PLA, TNLA, and Other Adventures

Whew! The last few months have been a whirlwind of conferences, advocacy, and continuing education that have kept me on the road. The experiences have been phenomenal and I hope they are only the beginning of my mission to bring experience and opportunity to the library. I will be getting caught up on World Travelers, as the program is starting to move beyond borders and become popular in programming circles. We are still going strong, and recently enjoyed a trip to Scotland (11% of the population is redheads! I’d fit right in).

Last time I posted I was heading to NASA. I was selected for two locations: Stennis Space Center and Marshall Space Flight Center, but I chose Marshall as it’s much closer to me and is the main facility for space shuttle propulsion and International Space Station assembly and design, whereas Stennis is a rocket engine test facility (you can watch RS-25 startups live on NASATV...it’s pretty cool). Oh.  My. Glob. That was over a month ago and I’m STILL on a high from it! You can read the press release of my trip HERE.

Shortly after that, I took a group of teens to the SE-YA Book Festival in Murfreesboro. This was my first time taking students, and I’m so glad I did! For most of them, this was their first time meeting authors they read every day, and the level of excitement surrounding the day was stellar. Excitement found me as well when I met Erin Teagan, author of this year’s outer space-inspired American Girl of the Year (Luciana). Her books are displayed inside the doors of the gift shop at the Marshall Space & Flight Center, so we connected on her time spent there writing her books and how awesome the facility is (she signed the core of the SLS and I saw it!). After the festival was over, I was contacted by the Vice President and asked to serve on the Board. Yes! I can’t wait to pick our authors for next year and get teens excited about YA literature!

Next was Library Legislative Day (shout out to my awesome librarian-in-crime, Sharon Edwards, who put an awesome event together!). Also a notable experience. If you haven’t been keeping up, you need to start following me on social media. Just kidding. But really. It’s been a rough time for libraries as the current administration proposed cutting funding for the Institute of Museum and Library Services...a large source of funding for museums and libraries. There have also been compromises in net neutrality, which is a large issue for more than just libraries. Enter LLD. Librarians gather in their states (I was in Nashville) and eventually in Washington D.C. and get brave - we meet with our legislators and tell them what the library can do for them, and how they can help in return. We invite them to visit our libraries and show them what we are doing for our communities.

This year for Summer Reading I decided to try an experiment: I printed the entire ballot and sent letters of support to every candidate. And I’ve actually had responses! If you’re a librarian and aren’t doing this, you NEED to. I included refrigerator magnets I designed and printed so they’ll have a visual of who we are, what we do, and where to find us. You don’t expect to be political when you enter this field...but especially with the rising climate it is VITAL to the existence of libraries.

And it worked. The FY2018 omnibus spending bill was signed...and it no longer cut IMLS, but increased the budget by $9 million! Now we are working on FY2019, sending our Dear Appropriator letters and preparing for our next LLD. In the meantime, we are still working on net neutrality, the Implementation Act, and plenty more. It never ends! But the small victories push us toward the next ones so we can continue to have safe, innovative, bi-partisan spaces for our communities.

Speaking of Summer Reading...somewhere in the middle of all this I went to the Summer Reading Conference in Nashville. We worked real hard:

One week later, I attended my first big library conference on a grant from the American Library Association. I went up to Philly for the PLA (Public Library Association) conference and was fortunate to make it just hours before the snow storm (for the time being...more on that later). Holy frijoles, I may be addicted!

I’ll be honest, the first night was overwhelming. Everything felt so unnatural. No trees, no clear air, and all I could see out my window was the convention center attached to my hotel. I was alone in a manmade jungle playing the role of “newbie” in a sea of librarians who I already convinced myself were light years ahead of me in the field.

Pre-conference was a good ice breaker. We have a thread going between the 20 of us who received the grant so we can communicate with each other. However, it’s difficult trying to connect with people when you have no idea what they look like! We were able to manage, and I made some connections in the process who helped me navigate the week. It was amazing. The sessions were amazing. Jaqueline Woodson and Kate DiCamillo were there, Elizabeth Gilbert and Sally Yates spoke, and I got so. Many. Books. They told me to pace myself. I just laughed.

