Five Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Rhode Island Libraries

I’ve had this draft saved for literal years, but today, fueled by exasperation with my husband who recently told me he didn’t want to visit our local library because it was too small and “wouldn’t have enough selection,” I’m finally posting it.

1) There are more than 70 libraries in Rhode Island, and you can use the same card at every library in the state. If you got your card at the Ashaway Public Library, you can use it to check out books at North Scituate Public Library. If you live in Narragansett but your library doesn’t own the latest installment of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, you can have it delivered from another location to your library for free. Likewise, if you borrowed a book in Providence and then packed an overnight bag to have a beach day in Westerly, you can drop the book off at a library down that-a-way instead.

2) If your materials are overdue, fine but bear in mind that besides the monetary consequence, you’re probably preventing someone else with the very same interests and needs as you from accessing those same materials, or at least delaying them, which is pretty rude if you think about it. Don’t be a jerk. This is probably someone you’d have something to talk about with at a party – so be fair and share.

3) The average cost per taxpayer annually is about $35, or the cost of 1.5 hardcover books.
4) Free services provided by every library: access to new best-selling novels and works of non-fiction, classics, special collections, audiobooks, DVDs and Blu-Ray discs, magazines, tax forms, fax machines and printers so you don’t have to buy your own, museum passes for free or discounted admission to awesome places like the Rogers Williams Park Zoo, Mystic and/or New England Aquarium, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Children’s Museums of Providence and Boston, and the Pawsox, among many, many others (the specific passes vary library to library).
5) Free services offered at libraries across the state: Zumba classes, yoga classes, computer literacy classes, 3D printers, homework help, tutoring, ESL classes, financial literacy workshops, workshops for resume building and cover letter writing, language learning software, notary services, Haunted Houses, craft time, story time, healthcare information, teen clubs, free summer lunches for kids, movie nights, book clubs, knitting clubs, gardening clubs and seed collections to borrow, wildlife survival courses, lifestyle improvement workshops, anime clubs, cartooning and illustrating and bookmaking workshops for kids and teens, painting and portraiture classes, genealogy and historical information, toys for kids, preschool preparation programs, Lego clubs, just to name a few.
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Best of 2017

It’s the end of 2017, FINALLY, so that means it’s time for reflections and resolutions.

Last Year’s Resolutions

  • Pay off my car and tackle my student debt – car is done, student debt is happening. Theoretically, 1.5 years from now my first loan will be paid off!
  • Replenish my savings account – I did, but now it’s gone again because we live in the only developed nation without universal healthcare, so another goal for 2018.
  • Find a side hustle to stick with – yes, but not the one I was originally thinking of.
  • Track my migraines – I did, and it turns out they’re connected to sudden drops in barometric pressure, but only if it’s the second day of my period.
  • Be better about taking vitamins and supplements and using mouth wash – yes, mostly. I’ve gone through almost two bottles of multivitamins and two bottles of mouthwash, so…that’s an improvement.
  • Be social – 50/50. I made new friends, I let go of some old ones.
  • Continue weeding out beauty and personal care items that are not cruelty free and finding suitable alternatives – yes.
  • Expand my Spanish for Librarians cheat sheet to include more words and phrases – yes, but now it’s kind of superfluous.
  • Back up my photos and print some for framing and scrap-booking purposes – I did back them up, but I didn’t print anything out.
  • Keep up with my blog/photo blog projects – sort of. I kept up with my Clarissa fan page (so weird), but neglected my kids quote blog.
  • Learn to play the ukulele – nope.
  • Learn to knit – nope.
  • Bike – well, I bought one anyway, and rode it all of one whole time.
  • Get into a few podcasts – right at the very end of the year, yes – Your Fave is Problematic (boo), My Favorite Murder (love/hate), You Must Remember This (amazing), and Chat with Chapman (made by one of the students at Williams!).
  • Gratitude Journal – yes, and I actually think it made a pretty big difference.

