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AASL Announces Landmark Web sites for Teaching and Learning

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The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) announces a new resource for school library media specialists and their teacher colleagues. The Best Websites for Teaching and Learning: Landmark Websites, a list honoring the top Internet sites for enhancing learning and curriculum development, is considered the "best of the best" by AASL.

The Landmark Web sites for Teaching and Learning are recognized because of their exemplary histories of authoritative, dynamic content and curricular relevance. The Web sites include: ALTEC; Annenberg Media Learner.Org; Apple Learning Interchange; Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD); Discovery Education; Edutopia; EduWeb; Field Trip Earth; Global School; Google Earth; Library of Congress; MIT Open Courseware; Merlot; Moodle; NASA; Our Documents; PBS Teachers; Read, Write, Think; Smithsonian Education; Thinkfinity; and WebQuest.

"The task force worked very hard to target websites that support learner-centered, inquiry based curriculum. In the hands of knowledgeable educators, these innovative and versatile Web 2.0 tools and resources can be used to engage and motivate students in the learning process and to develop 21st century skills," said AASL Best List Task Force Chair, Pam Berger.

All honored sites are free, Web-based sites that are user-friendly and encourage a community of learners to explore and discover. They also provide a foundation to support AASL's “Standards for the 21st-Century Learner” and its counterpart publication, “Empowering Learners: Guidelines for School Library Media Programs.” Valuable information on each site, including tips for effective classroom use, are available at www.ala.org/aasl/bestlist.

The Landmark Web sites focus on Content Resources and Lesson Plans; Collaboration; and Global Education. Each of these Web sites offer tools and resources to make school library media specialists instructional partners in curriculum design as outlined in the AASL publication “Empowering Learners: Guidelines for School Library Media Programs.” This distinction is a one-time honor.

"School library media specialists are indispensable leaders in the school community," said AASL President Ann M. Martin. "These vetted resources are designed to assist with curriculum development that will sustain and increase knowledge and skills growth for the school community."

The American Association of School Librarians, www.aasl.org, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), promotes the improvement and extension of library media services in elementary and secondary schools as a means of strengthening the total education program. Its mission is to advocate excellence, facilitate change and develop leaders in the school library media field.

Contact: Melissa Jacobsen

AASL Communications Specialist

(312) 280-4381

mjacobsen@ala.org

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Capturing Characters on Stage for the College and Community: An Interview with Playwright Rex Stephenson

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By Tina L. Hanlon, associate professor of English at Ferrum College and the Hollins University Summer Graduate Program in Children’s Literature. She is a coeditor of Crosscurrents of Children’s Literature: An Anthology of Texts and Criticism (2006) and director of the website AppLit.

Originally appeared in Virginia Libraries (Vol. 54, No. 3-4), a quarterly journal published by the Virginia Library Association).

Most people probably think of theatres and libraries as being worlds apart, but Ferrum College’s Sale Theatre and Stanley Library are next door to each other. Thanks to recent renovations on campus, only a few steps will take you from the library’s back door into the theatre, across an attractive patio that theatre-goers enjoy during summer plays. Many of those plays have been written by R. Rex Stephenson since he founded the Blue Ridge Dinner Theatre in 1978. Even during years when getting inside the library required more steps, there was plenty of traffic between the two buildings. Drama majors writing and performing their own senior plays over the years had no excuses for shirking on their research or writing skills, with librarians and tutors next door in the library. Among many dramatic requests for library resources, the most unusual one was probably a trash can borrowed once for a prop. Librarian George Loveland had fun putting a bar code on it, checking it out, and later sending an overdue notice to get the trash can back from the theatre. Faculty members, librarians, visiting actors, and local children who come together to perform in summer plays pop into the library to read a magazine, use the Internet, or do a little background research during short breaks from arduous labor in the theatre. And Stephenson’s remarkable career as a playwright, director, and actor often takes him to libraries and archives for research and performances.

Soon after he came to Ferrum to teach drama in 1973, Stephenson began adapting Appalachian Jack Tales, traditional folktales about the magical adventures of a country boy named Jack. In his seventies in the late 1970s, the renowned storyteller and folklore collector Richard Chase visited Ferrum as a consultant for Stephenson’s Jack Tale Players. Chase’s books The Jack Tales and Grandfather Tales have made mountain folktales from Virginia and North Carolina popular throughout North America since the 1940s. “Wicked John and the Devil,” about a mean blacksmith who tricks the devil, is a tale that Chase told orally to Stephenson so that he could dramatize it without permissions expenses, and it is still a perennial favorite with the Jack Tale Players. Since 1999 Stephenson has also adapted tales with female heroes, such as “Ashpet,” “Catskins,” and my favorite, “Mutsmag,” about a spunky girl who defeats a giant and a witch. Stephenson’s own roles in “Mutsmag” range from playing a door and a giant’s ugly daughter to a one-eyed robber and the king of Virginia.

In December 2005 the Jack Tale Players gave their thirtieth anniversary performance at Callaway Elementary School, in the same auditorium as their first public show in 1975. They have performed more than 3,000 times in 35 states and England, at schools, veterans’ hospitals, parks, churches, conferences, and community centers. One public performance last summer kicked off a library summer reading program, “Tales, Legends, and Lore,” at the Spencer-Penn Center in Spencer, Virginia.

