Karma is a very inconvenient lady! After a rough patch, I found the blog post below through Twitter. This comes at a perfect time as I run around wondering how to manage all my end-of-the-year tasks, race around to meetings, rush off to events as my daughter finishes her elementary years, and plan for next year…which includes a 1:1 iPad roll out! Yikes! I’m signing on for no whining about my wonderful library, which I love but sometimes overwhelms me, for 24 hours! Already, the new mind set has paid off! I found out minutes ago that I will receive funding from the Rock Hill Foundation for a South Carolina Junior Book Award grant. Yay! More on that later. Check out this post and join in if you like.
I cannot express how much of an honor and a privileged it is to be chosen to be a Book Giver for World Book Night. This is the second year I have been able to participate in the program and I have been richly rewarded as a result. I don’t remember how I stumbled upon the program. Perhaps through a Tweet sometime during my first year back in my hometown, as I tried to settle in and find neat new things to do in my new middle school. When I found the WBN site, I did a good bit of reading. After all, I think most of us are distrustful of FREE opportunities these days.
I learned that WBN was a relatively new concept, which began in 2011. I also learned it was going on in the UK, Germany, and the US on April 23 in honor of International Day of the Book, Shakespeare’s birthday, and Cervantes death. I learned a bunch of other stuff you can learn too by going to their website. You should definitely go to their website.
The most exciting thing I learned was that every year they give away some really cool books and all you have to do is fill out an application explaining why you want to do that for them. The goal of WBN is to put books in the hands of people who may have no access or limited access to books, so you want to keep that in mind. Then, if you are lucky, you just might have the honor of calling yourself a World Book Night Book Giver. Books range in interest and reading levels. Book Givers may give books to anyone they choose from students in local schools and colleges to folks hanging out at public transportation spots to, well, anyone. Last year, I handed out twenty copies of Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. This year, my kids thrilled at receiving Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson.
Want to know what thrilled me? Their faces! My first customers of the day were my morning Poptropica maniacs. They have to get in their fix before school, you know? They came in, and I said, “Hey, hold these books like this and let me take your picture.” Yeah, okay. Cutting in on the Poptropica time, but they love me, sort of. I snapped the picture and then asked if they would like to keep the books. You should have seen their shock and delight. Smiles burst forth from their faces and off they went. The rest of the day was very much the same. Students came in and I would “randomly” ask some of them if they would like to have a copy of the book to keep forever, for their very own libraries. Some were dismayed. I’m pretty sure not many people have given them things out of nowhere. I’m even more sure no one has given them books for no apparent reason. Those moments of pleasure and wonder gave me goosebumps and one or twice I admit, I got a little teary eyed. Writing about it is letting me experience it all over again.
So, how do you randomly choose who to give books to? When someone asks me about my school, I say, “Well, we read.” We do. All the time. Everywhere. We give kids “Get Caught Reading” tickets for reading when they don’t have to. They visit the library frequently. We have summer reading events. We value reading. We have also come to understand that it is very hard to value something like reading when you don’t view yourself as a reader. Yes, you might go to the library. You might get a book off your teacher’s shelf. But if you don’t have any books at home, are you a reader? Maybe not. It is all in your perception, and anyone who knows middle schoolers know that perception is a driving force in much of what they do. That is why our school has been trying to get more books in our children’s hands so they can build their home libraries. World Book Night has given me the opportunity to help some of our students build their home library, build their view of themselves as readers, and let them know that I value them enough to want to help them do that.
In 2012, World Book Night Book Givers in the United States handed out half a million books. That’s a lot of books going to a lot of homes, dorm rooms, shelters, and other places that may or may not have libraries. I can’t wait to see the numbers for this year. WBN may very well be a modern day Johnny Appleseed of literacy in our country. Like I said, World Book Night rocks and I am very honored to have participated. Are you interested in having this goose-bumpy experience? Sign up for their newsletters so you don’t miss out next year!
For now, check out Neil Gaiman‘s thoughts on books. He co-authored Good Omens, one of the give-aways this year. And, as you well know, he too rocks. His blog post “It’s a Books! Books! Books! Books! Books! World.” was a nice wrap up to World Book Night for me. If you have time (yes, I recommend you FIND time), you should listen to the speech he includes. I love his dandelion analogy.
“If you build it, they will come.” If you’ve ever seen Kevin Costner’s movie Field of Dreams, you know what I’m talking about. I have to explain myself now because the reference is probably considered “retro” by many members of both my professional and private circle. For those of you who are lost, have no fear, I am completely finished making baseball allusions. I’ve probably topped out my knowledge base in that area, and am referring to building this blog as my most recent field of dreams anyway. Whew! Aren’t we all relieved to hear that. We didn’t tune into the wrong channel after all.
