problem solving, as some children delicately pinched and sprinkled bits of salt over their paintings, others put the salt in the palm of their hands and shook it over the painting, and still others used the cup to shake the salt. Some of the children even took it a step further and shook the salt around their papers and then funneled the excess salt back into their yogurt cups. (Others, of course, went for the “as much salt as possible approach” and pillaged the discarded salt of their peers to enhance the large sparkly salt pile on their own painting.)

As the children were nearing the end of their creative process I called in their grownups to come see what they had made. This is my favorite part, especially with this group of intuitively awesome grownups, since all kinds of great conversations take place between the children and their adults: “Tell me what you did here!” “I love the colors that you used – how did you make that blue?” “The sparkles are so beautiful – what are they? Salt? Wow!!!”

All in all, it was a wonderful last preschool art storytime of this decade, and yet another affirming process art experience.

Currently Reading

Now that the semester is over, I have had a little extra time for reading. Here are a few of the books that I’ve just finished or am currently reading:

Paint the Wind by Pam Munoz Ryan

This was chosen by the 5th grade book group for their December meeting (which, sadly, was cancelled due to snow).  This is one of those books that I had been meaning to read for years – the paint horse on the cover has been taunting my internal younger self ever since I added the book to the library’s collection – but somehow I had never gotten around to it.  I’ll admit that I was a bit disappointed by the book; there was too much melodrama for my taste, and some of the plot points didn’t quite make sense.  But, I also know that my 5th grade self would have loved the book: horses! interpersonal relations! an earthquake!  I’m looking forward to discussing this book with the 5th graders at our January meeting; it will be great to hear their perspectives on it.

The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street by Lindsay Currie

I picked up this book at my local independent bookstore, The Silver Unicorn Bookstore, when I was there one day browsing with a friend. For the first third of the book I was skeptical, and frankly not a fan, but by the time I finished the book I loved it. It’s rare to find a well-done ghost story for middle grade readers, but this one delivers. It’s great to have this in my back pocket as a recommendation for readers who are looking for something a little spooky. (And, as a side note, this is the book that I stayed up until one in the morning reading as the snow fell outside in the season’s first big snowstorm.)

The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann

This is another book that I’ve been meaning to read for a while, since I’ve known many 5th and 6th grade readers who have gobbled up this series, and who keep reminding me that a new book in the series is out. I’m about two-thirds through the book right now, and I have been enjoying it. It’s an intriguing premise (which I won’t give away here, since half the fun is diving into the book without knowing what to expect), and McMann builds a well-thought-out world that feels eerily prescient at this point in our history.

The Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris

This book is on the docket for this weekend, chosen by the 4th grade book group: we’ll be discussing the book on Monday. I’m looking forward to reading it, since I have a lot of respect for Neil Patrick Harris, and I’m hopeful that it turns out to be a good children’s book and not just another celebrity children’s book.

The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan

This book is also on my schedule for weekend reading, since we will be discussing it at Tuesday’s 6th grade book group meeting. I chose this book for the group because I wanted to share this awesome series with this group of readers. As a children’s librarian, I mostly read just the first book in a series; it’s rare for me to read beyond a first series book since I’m always trying to have a broad overview of children’s and young adult literature. But I broke my own rule with this series, since I love it so much. I’ve read all twelve books in the main series, I’ve dipped into a few of the Brotherband Chronicles series, and I’ve read both of the prequels to this book. It’s been a few years since I’ve read The Ruins of Gorlan, though, and I’m looking forward to revisiting it.

And on the horizon for my vacation week which will begin a week from today are two books that I’ve dabbled in over the years, but want to read in their entirety now: Moab is My Washpot by Stephen Fry and A Cure for Gravity by Joe Jackson. Stephen Fry is amazingly smart and funny, and I’ve loved the bits of this book that I’ve read in the past.

And anyone who knows me knows that I’m a HUGE fan of Joe Jackson – I’ve seen him play live five times (twice this past May), and his songs and talent speak to me in ways that few musicians do. If you think that Joe Jackson is just his hits from the late seventies and early eighties, think again. Jackson is hugely talented, with an amazing touch on the keyboard, and the writer of lyrics that are simply amazing. (Yes, I used “amazing” twice in one sentence, but justifiably so!) At the time of going to the two concerts in May I joined a Joe Jackson fan Facebook group and noticed that a lot of the members talk about Joe’s memoir, A Cure for Gravity. First I requested a copy from a library in the CWMARS network, and both Jim and I enjoyed it so much that I went on the hunt for a hardcover copy to buy (the book is out of print). By some miracle I found a pristine first edition copy on Abe Books that – brace yourself – has been SIGNED BY JOE JACKSON. This, of course, became my birthday gift to myself, and I’ve carefully stored it in the middle of the pile of books next to my reading chair so that the cats, who have an uncanny sense of what is important and valuable, won’t chew it or throw up on it. I’ve been waiting for classes to end and this vacation to come so that I can read it cover to cover…my special treat to myself.

