We just started J-term, the first summer term, which comes on the heels of Spring term. I finished my last paper for Spring term at 1:00 p.m. on Thursday (5/13) and drove with my boyfriend to NYC for my sister-in-law’s law school graduation on Friday. The graduation ceremony at CUNY Law was long and boring, as you might expect, but Lilly Ledbetter spoke and we got to talk to her at the reception afterward, which made it all worth it. I spent most of the weekend with family and old friends– the only other event of public interest was that we saw Pierre Boulez conduct the Met Orchestra at Carnegie Hall (is it just me or does this NYT article need some revisions?). My boyfriend and I met working for the Buffalo Philharmonic, and before that, while we were undergraduates at Buffalo, I worked at Slee Concert Hall when he was in the music theory program. I’m also a Deleuze buff, so seeing Boulez conduct was a major event for both of us. (I would have preferred hearing Boulez conduct his own work to “The Wooden Prince,” but beggars can’t be choosers. Seeing him at all was a privilege.)
After this whirlwind 3-day excursion, J-term classes started Monday night. This term I’m taking my last two classes: Management and YA Resources. Management is taught by a librarian who I have known for some time and who was recently hired as an Assistant Professor (she has been adjuncting, and has been a student favorite, for a few years now). YA Resources is taught by a YA librarian. Perhaps it’s the excitement of a course that only lasts six intensive weeks, but both courses seem interesting, fun, and informative.
My fifth and final class last term was Networking Technologies, which was my most useful class. This course was well-designed with hands-on networking projects and my final paper was about how different DL software interacts with different server types– crucial background information for choosing a DL software when creating a DL from scratch for a library that already has a server in place (or for choosing a server in the first place). Networking Tech was kind of like “how to be the IT guy without a CS degree”– this certainly seems like it would be useful in a small library. IT guys are notoriously over-specialized (and expensive) (and I use the noun “guys” consciously). An IT librarian with extensive teaching experience is multi-functional: can program and manage the network, perform basic library tasks, and can interact with patrons.
I’m excited about YA Resources because I know nearly nothing about YA literature. When I was in high school, we read The Iliad and The Odyssey in 8th and 9th grades, as well as books like Romeo and Juliet. High school brought much more Shakespeare along with books like Madame Bovary, Candide, Crime and Punishment, A Tale of Two Cities, and copious Hemingway and Faulkner. Even in sixth grade I was reading Steinbeck, Fitzgerald, and Hemingway, and my favorite author was O’Henry. I did read some Paul Zindel in elementary school. In fourth and fifth grades, I was in a book club with several girls in the grade below me. We read a mixture of classics (like Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath) and children’s classics (like The Yearling). Since we were assigned these books by the father of one of the girls, we read them without fear of the books being “too hard.” We just read them and talked about them and ate cake. Thus I just kind of skipped an entire genre of literature, moving from books written for the fourth-grade reading level to those written for adults. I think this was fine for me, but I can see how it is not fine for all readers. As a teacher of late teens (freshmen) who test into the lowest level of English composition, I see the literacy levels of “average” college students straight out of high school. I often challenge them, as my friend’s dad challenged us, to read books above their reading level by approaching the work as if it were totally non-threatening. But I see some of them struggle with Barthes, Aristotle, and Shakespeare. I think having intermediate literature is important for these people who probably could not have jumped from Freckle Juice to A Farewell to Arms. I have always been a “good reader,” but obviously, different people have different skills. So I’m excited about meeting this whole new genre and being able to better adapt my teaching and librarianship to the target audience of these works. I’m also excited about a class that forces me to do “light summer reading”!
On the first day of YA Resources, someone asked what grade level The Outsiders should be recommended to. The answers ranged from sixth to twelfth. Sixth was generally nixed because sixth graders are too young, supposedly, to confront the issues in The Outsiders. Twelfth grade seemed absurd to me. My opinion on this matter was that recommendations should be made on a case-by-case basis after interviewing the patron about what other books they’ve read and enjoyed. I know people who were mature enough to confront the issues of The Outsiders in sixth grade. I do not know any twelfth graders who would consider it more than light reading, but maybe that’s what they’re looking for. Thus, assigning grade levels to books rather than to readers seems problematic.
I’m also enjoying my Management class so far. For one thing, I like learning businessy jargon to slap on to theories of management I’ve developed from working and teaching. For another, I like seeing that some people are just not cut out to be managers. They aren’t observant, or they don’t take enough factors into account when making a decision, or they don’t listen to other people (except to take orders). Observing my classmates’ managerial styles via the questions they ask and the solutions they put forth is very interesting. Some people are just “workers” while others are “managers” and still others are their managers and CEOs and the like. I don’t think I’m cut out to be a CEO or VP or something where my work completely takes over my life, because I have family and hobbies that I like and I can’t manage an entire business (although I do manage my non-profit press, Outside Voices– but there are no stockholders, etc. to worry about). I think I could manage large numbers of people, though, because I have done so as a teacher. I think I’d be especially good at being a project manager or at splitting a larger trajectory into a number of smaller projects to manage. I’m good at being observant, flexible, and creative, and I’m good at seeing the big picture and being flexible about how the picture is achieved while fairly firm about the picture itself. I’m unsure about translating “No, seriously, I do this all the time as a teacher” to business world speak, but since librarians are also teachers, maybe libraries will be a friendlier place to cross the line between “teaching” and “managing.”
I will be done with summer coursework on 6/25, ten months after I began the MLS program, and I’m moving to Birmingham, AL in August. I will receive my MLS on 9/1. Since I’m having a baby and moving hundreds of miles away in August, I’m not looking for short-term summer employment or internships. It bugs me to be unemployed. I’m much happier when I’m working. But with the prospect of moving, it’s not really fair to seek a job that I’d have to leave so quickly. I’ll start looking for work in Birmingham on 9/1. I’m eager to get back to work and try out my new LIS toolbox.