Category Archives: Library

Making without context

This post was sparked by thoughtful conversations with Liz, Kelly, Beth, Marie, and Jenny. Thank you all!

When I was six, my mom taught me how to knit. We made knitting needles out of wooden dowels and beads and she showed me how to make the loops: Up through the front door, run around the back, down through the window and off jumps Jack. When I was older, I took up knitting as my own: I knit a sweater and then another one, and then I was teaching myself cables and lace from books we had, with my mom’s help. I learned about the history of different forms and techniques, and knitting’s modern history. Currently, several (most?) of my local friends are knitters and we talk about our projects, asking each other advice when an issue comes up. We trade tips and ideas and compliments. I read and appreciate all the expertise present on Ravelry–there’s someone else who’s made this, who knows how much yarn the project actually needs, who has a variation that I like even better than the original. Knitting is not only what I create; it is who I listen to and learn from; it is the community of other women who knit.

—–

The maker movement has become hugely popular in the last ten years, and it has swept libraries across the country. There are Maker programs, Makerspaces, circulating Maker items. A lot of times there is a pressure, conscious or unconscious, to be involved in the movement regardless of staff expertise or time/budget limitations. There are many neat things about the Maker movement, but it’s often talked about as if it’s the salvation of libraries. (Others have said smart things about the devaluation of Children’s & Youth Services, which has often done similar programs for years with less funding and recognition.)

What is maker culture? According to Wikipedia, it represents:

a technology-based extension of DIY culture that intersects with hacker culture which is less concerned with physical objects (as opposed to software) and the creation of new devices (as opposed to tinkering with existing ones). Typical interests enjoyed by the maker culture include engineering-oriented pursuits such as electronics, robotics, 3-D printing, and the use of CNC tools, as well as more traditional activities such as metalworking, woodworking, and, mainly, its predecessor, the traditional arts and crafts. The subculture stresses a cut-and-paste approach to standardized hobbyist technologies, and encourages cookbook re-use of designs published on websites and maker-oriented publications.

There’s a really telling word in there: predecessor. On the one hand, reading too much into a word choice on Wikipedia is perhaps a mistake. On the other hand–I’m going to make that mistake, because as I see it one of the major flaws of the maker culture/movement is its ignoring of the already existing and active history and culture of different crafts and arts. These things are not dead, as “predecessor” implies, and when maker culture doesn’t acknowledge and respect the other cultures of creation which are already present, it falls short.

—–

My first memories of creation are pretty clear. I remember my mom teaching me to knit. I remember my mom teaching me to bake bread in my own little loaf pan. I remember my mom teaching me to cross-stitch on a piece of gingham so I could see the squares. In all of these activities, there’s one constant which is: my mom was teaching me and I was listening and learning.

But also: I was learning that all of these skills she taught me required work and time. There are many crafts I don’t do, either through lack of particular interest or through lack of knowledge/time. However, when someone else makes a gorgeous felted toy, or hand-painted bureau, I have some small sense of the skill and work involved and I respect it. There’s a sense of appreciation, of collaboration and support rather than competing to be on the cutting edge. As my friend Marie said:

—–

There are certainly individuals who include arts and crafts within Makerspaces and culture–I’ve heard of libraries with spinning wheels, for instance. And yet, as a general usage, maker culture tends to be STEM-dominated and with a male-oriented ethos to it. I don’t have problem with STEM, except that it’s often assumed to be better than arts and crafts, and naturally on the way to replacing them. And more, even when arts and crafts are included within maker culture, they tend to be subsumed and reinvented, not recognized on their own.

For instance, knitting is not generally considered part of maker culture–unless it’s done with a 3-D printer. Why is it that a sweater knit on a machine is awe-inspiring and innovative, but a sweater knit by a girl is a symbol of “a domestic art from before the freedoms of feminism”? Why is it that what women have created, learned, and taught for years and even centuries suddenly becomes worthy when a male-led and dominated movement discovers it?

I have an answer to these questions.

—–

I don’t want to give the impression that I’m anti-technology, or even tech programs in libraries. For one thing, the internet has made learning crafts more open, by providing people across the world to learn from (helpful diagrams and YouTube videos have saved me more than once). Many of the tech-based programs are really neat in and of themselves (as far as I’m concerned, Makey Makey is wizardry).Nor am I anti-innovation when it comes to crafts. However, there’s a saying I’ve heard in regard to writing which I think applies here: you have to know the rules before you can break them. You should know the history and culture of a craft before you change it.

