29 December 2007

Road Map:: Christmas Day around Somerset and Bedford, PA

With most of our family and friends far away, what's a couple to do on Christmas Day? Hit the road, obviously, and book it to Bethlehem (Pennsylvania) to visit a close friend. With warmth in our hearts and a longing for more library pizzazz, we took the PA Turnpike-- and each stop for merry picture-taking made the toll more expensive. It was still worthwhile, though, since I can't seem to stop seeking sweet libraries...

Behold the Mary S. Biesecker Public Library in freezing Somerset!

Man, I love creating the illusion of athleticism.

Less than an hour later, we came upon the Bedford County Library in miraculously sunnier and warmer Bedford.

Gracias a mi esposo maravilloso Michael. Learning the exact science of clicking the shutter while I'm in mid-air is no easy feat. Muchos besos, mi amor.

Coming soon:
More adventure! More scheming! More excitement in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York!

20 December 2007

Tips and Bits:: Running an Anime/Manga Club

Last year, I ran one of the most highly-attended anime/manga clubs in the San Antonio Public Library system. Not bad for a part-time library assistant.

What was so charming about my club? First of all, I lived in Japan for three years. As soon as I said that, the teens were enthralled. I got questions like, "Is it as cool as we all think it is?" or "Are you crazy? Why did you ever leave?" I don't like to brag, so it's not like I would talk about Japan so I could go, "Bam, son!" Sometimes, making a reference to Japanese culture just happens to be the right thing to say.

Clearly, though, the way I relate to teens is not based solely on having lived somewhere totally rad. (Yes, I'm bringing "rad" back.) There are plenty of other things that can be done to ensure that an anime/manga club becomes-- and remains-- exciting and fun. Once I get another anime/manga club of my own, I'll make sure to repeat the successes of the past by doing the following:
  • Let them choose a name for their club.
    This club is where teens can meet other teens. It is a source of identity, in a way. Give them control over what they can call their clan. The club I headed chose to name themselves "The Otaku Ninjas." They even came up with a hilarious and endearing signature Otaku Ninja move. So let them throw ideas around and don't cringe visibly. They should get to contribute to the atmosphere of the club just as much as you.
  • Create meetings worth attending.
    Of course, showing anime is fun but that shouldn't be your end goal. Go the extra mile and design a fun activity for each meeting. I've done Japan Jeopardy contests, action writing seminars, and lessons on Japanese language, calligraphy and origami. Use your resources! Try getting ideas for short programs online-- such as this innovative teen programming wiki created by my librarian friend Michael E. Cox-- or even teacher's manuals. Wee icebreakers go a long way; you might find something inspiring at Dave's ESL Cafe. If something doesn't work, get creative. Change things around, if possible. Whether it's a game, craft, debate, or whatever, they'll be happier doing something than nothing at all.
  • Let the kids talk.
    Maybe they've been cooped up in boring classes. Oh yes, they will want to talk. There are worse things than a loud group of teens, like having no attendees at all. At the same time, pay attention to their interaction. Some things are just not cool, like punching or bullying. At one of my meetings, a girl brought in this awesome Sailor Moon baton that lit up. It got thrown around too dramatically and someone broke it. Make sure that respect is a rule from day one.
  • Learn from them.
    I got to know a lot about anime and manga during really productive meetings. The kids would start talking about the latest anime they were infatuated with. Chobits. Cromartie High School. Azumanga Daioh. Show interest in these suggestions. Spend a few hours learning about them, even if it means reading some manga that you don't care for. I've had mini gush-fests over which Death Note character was more appealing, Light or L. Talk to them about the material they enjoy and they will keep coming back. (Useful websites: ADV Films, Anime News Network, Manga Updates)
  • Assert your role with grace.
    They know plenty of teens, so you don't have to start acting like one. You are the leader. Be accessible, be fair, and above all, stay involved. Some of my Otaku Ninjas started coming to the library more, not just for the club meetings. They quickly realized that I was there for them if they needed me and that their ideas for the club were important to me. I've heard of some teen clubs that run themselves, with very little librarian participation. I'm personally biased against that model. It will only work so long as the kids have the energy for it, and the demands on their time are great. Make sure that you are in charge so you can keep the club going after the teens start leading adult lives and may no longer attend. And don't rely on flyers around the library to be your sole mode of advertising. Be vocal. If you see a teen checking out a manga, tell them about your club!
  • Collaborate on a special event.
    By throwing ideas around we came up with the Otaku Ninja Cafe, a festival celebrating Japanese culture. Everyone got to contribute: one teen created the flyer, another made cupcakes, another brought Dance Dance Revolution. All were encouraged to dress up as in a cosplay. It was amazing how quickly they stepped up to the plate-- making tea, washing tea cups, writing guests' names in Japanese. Also, invite a journalist from your local newspaper. How cool is it to find an article in the culture section about your club? Once parents see what an awesome job you're doing, they will want their teens to participate.