In 2007 the Southeastern Theatre Conference honored Stephenson with one of the most prestigious awards in the field of child drama, the Sara Spencer Award. Nellie McCaslin, who remained a mentor after supervising his doctoral work at New York University in the 1980s, dedicated the eighth edition of her creative drama textbook to Stephenson in 2005 just before her death ended a distinguished career as a dramatist, scholar, and professor. She called Stephenson’s summer plays for families “a unique and highly successful example of intergenerational theatre,” praising the Blue Ridge Dinner Theatre for the professional and social benefits of productions in which local and professional actors, young interns, teenagers, and children work together, drawing in parents, tourists, and others to enjoy the plays. [1] This collaboration is also led by Executive Director Jody D. Brown, a retired English professor and excellent actress. Emily Rose Tucker, who started as a summer college intern, is musical director, composer, and often a lead performer in BRDT plays.

Many characters that Stephenson brings to life from the pages of folklore archives, historical documents, and classic literature find themselves back on library shelves in his published plays. His folktales appear in six published scripts and several textbooks and journals. Eighteen other published plays are based on historical events, from Galileo’s scientific discoveries to a trial that freed a woman from slavery in Franklin County, as well as Bible stories and literature by Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Lewis Carroll, Rudyard Kipling, and Mark Twain. Stephenson has also portrayed the American master of fiction and social satire for many years in An Evening with Mark Twain. [2] One of the first times Stephenson asked me to serve as a script consultant, for The Jungle Book, he ignored my protestations that I was not a Kipling expert, so I went off to the library to read more about Kipling. Subsequent research has taken me to Dickens’ homes in southeastern England and to the OED to figure out whether words such as “Dad” and “teenager” were anachronistic in nineteenth century dialogue. When I found myself on local television with Stephenson and McCaslin in 2000, the interviewer was amazed to hear how many variations of “Snow White” we had studied. Thus I learned firsthand that these plays involve varied types of research and offer interesting possibilities for educational projects. I prepared study guides for several of Stephenson’s plays published by Pat Whitton Forrest at New Plays for Children in Charlottesville, who likes to integrate teaching materials with the scripts she publishes. I enjoyed digging deeper into the playwright’s views on drama and research for this interview.

VL Were libraries important to you when you were young in rural Indiana, before you became a playwright in Virginia?

RRS Because I was a commuter at college, when I had free time, I went to the library; and the more I was there, the more I discovered things. My biggest discovery during my freshman year was the reference room. I found answers to every question I have ever had in there. As a matter of fact, the reference librarian got to know me by my first name. I didn’t make very good grades my freshman year, but I learned a lot.

I like a library. I like the smells of a library. I like the feeling of being in a place where they have

everything I want. There’s something about a book—you hold it and you look at the words and you read it out loud. Then you go to the bibliography and you get to find more books. Sometimes when I’m in a library I just pull out a book at random and read a couple of paragraphs to see if the author is an ordinary writer or a wordsmith. I worry that kids today don’t appreciate a library. It’s gotten to be a generational thing. When my daughter Juliet thinks of doing research she goes to the Internet. But libraries are important for kids; they are safe, and generally filled with people who enjoy reading and helping people find what they’re looking for.

VL I know you started dramatizing Appalachian folktales in 1975 after your daughter Janice brought home a copy of Richard Chase’s The Jack Tales from school. I’ve heard that many other storytellers and writers were inspired by hearing a librarian or teacher read these same folktales during their childhood. Do you encounter many people who know the folktales from books?

RRS It is amazing the number of people that will come up to me after a show and say, “My third grade teacher read us these stories when I was in elementary school.” I remember once we were playing at a festival in Newport News and a lady showed me her copy of The Jack Tales. She had asked for it for Christmas because the copy in the library was always checked out. I’m also astonished at the number of people I’ve met that had heard Richard Chase tell stories. And all that have talked to me speak of their encounter with Chase almost reverently. [3] I can say honestly that Chase was the finest storyteller I ever heard.

VL How important has research been since you began writing your own plays?

RRS When I first started dramatizing the Jack Tales, our library got me all kinds of books on interlibrary loan on folktales and Appalachian history. Back then, Appalachian Studies wasn’t “in.” I was over there every other week bugging them. They were good about getting every book or article I was looking for. Luckily for me later, I met Richard Chase, Cratis Williams, and members of the Hicks family of North Carolina storytellers. This combination of hearing the stories and listening to the background of the tales plus the scholarly research included in books by Chase and Williams gave me an appreciation I try to capture when I dramatize a folktale. When I went to the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, that’s when I discovered the work of earlier Appalachian storytellers and collectors, such as Jane Gentry and Isobel Gordon Carter. Raymond Sloan was another excellent collector of folktales and folk songs in Franklin County. He told me stories, explained how the Virginia Writers’ Project worked when he collected for the WPA, and gave me names of people to interview.

Another fortuitous thing that happened was just pure dumb luck. I was tracing back some of Chase’s informants and I went to Wise County in search of Dicey Adams, who had told Chase a number of Jack Tales. She was the widow of James Taylor Adams, who had headed the Virginia Writers’ Project in southwestern Virginia. When I talked to Dicey, she told me that everything they had on folklore had been given to a local library. At the library, I found the “lost” folklore collection that had not been published when the Virginia Writers’ Project closed in 1942. It was thousands of pages packed away in boxes, with all the WPA collectors’ original stories from southwestern Virginia. Most of the folktales that I have dramatized came from this collection.

VL And the same James Taylor Adams Collection is now archived in Ferrum’s Blue Ridge Institute. The links between the oral tradition, archives, and books are fascinating. I’ve read that librarians spread the art of telling traditional folktales to children around America and Britain in the early twentieth century. In Chase’s books and many other collections by storytellers, the authors encourage readers to tell the tales out loud in their own way after reading them. In your story theatre performances with the Jack Tale Players, I’ve heard you encourage audiences to read the tales in books by Richard Chase or the Grimm Brothers. How do you view the relationship between your adaptations and stories in books?