And I’ll leave you with this link to a sample of Joe Jackson’s writing, his latest entry in his “What I’m Listening To” blog. I was reading this entry last evening as I listened to Drums and Wires by XTC, which I’m proud to say I have on vinyl…and which hopefully we’ll be listening to tonight after work.

Another reason I love my job

File this one under the category of “Why I love my job.” (It’s a very full file, for the record!)

One of my storytime regulars, who is not yet two years old, renamed me today – I am now Humpty Dumpty.  This verbal little cutie kept chattering away before storytime: “Humpty Dumpty taking sweater off”  “Humpty Dumpty drink water”  “Humpty Dumpty sing now?”

And then when storytime was over:  “Abby play trains now?”

So I guess I’m back to being Abby, but it was kind of fun being Humpty Dumpty…  🙂

(Pictured here is the Humpty Dumpty felt piece that we use at the conclusion of each Mother Goose on the Loose storytime…)

A Day (or Two) in the Life of a Children’s Librarian

I always get a good giggle when someone I don’t know very well says to me, “Oh, you’re a children’s librarian? How sweet. That’s a pretty sedentary job, isn’t it?”  [Yes, doctors in particular like to say that to me, as they assess how active I am.]   Or, “You’re a children’s librarian?  That must be such a nice quiet job!”  Or, “It must be nice to read books all day!”

Before I go any further with this post, let me make it abundantly clear that I would hate to have a job that was sedentary or quiet or even a job where I got to read books all day.  I actually love the frenetic craziness of my work world, and I love the absolute unpredictability of each work day.  

Having said that, there are certain weeks like this one where even I cannot believe how busy I am.  So, for the sake of posterity, and for the sake of busy children’s librarians everywhere, here is a glimpse of this week at my job…

Yesterday (Monday) started off with discovering that the group who used the large program room on Saturday night had left all the chairs out, and also had forgotten to sweep and get rid of the trash (we have a big mouse problem in our building – old buildings in the country tend to be that way!). So before I could set up for storytime I had to stack fifty chairs in short order, sweep the floor, and ask Pete (former Trustee and current amazing volunteer) if he could take down and put away the speakers. Thank goodness Pete was there to do that, since I actually don’t know how to maneuver those heavy speakers down off their stands.

Then, fifteen minutes later (I stack chairs and clean quickly!), I set up for storytime and ran an absolutely lovely Mother Goose on the Loose program for a wonderful group of dedicated attendees. There is no better way to start a Monday, in my opinion, than to sing to and interact with a group of the youngest children and their caregivers – it is completely soul-affirming and rejuvenating.

Once storytime was over, I looked at the library website on my phone to see whether I could set up for my Tuesday afternoon program, which would be a lovely and efficient treat, since our program room is heavily used, and also very far away from the children’s room, so that it is hard for me to get up there to prep the room for my programs. It looked hopeful, so I went downstairs to check with my director about the state of the calendar.

She checked, and indeed it was hopeful: the R—- group had cancelled their Monday night room reservation, which left only the W—- book group with a Tuesday noontime reservation. We agreed that I could set up most of the room for my program, and just leave three tables and twelve chairs set up for the book group on the side with a view of the pond.

Back upstairs to unstack those fifty chairs, and then to arrange all eighty-nine chairs in a configuration that worked for the book group and for me. My Tuesday program (a presentation on Birds of Prey) also needs three six-foot tables, so I brought those out and arranged them. Done!

Back downstairs, where I first put away the Mother Goose accoutrements and then finalized planning for the 1:30 Art & Stories for 4’s & 5’s. Feltboard story: Froggy Gets Dressed by Jonathan London (felt pieces by me), check. Musical instruments: mini maracas, check. Music to play: Jim Gill’s Sneezing Song album, check. Pre-read the books for the day, including one of my absolute favorites, A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker, check. Set up the art project (Chalk Dip from MaryAnn Kohl’s Preschool Art), check. Then into the story room to pull out the small art tables, the feltboard easel, and the carpet pieces, check.