I had about four days at home before I traveled over to Memphis, where I’m currently writing half of this post, for the Tennessee Library Association conference. It looks like a little baby conference after being at PLA, but I actually knew people! Here I was awarded the Frances Cheney award for the state of Tennessee, which has been such a huge accomplishment for me. I’m so honored this Yankee who came from nowhere was actually nominated for a state award. Who am I?!

It’s been a busy season! If you’re a librarian and have further questions about any of these events, feel free to contact me. I’ll be more than happy to speak with you!

I almost forgot! On the way back, I was not so fortunate as to miss the return of Snowmageddon and became stranded on the top of a mountain in Virginia. Luckily, I was able to slide over to a quaint hotel that lost power right after I checked in. But the view the next morning was card-worthy:


Houston, We're Headed to NASA!

Sometimes I apply for things I don't believe I have any real chance of getting, because you only live once, right? And sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised when I open a "Congratulations!" email informing me that I indeed am a chosen one (but...how??). Recently, one of those things was a VIP opportunity to go to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL and document the experience on social media while representing STEM education in libraries. Ya'll...NASA knows my name!!

I, along with 24 other people across the US, have been selected to attend this year's "State of NASA" event where we'll take a tour of our assigned facility, see current advancing technology being worked on to send humans into space, observe our ever-changing world, and also improve air travel. We'll get to meet scientists, engineers, and managers of NASA's facilities and meet other enthusiasts and members of NASA's social media team. Through Twitter, Instagram, and FB you'll be getting a peek inside NASA's lead center for spacecraft propulsion as I share with my followers. To say I'm jumping-out-of-my-seat ecstatic is an understatement!

If you don't already, be sure to follow me on my social media accounts so you can get real-time updates on February 12th:

Twitter: @LibrarianLisAnn or @TheIndigoQuill
Instagram: @IndigoQuill 
Facebook: SBCPL or The Indigo Quill

Also, be sure to tune into NASATV that day as we will be doing a live simulcast with Administrator Robert Lightfoot as he talks about NASA's continuing progress on their exploration initiative that makes them the leading agency in space.

But I won't be stopping there! Next year's Summer Reading theme is Outer Space, and I will be involved in the CSLP planning process (I got a little excited at one of the state meetings and apparently it didn't go unnoticed), so I will be taking what I learn to the state and continue working to spread the awesomeness of science and space exploration to libraries across the map. In the near future, our library will be utilizing YouTube to share what we are learning and doing as a way to connect with other educators and exchange ideas. Opportunities such as this one are a great way to learn together and connect education to our progressive world and the next generation that will inherit it.

I hope you join me virtually as I hang out with NASA’s MSFC team on February 12th!


Review: Culn by James Lutze

Title: Culn
Author: James Lutze
Publication date: December 10th, 2017
Genres: Sci-Fi, Fantasy
I have seen things: abominable horrors that belong to darkness.

I have done things: evil things in the shadows of the mountain, where men dare not go.

But I long for the light: for the memories of happiness and good that were once a part of my world.

So I do what I must to survive, for I know how I was brought here, and that no matter how impossible it seems, there must be a way out.

But I am afraid. Afraid that if I do escape, they will look at me with repulsion. Afraid they will not recognize that I was once one of them, long ago, before I was taken.

More importantly, I am afraid of myself. When you are raised by Evil, does it remain a part of you, or does it simply haunt you?

I'm a stay-at-home dad with the most wonderful, beautiful wife and daughter in existence. I've been telling stories my whole life, and finally decided to write them down. I've been blessed to have traveled the world, and even lived overseas for seven years. When I'm not looking after my daughter, reading or writing, I am teaching myself blacksmithing, playing the piano, etching glass, wood burning, or cooking.

In his chilling and gripping debut, James Lutze's Culn is in essence satisfyingly captivating and thrilling. In the first few lines, the reader is introduced to the mysterious protagonist, Culn, who  claims to have a story worth telling. As the reader steps into his memories, they discover a world of fantasy and idiosyncrasies. Hidden deep within the mountain of Unkeitherhom, Culn has been constantly battling the ramifications of trying to survive in captivity of the orcs, or Orikis. In a tone that is reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy, the reader discovers that he has been a prisoner since the age of 6, his family perishing in the invasion. 