RRS At every show we try to do a little plug for reading. After we tell the audience about the books, librarians sometimes say, “We don’t have it but we’ll get it before you come back next time.” I just want kids to discover reading and Mr. Chase’s books. Once I had a rare invitation to say a few words to the audience when I attended a production of my adaptation of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. I used this opportunity to encourage them all to read Twain’s version. To me, an adaptation of a classic story should just be the springboard that encourages children to go back to the original source.

VL Tell me about your summer performances at the Franklin County Library. I’ve seen the meeting room there packed with enthusiastic audiences of all ages at Jack Tale shows.

RRS We used to perform at the Rocky Mount Community and Hospitality Center in the old train station, too, or the courthouse, but since the new library opened a few years ago, we have performed there. The meeting room is not an ideal space for a performance, but to do a show surrounded by books—it is a great environment. Getting to know and working with a good children’s librarian is important. Franklin County has one of the best in Joyce Tuckloff. One of the good things about performing at the library is that children and parents come to the shows together, or children and grandparents, unlike our shows in the schools.

VL I agree with what you’ve said about the joys of libraries and books. But librarians also make valuable electronic resources available to us these days. When my website AppLit was created during a workshop sponsored by our library and the Appalachian College Association in 2000, you ran over to the library several times bringing me material for AppLit’s first bibliographies and study guides. How has the Internet contributed to your work as a dramatist?

RRS There are things on the Internet that would not get wide distribution if it were not for sites like AppLit. The example that comes to mind is the story Raymond Sloan told me, “Jack and His Lump of Silver.” I had published his story in a small journal, and I doubt if many people read it there. However, when it went on AppLit, I know a number of people read the story. For example, my sister-in-law, Sharon Stephenson, heard a storyteller in Indiana tell “Jack and His Lump of Silver.” She said, “My brother-in-law tells the same story.” And the storyteller said, “Yes, I got it on a website from a little college in Virginia.” Whenever we do kids’ shows, we like to provide teachers with background information. Now we just recommend the website, and not only do teachers use it, but we’ve also discovered their students go to it.

VL Writing your adaptations of classic literature requires getting to know the books very well. Sometimes you even include the author as a character in the frame story of a play. What kinds of research are involved in writing these plays?

RRS Most of the classics I have dramatized came out of my youth. They were the books I read and reread as a child, like Treasure Island, or books like Alice in Wonderland that I read to my girls. Then, because I love them so much, to try to stay objective a little bit, I’ll usually go over to Stanley Library and spend an afternoon with criticism and biography so I can see what other people have said about the story, or just sometimes to try to get in the author’s head, to find out why he wrote this story. I try to tell the same story the author told.

My research on Robert Louis Stevenson led to the frame story about him and his stepson in my play Treasure Island. I discovered that he wrote the book chapter by chapter as a gift for his stepson when he didn’t have money for anything else. It seemed like a logical frame, more appealing to modern children because the relationship was through a divorce and remarriage. They got along so well that they make good role models for families today.

VL How do you research your plays based on historical events?

RRS In most of the history plays I’ve written, I’ve had historians that provided a lot of guidance for me. Historians by their very nature always send you to the primary sources. What constantly amazes me is how many primary sources you can find in a library. When I was writing a play about Cecil Sharp, the English folklorist who collected folk songs in the South and came through Franklin County in 1918, I think I spent three days in London doing research at the Cecil Sharp House (home of the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library and the English Folk Dance and Song Society). After that, the play wrote itself.

My most recent endeavor, When the Lights Go on Again, is a musical revue about World War II. I not only wanted it to encompass the music of the era, but I also wanted the story line to be about something. Now, I grew up in a time when people talked about the war a lot. Most of my relatives had been in the service or had worked in defense plants, and I remember always listening to their stories. And oftentimes the name Ernie Pyle came up. One day in my high school library I ran across a copy of his book Brave Men. I’ve been an Ernie Pyle fan ever since. I think part of the reason that I almost memorized some of Pyle’s newspaper articles was so that I could be included in the conversations with my relatives about the war. It was just logical for me to go back and include excerpts from his wartime articles in my musical revue.

VL Your family plays have been supported by the Nellie McCaslin Endowment each summer since your mentor at New York University died in 2005. Tell me about the special relationship between Nellie McCaslin and Ferrum College.

RRS Dr. McCaslin was always a strong proponent of inter-generational theatre—in other words, blending performers of a variety of ages into one production—so it was not really difficult for me to talk her into becoming one of our actresses in some summer plays. She was, I think, eighty-four when she did her first play for me in 1999. The youngest member of that cast was seven, so it was truly cast in a manner that she had long advocated.

We were very fortunate at Ferrum that Dr. McCaslin left her personal library to Stanley Library. She had all the primary books from the early history of children’s theatre and creative drama plus so many modern reference works and plays. Because Dr. McCaslin’s tenure at NYU was so long, whenever one of her students would publish something, they would automatically send her a copy. If you add into that the fact that she probably knew personally most practitioners of creative drama in the United States and England, and they would also send her books, it was indeed quite an impressive and unique collection.

VL I admire the way you capture the language and rhythms of the original text when you adapt classic works of literature. Book lovers often criticize dramatic adaptations or films because they don’t include everything in the book. How do you handle this problem when adapting a novel?

