Books, Library, People

ALA 2015 Debrief: You have to see it to be it.


T-shirt design by the Harry Potter Alliance, beign sold at the conference
T-shirt design by the Harry Potter Alliance

Finally getting a chance to process all that I experienced at  the ALA conference in San Francisco. For those librarians who want to learn more about the specific sessions I went to, I have included short write-ups of those at the end of this post.
But the best part first:

It's Mo!!
It’s Mo!!

Of course, I was starstruck by all the authors signing their books in the exhibit hall (Mo Willems! Brian Selznick! Rita Garcia-Williams! Thanhha Lai! Oh my!) and was blown away by amazing speakers like Gloria Steinem and Edwidge Danticat, but the awards ceremonies I attended were truly inspirational. My heart hurt for Dan Santat accepting the Caldecott after years of hard work and self-doubt. My body was covered in head-to-toe goosebumps when Kwame Alexander recited his speech on how to win a Newbery like it was a poetry slam for his life.  I felt Jandy Nelson’s spiritual ecstasy as she described her process of writing her Printz award-winner, I’ll Give You the Sun.

Jason Reynolds at the CSK breakfast
Jason Reynolds at the CSK breakfast

But best of all was the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Breakfast. Kwame Alexander said he felt like it was church, and I think everyone in attendance would agree that they felt elevated to a higher place that morning. From Jason Reynolds’ absolutely electric opener to Christian Robinson and Patricia Hruby Powell’s joyful Josephine-inspired dance to another amazing Kwame performance to Chris Myers’ hopeful assertion that we are rewriting the world – wow!

Shivers. Tears. Joy.

Josephine would be proud, Christian and Patricia!
Josephine would be proud, Christian and Patricia!

Diversity was the overarching theme at the conference for me this year, perhaps only because of the sessions I chose to attend or the incredible news of SCOTUS’ decision kicking off the conference on a high note, but it seemed again and again that the need for diverse books was affirmed and is being heard and acted upon. Gloria Steinem said in her talk, “You have to see it to be it,” and over and over I heard that sentiment repeated in some shape or form, asserting that all readers need to see themselves in the pages of books, to know they matter, to know they have voices, to know they could become whatever they want to be. The beloved group at the CSK breakfast are toiling for it, writing windows and painting mirrors, keeping all children dreaming. The creators at the diverse comics panel are pushing for change and succeeding – Ethan Young even offered himself as an example, only allowing himself to dream of creating comics because he saw Gene Luen Yang’s success.
Change is here. Diverse books seem to be increasing and their amazing authors are being given a platform. And do you know what they say?
They thank librarians.
Because we are the ones who get the right books in the right hands at the right time.
Like I said in my last post, Jandy Nelson called us “the light keepers, the ones who hand out the light”.
This is what it’s all about, people. We are rewriting the world together. Keep on handing out the light.

The Newbery, Caldecott and Wilder acceptance speeches are available  here.

And here are my session reviews:
Robot Invasion: How Librarians in School, Public and Academic Libraries are Educating with Robots
Programs in robotics are becoming more commonplace and this wonderfully helpful panel of school, public and academic librarians helped break down the process of getting a program started in all different types of libraries. If you are interested in getting tips on how to start your own program, you might contact one of the presenters in the type of library you work and ask for tips because they were all very approachable and made robotics seem feasible, even for the least tech-savvy librarian to pull off. The panel was hosted by Sara Kepple, who has a book called Library Robotics coming out this September (get it for 20% off with the code q21520 here).

Resource Re-Defined: School Libraries as Learning Spaces
School librarians Nancy Jo Lambert and Stacy Cameron from Texas shared how they have transformed their traditional library space into a true 21st century learning commons. They discussed the importance of fighting for flexible schedules, seeing makerspaces as an idea not a place, highlighted the useful technology and configuration of the space, and went over some of the successful programming that ensured they were integrating their services into the schoolwide curriculum, including in math. They offered an excellent example of the shift from the library being a quiet study space to becoming the learning community hub, and with their tremendous ideas and energy you could see why their space is now often “two glowsticks short of a rave”.  I will write more about this in full over on the AASL Knowledge Quest blog.

GraphiCon Discussion Forum: On Diversity in Comics
This panel of exceptional comics creators who are working to turn the tides in terms of diversity in comics was outstanding. Comics are for everyone, and creators like these are ensuring a diverse audience sees themselves on the pages. Check out the link to see slides with the list of all the panelists and an array of titles featuring characters that defy stereotypes, then get them on your shelves!

Best/Worst Comics and Manga for Kids
What an excellent list of recommendations these experts put together! Check the link for the handout to get a great list of graphic novels that will disappear from your shelves as soon as you put them on. Note: They were not calling out the “worst” comics as in, “these are terribly done”; instead, they offered much-appreciated suggestions about titles which were not suitable for children due to their graphic and violent content. Beware if a 10-year-old comes in asking for a copy of The Walking Dead, for example.