Best Shows

  1. Shameless
  2. Glow
  3. Being Mary Jane
  4. The Newsroom
  5. Seinfeld
  6. Drunk History
  7. Community
  8. The Golden Girls
  9. Buffy (rewatch)
  10. Younger
  11. Atlanta
  12. Brooklyn Nine Nine

Best Books

  1. Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson
  2. You Will Know Me, by Megan Abbott
  3. Moxie, by Jennifer Mathieu
  4. Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee
  5. You Can’t Touch My Hair, by Phoebe Robinson
  6. People Like Us, by Dana Mele

Highlights

  • Found my new passion project – information literacy and combating fake news
  • Melissa Joan Hart followed Every Outfit on Clarissa
  • Started a new side gig at Westerly Life Magazine
  • Got defriended/blocked by two Trump supporters
  • Presented with Catherine at RILA
  • Found my holy grail eyeliner – Physician’s Formula Lash Booster
  • Paid off my car!
  • Snapchat finally recognized Figaro’s face so I can use filters on him
  • New job, shorter commute, more time off!
  • Nimbus arrived and after many, many months, has mostly adjusted
  • 11. 5 year reunion!
  • Joined a gym
  • Found that Vera Wang dress at Jonnycake Center

This Year’s Resolutions

  • Take more photos, and print/frame/scrapbook them
  • Bullet journal
  • Maintain or even improve water consumption
  • Find more cruelty free products to replace what I’m using
  • Use less single-use plastic
  • Continue curating our home decor
  • Listen to more podcasts
  • Read at least one book a month – and keep notes of interesting facts and memorable quotes
  • Keep my car clean and organized
  • Learn more about tarot and fortune telling for fun
  • Keep a plant alive
  • Start using serums in my skincare routine
  • Establish better pet care routines – like brushing weekly
  • Watercolor?
  • No gifts for holidays/birthdays unless they are practical or charity-based

Job Acquirement 101 for Teens

So, I did another workshop for my teens last night, and this time the topic was how to get a job. 15 kids showed up and while I’ll admit it was a struggle because they were even more rambunctious than usual, I feel pretty good about the outcome. 4 kids even asked me at the end for my full notes to take home, and one of them had brought copies of the resume we made together a couple of weeks ago to show the group.

In case anyone else wants to do a similar presentation (or if you’re a teen yourself, looking for some tips!), here’s everything I’ve got to say on the subject.

Before I get to my notes, I have to give major props to The Balance for having by far the most comprehensive website on the matter of helping teens apply for/get jobs, write their resumes and cover letters, even how best to ask someone to be a professional reference. So kudos to y’all, guys. I couldn’t have done any of this without you.

There’s also a cool and free job application lesson plan available to print out, and if you’re in Rhode Island, then you’ll want to check out the Child Labor Brochure and Poster.

Before You Start Looking for a Job

Think about what you’d like to do and explore your options

  • Like animals? Check with vets and shelters
  • Like children? Check with the YMCA or the library or after-school child care providers or summer camps
  • Restaurants (bussers, dishwashers, hosts, servers) and fast food joints
  • Amusement parks
  • Recreation Departments and summer camps

Online Presence

  • Make sure that what you’ve put online is not traceable
  • Clean up your Instagram, your Youtube, your Facebook, everything
  • Employers do look, and it can make a huge difference

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Fake News Invasion: Teaching Media Literacy Skills to Teens

Like most everyone else in education circles, I read the report from Stanford University a few months ago and was horrified by the results. Like everyone else, I fretted and I rang my hands for a couple of weeks, then I racked my brain for a month more, and then on Tuesday I gave a presentation to seventeen teenagers on the topic of fake news and media literacy, and I am relieved to say that it actually went quite well!

So, in the spirit of giving, of resistance, and in fighting ignorance at every turn, I also decided to transfer the bulk of my presentation’s content into a post so everyone can review it, rework it, and make their own!

Please bear in mind, this is one of my first-ever educational presentations, so it’s by no means perfect, either in content or in structure. It’s as un-biased as I could make it but it’s not totally neutral when it approaches certain areas of discussion. That’s actually one of the nuggets that I was hoping to share with the teens – that everyone and everything has a point of view, but that the more facts you omit and truths you sugar coat, the further away from a normal point of view you move and the closer to a dangerous agenda you get. So this is me, acknowledging my bias. I don’t like virtually anything 45 has said or done (except that term limits for congress would be rad) leading up to or post election, and that probably comes across in some of my information. However, I did try to present as many facts about the situations surrounding him and as little interpretation as possible.