RRS Little Women: A Musical is the play we are working on now and it’s been the most difficult adaptation I’ve done since Alice in Wonderland (1995). I think this is true because everything in Louisa May Alcott’s book is so interrelated; everything depends on something else and the characters’ relationships are so complex—yet they seem so very, very simple. Deciding what to put into the play to capture the spirit of the book in an hour and a half is challenging. In addition, there is her use of language; it is very honest and yet it is emotional and detailed and creates pictures. When I read the book, I had these images in my head of how it would look on the stage. I also asked readers of the novel which parts they most remembered. For most playwrights, their job is to create a character; in an adaptation you have to capture a character. Alcott’s words are also melodic and we used some of them in the songs. Some things just can’t be said any better than her exact words. For example, there’s no better way to write about Beth’s long illness than to describe it as a tide going out. Shakespeare couldn’t have done better. What’s always in the back of my head, especially during this play, is that on opening night, Louisa May Alcott has a seat right next to mine.

Jo March’s last line at the end of Stephenson’s Little Women illustrates the continuing relationship between his plays and the books he adapts. Telling the audience a little about her future, Jo says, “If you want to find out more about what happens next in my life, you can read Little Men.”

Notes

1. Nellie McCaslin, “The Blue Ridge Dinner Theatre: A Recipe for Success,” Stage of the Art, Winter 2002, http://www.ferrum.edu/news/ArchivePreMay02/brdtstageart.htm; Nellie McCaslin, Creative Drama in the Classroom and Beyond, 8th ed. (Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2005).

2. Tina L. Hanlon, comp., “Dramas and Tales by R. Rex Stephenson,” AppLit: Resources for Readers and Teachers of Appalachian Literature for Children and Young Adults, Ferrum College, http://www.ferrum.edu/applit/bibs/bibrex.htm. Provides details about publications.

3. Sandy Shuckett, “Regarding Richard Chase: Two Memorable Meetings,” California Libraries, August 2004, http://www.cla-net.org/events/newsletter/aug04_RichardChase.php. Coincidentally, while this article was being written, an email from California author Kerry Madden brought us a copy of librarian Sandy Shuckett’s article about meeting Chase.

 

 

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The Wednesday Night Readers: “A Most Improbable Book Club”

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By John Gildersleeve

Originally published in the April 2009 issue of Clarion, a publication of the California Library Association

You may think a book club consists of a group of intelligent, intellectually curious adults discussing characterization, plot, motivation, and context. Project Read, San Francisco Public Library’s adult-literacy program, thinks so, too. Participating in a book club is exactly what the Wednesday Night Readers (WNR) do eleven times a year, even though some members of the group read at an elementary-school level. Our discussions produce a rich amalgam of poignancy, reflection, comradeship, and just plain fun.

The books we read are written for adults, with an occasional young-adult offering. (See sidebar for a sampling of the books read to date.) Book selection is the responsibility of the Project Read staff, but recommendations are also encouraged from among the WNR. Books must be shorter than 300 pages and available on unabridged tape or CD. Learners have the option of listening to the recorded version either exclusively or in addition to reading the book. On most evenings we have between 10 and 20 members participating in the discussion. We meet on the last Wednesday of every month except December. Longer books (e.g., Seabiscuit) are selected for reading during the holiday hiatus.

The group is made up of both learners and tutors, all of whom become members simply by their attendance. Monthly discussions are facilitated by me and one other Project Read tutor. On book discussion evenings, we distribute the following month's book and recording, along with a discussion guide and full-color bookmark bearing the book's cover. All materials are free to participants. It is typical, but not required, for learner/tutor pairs to attend the discussions together.

At the start of each session, the readers vote on how well they liked the book: thumbs up, thumbs down, or thumbs sideways for a mixed review. The floor is then opened to the learners to begin deliberating. The varied backgrounds of the members produce a richer, more textured discussion than might be found with a more homogeneous group—college graduates, for example.

Some learners read their first “real” book in WNR; others have their first-time experience of reading a book purely for pleasure; still others move from listening only, to listening and reading, to reading only. Each step is acknowledged by the group with the heartfelt enthusiasm befitting a life-changing milestone.

Learners who wish to read aloud to the group are given the opportunity to do so in a safe and supportive environment. No one is required to contribute to the discussion, but everyone has that opportunity. As is true with all groups, some members are more talkative and demonstrative than others. It is the facilitators' delicate job to see that everyone has a chance to contribute without stepping on the toes of the more talkative members.

When I began co-facilitating eight years ago, I was concerned that my lofty pronouncements would be taken as law. “I don't think anyone will disagree that _______ is the main character of this book,” I stated during the discussion of Ann Patchett's Bel Canto. I was met with a barrage of dissent, followed by an intriguing debate of what constitutes a main character. As it turned out, three or four of the book's characters had strong proponents for main-character status. That experience, and many similar subsequent ones, disabused me of the notion that my role was somehow godlike.

Although finishing the book is not a requirement for attending the discussion, many participants often regret not doing so and, therefore, voluntarily commit to reading the remainder of the book after the session. In those instances, the power of discussion is almost palpable, producing deeper understanding and appreciation of literature.

Members come and go, but a core group of about 15 readers can be counted on to attend most of the sessions. While strong bonds grow among these regulars, cliquishness does not prevail. First-timers are welcomed. In many ways, joining WNR is like coming home to an ideal family.

One series we’ve enjoyed reading is Alexander McCall Smith's delightful The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. In these books, we’ve learned that the favorite beverage of Botswanans is bush tea, a drink that relaxes, revives and brings folks together the way leaf tea does the British. After trying it at one of our sessions, the WNR decided that perhaps bush tea is an acquired taste. Coincidentally, one of our members was born and raised in the same region of Africa, so when a custom described in the series seems strange, we often turn to her for verification. Thus far, everything in the books has been deemed authentic. How many other book clubs have built-in resources like that?