Marie Lu Chats with 8 Young Adult Debuts
Marie Lu of Legend fame (and now The Young Elites) moderated a panel of eight debut authors offering a delectable smorgasbord of new diverse YA novels. Check out the link to get the list of authors, stock up on their books, and invite them to come to your library to speak. All eight women were excellent speakers who have written stories that dismantle any YA tendencies toward a cookie-cutter cast of characters.

Activities, Books, Library, People

ALA 2015, Day 1: My Happy Place

Today felt epic. 

Not only because it started out with this news, but because I got to spend it with the best people on earth: librarians!

I began by watching a panel of comics creators speak on Diversity in Comics put on by GraphiCon and weneeddiversebooks.  The main theme I got out of it is that the tides are turning. The creators, the market, librarians, etc., are pushing for change in the publishing industry and it’s happening exponentially. Corporate gatekeepers are opening up the doors to new voices and progressive themes. There are so many more books out now with strong female protagonists (some even with breasts proportionate to the rest of their bodies), characters of color, and of different sexual orientations and abilities. The panelists expressed the hope this isn’t a fad, but a reflection of true change and recognition of the need for people to see themselves reflected in the books they read.


From there, I went to the opening of the Exhibit Hall. Librarians swarmed to get free swag – posters, pins, bookmarks, tote bags, even Its-Its! But best of all books! Some advanced reader copies of books not even available yet, and some hardcover new releases, free for us librarians so we can read ’em and spread the word. Oh, the joys of this job! 

(My swag!)

Some authors were even there signing. I got to meet the lovely Thanhha Lai (of Inside Out and Back Again) and have her sign a copy of her new book Listen, Slowly. 

(Terrible picture. I was too excited to hold still.)

I ended the night at the Michael L. Printz Award reception. What a fantastic bunch of authors and books were honored this year. Getting to hear winner Jandy Nelson (for I’ll Give You The Sun) give her speech was inspirational. What a gift for words this woman has. She thanked us librarians and called us lightkeepers, the ones who hand out the light, the ones who work tirelessly to get the right books in the right hands at the right time. “We are rewriting the world, people.”

Yes, today it truly feels like we are.


ALA came to me this year!



What better way to kick off the new blog kick than with posts about ALA 2015? In my town! Got my badge today and helped three lovely librarians from Nigeria take a picture in front of the Moscone Center. The fun starts tomorrow! Stay tuned.


Back to the Blog!

Four years have passed since I’ve posted on this blog. Four years. In that time I earned a Master of Library and Information Science degree, plunged into my first school library jobs,  went on a year-long adventure in Taiwan and Southeast Asia with my family, and watched as Little Man went from toddler to kindergarten graduate (he just lost his first tooth! What?!). While all of that would have been interesting to document, I just did not have the time.

Now feels like an auspicious time to start back up. I will begin a very exciting new job this Fall as the Middle School Learning Commons Coordinator at a brand new space at the Chinese American International School. As Dr. David Loerschter has proclaimed this The Year of the Learning Commons, it seems like it might be helpful for other librarians to see my process – so they can learn from my experiments and avoid the inevitable failures, as well as have a place to cheer each other on.  I will also have a monthly blog spot over at Knowledge Quest featuring other librarian folks and their Learning Commons adventures.

I am so ready to hunker down and dive into this career. It really is my dream job and I cannot wait to meet my new colleagues and students and start imagining ways to use the Learning Commons resources to help make learning fun, relevant and connected to their passions – to start creating wonder! Please follow along and join in the conversation.



New year, new direction

I have had this blog for over two years now. Originally, it was a place to get in the habit of writing articles and posting illustrations regularly, but it morphed into whatever I needed it to be at the time – a pregnancy log, a place to meet other new moms, a way to stay creative while surviving my son’s infancy – and once again it will be shifting its focus down a new path.

I am still on a campaign to create wonder, the emphasis I made in the blog last year. I always thought that would be through writing and illustrating books or teaching art, but I have decided to pursue a master’s degree in library and information science because I believe librarians play a huge role in creating wonder in the world as well, and in a way that may better suit my personality. Over the next few years as I slowly chip away at the program, while also working and raising my son (now 18 months old) this blog will probably contain thoughts about what I’m learning in the San Jose State MLIS program. Please check in from time to time if you are interested in libraries, their role in preserving and sharing information with the larger society, how they create wonder, or how I might incorporate my interests in art, children’s literature, and education into a meaningful library career.

Here’s to a great new year!