I have taken many “risks” over my eighteen year experience as a school library media specialist. I was in on probably one of my state’s first wireless computer lab concepts. I remember when FRED mail was the only e-mail and all my library buddies in South Carolina thought they were too cool for school. I remember having to swap out 5 -1/4 floppy disks so kids could take Accelerated Reader tests. My first school district may well have been one of only a handful in South Carolina to use Macs in the mid-1990s. I was trained as a container administrator for my school’s LAN. I had to teach the teachers how to save to a drive they couldn’t see or visit in person. Cloud computing was just a fantasy except perhaps in the minds of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and their contemporaries. Now you can get terabyte storage in Dropbox. In the past two years, I have begun “tweeting”; I know what hashtags are and can employ them semi-successfully; I figured out how to set up an educational Facebook page so parents and others could LIKE me instead of friend me, thus getting information without sharing their favorite words of wisdom or Aunt Janie’s chess pie recipe or worrying that I might see them in unflattering pictures their friends tagged them in. I have taught literally thousands of children about internet safety, ethical use of information, and how to navigate what is becoming an overwhelming and frequently fraudulent knowledge base that I can never hope to police and definitely cannot weed. I have clued them in to cyber bullying, setting security parameters, and using cell phones for good instead of evil.
Now, my new field of dreams. I am officially expanding from my 140 character Twitter limit @SamsLitCafe and broadening my horizons to hopefully becoming a contributing member of the School Librarian Blog-o-Sphere. This move is fraught with worries, questions, and an unending amount of what is sometimes surely going to be comic material. Perhaps that is why my first blog post is coming to light at nearly 3 AM after hours of tossing, turning, and wondering what I should write first or if I should bother. After all, it is going to be hard to come close to the quality and character of writing I find in some of my favorite blogs by some of my field’s more influential and charismatic leaders. They frequently make me feel like I am just not doing enough. They are bringing the circus to town while I am frequently following behind, collecting bits of confetti. But I have decided I am going to try. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. After all, I do have 24 likes on my library Facebook page and have 68 followers on Twitter. Some of them are even people I don’t know! Progress, right? I have even taken the advice of one of my all-time-favorite library heroes and friends Cathy Nelson and worked on building my brand. Yes, it is SamsLitCafe, and it may not pack a knock-out punch, but it is a perfect fit for me and I like it.
As to why blog now, on a Tuesday morning, at 3 AM. That would be thanks to one of my best school buds. She is our instructional coach, and also frequently a partner in crime, but that will emerge in blog posts to come. She pushes me and challenges me beyond anything I thought possible and I can truly say she has been instrumental in my professional growth over the past two years. Yesterday she sent me yet another link to yet another blog post that immediately made me want to stretch myself yet again. I knew it was a professional growth opportunity and not an insanity break because it wasn’t about cats or kittens, which are our fall back, I-need-a-time-out, shares. This little honey was from Stacked and the post was entitled “Show Me the Awesome: 30 Days of Self-Promotion“. Wow! If you are a school librarian, you know we may have many skills and talents, but we really do stink at letting anyone know about it. Here was my chance on a silver platter! I love to write, I love sharing my opinion with hopeless and hapless strangers, and here is my chance to do so on a famous blog! Double wow! So, I thought about the topic of promotion and the activities I’ve worked on this year, and decided that yes, indeed, I could actually come up with something semi-literate in the self-promotion, self-awareness venue. I then clicked on the Google form to sign up. I was zipping along fabulously, committing to writing a post, adding my Twitter handle, and then “bam”, “What’s your blog URL?” Hmmm… Now, no worries for most, there is actually an out. You can write a blog post for “30 Days of Awesome” as a guest blogger. That’s great. But for me, this “What’s your blog URL?” was a personal challenge. A clarion call. I love reading other people’s blogs, I glean so much from what they do and say. They are using blogs to share with people in their school districts, their states, nationwide, worldwide, across time and space. They have something to say that I want to hear, and maybe, just maybe, if I have enough to say about self-promotion as a school library media specialist then perhaps I have a few bits of knowledge others may learn from and want to use. So, here goes. We’ll see what the future brings. I have now officially entered the School Librarian Blog-o-Sphere. I made that up by the way, you probably won’t be able to Google “School Librarian Blog-o-Sphere” and find all of us librarians in one spot. We’re too stealthy for that.