Our most unusual evening involved a group of actors from the local Screen Actors Guild, who performed scenes from Arthur Miller's play Death of a Salesman. Some of the learners had never seen a play, and the atmosphere was electric. Following the performance, the actors joined us in discussing the work—a truly magical moment. I was pleased to see the learners participating avidly in the discussion, proof that the skills and behaviors we foster here are transferable to unfamiliar situations.

I'm often asked how people who can't read can participate in a book club. The answer is that our learners—and not just those in WNR—can read and just want to improve their reading skills. Some want to be able to read to their children, others want to read a religious text, still others want to land a job or advance to a better one. They are an amazingly resourceful group of individuals who, with a truncated set of literacy skills, have learned to navigate the reading world with consummate dexterity. Many hold jobs whose requirements are beyond the level of their reading skill—they devise intricate workarounds to make their reading challenges invisible in the workplace. Most mortals would be exhausted by the time and energy these subterfuges take, yet these amazing people thrive and rise. It's no wonder, then, that they elevate and enliven the WNR discussions with a depth of experience, insight and innate savvy.

Lively and richly textured discussions are the norm in WNR. The learners, unencumbered of having been taught in college how to talk about a book, bring vigor and unfettered enthusiasm to the discussions, and flavor them with their life experiences, which tend to be fraught with difficulties we tutors can only imagine. The tutors, in turn, enrich the discussion with their breadth of knowledge and experience without becoming pedantic. Simply put, all of us learn from and teach one another. The result is a rich, thick soup that delights the senses and warms the spirit.
 

San Francisco Public Library’s Project Read offered the first Wednesday Night Readers book club in January 2001. Since that time, it has proven to be the most popular ongoing workshop ever offered for adult learners and their tutors. For the past eight years, John Gildersleeve, Erin McAleece, Renee Feldman, and Mary Hilton have all served as book club facilitators, providing a safe, welcoming, and supportive environment that fosters free expression and respect for others. The author of this article, John Gildersleeve, has been a volunteer with Project Read for over 15 years, serving as a tutor and mentor tutor. Co-facilitators Mary Hilton and Renee Feldman assisted with the preparation of this article. Learn more at http://projectreadsf.blogspot.com.

-Randall Weaver, Literacy Program Manager, San Francisco Public Library

   

Sampling of Books Read

Isabel Allende: Portrait in Sepia

John Howard Griffin: Black Like Me

Sue Monk Kidd: The Secret Life of Bees

Lorraine Hansberry: A Raisin in the Sun

Harper Lee: To Kill a Mockingbird

Jack London: The Call of the Wild

Mildred Taylor: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise

Frank McCourt: Angela's Ashes

Ray Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451

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Carroll Academy for International Studies Wins Sara Jaffarian Award

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The library of the Carroll Academy for International Studies in Houston is the winner of the 2009 Sara Jaffarian School Library Program Award for Exemplary Humanities Programming. The award is sponsored by the American Library Association Cultural Communities Fund and the National Endowment for the Humanities in cooperation with the American Association of School Librarians. It was presented in July at the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago and consists of a $4,000 cash award, a plaque, and the promotion of the winner as a model program for other school libraries.

The Carroll Academy Library for International Studies runs a series of humanities lessons each year that integrates the school’s magnet lessons on International Studies with the curriculum. The library strives to educate the students about other cultures in order for the students to better understand themselves, others, and their place in the world. Some of the programs were developed to help provide a culminating activity to the unit of study for the magnet program at Carroll while enriching the student’s visual and artistic experiences. In addition, many of the programs were developed to emphasize right brain thinking skills and to reinforce skills taught in the classroom.

Sally Rasch, librarian at Carroll Academy, developed and submitted the winning program, entitled “Learning about the World with a Global Perspective.” Working with the Carroll Academy’s curriculum requirements on International Studies, the library’s “Learning about the World” program gave students an expanded global knowledge through the creative, hands-on study of world regions, languages, governments and the immigration experience. Throughout the school year, students participated in geography lessons, storytelling and music activities, mock world council meetings, book-themed school parades and an immigration simulation.

“Carroll Academy’s project integrated many different facets of cultures around the world, including activities about people, ecology, immigration, literature, opera and world organizations,” said Lisa Hathcock, chairperson of the Jaffarian Award selection committee. “The humanities activities were designed so that there was strong student participation with an emphasis on right brain thinking and were differentiated so many different learning styles were addressed.”

The mock world council meeting was held in November of the 2007-2008 school year. The students studied various world organizations that work together to solve the world’s problems. For the meeting, each class selected a country from a region that they studied earlier in the school year. The class then focused on a particular country in depth, including the ecological and environmental concerns of that country.

World CouncilNext, they decorated a chair to represent their country. The chairs were set up in the library as seats on the council. A report on a specific world problem was attached to each chair and students toured the council learning about how the problem not only affects America but also other countries. The goal was for the students to recognize that we are all connected in the world.

For the immigration simulation, the library was turned into a custom’s house. In the classroom, the students were studying the movement of goods and people. Each class was asked to select a country that they then researched to better understand its people. They were then asked to pack a suitcase of what they would want to bring from that country if they immigrated to the USA, and each student filled out a passport prior to coming to the library for their tour.

