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12 Blogs of 2014: R. David Lankes

great communities build great librariesTruth be told, I’m not an avid blog reader. Since the demise of Google Reader, I’ve not devoted much time to finding a new tool to help me organize and track my blog reading. The blogs I do read belong to those people who I can count on to get me thinking and give me some great ideas, and few make me think more than R. David Lankes.

Now that I’ve got some distance from being a full time student, I’m realizing how much I miss the discourse of being in the classroom. I miss the thought provoking readings, the vigorous discussion, learning not just from professors, but from peers. David has, with his blog, recreated some of this. He’s an academic who knows and appreciates the boots on the ground work that librarians really do, and the work we might do, we could do, and we want to do.

Boring PatientI came to know David through his ILEAD keynotes in March, June, and October (which are absolutely required viewing if you are despairing about the importance of libraries). If you do watch these keynotes, you’ll learn about David’s personal journey through illness and into health, which he shares more of in The Boring Patient.

And if you haven’t visited his blog before, this week is a great time to do so. He’s beginning a series of Radical Conversations on New Librarianship, and we’re all invited to join in. This week the topic is Defining a Library. It gives me a thrill like I used to get while sitting in the classroom of a particularly inspiring professor, and I’m so glad I can participate at my leisure with the benefit of my years of practical library work. It’s the perfect way for me to recapture what I loved about being in school, without actually being in school.

Autism and Libraries: The Dangers of Wandering/Bolting, just one of the many issues we need to understand

Someone had called the police. It’s not surprising really, here she was chasing a fleeing kid – looking much older than his actual age – running down the street in his underwear. He had gotten out. Again. At the time he was maybe 8, but for reasons not quite understood many kids on the Autism Spectrum tend to be bigger and look older than their age, and he was definitely one of those kids. He is also my nephew, one of 4 boys in a family, 3 of whom are on the spectrum.

I also have a friend with a child on the spectrum. When you go to visit at their home you are locked inside with a special lock high up on the door frame. They recently began having to lock down all their windows as well after finding their child sitting up high on the roof a couple of time.

One of the number one causes of death among children on the Autism spectrum is wandering, also called Elopement. Many kids – and teens – on the spectrum will simply wander off, and since they don’t see the world the same way that we do they don’t often understand the dangers in front of them. Many will sadly drown. Others will be involved in traffic accidents.  Recent information indicates that half of all children on the spectrum will wander or suddenly bolt, putting them at great risk.

In 2013, teen Avonte Oquendo walked out of his school. The community gathered and a search continued for a couple of months. Sadly, he was not found alive. He is just one of the many tragic stories we can read about. Elopement isn’t just an issue for young children, it is an important issue for many people on the spectrum regardless of age. Kids, tweens, teens and even adults, and understanding this can help us better respond if there are incidents in our libraries or in our communities.

And as I mentioned, many families take tremendous precautions to help make sure their kids are safe. Doors are always bolted and locked, sometimes with additional safety chains put high up. Windows are locked and alarmed. Some families purchase tracking devices. And emergency plans are developed, practiced, and kept nearby for easy access.

One of the biggest dangers for kids on the spectrum is that they often lack the verbal skills necessary to be able to ask for help if lost. They may not talk at all, or they may have difficulty remembering their address or phone number. There have also been a few reports in the press about misunderstandings between police officers and older teens on the spectrum because as the police officers approach, they expect a response, which individuals on the spectrum may fail to give either out of fear, lack of verbal skills, or lack of understanding of typical social interactions.

My library recently wrote a Code Adam policy, and it occurs to me that I need to go to our administration and ask them to also talk about this with staff in terms of wandering or bolting tweens and teens on the spectrum. The implementation of the policy would be the same, lock the doors, search for the missing teens, but we would also have to have some special training about understanding teens (people) on the spectrum and approaching teens on the spectrum. Organizations like Autism Speaks advocate that local police and fire go through special training to understand and work with people on the spectrum. 

Info at the ALA Store

As part of staff training, I highly recommend that libraries have experts in the community come in and do training sessions to better help staff understand Autism spectrum issues and the ways that the library can help support those on the spectrum and their families. Wandering is just one of the many unique issues that families face, and knowing about the issues helps us all work together to meet the unique needs of those on the spectrum.

More on Autism and Libraries:

Teen Issues: Autism and Libraries
With a look at some books that have characters on the spectrum

On the Spectrum and @ Your Library (Guest post by Matthew Ross)
A library director and father of a child on the spectrum, Matt Ross shares some things libraries can do to make the library experience better for all.

Teen Issues: Teens and Autism and Future Horizons
Future Horizons is a publishing house dedicated to raising awareness and helping to meet the needs of those on the spectrum, their parents, educators and more.

Autism & Libraries: A Q&A with J. D. Kraus
Author J D Kraus shares his experiences as a teen on the spectrum and shares things libraries can do to meet the needs of those on the spectrum.

