Tapping Student Talent to Diversify the Library Collection

At the university where I work, all students are required to participate in a cross-cultural experience. Some students go away for a semester abroad–often through a partner institution. Some professors here take students to a different country for anywhere from 1-3 weeks. But it doesn’t have to be international either–we also offer domestic trips to different cities, rural locations, the US/Mexico borderland, and Native American reservations. They key is to create an immersive experience. You must go beyond simply being a “tourist.” I’ve chaperoned two trips to Italy and it’s a rewarding experience for students.

As part of the preparation, the library collection often comes into play. A lot of the cross-cultural experiences require students to read a novel set in the locale/country they are visiting, written by an author from that locale/country. The librarians see a lot of research questions like:

“I need to find a book set in Peru and written by a Peruvian author.”

…And that’s when we found our library collection was not too diverse. A lot of the fiction was 1) white and 2) US or Eurocentric. We needed to diversify.

This is where student workers come into play. One of our excellent circulation student workers happens to be an English and Global Studies major. Besides having her do regular circ desk work, why not use her skills from English and Global Studies? It’s a chance for her to use her course experiences and apply them. After talking with her, this is the project we devised:

  1. Get a list of countries/regions/locales where students can complete their cross-cultural experience requirement.
  2. Using Novelist, Amazon, Worldcat, and other tools, research books set in some of the areas where students will be studying, written by authors from those areas.
  3. Check our library catalog to make sure we don’t already own the items.
  4. Organize the list by area, followed by titles/authors.
  5. Using her English/Global Studies background knowledge, prioritize novels by areas with greatest need.

The student worker was able to make recommendations using knowledge from the courses she had taken and then used the tools to find more books. She was passionate about the project and it gave her the opportunity to see how the library is directly connected to student success and support. It was also a project she could put on her resume. It’s important to mention that we always need to be mindful that we are not exploiting students for their labor (and the student worker was paid for this work), but if we can find worthwhile projects that match student interests and career goals, then go for it!

I then was able to order the novels using the library’s “diversity” fund line in our materials budget. Several years ago we had carved out this fund line from the “big” materials budget explicitly for diversifying the collection. We use a broad definition for diversity, and this project fit the bill.

Now when a student says, “I’m studying in Morocco and I need a novel by a Moroccan author”…we have it!

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3D Print Your Own “READ” Business Card Holder

3D printed READ business card holder

I’ve been coordinating 3D printing at my library for about a year. It’s sort of a side thing from my main duties as a reference and instruction librarian. Now that November is almost over and infolit stuff has winded down, I’ve had time to focus on a back-burner project that I had to let go once the academic year started up again.

I wanted to be able to design my own 3D printed business card holder.

Why Did I Want to Do This?

Well, yeah, I’ll admit I wanted something cool for my desk. But also:

  • I wanted to use a program like Tinkercad to design my own file. For the most part, our users come with pre-made files they downloaded online. However, we’ve been getting a few more “how do I design this?” questions, so I wanted to become more well versed.
  • I also wanted to do something with the design post-printing: like painting it. Something I hadn’t tried yet.

How I Began

It started with just wanting a business card holder. So I began by browsing Thingiverse. Here are a few designs I looked at:

Design Process

Then I went to Tinkercad (you can create a free account) and started playing around with basic shapes like squares and rectangles: making them larger, smaller, thinner, wider, etc… Until I had formed a basic business card holder design.

My business cards measure 88mm across–which I’m assuming is standard (just shy of 3.5 in), so I made sure to plot out the space carefully. The finished product could end up accommodating a card that’s a few millimeters wider.

I was still looking for something book/library themed when I found this particular book design on Tinkercad. I thought it was the perfect theme! You can actually re-mix files directly in Tinkercad by downloading them, but I decided to create my own book design based off of the one I found.

For my design, I made the letters spell out: “READ.” Then I used the book to “bookend” both sides of my business card holder design. And there you have it, a perfectly themed business card holder for any library or book lover!

READ Business Card Holder in Tinkercad

READ Business Card Holder in Tinkercad

Design Files: Print Your Own!

I have uploaded the “READ” business card holder to Thingiverse with a Creative Commons license–so do to it what you’d like:
Thingiverse – READ Business Card Holder

If you want to “tinker” with the design (re-mix, edit), it’s also on Tinkercad with a Creative Commons license:
Tinkercad – READ Business Card Holder (you will need a free account)

Both links will give you a .STL file that you can use to print it out. Again, you don’t need to ask permission…just do it and have fun!

