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.

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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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.

Helping You Help Others

Otherwise known as: Emily is tired of everyone sharing inaccurate and inflammatory things on Facebook and seeing everyone take them seriously without doing a single practical thing to help, or even run the most basic fact checks.

armchair activism

So, in light of all the armchair activism flourishing in the land of social media memes, I decided to put together a non-comprehensive list of links from reputable websites and credible organizations with suggestions of ways to tangibly support some of my favorite causes and help those in need.

The most valuable tips I’ve ever come across are:

  • It’s remarkable cheap and easy to be an informed speaker and a compassionate listener – just always check your sources and consider your audience.
  • The closer you can get to the center of the problem, the greater your impact and the further it is felt, so start small and local.
  • Even if you think your vote doesn’t matter, consider voting in local elections, or at least contacting your elected officials when bills come up to let them know where you stand.

Don’t know where to vote?
Find Your Fucking Polling Place

Don’t know who your elected officials are?
Contacting the Congress – here’s an easy way to find out!

Animal Welfare
Adopt Don’t Shop – there’s about a million reasons to adopt, but here are the top 10
Reporting Animal Cruelty – speak up for those who can only bark or meow
Cruelty Free Drugstore Makeup – for those who want to look fabulous without paying two high prices

  • Also, find your local animal shelter’s website and buy them things from their Wish Lists

Talking with kids about racism – no one is born knowing who to hate
Combating racism as a white educator – use your privilege to ask the right questions and make positive changes

Stop Sexist Remarks

Women’s Reproductive Rights and Health
How to Support Planned Parenthood

Be a Straight Ally
Top Ten Ways to Be an Ally
Guide to Being a Straight Ally

Homeless Veterans
National Coalition for Homeless Veterans
US Department of Veterans Affairs

Syrian Refugees (believe it or not, you can care about and support both homeless veterans and refugees simultaneously)
Refugee Council USA

Vaccine Safety – Top Questions and Answers

So there you have it, ladies and germs – my own, slightly more practical brand of armchair activism! The holidays are coming, which is the perfect time to explore charitable giving, and the new year is coming, which is the perfect excuse to resolve to be more socially aware and accountable.

Do with these links what you will – my hope is that you will pick at least one to focus on and expand upon, and maybe teach me the ways in which you’re learning to help!



My Big Fat Gay Agenda

Since I started working at my library about a year and a half ago, I haven’t heard of any overt hate crimes against homosexuals in or around the neighborhood, and for that I am grateful. What I have heard, however, is about a hundred little passive aggressive comments muttered quietly or vile words uttered out loud in supposed jest, by kids and adults alike.

Subtle expressions of hatred are particularly troubling to me because they’re so stealthy and viral. They’re difficult to prove and discipline, often confused with wit or disguised as humor, and infects children in many cases worse than overt acts of crime because everyone’s taught that violence is unacceptable, but their dad says [insert ignorant slur du jour here] in casual conversation, so they learn that it must be okay for them to repeat when they grow up, too.

I guess what I hear the most from parents is some perhaps benign sounding version of “I know some people are gay/lesbian/transgender/whatever, but I don’t want to see it, and I don’t want my kids to think that it’s okay.” Well, that’s too bad, because while I don’t think that any of my homosexual friends and acquaintances are going door to door and spreading the good news of Sir Elton John, I can tell you that this straight woman does have a gay agenda, and my covert crusade is executed by sabotaging story times.

For every subtle homophobic comment that’s dropped in my presence, A Tale of Two Daddies is read during one of my school visits. For every time I hear that you don’t want your kids to “have to hear about Caitlyn Jenner,” I will sneak Red: A Crayon’s Story into the list of books I suggest you take home to read with your child. You know what else? Every time you leave your child or preteen alone at the library for hours of free daycare, it might interest you to know that I regularly educate them on tolerance of others, self-acceptance, the complexities of identification, and the significance of power and consent.

To combat homophobia at your library and in your home, please communicate openly and clearly with your children and others, and stock your shelves with the following books:

Red: A Crayon’s Story, by Michael Hall
A Tale of Two Mommies, by Vanita Oelschlager
A Tale of Two Daddies, by Vanita Oelschlager
Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress, by Christine Baldacchino
I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel
And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson
10,000 Dresses, by Marcus Ewert
The Family Book, by Todd Parr
The Sissy Duckling, by Harvey Fierstein
Heather Has Two Mommies (the updated version by Lesléa Newman)
Mommy, Mama, and Me, by Lesléa Newman
Daddy, Papa, and Me, by Lesléa Newman
King and King, by Linda de Haan
This Day in June, by Gayle E. Pitman
Jacob’s New Dress, by Sarah Hoffman
The Different Dragon, by Jennifer Bryan


I’ve known that I wanted to be a librarian since I was a teenager and I got high marks and honors all throughout high school, college, and graduate school, so it may come as a surprise to some of y’all that I was a late bloomer in terms of learning to read (also in terms of a LOT of other things) and (brace yourselves) I am now an extraordinarily bad reader and rarely get through more than maybe one or two traditional, paper books a year.

I know! I know. Take a minute to process that and let me know when you’re ready.

Just kidding, I don’t care. And neither should you! Well. You sort of should. You should care because although this posts starts out sounding like it’s about me, it’s actually “for the children.”