This is where I see maker culture as an issue. Rather than pausing to learn the history of a craft or what shaped it, maker culture wants to recreate it so it can be produced (as long as you do it exactly right). It creates an expectation of production rather than listening, replacing the relationships between people with a pressure to stay on top of flashy technology which often doesn’t last very long.

—–

I don’t want to say that crafting is some kind of utopian ideal; there are definitely issues of class and race that can’t be ignored. But if that’s true, it’s true of the maker movement as well, which posits a kind of surface egalitarianism while ignoring the work on which it is predicated. (Who exactly is making these 3-D printers, for example, and are they being lauded as makers?) For me, the value of crafting as I’ve experienced it is not only in gaining skills and the confidence to try new things, but in gaining respect for what other people do, in listening to and learning from their expertise and in passing it along whenever I can. It’s in respecting all the many ways we create, not just the ones that are popular at the moment.

Finally, I want to say that I certainly use the terminology of making, both at work where many of my craft programs are under the umbrella of “Make It,” and here where I call my monthly roundup of crafts & food “Made & Making.” It’s not that I want to claim I am somehow better and purer, and that anyone who’s involved in the maker movement is wrong and bad–indeed I don’t think there’s any inherent opposition. Rather, maker culture and the way we talk about it tends to erase the history and importance of traditionally female creation while promoting male-driven tech-oriented creation. When I want is not the dismissal of the maker movement, but a recognition both of the importance and validity of listening and learning–not from experts, but from each other–and of the long history and strength of what is too often dismissed as women’s work.

 

9 Comments

Filed under crafts, Library

Library Displays: Big-over-the-top display

Last month, I was asked to create a display for the big display case near the main entrance to the library. Naturally, I jumped at the chance!

100_4223

I decided to make a big, huge, over the top display, with all the things I want to do regularly and can’t because of the limits of the display area I’m normally working with. Additionally, I wanted it to have a fairy tale kind of feeling. This is the finished product.
100_4224
Close up of the right side.

100_4225
I really like the whale

100_4226
Middle panel

100_4227
Left side

I used quite a bit of poster board for this project–the castle, the sea animals, boat, and the hot air balloons are all made out of poster board. Some of it was drawn with Sharpie, other pieces are cut paper.

100_4218
Here are the two balloons. I suspended them with string and fixed it so they wouldn’t swing around and show the (unadorned) back.

100_4220
Castle. I drew and decorated the individual pieces and then layered them to create a slightly 3-D effect. The base is two Baker & Taylor boxes taped together and covered in green butcher paper.

100_4221
The first layer is put together!

100_4222
And now it’s mostly done.

I love how this project turned out, and it was really fun to be making something so creative and bold. It was a ton of work, but I’m very pleased with the results.

4 Comments

Filed under Library

Library Displays: Amazing Women and Spring

Amazing Women

The first display I made in March was highlighting Women’s History Month. I created a graphic in Publisher which I would be sharing right now if I hadn’t accidentally deleted it. And then I pulled together a bunch of books, trying to feature different times and kinds of being women, as well as representing a diverse group. I think I ended up with a good mix, and this display circulated really well for a more serious subject. I mostly focused on picture book biographies, because I think they’re more eye-catching, with some non-fiction mixed in.

Spring

I always enjoy putting together a spring display for the library. Last year, I did a row of over-sized tulips and the year  before I did a rainy day theme. This year, I was inspired by a program I did a month or so ago, where we made tissue paper flowers. I created a swag of colorful flowers, printed off a banner, and assembled it.

image

The finished product

image

Here’s a close-up of the flowers. Some of them were inspired by real flowers, and some weren’t, but I’m very happy with how they turned out overall (I tried to make a tulip and it looks like a poppy, I think because tissue paper isn’t stiff enough to hold shape well).

image

What I especially like about this display is the three-dimensional aspect. My normal default is to make displays that are 2-D, because I like paper crafting. But this is really different and eye-catching, imo. Something to remember!

5 Comments

Filed under Library

Library Displays: January-February 2015

bedtime

I wanted to take a look at some of the displays I’ve done in the children’s room recently. With the change in my job, some of my focus has moved away from displays, but I am still trying to do at least two a month. These are from the past two months.

Bedtime: This is always a popular topic and it seemed like January was a good time for snuggly stories about going to bed. I put together the banner above in Publisher, using some graphic elements and an Alison Jay illustration.

Creativity: I actually called this one “Make It” on the banner and tried to feature a number of different ideas of making–food, art, clothing, crafts, and other creative projects. We were very overdue for a non-fiction oriented display and I was pleased with how this one went.