Anyway, I digress. If you’re interested in learning about fake news or teaching others, what follows is a series of suggested areas to focus on, a slew of discussion questions for each area, and a few pointed facts for your consideration. The questions are mostly open-ended and unanswered here because, as stated, they’re intended to start a discussion and allow kids to participate and take partial ownership of the lesson, but if you’re planning to teach the topic, just have your own answers and definitions on hand if there’s no response or there’s a super wrong answer thrown out.

Also, definitely don’t just take my word for it (who am I to you, anyway? Possibly just a rando librarian in Rhode Island who very occasionally blogs – personally, I think you should trust me as a credible source of information, but  you shouldn’t always believe everything you read!) and definitely do a little of your own research. I found these sites tremendously helpful:

  1. PBS Lesson plan: How to teach your students about fake news (which was amazing, and I literally couldn’t have gotten started without it)
  2. Stanford’s own Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning (which provides some examples/exercises you can print out)
  3. Common Sense Media: Identifying High-Quality Sites
  4. How to Teach High-School Students to Spot Fake News from Slate
  5. The Library’s Role in a “Post-truth,” “Fake News” Era from Proquest
  6. Project Look Sharp
  7. School Libraries Fight Fake News
  8. Gustavus Adolphus College’s LibGuide
  9. Indiana University East’s LibGuide
  10. Central Washington University’s LibGuide

We started with the simplest ice breaker of all, an inverse of Two Truths and a Lie. I taped up three news stories and asked them to identify which one of the three is the real one by sticking post-it notes to it. Once that was over, we jumped right in to the…
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2016, Rest in Pieces

So it’s pretty safe to say that 2016 was not a great year for most people, at least in terms of celebrity deaths and political/world events. I’m not particularly hopeful about the likelihood of 2017 bringing us anything except more of the same, given that Trump will officially be our president for realsies and celebrities are only getting older and we’re only creating more and more of them as our standards for fame sink lower and social media creates a false sense of closeness and a constant buzz about anyone who’s ever been considered “someone” for more than 15 seconds, let alone 15 minutes, and all of time is a man-made construct, but who knows. I’ve been wrong before. I’d be very happy to be wrong now.

Anyway, I figured rather than continuing to wallow in the muck and mire that this year brought in, I’d review it all through my various social media posts and see what stood out as actually good (or bad, but with silver linings).

Personal Revelations from 2016

  • I think this is the first year that I really, truly saw the ugliness that’s around me and which pervades my life more than I realized. Call it “woke,” call it “aware,” call it whatever you like, but holy shit there’s a lot wrong, from wage discrepancies based on gender and ethnicity (even in my field, which I was somehow blissfully ignorant to prior to a few months ago) to everyday bigotry to woefully inept information literacy rates as the result of abhorrently impractical digital literacy methods, apart from policy brutality and health care issues and student debt and the displacement of senior citizens and the abuse and neglect of animals and the deforestation of basically everywhere. There’s a lot to be done, but there’s also a lot of people interested in doing at least some of it, so that gives me a tiny glimmer of hope.
  • In a related field, I realized that deleting friends off Facebook just creates more of an echo chamber for you and while it’s undoubtedly more pleasant to not have to deal with whatever spiteful insanity someone is spouting off, it’s also potentially hazardous
  • Bernie is still bae, and will be forever
  • I enjoy library policy creation and interior design more than I realized
  • Health wise – I can’t drink alcohol or eat any nuts anymore, and migraines are a thing for me
  • I like my body even when it’s Pie Season and I haven’t exercised in months, but I also feel much better when it’s not Pie Season and I have been exercising somewhat regularly

Personal Highlights of 2016

  • Went to the Newport Folk Festival – St. Paul and the Broken Bones stole the show as far as I’m concerned, but seeing Flight of the Conchords perform live was amazing, too (and bonus points for me because attending this was on my list of Resolutions for 2016!)
  • Finally visited Disney World, thanks to my handsome husband! (This was also on the aforementioned list, as was attending a paint night, which I also did! Huzzah!)

