The Girls from Ames:  A Story of  Women & a Forty~Year Friendship is an intimate look at the friendships of eleven women over a forty~year period.  Interspersed with studies that highlight the importance of the development and maintenance of close relationships in the health and well~being of women, The Girls from Ames is part sociology study, part biography and part cultural reference book.  The women came of age just at the tail end of the Baby Boom, so they are the immediate benefactors of the women’s rights movement and other social changes that marked the 60s, 70s and 80s. It was fun to read about the different hairstyles and clothes the women wore and the music they listened to as their stories unfolded, these cultural references provided a musical and visual backdrop against which their stories could be shared by women from different walks of life.

During a weekend reunion, the women shared the details of their relationships (some good, some bad) with author, Jeffrey Zaslow.  They also invited him to look at scrapbooks, read emails, interview friends, quasi~enemies and family to find out what has kept the girls so closely knit when other relationships have unraveled.  At points, it seemed that the ladies’ relationships were ebbing but the women proved that they did not need constant contact to remain close, especially when email came about and they were able to simply hit “Reply All.”

The women have supported each other through elementary school, high school and beyond.  They’ve offered shoulders to cry on when they’ve been given devastating news and they’ve given tough love when it was warranted.  But more than anything else, they’ve been  there for each other.  Even when they didn’t agree with the choices that the other was making, they let their feeling be known and then they offered support…  That the women were able to love each other unconditionally, even when the other’s choices conflicted with their religious or moral beliefs was one of the things that stood out most to me ~ unconditional, unfailing, all~encompassing love.

In many ways, you can tell the author is a journalist; each vignette is punctuated by studies that point out the importance of life~long friendships to women and their health.  At first, I found the analysis to be intrusive and more than a bit annoying, however, by the end of the book, I was impressed with how much these women supported the data presented.  The overriding conclusion of all of the data presented in the book and supported by the women’s lives indicates that women who have strong friendships live happier and healthier lives ~ and when diagnosed with an illness, their chances of survival are increased significantly.

Part of the charm of this story is that each woman offers something to the reader with which they can identify, but more than that is the emotional tug~of~war of the story.  At points, I found myself laughing and other times I found myself crying.  In the end, I found myself a whole lot jealous.  These women have the type of friendship that goes beyond the casual acquaintances that many of us share.  They are soul sisters in every sense of the word.  I believe the greatest lesson to be learned from this book is to treasure the people around you and never take anyone for granted.


Disclosure:  I received this book free from Penguin Group in exchange for a review.  I am not required to write a positive review, just an honest one.

I’m coming dangerously close to celebrating my first year of unemployment and can I tell you how much it sucks?  Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for my adjunct position at the University, but I really miss working full~time.  I miss being in a library.  I miss helping people.  I miss having a reason to wake up in the morning, put on a fabulous pair of shoes and leave my house.

You see, I kind of straddle this weird line ~ I’m not really a stay~at~home~mom (SAHM) because I don’t have any little people that I’m caring for during the day.  I have a house full of tweens and teens who really only need me to drive them from Point A to Point B and give them money when they need it.  So I can’t exactly go to any “Mommy and Me” groups to make friends.  That would be creepy.  And all the people who have children my age are working during the day.  So I spend a majority of my time online, reading books and watching television.  This is not how I imagined my life would be.

Although I keep track of my library friends, I’ve found that as time has passed that I have little in common with them.  While they’re talking ILSes, big bad vendors and other hot topics in Library Land, the only thing I can contribute is “Today on Oprah….”  So I’ve removed myself from the conversation and in the process, I’ve lost an important part of myself.

For five years, I was a SAHM to four children under the age of five while attending college.  My plate was full so I didn’t really have time to focus on what I was missing (friends, conversation, a life, etc)….  But when I started working, I realized how much I had lost.  Again I’m not complaining, I truly value the time that I spent with my kids and I know that we are much better for the time that I spent with them, but I also gave up a lot to be a SAHM.  While working in the library, I was able to create an identity separate from my husband and my children (It was so nice to be known as Dani and not as “Tony’s wife” or “So~and~so’s mom”).  Then I started interacting with other information professionals online and I started to feel like my voice was being heard.  I felt like I was contributing to something deep and meaningful.  Omg, it felt good.