[ As you can see, by midday I haven’t had a sedentary moment yet! 😉 ]

Just as I sat down to check email, my boss called down to tell me that the book group had cancelled for tomorrow, and that she and one of the reference librarians were going up to the program room to take away the tables and reestablish the auditorium style seating that I would need on Tuesday. I said, “I’ll be right there to help you!” and bounced up two flights of stairs (but really the equivalent of four flights) and together the three of us finished setting up the room for my Tuesday program. Teamwork!

Then back downstairs to catch my breath and finally check my email at 1:00. Several emails needed my attention, so I quickly typed replies before the four- and five-year-olds arrived for storytime.

Storytime was wonderful – this group is so much fun to be with, so full of positive energy and giggles and creativity. We all loved the stories, and the mini maracas were a huge hit. And the feltboard story went over SO well that I realized that I should really make some additional felt stories for this group while I’m on break from school (over the years I’ve made at least fifty felt stories, but for my own sanity it’s time for some new ones!).

After cleaning up from storytime, it was time to swap out the small art tables for the large six-foot full height tables for the 3:30 GraviTrax program. Feltboard safely stowed away, chairs tucked into the closet, then I brought out the GraviTrax sets and set up the pieces on the tables so that the two teams would have equal “special” pieces and that the common building pieces would be on the middle table accessible to both teams. [Find out more about GraviTrax here.]

This brought me to 2:45…and I realized that I could actually have a bite to eat if I was quick. So off to the staff room I went, and got to chat with the electricians who are upgrading our lighting while I quickly ate my yogurt and banana. There were some tempting cookies on the table, and of course I took one, and S—-, the head electrician, said “Hey, no eating cookies!” To which I replied, with a wink, “I think I’ve earned it!”

By 3:15 my highschool senior volunteers for the GraviTrax program had arrived, which was great because it gave me time to give the new volunteer an overview of how the program works. It’s wonderful having such mature, awesome volunteers in whom I have complete and total trust! GraviTrax was a hit, as it always is, and the volunteers and I were hard-pressed to get the kids to finish up their construction by 4:30. (If you haven’t had the chance to witness GraviTrax in action, it is an amazing way for kids to learn about force and motion and gravity while having a really, really fun time.)

Then it was time to put away all the GraviTrax pieces, and to put away the six-foot tables and bring back out the art tables, and to set the story room up for the 6:30 evening program, a Polar Express Storytime run by the senior Girl Scout troop.

In the midst of this cleanup, my boss came downstairs with a woeful, apologetic look on her face, and with the bad news that the R—- group who had cancelled their Monday night reservation for the large program room hadn’t actually meant to cancel, and that they were coming after all…which means that I need to go in early this morning to set up the large program room for the afternoon Birds of Prey program before the first of four 5th grade classes arrives at 10:00 today for their research instruction.

Having reminded myself of that, I think I’d best continue this “day in the life” post sometime in the future, and get myself to work right now to set up for today, Tuesday! 🙂

Snow Day

There’s nothing like the gift of a snow day, but the first snow day of the winter is especially wonderful.  The superintendent of schools in the town where I work called a snow day yesterday, in the early evening, which meant that I knew early on that I could stay up late and sleep in a bit.  

First up for the evening was to work on my final project for school, making some final tweaks to my website.  And then the Patriots game: usually an 8:20 Patriots game is stressful, since usually I have to be up early the next morning and full of energy for storytime, but with a snow day ahead at least I could watch the game without worrying about exhaustion.

After suffering through most of the Patriots game my husband and I decided to give up on the game when it was clear that the Pats were going to lose.  (There’s only so much anguish a true Pats fan can endure, and last night’s game was a test.)  My husband decided to call it a night, and I said that I’d stay up reading just for a bit to calm my frayed nerves.

And then a magical thing happened: I got sucked into a book in a way that hasn’t happened in a very very long time.  It wasn’t that the book was amazingly awesome, but rather that I actually had the space to read, and that outside the snowy world was magically time-resistant.  I kept reading, and reading, and reading, and when I finished the book I realized that it was one in the morning (way past my usual bedtime).  

I looked out the window to the beautiful snow scene outside (and took the picture you see below) and felt the happiest that I’ve felt in a very long time.  If ever there was proof of the magic of reading, this was it.  

 

I was actually stunned by how happy I felt as I went to bed, and it reminded me of the joy that I used to get from reading when I was a child. The book I read last night, of course, was a children’s book, which might have added to the happiness, but honestly I think that any book would have filled the bill for me last night. Last night was about having that moment for reading without obligations or guilt or exhaustion or any of the other daily demands that can detract from our reading. The gift of the first snow day of the winter.