When they entered the library, signs and other decorations were used to create the environment. The signs included information about what was allowed to pass through customs. A luggage carrousel was set up in the library where the suitcases were placed and as part of the tour, the students’ suitcases were examined to see what would pass inspection. They also explained to the library staff why they brought particular items from their home country. After this activity, the students presented their passport and the class then toured the center looking at the remaining suitcases and comparing what they had brought with what others had brought from their country.

These are just two examples of the humanities lessons taught by the library during the school year. Clearly the Carroll library is the center of learning for the Carroll Academy for International Studies. It is an open and inviting learning center where students are encouraged to expand their universe through books and projects while achieving to the very best of their abilities. By the end of the school year, Carroll students were more aware of the world around them and their role in it.

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Information RX: Prescription for Information

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By Susie McIntyre, Head of Information Services, Great Falls Public Library

Originally appeared in the April 2009 issue of Montana Library Focus

National studies indicate that nearly half of all American adults have difficulty understanding and using health information. Patients with limited health literacy have a higher rate of hospitalization and use of emergency services. (1) Studies have also shown that patients with inadequate literacy have less health-related knowledge, receive less preventive care, have poorer control of their chronic illnesses, and are hospitalized more frequently than other patients. (2)

In January of 2007, the Great Falls Public Library received $25,000 to help healthcare patients access quality information. Our project attempted to weave together referrals from healthcare professionals and increase access to information.

The first part of the project involved working with healthcare providers at our City-County Health Department and at the Great Falls Clinic. We gave short trainings to healthcare staff on the importance of health literacy and on the use of the Information RX (Information Prescription.) Information RX is a free program offered by the National Library of Medicine and the American College of Physicians Foundation to assist physicians in referring their patients to MedlinePlus.

We had pre-printed prescription pads printed with the URL of MedlinePlus and then we stamped the URL of the Great Falls Public Library health portal on them. The idea was to have healthcare providers dispense the prescriptions by printing key terms (such as diagnosis, medication etc.) on the prescription and referring the patients to Medlineplus and the Great Falls Public Library. It would direct patients to quality information and take very little extra work on behalf of the health care providers.

Unfortunately, we were not very successful in the implementation. We encountered resistance from some of the healthcare providers. Healthcare providers are very busy and some are resistant to change. If we were to do this project over, I would focus on a small subset of providers and really work on getting the doctors to buy-in to the prescription distribution.

Even though we did not get a large number of providers to distribute the Information RX, we did have the opportunity to provide training to a wide range of health professionals (over 260 people at 15 trainings) on the importance of health literacy and the resources of the Great Falls Public Library. The Great Falls Clinic also added links to Medlineplus to their Intranet site and reported positive comments on the use of the information.

The second part of the project involved increasing public access to quality health information. We purchased additional consumer health materials for the library including a set of 100+ DVD’s from the PBS Healthy Body, Healthy Mind series. We put public access computers at the City-County Health Department and at the Great Falls Clinic. We created a “Health Commons” as part of our website to direct users to our electronic health resources. We worked with a variety of local health organizations to provide displays and presentations on health related topics. We held a health fair at the library and we held trainings on accessing and evaluating quality health information. We publicized our project through our local news outlets.

Overall, the project was a great opportunity. We wish that we could have had better distribution of the Information RX, but we are grateful to the NNLM-PNW (National Network of Libraries of Medicine, Pacific Northwest Region) for the funding that allowed us to provide service to our community and to increase access to quality health information.

Footnotes

1. Parker, Ruth “Library Outreach: Overcoming Health Literacy Challenges” Journal of Med Libr Assoc. 2005 Oct;93(4 Suppl):S81-5.
2. DeWalt DA, Berkman ND, Sheridan S, Lohr KN, Pignone MP. “Literacy and health outcomes: a systematic review of the literature.” Journal Gen Intern Med 2004;19:1228-39.

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The Women of the Oklahoma Legislature Oral History Project and Website

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By Tanya Finchum

Originally appeared in the May/June 2009 edition of the Oklahoma Librarian, official bulletin of the Oklahoma Library Association

The Oklahoma State University Library invites you to visit the newly created Women of the Oklahoma Legislature oral history project website. Between the years of 1907 and 2008 only 77 women have been elected to the Oklahoma Legislature. This oral history project explores and records the journeys of many of these women who have served or are currently serving in the Oklahoma Legislature. The website includes transcripts, audio excerpts, photographs and memorabilia collected as a result of interview efforts. Over the course of the project, photographs of all 77 women were located and are now included on the website. It is believed this is the first time a complete collection of photographs of all Oklahoma women legislators has existed in one location.

The oral history project was developed in 2006 and carried out over the course of two years. Goals of the project were to fill a gap in the historical record, complement and supplement the OSU Library’s Women’s Archives Collection, support the Women’s Studies program, and to create a resource for all of the citizens of Oklahoma. As of February 2009, 46 of these remarkable women have shared their stories as part of the project. Taken individually, these interviews reflect the careers and interests of the narrator; taken collectively they constitute a narrative of the role of women in the Oklahoma legislature over time.

As such, they form an invaluable part of the historical record of the Oklahoma government. Little has been written about these women other than the occasionally brief mention in the local or state newspaper during the time they served. To date, of the 77 women legislators, 20 are known to have passed away, three have not been located (Mary Helm, Judy Swinton, and Sue Milton), eight are yet to be interviewed, and 46 have been interviewed. Two of the 46 interviewed reside in the Washington, DC area (Hannah Atkins and Cleta Deatherage Mitchell) and the remainder resides in Oklahoma. Among those interviewed are a representative elected in 1966 (Anna Belle Wiedemann) and the first African American woman Oklahoma legislator (Hannah Atkins), elected in 1968.