Teens and Autism: What does it mean to be “typical”?
Teen Reviewer Cuyler Creech shares his experiences as the older brother of a beloved young sibling with Down’s and on the spectrum.

Atticus Was Right: The remarkable story about a boy with autism, a bully, and a book and how books can raise awareness and help readers develop compassion (Guest post by Amianne Bailey)

Why Libraries Should Be Like Marvel Not DC

Everyone outside the library sphere keeps saying that libraries are dead- do a search and find all the articles, I’ll wait. We’re in a constant struggle to prove ourselves relevant and exciting to people.

What would happen if we took a long look at things, made a concrete plan that allowed for wiggle room, and then went full speed ahead with showing the world that libraries are awesome and relevant and super cool, rather than reacting to critics?

Like what Marvel Studios has been doing vs what DC Entertainment.

Take a walk with me here, Padawan, and I will explain.

Marvel has been planning and plotting and looking over things well before Iron Man (2008) hit the screen. They were taking stock of what had happened before, what went well (X-Men) and what didn’t (Hulk, Elecktra, Ghost Rider ) and working on revitalizing their image and their pantheon. They had just released Hulk in 2003 and Tobey McGuire’s Spiderman trilogy in 2002-2007, and saw their numbers dwindling. Yet DC had launched Batman Begins with Christopher Nolan at the helm, and their numbers were skyrocketing. What was DC doing that they weren’t?

DC was hitting the hard core fans while getting edgier, and they had a plan with the trilogy.

So Marvel said, what if we do The Avengers? Forget trilogies, forget cross-staring, let’s launch a whole strategy where if it works we’re going through 2020. If it doesn’t work, we’re out three movies.
But if it DOES:

Timeline from Point of Origin to The Avengers movie

Thus, Marvel shot and released Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk in 2008, with teasers in the media and in the movies that bigger things were coming. Iron Man had the teaser scene with Nick Fury asking him about the Avengers Initiative– and everyone was in an uproar. The Incredible Hulk paid tribute to the late Bill Bixby (something that Hulk didn’t), hidden and not so hidden mentions to Captain America, had Stark Industries throughout the movie, as well as Tony Stark talking to General Ross.  They were BUILDING something. They had plans within plans to build that excitement, to keep you guessing, to keep comic fans and regular fans alike on board. Iron Man 2 had Captain America’s shield, reference to Thor, and a whole MAP of the Avengers.And Thor had teaser PROPS for not only Thor: The Dark World but for the way of the future.

And they’re still building. Thor: The Dark World has teasers not only of Loki but a major character for Guardians of the Galaxy.

Can you imagine the planning, engineering, writing, and thought that has had to go into this?

And DC is coasting on Nolan’s Batman trilogy, had a sub-par run with Man of Steel, and is now going to try Superman vs Batman with the current Superman but a new Batman. And still no Justice League, Wonder Woman, or any other movies in sight.

So what does this have to do with libraries, Christie?

Right now, libraries tend to plan like DC. Oh, yea, this is cool, let’s do Batman and let’s make him all dark because all our patronage is dark and into vampires and stuff, and it’ll be awesome. But then we’re done, and then it’s “What’s Next?” We get lost before we even get started, because we don’t have a long range plan- we don’t let the visionaries out of the box, we don’t let them generate the buzz, and don’t let them have the resources needed to get things moving. Libraries tend to clip wings instead of letting them fly.

Let’s Try Something New!

We need to be working like Marvel- have everyone be doing their own stuff (like different movie directors) but working toward the common goal (massive awesomeness and pown of the market share), with check points where everyone comes together.

Instead of working separate, get communication going- have branches and the Main library work together, have adult services work in conjunction with youth, have reference and tech on the same page. Have teen services talk and share ideas, same with youth services- there’s no need to reinvent the wheel- share programs so that the creativity can flow. Take a look at the workplace- maybe it’s take for an organizational shift and people need to be readjusted, or staffing needs to be changed, or even job descriptions need to be realigned to reflect what people are really doing and what is needed in the organization.

 Hit the Road Jack, And Don’t You Come Back No More

If someone isn’t on board, then they need to find a new place to work, because the culture needs a shift. Libraries aren’t a stagnant place, and people need to be ready to change.

After all, just because Trevor said he was Trevor doesn’t mean he won’t come back as the Mandarin.

What’s Your Library’s Policy on Self Published Titles?

I just threw a question out to Twitter, but now I am really curious and want to know:

What is your library’s policy about self published titles?  Do you have one?

Please take a few moments and answer these questions in the comments:

1) What type of library do you work at?

2) Does your collection development policy address the growing self published title market?  How?

3)  Does you library accept donations of self published titles? Why or why not? Are there any parameters for this?

4) What do you feel is the overall view in the library world about self published titles?

5) What are the issues – outside of the perception of quality – that your library would face in acquiring and cataloging self published titles in your collection?

And finally, do you feel that libraries will have to address self published titles differently in the future?