Black History Month: This year and last I’ve been trying to make Black History Month displays that are creative and inspiring. Last year, with the focus on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, I went with “Let Freedom Ring” and tried to feature some of the many different people who were involved in the 1960s civil rights movement. This year, I focused on both fiction and non-fiction books which were created by black writers and illustrators. It’s circulated pretty well! And I’m renewing my own commitment to be sure to include diverse books in all displays, not just the heritage months.

Sheep Tales: According to the Chinese zodiac, this is the year of the sheep (or maybe goat? sources seem to disagree). I’m not doing a display directly based on that, but it did seem like an opportunity to pull out some of the picture books and non-fiction that feature sheep.

1 Comment

Filed under Library

Midwinter fun, part 2

Part 1
Sunday
I took it easy Sunday morning too, but I did end up getting to the conference in time to hear LeVar Burton speak. I’m so, so glad this worked out, because it was definitely a highlight of the conference and maybe my entire life. His talk was so powerful and rich. First he read the picture book he wrote recently and talked about how he was trying to carry on Fred Rogers’s legacy in writing it. Then he talked about his inspirations and heroes, including his mother, Alex Haley, and Gene Roddenberry. He talked about how powerful it was for him to see Uhura in the original Star Trek and how it made him feel like there was a place for people who looked like him in the future. He also talked about flawed heroes and how he came to realize that we can be inspired by people without turning them into impossibly perfect idols. Then there was a great Q&A session. Highlights: he would love to be in an adaptation of Octavia Butler’s books because he loves how she deals with the human condition. He was asked about his favorite picture books and one of the answers was Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman and it turned out she was in the audience. He looked so overjoyed when she stood up.

There was a lot more, including a great quote about the value of libraries, but overall it was just one of the most wonderful things. I was choked up or in tears most of the time. I am really grateful that he spoke in a year when I could be there and that ALA got a speaker who has so much grounding in years of literary and literacy advocacy. LeVar Burton clearly knows what he’s talking about and it shows.

In a daze of happiness/tears, I wandered over to the exhibit hall and happened to see Leila and Kelly. I actually worked up the nerve to say hello, and I’m glad I did–it’s always nice to have that in-person connection, however brief. I walked through the exhibits and picked up a few books. Disney-Hyperion had put out ARCs of Black Dove, White Raven, but since I had an eARC from NetGalley and also plan to purchase it, I didn’t pick one up.

After that, I went to an Ignite session, mostly for the Crossover RA part. That was fantastic, and I want to read all the books! I am curious about how these sessions are grouped (for those who don’t know, they’re 5 minute presentations on a variety of topics) since it seems like the interests are very broken up. Why not group them at least by age or library type? I was also interested in the iDiversity student group at the University of Maryland and would like to find out some more information about their efforts.

My last session of the day was “Diversity Matters,” a follow-up from the Day of Diversity on Friday. The original Day was invitation-only, but this session was open to everyone. It was a thought-provoking and somewhat frustrating session. It opened with a brief recap of some of the key points from the discussions at the Day of Diversity, and then had several questions for the audience members to consider and answer. I think my issue is that the room really wasn’t laid out to have a good discussion (not at all the fault of the organizers!) and that some of the audience members seemed to come with a prepared agenda. Which is understandable when you feel passionate about an issue, but doesn’t necessarily make for a good in-depth discussion.

I did very much appreciate that the questions challenged me to think about my own role and assumptions, and what I can do to advocate for diversity in my own situations. If anything, I wanted more discussion of the nitty-gritty. When there’s an emphasis on stats and circulation, how do you talk to the board and community, for instance? I also appreciated that the organizers pointed out that books by and about diversity DO sell, and that the conversation has actually been going on for years, whether or not the wider community has been aware of it. Also, that STEAM and STEM success is not a matter of aptitude, but of preparation, access, and motivation, and that library programs can help break down some of those barriers. Someone also mentioned increasing opportunities for book giveaways, especially for minority kids, so that those who can’t necessarily afford to purchase books have a way to get books about kids who look like them.

After this, I went back to the hotel and then went down to Brandy and Sondy‘s hotel to have dinner with them (Cybils panelists united in person!). At this point, the snow had started, but I felt perfectly safe walking (though I would never have driven!). We had a great dinner, and a fun time talking about books and libraries and etc. When I tried to walk back to my hotel, though, the wind had picked up and it was way colder and I walked four blocks and then turned around. Brandy had very kindly offered her extra hotel bed if I needed it and it turned out I did. (Thank you once again, Brandy.)