3D Printing Process

I printed my file on my library’s Ultimaker 2 3D printer. Here are a few notes with the printing process:

  • I printed the file with both a brim and supports. You probably don’t need the brim (it helps keep the object attached to the print bed), but the supports are useful for printing the raised “READ” letters.
  • Infill: 20% (a standard for a lot of hobbyist 3D print jobs).
  • Used PLA plastic filament since that’s what my library has.
  • I knew I wanted the color to be something in the blue family, but I didn’t particularly care for the shade of blue that the library had. So I printed it in white with the end goal of painting it.
  • Cost: Since this was for personal use, I paid to print it. My library charges $0.10/gram. At 27.3g, the cost came to: $2.73.
  • Time: Between 5.0 and 5.5 hours to print.

Post-Printing Clean-Up

After printing, I removed the brim and supports using:

  • Pliers,
  • Tweezers, and an
  • X-Acto knife
Have tools to remove brim and supports from your 3D printed item.

Have tools to remove brim and supports from your 3D printed item.

Here’s what the business card holder looks like (printed in white) before the brim and supports are removed.

Smooth out any rough edges using:

  • fine-grit sandpaper, or
  • a nail buffer

Use a toothbrush to remove any remaining dust particles.

Have tools to smooth out rough edges and remove dust particles.

Have tools to smooth out rough edges and remove dust particles.

Here’s what it will look like after the brim and supports and removed, and everything is smoothed out:

My item printed with a few tiny holes along the tops of the books due to incomplete layering. If you’re a perfectionist, you can fill this in with an epoxy.

If you’ve printed your READ business card holder in a color suitable to you…then you’re done! However, if you printed it with plans to paint it, read on!

Painting a 3D Printed Item

In researching how to paint a 3d printed item, I found these sites useful:

At my local Lowe’s, I planned on purchasing a spray primer and a spray paint in a color I liked. Make sure and choose one thay says it works with plastic.

I saw that Valspar had a 2-in-1 primer + paint, so I ended up choosing that. I was drawn to their Pool Party Blue, plus it had a glossy finish to it.

Make sure and lay down newspapers and spray in a well ventilated area. Give your item time to dry in between coats. I did 3 small coats.

Here’s the paint I used:

Valspar "Pool Party Blue" 2-in-1 primer + paint.

Valspar “Pool Party Blue” 2-in-1 primer + paint.

Spray painting a 3D item was surprisingly easy and now I’m thinking of different projects I want to do!

Here is the finished product: My 3D printed READ business card holder:

3D printed READ business card holder

3D printed READ business card holder

Now go off and make your own!

Children’s Books that Presidential Candidates Need to Read

Children’s books aren’t immune to politics. Many deal with issues that children need to learn about. The Lorax is a good example as a modern fable for protecting the environment. Other books have a left/right divide: In If You Give a Mouse a Cookie is it better to be generous, or are we just “enabling”? Evidently it has generated political discussion.

I was doing some work in our Curriculum Materials Collection, when I pulled this book off the shelf:

The Chickens Build a Wall, by Jean-Francois Dumont. Translated into English and published by Eerdmans in 2013, Dumont tells the story of hedgehog that appeares in the barnyard. Chickens, under the leadership of the rooster, decide to build a wall to keep out other “foreign” and unknown things.

As a read this, I immediately thought of the U.S. presidential campaign–and one candidate in particular, Donald Trump. Then I thought, what about if I assigned children’s books to each of the major presidential candidates?

Here’s my take on it. Some of it humorous, some serious.

Donald Trump, please read:

chickensbuildawall

The Chickens Build a Wall – written and illustrated by Jean-Francois Dumont
Summary: Chicken freak out over an hedgehog. Decide to build a wall.
Why?: Incendiary rhetoric from the candidate.
Lesson: Don’t be xenophobic.

mymouthisavolcano

My Mouth is a Volcano – written by Julia Cook, illustrated by Carrie Hartman
Summary: A children’s lesson on not interrupting.
Why?: Candidate never seems to stop talking.
Lesson: Respect others; listen, don’t interrupt.