And then an additional gift today: all town offices are closed for the entire day! There might be more reading in my future today…

Frontline Documentary on AI

Below is another forum post from this semester’s class, from the beginning of this month:

On Tuesday night [November 5] I viewed most of an incredibly well-done documentary on AI (I missed the first half hour, since I only stumbled on the show and hadn’t planned on watching it).

The documentary, titled “In the Age of AI,” aired on Frontline on PBS and runs for just under two hours. Though it’s a big time commitment to view the entire documentary, it is a comprehensive look at AI and has great relevance to this class. Here is the official Frontline description of the program:

FRONTLINE investigates the promise and perils of artificial intelligence, from fears about work and privacy to rivalry between the U.S. and China. The documentary traces a new industrial revolution that will reshape and disrupt our lives, our jobs and our world, and allow the emergence of the surveillance society. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/in-the-age-of-ai/

https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/in-the-age-of-ai/

The documentary covers all aspects of AI, from the prospect of self-driving tractor trailers, to robots on factory floors assembling cars, to the sophistication of facial recognition. Most fascinating to me was the discussion of ethics in AI (including a look at how Google changed its initial “do no harm” business model in the wake of the dot com crash of 2000), and also the discussion of what is essentially shaping up to be a new Cold War, but this time a technology Cold War, between China and the United States. Linked in to this ethical discussion was the profound effect that AI has on human beings, from United Auto Workers members (UAW) who have lost their jobs to robots to the persecution of the Chinese Muslim minority, the Uyghur, by the Chinese government via sophisticated AI surveillance. By the end of the documentary, my husband and I were chilled by the impact that AI already has on society, and terrified by how the future of AI could profoundly change our lives, and not necessarily for the better.

As I was watching the documentary, I kept thinking to myself “how does all of this relate to what I do as a librarian?” I knew that I wanted to share this program with the class, but I also wanted to find a way to link it to our chosen career. Ultimately, I feel that as librarians we are the gatekeepers to knowledge, and the professionals that many people seek out to help them navigate the ever-changing world of technology. In that role, we have the ability to educate our patrons about the full spectrum of AI: its positives and also its negatives. If we are well-educated about the potential perils of privacy concerns like facial recognition that can be misused as surveillance, then we can help our patrons understand the implications of using advanced technology. And, as a children’s librarian, I have an additional responsibility to teach the kids I work with about AI in a way that makes them aware of dangers while not frightening them away from technology; these kids have never lived without technology, and they are also the future of technological advances.

I can’t recommend this documentary highly enough – it is well worth the time investment to watch it, and my mind is still processing what I’ve learned from it to the extent that I plan on watching the documentary again this weekend.

The documentary can be accessed here: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/in-the-age-of-ai/

TikTok, Memes, and A.I.: Losing Ourselves in Technology

Well, obviously I haven’t had the time to write blog posts this semester, so I thought I’d share here a couple of posts that I wrote for my class. The class is “Technology for Information Professionals,” and over the course of the semester each student must post on the semester-long forum on “Applying Technology.” Our posts are either supposed to be about a recent technology article, or they are supposed to be about “tech in the wild” – using technology in real life. Our posts are supposed to be no longer than 500 words, which has been a challenge for me to abide by… 🙂

Here is the first post that I wrote for the forum, in early October:

I just finished reading a fascinating article “The Meme Factory: How TikTok holds our attention” by Jia Tolentino in the current issue of The New Yorker. The article begins by discussing the app TikTok, but then expands in an ever-growing circle to discuss current app technology and how it uses A.I. to influence what we see and experience, and, finally and most disturbingly, the article discusses the parent company for TikTok, ByteDance, which is based in China but has influence worldwide. According to Tolentino, there are questions about the information that ByteDance accumulates as it uses A.I. to tailor its apps (TikTok worldwide, Douyin in China) to provide its users with content that they respond to. Tolentino states: “Although TikTok’s algorithm likely relies in part, as other systems do, on user history and video-engagement patterns, the app seems remarkably attuned to a person’s unarticulated interests. Some social algorithms are like bossy waiters: they solicit your preferences and then recommend a menu. TikTok orders you dinner by watching you look at food.” (Tolentino, p. 36)

Though the content on TikTok tends towards mindless, fun, short fifteen second videos created by and enjoyed by mostly teenagers, the fact is that there is a huge amount of money and power lurking behind the fun, and that the A.I. used to tailor the app could potentially be used for nefarious political means. Tolentino questioned a ByteDance representative about the possibility of the Chinese government making use of “the massive trove of facial closeups accumulated on its various platforms,” or “what if a third party got hold of the company’s data?” In other words, a seemingly innocuous app is able to collect facial recognition files as well as “pose estimation” that helps A.I. to learn human body language.