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  • Spent a week in Hawaii with my love
  • Mostly conquered my fear of babies, but they’re still not my favorite
  • Dyed my hair purple and discovering Overtone Conditioner
  • Figured out how to actually wing my eyeliner
  • My previously indefinable “look” is called Toddler Grandma Style
  • I discovered the glory of adult-sized onesies and now own 3 of them
  • Ran my most successful Haunted House at my library
  • Participated in the Handmade Valentine Exchange Project

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  • Was featured in Librarian Wardrobe a few times
  • Saw  Bo Burnham perform Make Happy live
  • I re-read and reviewed my old Livejournal posts and came to somewhat better terms with my teenage self
  • Chelsea and I had a featured article published in PLA Magazine and I moderated an author’s panel for SLJ
  • The revival of Lisa Frank everything, everywhere, even the Dollar Tree!

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Favorite Shows Binged in 2016, in no particular order

  • Better Off Ted
  • America’s Next Top Model
  • The Office (UK)
  • Seinfeld
  • The Bachelor, the Bachelorette, Bachelor In Paradise, and Ben and Lauren: Happily Ever After?
  • Unreal (but really only the first season and a half – I hope they pull it together for 3)
  • Broad City
  • Nashville
  • Scream Queens
  • Drunk History
  • My So Called Life (if you want to watch or re-watch it, here’s a drinking game to go along with it, similar to the Dawson’s Creek Rewatch Project I’m also currently doing)
  • Stranger Things

Favorite Books Read in 2016, in no particular order but all linked to their Goodreads pages for your convenience

Personal Resolutions for 2017

  • Pay off my car and tackle my student debt
  • Replenish my savings account
  • Find a side hustle to stick with
  • Track my migraines
  • Be better about taking vitamins and supplements and using mouth wash because I guess I’m an adult now
  • Be social…? But probably not. I think Liz Lemon’s “saying yes to staying in more” mantra may have taken hold in me for good.

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  • Continue weeding out beauty and personal care items that are not cruelty free and finding suitable alternatives
  • Expand my Spanish for Librarians cheat sheet to include more words and phrases
  • Back up my photos and print some for framing and scrap-booking purposes
  • Keep up with my blog/photo blog projects
  • Learn to play the ukulele
  • Learn to knit
  • Bike? The question mark is because this has been one of my resolutions for literal years, so I’ll be surprised if 2017 is the year it finally happens. But it should still be on here.
  • Get into a few Podcasts
  • Try this 52 Week Gratitude Challenge in my private, paper journal because otherwise I think whoever finds it posthumously will think I’m a suicidal piece of human garbage who spends all her time whining and stressing and crying when in reality, that’s only true like half the time.

So that’s it. That was my year. Not as good as Leo’s, what with him finally winning his Oscar and also presumably still being able to consume alcohol, but strictly speaking, it wasn’t a bad year for me. We’ll see what happens next.

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Cheers!

Side Work Work Work Work Work

I feel like I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the fact that within the last couple of months, I’ve had a full length feature article published in Public Libraries Magazine and also moderated a panel of five Young Adult authors for School Library Journal.

You can check out the article here – it’s called the Imitation Game: Applying For-Profit Strategies in the Nonprofit World, and it’s a collaboration by myself and my friend/librarian soul mate, Chelsea Dodd Coleman.

The Thrills and Chills: Suspense and Horror panel has been archived and can be viewed for free by registering for the SLJ Teen Live 2016 conference, which you can do here.

I’ve been so lucky to be given these opportunities, and I’m already looking ahead to next year – as of right now, it’s my goal to put together a full presentation for RILA on social media platforms librarians can/should be using, beyond Facebook. We’ll see if I lose my nerve or not.

Pinterest Successes

I joined Pinterest about 5 years ago, and it’s not an overstatement to say it’s impacted nearly every area of my life. Recipes, exercise, style, attitude, nearly every program or display I’ve done at the library, every party I’ve planned – you name it, Pinterest has been there for me.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s definitely been some fails along the way, but I wanted to sift through all of the weirdness and the moments of good intentions with zero follow through, and focus on the successes. To start with, I’m just doing a general overview of my favorite things to come out of the site, and then maybe I’ll do a few posts just about cleaning tips or cooking or something, yeah? Cool. Let’s go.