Activities, Uncategorized

Action #9: Be Still

Life has been far too noisy for me lately. For whatever reason I am built to thrive with frequent doses of silence and solitude. I used to think this was just a freaky thing about myself I could choose to ignore, but I can’t. Too long in the city and I can’t even hear myself think. I get overwhelmed by the hubbub that assaults me as soon as I set foot onto my busy street every morning. The din follows me in when I turn on my computer, which is full of competing voices shouting for attention. And speaking of shouting, my toddler seems to only have two settings: Asleep or Loud. I have been long overdue for some quiet time.
Here are some ideas on how to incorporate stillness into your life, to make room for wonder.

Ample Time and Money: Retreat! It turns out some of the people I respect the most have also needed this time alone to recharge. Jesus, for one. Another is one of my favorite authors, Madeleine L’Engle, who wrote, “Every so often I need OUT; something will throw me into total disproportion, and I have to get away from everybody – away from all those people I love most in the world – in order to regain a sense of proportion.”

I just spent a couple days at my family cabin with no electricity on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean just south of Big Sur (my family may not be rich in many material ways, but this little piece of heaven makes up for anything else we may lack). It is such a centering, grounding place for me. I immediately feel reconnected to the rhythms of the earth, to my past, to who I am and what my place is when I go there. There is nothing like watching the sun set in a spectacular light show with an unobstructed panoramic view and then seeing a gazillion stars revealed to regain a sense of proportion as just one tiny part of a great cloud of galaxies. I feel as L’Engle again writes, “I am created by a power who cares about the sparrow, and the rabbit in the snare, and the people on the crowded streets; who calls the stars by name. And you. And me. When I remember this it is as though pounds are lifted from me.”

Go somewhere you can be still enough to feel that. Get away from it all. Unplug, check out, and recharge before your battery runs dry. If you can go for a good long while, great, but even if it’s just for a weekend or 24 hours, it will do wonders. Mothers, in particular, need to treat themselves to a rejuvenating break, but tend to be the last to do it. Don’t feel guilty. The kids will survive. You need this! (As expected, my son was much more excited at the return of our dog than of me. His first words are “dog” and “Dude”, our dog’s name. Still no “mama”, dang it!)

Limited Resources: Observe some form of the Sabbath. Even if you are not remotely religious, practicing a day of rest, relaxation, and connection with community each week is a wonderful and much needed ritual we can all adapt to fit our circumstances. It doesn’t have to be done in a legalistic or rote way, just in ways that are helpful to you personally to be mindful and slow down from your hectic schedule. Check out for inspiration.

Busy and Broke: Start a silence habit. Just like checking email has become a habit or bath time for our toddler is an anticipated part of the daily routine, I am hoping to incorporate some mindful silence daily. Before Little Man came along, I used to journal and read and pray in the mornings. Now, mornings are nonstop action from 6:30 on. It may require an adjustment of priorities, but if I retrain myself to take some time each day to pray or meditate or journal or read something soul lifting, I know it will become a habit that will benefit my mental, spiritual, physical and creative health.

May you all be able to create wonderful moments of stillness in your days. For those of you who check back here from time to time, you’ll notice I have not been posting twice a week as I had been. It will probably remain infrequent as I rearrange priorities to be present to a busy toddler and attempt to maintain mental health and good life balance and maybe even read some actual books. I haven’t quite decided to go the route of Yiyun Li, but I may be headed in that direction.


Action #8: Grow Some Wonder

It is still miraculous to me that you put a seed in the dirt and after a bit, it grows into something edible or beautiful or determined or tall as a redwood. I am not known for my green thumb. My greatest achievement to date in plant management has been to keep some bamboo alive, just barely, for the past ten years. But I am ready for more.

I mentioned awhile back that we signed up our backyard as part of an urban cooperative farm, but sadly, the organization went belly up. It was a brilliant idea, but somehow paying their farmers a living wage in San Francisco was not a sustainable business model (imagine that!). We were left with a garden set up to grow things, which my neighbor with whom we share the yard promptly took over, as I was busy tending to a newborn. Seeing what she has accomplished (tomatoes galore! kale, arugula, brussel sprouts, oh my!), and now that I have a toddler who can “help” me or at least busy himself in the dirt while I garden, I decided it’s time to try my hand at cultivating a small corner of our yard.

I have no clue if this is a good time to plant or if I am doing it right at all, but I planted green beans, strawberries, pumpkins, watermelon, cabbage, broccoli and beets. It’s only been a week and I’m already seeing little sprouts popping up. I helped to create life! Now, we’ll see if I can keep them alive.

What would you like to grow?

Ample Time and Money: Transform your yard into a garden. See how much of your food you could grow yourself, like Barbara Kingsolver did for a year (she wrote about this in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle).

Limited Resources: Start out with a few pots or an indoor herb garden. Get a hanging tomato planter. Plant a tree. Watch butterflies grow, then set them free.

Busy and Broke: Try putting a seed from something you ate into the ground and see if anything happens on its own. Or grow something you don’t have to pay much attention to, like a cactus, or bamboo. Just remember to stop and wonder at its tenacity every once in awhile for inspiration.