This is an extremely interesting article about a complex topic, and I can’t even begin to touch the surface here of what Tolentino addresses in her piece. Simply put, though, it put chills down my spine as I thought long and hard about the role that technology plays in our daily lives, and how we are gradually becoming immune to privacy worries. In Week One of this class we read the article “Library Tech Trends for 2019” by Jim Lynch which discusses assisting patrons with privacy concerns on social media, and also discusses the ALA’s worry about ethical concerns with facial recognition. As Lynch states, “[facial recognition] technology is already raising ethical concerns that might go against the core values of libraries, including intellectual freedom, privacy, equitable access, and diversity.” As more forms of technology accumulate data on our unique facial characteristics, there is more possibility of such information being misused as it has in China to find and imprison Uighurs (a Muslim minority). Frankly, I’m now a bit terrified about our future, but I’m very grateful to Tolentino for writing this excellent article.

Lynch, J. (2019, January 14). Library Tech Trends for 2019 [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.techsoupforlibraries.org/blog/library-tech-trends-for-2019

Tolentino, J. (2019). The meme factory: How TikTok holds our attention. The New Yorker, XCV(29), 34-41. Retrieved from https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/09/30/how-tiktok-holds-our-attention

Also worth checking out: Christoph Niemann’s cover for this issue of The New Yorker (the technology issue): https://www.newyorker.com/culture/cover-story/cover-story-2019-09-30

Resources for Parents and Caregivers

I realized last evening that I had never shared the link on this blog for the class project that I created last year (fall semester 2018) for the class I took that term, Information Sources and Services. The assignment was to create a LibGuide on a topic of our choosing, so of course I chose a topic that would be of use to me in my daily tasks at the library in which I work: Resources for Parents & Caregivers of Preschoolers.

Here is the link to my LibGuide. Please let me know if it is of use or interest to you!

Thoughts on being an adult learner

Just a quick post today, since I’ve got a lot of homework to do…

Earlier this week I was talking to a friend of mine who’s not too happy in her job, and she mentioned that she is thinking of going back to school.   I told her that going back to school is the best thing that I’ve done for myself in recent years – that being in school has been amazingly fun and validating.  I actually surprised myself with the enthusiasm of my response to her, and it got me thinking a bit about what it means to be an adult learner.

The first thing that I’ve had to come to terms with is that the majority of my fellow students are far younger than I am.  This is both a negative and a positive for me: the younger students are extremely enthusiastic, and most of what we are learning is new and exciting to them.  They also have more flexibility in the way they approach new topics in class; let’s face it, they are more open to change than an older student (even a fairly progressive one like me).

But then there is the positive side to being an older student, which for me greatly outweighs any negatives.  I’ve got several years of work experience in my favor, so that as I learn new topics I can immediately apply it to my career – a younger student who has never worked as a librarian cannot do that, for obvious reasons.  I love that the breadth of my experience allows me to consider our assignments from a higher starting point than if I had never worked in the field.  And for the technology class that I am taking this semester, I have the distinct advantage of having grown up alongside personal computers, so I have direct experience with some of the things that we’re learning right now.  For instance, this week’s video lectures are on the command prompt, and as I’ve been viewing them, I’ve realized that my classmates grew up using computers with a mouse, whereas I grew up using commands in DOS (ah, the good old days of the C prompt!) with VAX machines for email in college (I learned all kinds of cool tricks for using the VAX machines!).

And then there is the most lovely part of being in school after years of being in the working world: the immediate and definitive gratification of being graded on your assignments.  In the real world, I get formal feedback once a year at my job, in the form of my annual review.  Obviously, there’s also less formal verbal feedback over the course of the year, but it’s not written and precise in the way the annual review is.  So it’s been really cool doing assignments over the course of each semester and getting written feedback from my professors on those assignments.  And it’s even lovelier to get grades on classwork, something that just doesn’t happen in the real world.

Last but certainly not least, I love learning new things.  I love working my brain in ways that it hasn’t been worked since I got my last master’s degree.  Admittedly, this mental fitness program hasn’t left much time for my physical fitness program, but I’m working on adding physical fitness back into my daily routine (there just aren’t enough hours in a day, are there?).

Long story short, it’s pretty fantastic being in graduate school as an adult learner who is already established in the profession.  I’m learning so much, and loving the experience more than I can ever say.  My only regret is that I can’t take any classes in person, but rather am pursuing the degree online, since it would be fabulous to be in a classroom with all of these smart classmates of mine.  But that’s a small regret, and perhaps I’ll be able to squeeze in a face-to-face class at some point.

Yay to education!!!

Reflections on children, literature, libraries, and life…and cats.