Okay so if you actually want to know, my personal history with literacy is that I adamantly refused to learn how to read until I was about 7 years old. I was home schooled most of my life, and of course my mom would encourage me to learn but thankfully she also let me dictate my own pace for things as long as I had a good argument for why. She explained that reading would let me learn about the thoughts in other peoples’ heads, and I told her that I already had enough thoughts in my own head and I would learn to read when I started running out and needed new ones. Then one day I picked up Green Eggs and Ham, and then really quickly moved into juvenile chapter books about horses and babysitters, and then catapulted into Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Garden, and then regressed slightly back into Cut and The Perks of Being a Wallflower in early high school, and I was voracious at every step of the way. I remember reading almost every book on the Summer Reading list before I began my sophomore year of high school, which coincidentally was my first year in public school, and being really surprised that my classmates had reluctantly dragged themselves through the requisite two or three.

But that’s also when everything came to a pretty screeching halt. Let’s be honest – reading for a purpose, for a deadline, for a grade, is awful. A steady diet of increasingly dense texts (or light texts made dense by endless discussion questions) is what I consumed for the next decade, with few exceptions, and my ability to read for pleasure more or less atrophied in that time. Obviously Harry Potter books were always a thrill, I savored every moment of the Poisonwood Bible one summer during college, and I really liked Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan when I picked it up on a whim right after graduation, but those are some of the last times I can remember genuinely attaching to a paper book.

(Amusing anecdote: I didn’t purchase any books during library school. I also can’t recall really reading anything new at all during that time. Sorry I’m not sorry, professors, but I faked most of those book reviews. Whoops…!)

But wait, does this mean that Miss Emily the Children’s Librarian is a big fat phony and doesn’t care about literacy’s history, present, and future? How can she make sound book recommendations if she hasn’t read everything on the New York Times Best Seller list?? All she “read” last year was Elizabeth Smart’s memoir and the Tales of Beedle the Bard!? ARE THERE NO PRISONS? ARE THERE NO WORKHOUSES!?


Don’t be such a Scrooge, man.

No, it doesn’t mean that, at all. What it actually means is that the act of reading words on pages bound together in a novel generally makes me fall asleep within about 5 minutes – not sure why, but it is what it is. However, I absolutely love audiobooks, I devour brief articles online and in print, and I frequently dig works of non-fiction. I also happen to genuinely enjoy children’s books as a medium because I’m really visual and I continue to be astounded by the beautifully rich illustrations and deep, duplicitous storylines that go into so many of them, especially now-a-days. Seriously, have you seen some of the picture books that came out this year? Outstanding.

What it actually means is that I tend to be hyper-judgey and think that most book summaries and first sentences or paragraphs sound incredibly lame so I dismiss them quickly, and this puts me at least a small step closer to the majority of the kids and teens that I interact with on the regular and I think this makes me easier to relate to. What it actually means is that I don’t mind if your kid hates reading cause I totally get that, but there are still a lot of ways to get around that and be successful and have fun and I can help them discover some of them. What it actually means is that I have no real stake in whether you prefer e-readers or if you have many leather-bound books and your apartment smells of rich mahogany, because I’m just glad you’ve found something that works for you and helps you learn and/or relax.

leather-bound books

Literally, this is what everyone who gets all blustery about the whole e-readers vs. paper books debate sounds like to me. Please stop.

What it means is that I actually finished about a dozen books last year, not including all the children’s books I read for library programs, and then also probably a couple of hundred professional articles about librarianship and even more about, for lack of a better word, adulting. I could recommend many of them because I thought they were awesome but guess what – what I like to read is basically irrelevant because what resonates with me may not with you at all. For the same reason it’s usually stupid to ask the bartender what drink they like best, it’s also kind of stupid to think that what I’ve read recently will affect you in the same way. Some texts are universal, but most are not, and we are incredibly lucky to live in a time and (not to go all ‘Murica on you) in a country where we have easy access to virtually everything we could ever want or need to read, so just communicate those desires and necessities to me and let me work my magic! #librariesforlife


Malala ❤

And no, I don’t find it ironic that someone who has difficulty reading in the traditional sense became a librarian because if you had any idea how little of my day at the library involves reading and how much of it is devoted to programming and restarting computers and wiping up boogers and being an unofficial guidance counselor, you wouldn’t find it ironic either.

You might think that being a librarian but not loving books is like owning a record store and hating music, but that’s just not the case. If we’re gonna go with this analogy, then the library is a music store that distributes records, CDs, mp3s, and even cassettes (for better or worse) and my preferred method is mp3s – but we also serve coffee, host local bands, teach kids to play music, and a plethora of other things. I LOVE music, and LOVE literacy – I just don’t have a compatible listening device for 78s or a brain for reading physical books most of the time.

libraries are more than just books

Holy libraries, Batman!

So here’s where it becomes a piece that’s for the children, and it’s the real reason why I bothered even writing a post about this topic because as annoying as it can be to have people endlessly give me grief if/when they find out that I rarely read, it’s more unsettling to me when I see people give kids grief about the same thing.

One of my main take-aways from my Literacy Methods course in college, and one of the main take-aways that I hope you get from this post, is that it really doesn’t matter what or how a kid is reading, so long as they’re reading something, somehow. The brain stimulation alone is essential, and the content and lessons will always find a way to be relevant to their lives. Yeah, stepping outside of your comfort zone is cool, but so is becoming really well-versed in a particular topic and medium.

tl;dr – I’m a highly educated and pretty successful children’s librarian, and in my opinion, if your child is struggling to learn how to read or is just not into it right now, it’s probably no big deal. I was and am a reluctant reader in the traditional sense to this day, but I turned out fine. Be patient, read to them and with them at every opportunity, give them real reasons why reading is important, give them a variety of texts, topics, and mediums to choose from, and then back the fuck off them. Your judgement and insistence probably isn’t going to help – it’s actually more likely to do damage to their understanding of what reading can and should be all about. Like children, literacy comes in all forms and you can’t totally predict when it’ll start to bloom, so let your kid embrace what works best for them.