In 1920 the first two women were elected, one to the Senate and one to the House of Representatives. These two pioneering women paved the way for future women to be viewed as legitimate contenders for legislative seats. The remainder of the 1920s saw six more women add their names in the history book for Oklahoma women legislators. During the 1930s no women were elected to serve in the Oklahoma legislature, perhaps due to the struggling economy at the time and again in the 1950s no women were elected to serve. The 1940s saw three women elected to the House and none to the Senate. The 1960s saw five women legislators elected. Moving into the 1970s and continuing on through the present the voices of women have been heard in the Oklahoma legislature but not in proportion to their numbers in the population. The majority of women legislators have been members of the Democratic Party and more have served in the House of Representatives than in the Senate. Two of these women legislators have gone on to become Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma (Mary Fallin and Jari Askins) and one is now serving in the U.S. Congress (Mary Fallin), the second woman to do so from the state.

Interviews covered such topics as campaign strategies, issues championed, what a typical day was like, Election Day and swearing in day, and first experiences of presenting a bill on the floor. Many reflect on their thoughts as they viewed the Capitol building each morning and as they took their respective places on chamber floors. Reading is a major part of the life of a legislator. During sessions 300 to 400 bills cross their desks. Listening is also a major component from listening to constituents to colleagues, to lobbyists, to the News. An important lesson shared was not to knock on doors during Oklahoma State University or the University of Oklahoma sporting events.

The interviews last an average of an hour and a half with the narrators having the opportunity to edit their transcripts. Each transcript, viewable online, represents an average of 30 hours of labor. Gathering oral histories provides opportunity to pursue answers to questions left silent in what little archival materials exist for these women. It has been an incredible experience to really listen, not just hear, but really listen to these remarkable women and to have had the opportunity to conduct a little of my work in the place we call our Capitol. I have had a small glimpse into what it is like to serve the people of Oklahoma and now with the launching of the Women of the Oklahoma Legislature website others can share these experiences.

The Women of the Oklahoma Legislature oral history project is only one of the projects underway at the Oklahoma Oral History Research Program (OOHRP). The OOHRP was formally established in 2007 by the Oklahoma State University Library and will continue to gather the cultural and intellectual heritage of the state through oral histories.

The Women of the Oklahoma Legislature Oral History Project website (www.library.okstate.edu/oralhistory/wotol) was officially launched during an event at the Oklahoma Capitol February 26, 2009. In attendance for this historical moment were 15 former women legislators, all 17 current legislators, and special guests. The program included an overview of the project given by the project leader, Dr. Tanya Finchum, Associate Professor and Oral History Librarian at Oklahoma State University, and a demonstration by the website creator, Juliana Nykolaiszyn, Visiting Assistant Professor and Oral History Librarian also with Oklahoma State University.

Oklahoma Webpages

Women of the Oklahoma Legislature Oral History Project

By Steve Beleu

We’ve reviewed the excellent digitized resources from the Oklahoma State University Edmon Low Library before, and welcome this new website. Dr. Tanya Finchum, Oral History Librarian, began this project in 2006 to interview and preserve the histories of the remarkable women who have served or are currently serving in the Oklahoma Legislature. Between 1907 and 2008 seventy-seven women were elected to the Legislature; Tanya has conducted oral history interviews with 46 of the 57 known to be still living. This website provides transcripts of interviews, audio excerpts from the transcripts, and some memorabilia collected during the process.

  • About WOTOL – most important here is the “How to participate” link. If you know a woman who has served in the Oklahoma Legislature who hasn’t been interviewed yet, tell her about this link.
    Women Legislators – this is an A-Z list of our women legislators, from Bessie McColgin, 1920-1924, to women who are currently serving as Lisa Johnson Billy and Constance Johnson. Included are histories for women who have moved on to other political offices such as Jari Askins and Mary Fallin. When you click on the links you will choose either “View Interview Transcript” or “Listen to Audio Excerpts.” This is still a work in progress, and information for some legislators isn’t yet available, which is why the next link is important: it contains only completed interviews with full transcripts and audio excerpts from those transcripts.
    Completed Interviews – there are 37 of these that have been completed so far. When you click on either the name of the interviewee, such as “Hannah Atkins,” or her photo, you will access a record of the transcript that you can view by page number, or you can click on “Full Transcript.” You can print either the entire transcript or specific pages from it.
    Search the Collection – this is a standard search engine, but it allows you to search within the text for what either the interviewer or the interviewee said, and lets you search the interview transcript by keywords.
    Additional Resources – links to other internet resources that contain information about women in government.

Additional Oral History Links

OSU Current Oral History Projects

Included here are such collections as Inductees of the Oklahoma Women’s Hall of Fame, Oklahoma Centennial Farm Families, and O-State Stories.

Library of Congress. Veteran's History Project  

This is the search engine for this collection. Click “female” in the search option noted as “Gender?” for 3,822 hits. Each of these hits is or will be the transcript of an oral history, interview highlight clips, and the complete interview from women who have served in our military. Use additional search options to narrow your search to era, branch of service, or prisoner of war status (there’s currently one woman in this collection who was a prisoner of war). This is also a work in progress, and the button labeled “View Digital Collection” that appears after you’ve done a search indicates interviews that are currently available.

Library of Congress. StoryCorps

This is our national oral history project. Click on “Listen to Stories” then either listen to featured stories, search stories, or browse stories by topic. You can also subscribe to their podcasts, sign up for their e-newsletters, or access their blog. Everything posted on this website is complete.