Now that I’m coming up on a year of unemployment, I find myself questioning my place.  I read with interest Meredith’s post about finding the work/family/fun balance and I wish that I had taken a more practical approach to my life.  I wish that I had found that balance that Meredith seems to have found but I didn’t and I wonder sometimes if it’s too late in the game for me.

Unfortunately, my family situation dictates that relocating for a job simply isn’t an option and positions in libraries around here are relatively scarce.  So I’ve begun to expand my employment horizons and look into other career fields.  For me, this is a scary proposition because I truly enjoyed working in a library.  I gained a great deal of satisfaction from helping people locate information. For me, helping students with research was like going on a treasure hunt and I can honestly say there wasn’t a day that passed where I didn’t learn something new.

So now I sit here wondering What next?

Sorry, Sally, but I had to co-opt your statement because, well, they like me, they really like me…

At the end of each semester, I always wonder if I’ve made a difference.  Or, more specifically, if any of my students have learned anything in my class.  I mean beyond what was needed for them to pass the test.  And, ocassionally, I get the answer that I so desperately need.  I’m going to let you in on a little secreteven after all this time, I still question myself and need reassurance

This semester was “different.”  I taught without textbooks.  I’ve found that my students don’t read the assignments anyway, but they will participate when I use a combination of teaching methods.  I relied on powerpoints, lectures, discussion, music and videos to facilitate learning.  My students reacted so positively.  Well, at first, they were a bit apprehensive.  A lot apprehensive.  Ok, they were downright nervous.  But as we got into the semester and they got into the groove, everything started to fall into place.   

During the last night of classes a few of my students (I only had seven this semester), came up to me and told me that they really enjoyed my class.  Because it’s an evening course and most of my students are nurses, I know that history is not a priority for them so I try to make the class relevant.  I was told that I succeeded in keeping them awake, motivated and interested?  What more could an instructor ask for?  Well, I’ll tell you…

One of my adult students brought her son to class the entire seven week semester.  He’s in high school and he never talked during class but after class he would hang around while I was cleaning up and talk to me about whatever we had discussed that night and he’d share resources that he’d found from the previous week’s class ~ he really worked.  Anyway, today his mom told me that he wanted me to know that he enjoyed coming to my class and that he plans to attend Misericordia University when he graduates high school in three years.  He also said that he hopes that I’m still teaching history when he’s a freshmen.  You know what?  I hope I am too…

Yesterday I attended a free webinar through Booklist Online called “Let’s Get Graphic:  Kids’ Comics in Classrooms and Libraries.”  I have to admit I initially registered for this webinar because it was free.  And you know how much librarians like free stuff!  But I also wanted to find out a little something about graphic novels because in my head the only thing I could picture was a comic book. And, yes, I’m one of those snobby people who considered comics low brow.  Honestly, I had no idea that graphic novels can be so involved or that they require the skill and research that is so obviously involved in creating them.

Even though the webinar started with the assumption that people know what graphic novels are, I’m happy that the presenters went into nice descriptions of what they are and how they can be used in classrooms and libraries.  For those who don’t know, graphic novels are similar to comic books but (to me anyway) they seem to be a little more involved.  There is the familiar paneling that you see with comics and the speech bubbles but the length of a graphic novel seems to be a little bit longer than that of a comic book (I could be wrong, but I was looking at samples on slides).

One of the interesting tips that I picked up was the use of graphic novels to teach little people how to read.  By using a graphic novel in much the same way that we’d use a board books or picture books.  Not only does using graphic novels encourage young children but it encourages them to become lifelong learners because there are graphic novels for each stage of child’s reading level (with advanced graphic novels geared towards the tween, teen and adult set).  Who knew?  I sure didn’t.  I love that some of the sponsors have their graphic novels divided by reading level ~ an incredibly useful tool for those who are in charge of collection development (or parents who are looking to find age appropriate books for their children).

The links to webinar resources:

List of books discussed

Powerpoints

You can check out upcoming webinars here.