Monday
I had to get up way, WAY too early to walk back to my hotel and pick up my badge, but fortunately, I got on a shuttle and got down to the conference for the Youth Media Awards. I was pretty early and managed to get there right after Brandy. I was a bit worried about how big the room for the awards would be, but it seemed to be enough space for everyone. Brandy & I got good seats too, with a nice view of both the stage and the video monitors.

I felt like the excitement of being there kind of had a cumulative effect. At first it was just fun, but then by the time half the awards had been announced, there was this hum of anticipation. It was great sitting next to Brandy too, since we have such similar reactions to a lot of books. Lots of cheering and few raised eyebrows.

Reactions to various awards
Alex: I will admit, I was disappointed not to see Girls at the Kingfisher Club. But the only one I’ve actually read is Lock In, so I really can’t judge how strong this selection was.
I am resolved to read the Schneider and Stonewall books, since I had only read Morris Micklewhite.
I loved the choices for the Coretta Scott King books this year, especially the illustrators. Great stuff, and a wide range of talents. I think the CSK Award for Brown Girl Dreaming was exactly right.
And then Sharon Draper won the Margaret A. Edwards award, which is for lifetime achievement! Huge cheers from everyone at that. I’ve loved the Edwards award picks the past few years.
I was really happy that Gabi, A Girl in Pieces won the Morris–I loved Story of Owen, but I think it’s great to see Gabi’s story being recognized.
I have read exactly one of the Printz books, This One Summer. In general, I don’t think this was a year with a strong body of work for the Printz committee to choose from, and I think the committee built a good slate out of their options.
I also loved all the Pura Belpre illustration choices this year. Again, a wide range of illustrators and talents.
And then Donald Crews won the Laura Ingalls Wilder award. I love his books, and I was so happy to see him recognized.

So then the Caldecott. I remember there being a gasp when six honor books were announced, and what awesome books they are! I love Lauren Castillo’s art, and Jon Klassen is also a huge favorite of mine. And then the absolute shocker, This One Summer. I’m actually really happy to see the committee pushing the boundaries of the award a little bit, while still remaining within the rules. And I thought the illustrations for This One Summer were incredibly strong.

After the six Caldecott Honors, there was another gasp when only two Newbery honors were announced. But I think it’s perfect: the three books that were honored are individually and collectively wonderful. I am so happy that all three got the recognition they deserved. And since The Crossover was absolutely one of my favorite books last year, and I didn’t expect that it had a real chance of winning in such a strong year, I was incredibly happy to be proven wrong.

What I remember from the awards is the point at which everyone realized that this was an absolutely exceptional year, and that the committees had done an amazing job of individually choosing wonderful books that represent all different kinds of experiences. And, let’s just be honest, the gasp when This One Summer got the Caldecott Honor and the cheers when The Crossover won the Newbery.

Since ALA, I have heard that some librarians are unhappy with the awards this year, that they weren’t what was expected, that there’s too much diversity. But I completely disagree. The excitement and joy in that room were palpable. And if you think kids don’t love these books, take a look at this video. As far as I’m concerned, the ALA committees put principle into action, and I love the results. I only hope that the committees continue to honor the diversity of our world and test the boundaries of the awards.

After the awards, I did one last circuit of the exhibits, and saw a copy of Brown Girl Dreaming absolutely covered in stickers. And that was my conference, although I did have a chance to visit with an old friend who lives in Chicago now.

I am so grateful to the library, which sent me to the conference, and it will always be a treasured memory for me. Parts were frustrating or challenging, but the highlights were amazing, from LeVar Burton, to the YMAs. Meeting some of the people I’ve known online was also wonderful, especially getting to see Brandy as much as I did–it’s so great when you get along well in person too!

6 Comments

Filed under bookish posts, Library

Midwinter fun, part 1

All right, I’m going to attempt to recap my experiences at ALA Midwinter last week. This was my first time at Midwinter, although I attended ALA Annual two years ago.

Friday
My plan was to drive up from Indianapolis on Friday. Even though I woke up with a cold, I did manage to get to Chicago around 4:30. I had been nervous about the fact that it’s such a big city and the hotel is right in the middle. Fortunately, I managed to time it so I didn’t hit rush hour, and the worst part was trying to find a place to park. (I later discovered that all the parking garages I thought were close just have doors that shut automatically.) I got settled at the hotel and went down to try to get to the conference. One shuttle pulled off just as I got there and the next one was completely full before I could get on! It was quite a long line, but fortunately this never happened to me again. Funny moment: while standing in line, I was chatting with the person next to me and said, “Well, at least it’s not too cold,” which from my point of view it wasn’t. Apparently, they disagreed.