Hillary Clinton, please read:

waitingisnoteasy

Waiting is Not Easy – by Mo Willems
Lesson: Sometimes you just have to wait.
Why?: Candidate was presumed front-runner in 2008. Presumed front-runner in 2016.
Lesson: Duh. Waiting is not easy!

doug-dennis

Doug-Dennis and the Flyaway Fib – by Darren Farrell
Summary: A little fib can really escalate.
Why?: Candidate could solve a lot of political and personal issues by simply being truthful and transparent.
Lesson: Honesty is the best policy.

Bernie Sanders, please read:

the-chocolate-war

The Chocolate War – by Robert Cormier
Summary: The pressure one can face when not conforming.
Why?: Candidate stays true to his convictions, but can he compromise when needed to get things done?
Lesson: Taking on the establishment doesn’t always pan out.

thepromisebook

The Promise – written by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Laura Carlin
Summary: Young girl snatches an old woman’s purse. The woman asks her to keep a promise of what’s inside. The girl doesn’t find money, but acorns.
Why?: Candidate promises a lot. Results are not often immediate.
Lesson: Deeds, not words.

Ted Cruz, please read:

charweb

Charlotte’s Web – written by E.B. White
Summary: Unlikely barnyard friends.
Why?: Patrol Muslim communities? Dissing single moms? Candidate has a serious “empathy” deficit.
Lesson: Be a friend, not a foe.

eachkindness

Each Kindness – written by Jacqueline Woodson
Summary: Rarely do you get a second chance at kindness. So be kind from the start.
Why?: Candidate’s rhetoric seems overly mean.
Lesson: Your actions influence others. Don’t be a bully.

Need more suggestions on children’s books that teach life lessons? Check out:

Washington DC: Library of Congress

From my travel blog: One of those times when travel and my profession intersect — a visit to the Library of Congress in Washington DC!

Travel on the Side

Arguably one of the most beautiful buildings in Washington DC is the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson building, located across from the US Capitol and next to the Supreme Court.

I was in Washington, DC for a short trip–I had been once in elementary school and once in high school–but neither time had I been to the Library. Now as a librarian, I had to rectify that with a visit!

The Library of Congress functions as the de facto national library of the United States, although its main mission is to serve as a research library for the US Congress. It also serves as the legal deposit for materials published in the United States.

Originally housed in the US Capitol building, the expanding collection of the Library of Congress moved to what is now known as the Thomas Jefferson building in 1897–built specifically for the library.

The Thomas Jefferson building

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You’ve Come Along Way Baby? Gender Stereotypes in Children’s Picture Books

I’ve been doing a shifting project in the curriculum/children’s lit collection I manage at my academic library.

Every now and then I come across a little “gem” like this: I’m Glad I’m a Boy! I’m Glad I’m a Girl – written by Whitney Darrow, Jr. and published in 1970.

What’s it about? It goes through a series of things boys do vs. what girls do. Here are a few screen shots:

I'm Glad I'm a Boy! I'm Glad I'm a Girl

I’m Glad I’m a Boy! I’m Glad I’m a Girl

Boys are doctors. Girls are nurses.

Boys are doctors. Girls are nurses.

Boys are policemen. Girls are metermaids.

Boys are policemen. Girls are metermaids.

Boys can eat. Girls can cook.

Boys can eat. Girls can cook.

Boys fix things. Girls need things fixed.

Boys fix things. Girls need things fixed.

Boys invent things. Girls use what boys invent.

Boys invent things. Girls use what boys invent.

I'm glad you're a girl! I'm glad you're a boy!

I’m glad you’re a girl! I’m glad you’re a boy!

We need each other.

We need each other.

Have you fallen out of your seat yet? Turns out this has been a popular little book. Brain Pickings provides an excellent overview, as does Bustle. So it this “for real”? Well…the author, Whitney Darrow, Jr., was a satirical cartoonist for The New Yorker, so *probably* not.

I tried locating reviews from the time period, but hit the wall with the usual ownership v. access problem with libraries (Most of our print indexes, bound volumes, and microfilm are gone. Our full-text access for what we have doesn’t go back far enough for the usual book review sources). I did a search in the Google Newspaper Archive and came across an article that was published in a series of newspapers in 1974: Children’s Book Changes Proceed – which discusses sexism in children’s literature.

A more recent take, “Planning Literacy Environments for Diverse Preschoolers” (Young Exceptional Children, 15(3), 2012) appears to take the book at face value and labels it as blatantly sexist.