Taken as the prisoner of the orc, Kreichok, Culn is tortured and beaten as a sport. His suffering is evident, and it seems his sense of self is slipping away. He is forced to perform unspeakable acts, such as fighting to the death Gladiator style and processing human remains leftover from the orcs' attacks. The reader travels through Culn's life as he is tormented every day and it is in many ways dark and gritty. The setting is a composition of fantasy and battle, but the underlying theme is the emotional connection Culn has to the author through his struggle to hold onto any thread of his own humanity.

Culn is well written within the context of dark fantasy. There is a lot of gore, so if that isn't your cup of tea, this book isn't for you. However, if you enjoy a lot of battle and a heavy emphasis on the orc race (one of the lesser races found in fantasy novels), this will be a great choice for you. The book is written within a memory, so it is mostly read experiencing the day-to-day afflictions of the protagonist. I would have preferred a little less time was spent on this, leaving room at the end for a glimpse of life after Culn is a hostage of Unkeitherhom as I expect it would require a certain level of adjusting. However, it also leaves the ending open to a sequel. Overall, a very good book that held my attention.


Teen Book Review: It Started with Goodbye by Christina June

Title: It Started With Goodbye
Author: Christina June
Publication Date: May 9th, 2017
Publisher: Blink/Harper Collins
Genre: YA
Pages: 304
ISBN: 0310758661
Source: Publisher

Synopsis (from Publisher):
Sixteen-year-old Tatum Elsea is bracing for the worst summer of her life. After being falsely accused of a crime, she’s stuck under stepmother-imposed house arrest and her BFF’s gone ghost. Tatum fills her newfound free time with community service by day and working at her covert graphic design business at night (which includes trading emails with a cute cello-playing client). When Tatum discovers she’s not the only one in the house keeping secrets, she finds she has the chance to make amends with her family and friends. Equipped with a new perspective, and assisted by her feisty step-abuela-slash-fairy-godmother, Tatum is ready to start fresh and maybe even get her happy ending along the way.
Amazon | Goodreads

Christina June writes young adult contemporary fiction when she’s not writing college recommendation letters during her day job as a school counselor. She loves the little moments in life that help someone discover who they’re meant to become – whether it’s her students or her characters. Christina is a voracious reader, loves to travel, and hopes to one day be bicoastal – the east coast of the US and the east coast of Scotland. She lives just outside Washington DC with her husband and daughter.

It Started with Goodbye is a modern Cinderella story that allows you to walk side by side with sixteen year old Tatum, the main character, as she goes on an emotional journey of self-discovery. Though Tatum doesn’t go around the world, her journey takes place right in her hometown; specifically her room, the house she goes to babysit, and her laptop. 

With continuing conflicts between her, the “step monster”, and her uptight distant stepsister, Tatum feels like an outcast in her own home besides the unbreakable love she has for her father. Unfortunately, Tatum is accused of a crime she did not commit and breaks the already shaky trust she had from her step mother and make her father wary of her judgment. She finds comfort in her art and a charming client of her design business. Thus begins the new chapter of Tatum’s life that will teach her the value of trust, love, and forgiveness. 

I was surprised to see that even though the book is a ‘modern cinderella’ story, Tatum is a remarkably relatable character. Her choices, concerns, and goals are true to a teens in this generation. I believe the author was trying to convey the importance of trust, love, and forgiveness. She did an amazing job at writing about those things without overdoing it to the point where it’s unrealistic. I laughed, felt second hand embarrassment (along with Tate), and teared up a little on scenes that really made you feel the value in the relationships Tatum has. I loved the diversity in the book; whether it was through the fact that Tatum was a graphic designer or that her step mothers side was from Chile, it really gave the book character and uniqueness. One thing that I loved and admired of the book is that I found no foul language. Not even once. The author gave the characters distinct personalities and also made you feel without the use of curse words. It’s something that not many YA authors do. Props to her for doing that.  

This is a book is a quick read. I recommend it to teens who need a pick-me-up or those who simply enjoy a book with a good moral. The book was really sweet in my opinion. It portrayed a lot of what teens might be going through now in their lives. So, go ahead and give it a try, it’s worth the read. Simply because it’s a book I would read once and remember and not necessarily read again, I’d give it a 4 out of 5.