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Baltimore Orioles Team Up with Maryland Libraries

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2009 Summer Reading Club Promotion Is a Hit!

By Paula Isett, Maryland State Department of Education, Division of Library Development and Services

Originally appeared in the summer 2009 edition of The Crab, newsletter of the Maryland Library Association

The Maryland State Department of Education’s Division of Library Development and Services announced the Statewide Summer Reading Kick-Off on Saturday, May 30 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. This event marked the official opening of the 2009 Summer Reading Club themed, “Be Creative @ Your Library,” and has been celebrated in all Maryland public libraries. By registering for free at their local public library, children and teens from birth through high school participated in this program.

An exciting partnership for the 2009 Summer Reading Club included the Baltimore Orioles, who donated a limited number of free tickets to each Maryland public library. This is the second year that the Orioles have supported the Summer Reading Club, but the first year that the opening celebration was held at Camden Yards. In addition to special seating for a limited number of library customers, the scoreboard displayed public service announcements for the 2009 Summer Reading Club.

On August 17 during a pre-game ceremony on the field at Camden Yards, representatives from each library system were recognized. The Orioles even picked one of the Summer Reading Club participants to throw the first ball! Other summer reading participants from each of the 23 counties and Baltimore City received tickets to one of four games in August culminating with the August 17 game. County libraries used the Oriole tickets as incentives for the summer reading program.

To participate, students chose their own reading material such as books, magazines or graphic novels and tracked their progress using the reading logs provided through the program. In 2008, more than 150,000 children and teens in Maryland participated in the Summer Reading Club. The program is a cooperative project between the local public libraries, the Maryland State Department of Education and the Division of Library Development and Services, with funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

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Media Spotlights Librarians with Unique Hobbies

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Meet Beth Hollis and Tammi Sauer, two librarians whose hobbies are receiving much media attention.

Learn the Librarian

Children's book author Tammi Sauer and illustrator Dan Santat came up with a series of dance moves in honor of their new book, Chicken Dance. Sauer's first move is called "The Librarian." (Source: YouTube)

Roll with MegaBeth

Akron reference librarian Beth Hollis knows her way around the stacks - and the roller derby court. (Source: CNN)

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Show Your Love for Libraries at the 9th Annual National Book Festival

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If you happen to be in the Washington, D.C. area on Saturday, September 26, 2009 and love libraries, please be sure to stop by the American Library Association’s (ALA) booth at the 9th annual National Book Festival organized and sponsored by the Library of Congress.

ALA will highlight reading and libraries at the festival, which is hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama and allows book lovers to gather in the nation’s capital and celebrate reading and lifelong literacy.

The festival will take place on the National Mall between 7th and 14th Streets, from 10:00 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. The festival is free and open to the public. The ALA booth will be located at the Pavilion of the States. Information about Banned Books Week, the Born to Read campaign, Teen Read Week, and other ALA initiatives, of course including I Love Libraries bookmarks and buttons will be available to festival participants.

Over 70 festival authors, illustrators and poets will discuss their work in pavilions dedicated to Children, Teens & Children, Fiction & Mystery, History & Biography, Home & Family and Poetry. For a complete list of those participating, other activities, and additional information about the festival please visit www.loc.gov/bookfest.

 

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Librarian Wings It—Dances the “Chicken Dance” for Literacy

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Uses Stunt to Motivate Young Readers

Librarian Susan Scatena challenged her summer readers: if they read 2500 books, she will dress as a chicken and do the chicken dance on the library steps! The children were so anxious to see the spectacle, 355 children read more than 5,800 books!

Miss Susan was in fine feather today, and paid off her bet before a large audience.

Mister Marty of the Queens County Farm Museum brought a real chicken for the children to see, and told a little about her. The owner of the Kentucky Fried Chicken shop on Northern Boulevard and 152nd Street, Scott Waters, graciously donated enough chicken and fixings for 200, while McDonald's donated beverages.

The event was one of many incentives that librarians all over Queens used to encourage their summer readers to hit the books. Librarian Daniel Meyer at Queens Library at Kew Garden Hills shaved half his head and beard as a challenge. Teens who attended Queens Library at Woodhaven with Librarian Ken Gordon made their own horror movie, and posted it on YouTube (http://tinyurl.com/mnt4y8). Studies show that children who read over the summer do better when school resumes in the fall; additionally, they learn the joys of reading for pleasure. More than 44,000 children and teens registered to read at Queens Library. Creative staff members, like Susan Scatena, rack their brains all winter to find activities that will engage the imagination all summer.    

Miss Susan has a reputation to uphold. She annually issues challenges to the neighborhood kids with the promise of a wild stunt at the end of the summer. It has gained such popularity, Whitestone's children read 34% more books than last year. In the past, Miss Susan has sat in a tub of jello while the children dyed her hair purple, let them shoot her with silly string, and wore her jammies on the library steps while reading a bedtime story to a bunny.

Queens Library is an independent, not-for-profit corporation and is not affiliated with any other library. The Queens Library serves a population of 2.3 million in the most ethnically diverse county in the U.S. With a record 23 million items in circulation for FY 2009, the Library has the highest circulation of any public library system in the U.S. and one of the highest circulations in the world. For more information about programs, services, locations, events and news, visit the Queens Library Web site at www.queenslibrary.org or phone 718-990-0700. Queens Library. Enrich Your Life (r).

Contact:
Joanne King, Associate Director - Communications Queens Library
89-11 Merrick Boulevard, Jamaica, NY 11432 718-990-0704; fax 718-291-2695

Queens Library. Enrich Your Life.(r)

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