Disclosure:  I did not receive any compensation for this post.  The webinar was sponsored by First Second, Rosen Publishing, Scholastic Graphix and TOON Books.

Last Thursday was the first class of the second semester and, boy, was I a nervous wreck.  Seriously, I sat up all night refining my lesson plans and lecture notes…  I’m not sure why I’m so nervous before each class, especially since I’ve taught this same history course several times.  Maybe it’s because each section is different ~ the students, the discussions, the learning process, etc. 

The course is a seven week long evening class that meets once per week for four hours per session.  That may seem like a long time but it really goes by pretty quickly. I have seven students, most of whom are nursing students who are fulfilling a history requirement.  I began the class by introducing myself and giving the students a little bit of information about my classroom philosophy.  I don’t believe in dumping a bunch of useless facts into my students’ heads.  To me, that serves no purpose.  People already come to my class with an aversion to history so I try to make it interesting and relevant to their lives.  I provide the foundation for discussions by putting events within a historical context and then I ask them to talk about something that is happening in the world today that relates to the chapter we are studying.  I’ve found that by making the lessons relevant to the individual, they get more out of the class (sort of a “the personal is political” approach to history).  Furthermore, this method encourages my students to pay attention to current events (they have to watch the news or read a newspaper to participate in the discussions) and, hopefully, it makes them more aware of the world around them.

So, we’ll see in six weeks or so when the student evaluations are submitted whether my methods are helpful.  So far, I’ve received positive reviews from my students.  A few have come to me and told me that they enjoy the discussions and that they’ve become more confident in other classes during discussion because they feel like they have something to contribute…I really don’t think I could ask for more.

I am!  Yup, I will be back in the classroom this Thursday!  I’ll be teaching American History to 1865.  I am so incredibly nervous but I’m also incredibly happy.  This will be a 7 week course that meets one night per week for four hours.  Right now I’m in the process of finalizing the syllabus ~ I know, I know…I’m kind of working on a tight schedule, especially since class starts in two days

This semester I’m doing things a little differently.  Usually, in this type of format I do a lot of lecturing with a heavy reliance on the textbook.  Generally, these are adult students who are coming to class after a long day at work and they’re exhausted.  So I’ve been putting more of the pressure on myself instead of them.  Funny how you re-evaluate things when you have nothing else to do.  Anyway,  I get tired of listening to myself talk, so I’ve decided to take an active learning approach and make the students do more of the work. 

Instead of focusing on my lectures and the text, I want the students to look at primary sources and evaluate them.  I’ll introduce the time period and the significant events but then I’ll have the students look at documents, pictures, maps, etc to see how they relate to the event.  I’ve set up discussion questions for each primary source and provided relevant links.  I’ve also set up basic discussion questions to offset the lectures and directed the students to do their own research outside the class so they can bring “something” to the table.  These are adults (as opposed to younger students who tend to not be quite as talkative – during class) so I’m expecting a lot from them.  As further incentive, I’ve noted that class participation is a must.

Finally, I’ve assigned a final project which will consist of a formal paper and an in class presentation.  The paper has to be 5 to 7 pages long, not including the works cited page.  They also have to use a minimum of 2 primary sources.  Then, for the grand finale, they have to do an in class presentation of 10 to 15 minutes.  Now to take some of the pressure off the students, their classmates have to not only pay attention but they have to ask them questions at the end of the presentation.  No, this is not some form of educational torture.  I just want to be sure my students are learning something.  Hopefully, this will be fun, interesting and educational.

We’ll see…

After months of hardwork and contributions from librarians all over the world, the Library 101 Project made it’s debut at Internet Librarian to much fanfare. Twitter is all abuzz with excitement over Library 101. After viewing the video, all I can say is Michael Porter and David Lee King did a fabulous job and my heart is full of g33k love for them right now. They totally rawk!

I’m posting the video here, but please, take the time to check out the complete Library 101 website. The website has not only the video but essays from librarians and a very prominent supporter of libraries. There is also a list of 101 Resources & Things to Know. You can also view additional Library 101 videos on YouTube and check out the pictures on flickr.