Gender Stereotyping in Children’s Picture Books:

So is I’m Glad I’m a Boy! I’m Glad I’m a Girl! staying in the collection of my academic library? Yes. A lot of the education classes discuss gender stereotyping. Even as satire, this can be a useful tool (see Teaching Children’s Literature: It’s Critical). Does it belong in the children’s collection of a public library? Probably not. What do you think?

Update: My Rant on Little Free Libraries

When I wrote my rant about Little Free Libraries, you would have thought I was criticizing apple pie and baseball. For the record, I love apple pie but can’t stand baseball (the game is long and my attention span is not). I was called everything from an “elitist prick” to a child hater to being against literacy.

Do I stand by my thoughts on Little Free Libraries?…for the most part. But here are a few points I want to refine.

1. Engagement with Your Local Public Library
If people spent the amount of time they devote to Little Free Libraries and used that time to lobby for their local public libraries, THAT would be a good thing. The two aren’t mutually exclusive, of course, but citizen action is good.

2. Library “Deserts”
You’ve heard of “food deserts“? The same thing applies to people who live in urban and rural areas that don’t have easy access to a public library. This is an opportunity for public libraries to partner with groups to sponsor Little Free Libraries with materials that people in those communities would be interested (e.g., let’s NOT go down to the local used “book barn” and pick up dusty copies of all old books) in reading.

3. Go Where Needed
This is related to above. If public libraries don’t want to partner on this, then think about where your LFL might be most needed. I’ll be blunt (warning: mini-rant ahead!): I get that you like to read. And you want to put something cute in your front yard. But ask yourself this: If you live in a predominantly homogenous, middle to upper class neighborhood with low unemployment, good schools, and easy access to a library, is your LFL helping that many people out? Why not partner with people in other neighborhoods who might benefit more? Step out of your comfort zone.

4. But I Still Want a Little Free Library!
No one is stopping you (for the most part; see below). But instead of just throwing a bunch of books in the box (which is mostly the depressing feel I get when I visit one), think about what might interest people in your neighborhood. Or maybe do a “theme” LFL and promote in your city. Maybe you can be the LFL for sci-fi or fantasy YA lit or Christian lit in your community.

5. Tear Down this LFL? No.
Should a 9-year old boy have to beg city council to keep his Little Free Library open? No, of course not! I’m generally a “reliable liberal” (or whatever that category was on the Pew survey). However, when it comes to my property, I take a decidedly libertarian bent. Put up all the LFLs on your property that you want!

So yeah, Little Free Libraries are fun. They can create excitement and collaboration in the community. It’s just not a catch-all solution to things like access and funding of brick-and-mortar libraries and the services they provide. And they shouldn’t be. They’re a different animal.

 

 

A Little Rant on Little Free Libraries (aka probably an unpopular post)

Update to my post – 16 July 2014

Within a two mile radius of my little corner of Brookfield, Wisconsin there are four Little Free Libraries. I like the concept: People sharing books. People creating a collection. People encouraging reading. Targeting under-served areas/people. Those are good things. But it’s not a library. And I feel guilty and elitist for saying it. I mean, how could you not love this?

little free libraries. A Creative Commons-licensed photo via Flickr user davidsilver: https://www.flickr.com/photos/davidsilver/11783413894/

little free libraries. A Creative Commons-licensed photo via Flickr user davidsilver: https://www.flickr.com/photos/davidsilver/11783413894/

There are, of course, benefits to the little free libraries movement. Lane Wilkinson discusses this in his What can we learn from DIY libraries post and Tara Murray writes about it in her post, Truly DIY Libraries.

Do I feel like a little free library is seriously encroaching on a “real” library’s mission and objectives? No.

But here’s what I do worry about: the general public’s perception and the lumping together of little free libraries and actual “real” public libraries.

“Hey look, any volunteer can create a library!”

“Why do we need trained professionals when an 17-year old Eagle Scout has put together such a nice library?”

“Why do we need our tax money to go to something that can be done for FREE?”

“With these Little Free Libraries, we can just cut grants to libraries and use that money elsewhere.” (oh wait, that’s already being proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan.)

A library is not a wooden box. Above all, a library is:

  • a place both physical and virtual
  • a place to get help
  • a place to get information
  • a place to collaborate
  • a place to learn
  • a place to socialize

A handcrafted box of books – no matter how lovely (and many are!) – is not a library. It’s an open bookdrop. A library is more than just that.