Every librarian has their own style. I've seen some people do amazing things that I would probably never have thought of doing. This is what makes teen librarians such an adventurous lot! We aren't afraid to try new things, even though they may not work.

So what if you feel you don't know enough about anime/manga? Don't let that stop you. Start off with meetings about Japanese culture, or just show some anime if you have the license. Get to know what the teens are interested in. Then use those suggestions to design your next meetings. You might be surprised at just how many teens have been waiting for a club like yours!

As they say in Japan, ganbatte! (Go for it!)

13 December 2007

Spotted! :: DeathNote tee at Hot Topic

Perhaps the merchandise at Hot Topic at your local mall is not news. And yet I can't pass up the opportunity to share this pic of me glowing with glee over a Desu nouto shirt right next to Kitty-chan (or, to most of you, Hello Kitty).

Upcoming is a comparison between Death Note and Code Geass, both anime sensations to blow your mind!

07 December 2007

Spotted! :: Twilight tees at cafepress.com

Any loyal Twilight fans out there? I know I am.

I am one of the few out there who didn't become a true Twilightfile until the second book, New Moon. The first was quite fantastic, but I felt that Stephenie took some glorious risks with the second. For fear of revealing spoilers, I can say no more-- although I take any moment I can to be a totally shameless fan girl over it. Shameless.

So imagine my delight when I came across the Cafe Press ode to Twilight; admire the t-shirts and gifts here.

The traveling woman in me has its eye on this international one:
Then again, I'm also rather fond of the umbrella one. They even have it in maternity size!

Oh I could go on and on. I'm not a big spender but I definitely want something along these lines when I grow up.

My all-time favorite Cafe Press shirt, though, is called Baby's Got Book, making reference to Sir Mix-A-Lot's homage to large posteriors. Also, thanks to Looking for Alaska's John Green, for putting up this sweet Jonathan Coulton cover on his MySpace.

When I get this shirt, I will have not only back but book as well. Yeah.

04 December 2007

Road Map:: Pittsburgh, Wilkinsburg and Edgewood, PA


As any student worth her latte knows, December represents the ultimate climax.

I have been neglecting this blog lately. That's only because I have been in search of a lovely Snitch in the form of a peaceful month of vacation filled with fantabulous teen fiction reading. To do that, I have to finish my schoolwork. But ah... I've been longing to have some more luscious Scott Westerfeld, Justine Larbalestier, and Markus Zusak luv in my life. Right now I am in the final throes of my second-to-last semester, but I still make time to share my recent library exploits.

By the way, next week I will be going to a "Meet the Author" event with Angela Johnson, writer of the magnificent Printz award winner The First Part Last. Anyone have any questions they'd like answered by her? Please comment and I'll post her thoughts later on this month.

In the meantime, here are pictures of winter library cheer in the Pittsburgh area. I have found the library system here alarmingly interesting, since the libraries are divided into city libraries (Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, or CLP) and county libraries (Allegheny County Library Association, or ACLA).

The way I understand it, funding at the county level is allotted through a pretty exceptional variety of sources. One library director I spoke to confided that though his branch was built by Andrew Carnegie, no endowment was left for the library's survival. It then made a trade with what is now the neighboring school district. In basic terms, the library had land but no money, and the school district had money but no land, so the trade helps each other co-exist. Fascinating!

The more I learn, the more I realize I haven't even scratched the surface of the amazing world of libraries.

Also, congratulations to Sherman Alexie for winning the 2007 National Book Award for Young People's Literature. I haven't reviewed that many books but his novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is one of them. I just saw it sitting on the shelf at work and I thought, this is gonna be awesome! Here are our $0.02: mine and his.

a) Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh: Main (Oakland)
Pittsburgh, PA (12.4.07)
b) Wilkinsburgh Public Library
Wilkinsburg, PA (12.4.07)
c) C.C. Mellor Memorial Library
Edgewood, PA (12.4.07)