Eventually I got there and checked in at the conference. I decided to look at the exhibits briefly and ended up meeting up with Brandy! I picked up a couple of ARCs, but it was too busy and I was too tired to spend much time there. Brandy and I had been planning to have dinner at a Noodles & Co. that was near my hotel, which was a nice low-stress thing for the first night. After that, I went straight back to the hotel and pretty much crashed.

Saturday
There were a few things I had been possibly interested in attending in the morning, but I opted to sleep in a bit, because colds are the worst. I ended up walking over to Argo tea for breakfast. Quiche and really good chai.

The first thing I went to on Saturday ended up being “YALSA Trends Impacting YA Services: Designing the library of the future for & with teens”. This was a program I thought would be relevant to my job and was hoping would be interesting and inspiring. It was definitely thought-provoking, and I liked several of the principles, but I didn’t myself find the details translated well into other situations. Of course it would be great to have teens and tweens invested and helping plan programs, but it’s not going to be every library’s reality. The ideas also seemed very education focused and for a lot of the kids that we see regularly when they come in after school, more education is not at all what they want. I wish I had been able to stay for the discussion and question part of the talk, because my hesitations might have been addressed.

Next, I headed up to the Macmillan/Tor Teen Book Buzz event, and eventually connected with Jenny. I was expecting to be really interested in the Tor titles because, well, Tor. But I ended up being far more interested in what MacMillan was putting out. (All the Rage, Delicate Monsters, Bet Your Life–it sounds like they have a really strong line-up.) Also, I found out that apparently Lovecraftian YA is a thing, which I really am not excited about.

I did duck into the Ignite session, hoping to catch Angie Manfredi’s 20 Diverse Titles booktalk. Alas, I was a little bit too late and walked in to a discussion of library website layout. Sigh. There was a look at diverse comics which was interesting, but I am sad I missed out on the booktalk.

I ate a sandwich I bought in the morning (I recommend this for lunches, since everything is expensive and the lines are long at the actual convention center). And then Brandy and I met up and managed to find the BFYA teen feedback session. This was simultaneously a great experience and a really frustrating one. The teens themselves were awesome–I love how willing they are to just say that they hated a book. There were several who were super articulate and thoughtful. And I have a lot of thoughts about how many of these teen girls LOVED Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, and why this totally validates my thoughts on that book. But the format of the session was really annoying: apparently in the past, the teens have been asked to choose one title per page of the list. This time the adult moderator literally went through EVERY SINGE TITLE. I left about 10 minutes after the session was supposed to have ended and they still hadn’t reached the Js. I had problems with this for a few reasons: 1) it seems really disrespectful to the teens and their adults to have them prepare for all of these books and then not even get to 3/4 of them and 2) it meant that a lot of time was taken up with teens saying the same things. I know that the possibility of getting through the whole list is slim to none anyway, but again, 3/4 of the list was left. All in all, this is a great event, but the people organizing it fell down on the job this year.

Because that session had gone over (and was still going when I left), I was late to the next thing, which was another Book Buzz–HarperCollins (which I completely missed), Disney-Hyperion, and Bloosmbury. Disney-Hyperion is such an interesting imprint to me because they have such a mix of really commercial titles and some very thoughtful ones. Takeaway titles from this session for me: Watch the Sky, Black Dove, White Raven, the last Clementine book, Shadows of Sherwood, Women Who Broke the Rules, The Devil You Know (new Trish Doller!). Also apparently a retelling of The Princess and the Pea, which I have questions about.

At this point, I was feeling really terrible, so I went back to my hotel and rested for awhile. I managed to get myself up and get pizza (spinach artichoke feta, SO GOOD). One of the weirder experiences ever was sitting in Giordano’s eating and having “The Hanging Tree”–you know, the song from Mockingjay–come on the music station they were playing. Anyway, after I got food, I went straight back to the hotel and bed.

Part 2

2 Comments

Filed under bookish posts, Library

Library Display: The Hobbit

The last part of Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Hobbit, The Battle of the Five Armies, came out yesterday. While it’s far from a perfect adaptation, I have enjoyed the movies. Last year I came up with a display to highlight some readalikes.
hobbit 2

For this one, I used the Ringbearer Font, since it’s one of the most recognizable and readable of the LotR related fonts*. It and many of the others are available through Arwen-Undomiel. And I used this image to go with it (I tried to find a source and completely failed!). I mounted it all on green construction paper and called it good.

hobbit 3

And here you can see some of the books I chose to go with it. I tried to include a variety, since I think there are different reasons to love The Hobbit. Some dragon books, some adventure, some epic fantasy.

* Yeah, my old Tolkien nerddom really had fun with this one!

3 Comments

Filed under Library