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Home Life

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I can’t remember if I got this from Pinterest or just the Interwebs in general, but if you invite the president to your wedding, you’ll get a letter back congratulating you on your marriage. Same goes for Micky and Minnie!

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After my bridal shower, I wasn’t sure what to do with all the cards. But then I made them into a book! Since then, I’ve also seen these amazing cut-out wall art pieces, too.

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Popsicle stick date night ideas. They’re color coded by expensiveness and level of preparation/involvement (a few hours vs. a weekend away). There are great date ideas here, but you can also find approximately 1,000 more to add in as you see fit. Also, you can usually get colored popsicle sticks at Dollar Tree so you don’t have to worry about painting anything.

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DIY Scratch Tickets for significant others (or just friends, whatever). These are so super cute and fun, and the mix of Dawn + paint + white crayon does actually work perfectly. This is  great printable for Valentine’s day but if you’re even half-way handy with Publisher, you can also make these work for anyone and anything.

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These probably seem like obvious tips, and I guess they are. But this really was one of my first big Pin-spirational moments and really helped me get my linen closet/medicine area together and it’s made a big difference.

Also, once your linen closet is no longer a disaster area, go and buy a large clear glass container and throw a bunch of trial size toiletries in it and you’ll end up with this beautiful bundle to offer your guests:

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Bonus: gives you a reason to buy mini things (which, if you’re like me, is one of the greatest ways you can waste your money).

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And then one day, I read this article about how couponing doesn’t have to suck, and my life changed. Suddenly I’m one of those ladies who gets $30 worth of stuff for $2. What, what!

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Here are my other tips for couponing:

  • Download Favado and then one or two store-specific apps (like CVS)
  • Know that these items can basically always be gotten for free or at a drastically reduced cost: toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, feminine hygiene products, diapers, laundry or dish detergent, and pain relievers
  • Find a coupon database that you like (I love Money Saving Mom even though I feel extremely mid-western matronly by association)
  • Organize your coupons by date, and store them in a way that makes you happy. For me, that is a Lisa Frank folder.
  • Don’t be afraid to wait it out a bit so you can stack up the deals.
  • Try to go at non-peak hours so you’re not *that* person making everyone wait in line forever, please.
  • Be super pleasant to the cashiers, always. In the worst case scenario, you’ve been a good person. In the best case scenario, you’ve been a good person *and* sometimes they’ll let you use an expired coupon or use one early or give you some secret discount you didn’t even know about.

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Dollar Tree gives me life, truly. But there are definitely some things to pass on while there. Here’s a pretty decent guide of What To Buy and What to Avoid at dollar stores.

Arts/Crafts

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Trinket dishes. You could shell out like $20 for one at Urban Outfitters or Anthropologie, or you could get a cheapo plastic animal at the Dollar Tree or Target and some thrifted plates at Savers for maybe $2-3. The choice is yours. I gave a few as gifts, and made mine with a stegosaurus and it holds my pins and bracelets and is basically my new BFF.

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Scrabble coasters. This was one of my first Pinterest crafts, and they were a resounding success. Get the Scrabble tiles at Savers (they’ll likely have many games to choose from), then hot glue the pieces together and adhere it to cut out sheets of cork. Shellac with modpodge and enjoy!

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White on white DIY wall art. Wooden letters super glued (or hot glued, your choice) onto white canvas and then coat them with white spray paint. These phrases were a little twee for me, so we went with “As You Wish” from the Princess Bride instead.

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Apples (and/or lemons or berries – I even used potatoes to make watermelon shapes) acrylic paint, a few cheap paintbrushes and a few cheap canvas bags off Amazon. I use mine every week for grocery shopping, and they make me happy every time I look at them.

And finally, I highly suggest you keep a wardrobe inspiration board, and a board for quotes, and a board for things you want but don’t need.

  • Wear Me Out has literally been a turning point in my life in terms of cultivating outfits I love and feel good in, as well as avoiding expensive impulse buys.
  • Words, Words, Words one has given me loads of inspiration, reassurance, and chances to reflect.
  • I Want Something That I Want is great for anytime someone asks what you want for your birthday or Christmas, or if you simply want to Treat Yo Self.

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