Gaining Stories Through Loss

This month’s topic of Alzheimer’s, I admit was a little perplexing to me in the theme of books and reading.  The topic holds a special place in my heart, yet how I could relate it to my column was challenging.   I hope my post delivers some inspiration to your reading needs.

As a college undergrad and a member of Sigma Kappa Sorority, I admit, I did not realize the depth, nor fully understand the serious nature of Alzheimer’s disease.  While I participated in the Memory Walk, it still didn’t sink in as to why we, as a sorority,  were so involved.

As an adult, and a granddaughter, I now understand the importance of making such a disease known and its needs to be researched.  The sheer sadness of having a grandparent suffer with dementia is one I didn’t think I would experience.  Forgetfulness and losing your memory seems common, and mostly normal, in the elderly.  Yet, when my beloved PaPa, developed dimentia in his later elder years, it broke my heart.  He still had his charm with the ladies, his goofy laugh and smile, and the best WWII stories in the world, but this strong, tough, handsome, gentle and intelligent man started to forget more than normal.   It was then I realized just how serious Alzheimer’s and dementia can be to a person, and to the whole family.

How to relate this personal experience to reading?  Well, it certainly has peaked my interest in the topic.  I expect a large amount of nonfiction to be published about the disease and didn’t want to cover that aspect.  One idea I have is that Alzheimer’s is the loss and gaining of stories; family stories, individual histories, personal accolades.  While it can be easily understood that the disease is a form of loss, the gaining of stories is one more difficult to articulate.  We as family members lose a part of our beloved when they have Alzheimer’s, yet we also gain compassion for the sick and respect for the caregivers.  We realize the fragility of the mind.  We laugh at the silly new things our family member says or does because without a sense of humor, we will not be able to get past the sadness.  We gain new stories, accomplishments and histories to share.

I was surprised in doing my research for this post at the vast numbers and wide range of fiction stories available concerning Alzheimer’s patients as characters or stories about how the disease affects a family or person.  In an attempt to see how we can gain stories rather than lose them, I would like to share some thought provoking novels concerning the topic.

One book I picked up on a whim because it was a ‘bookmarked’ selection at Target, is called Still Alice by Lisa Genova.  It became a book I read in one night because I couldn’t put it down.  It became a book I suggest to everyone who enjoys reading about character-driven stories that will give you a new respect for your mind and brain.   Intelligent writing told in a brilliant perspective from that of the woman suffering from Alzheimer’s, makes this a must-read, especially if you are interested in the elderly or Alzheimer’s care.

I haven’t read these others, but they have made my to-read list.  Check them out and let me know if you’ve read any of them or how you like/dislike them.  The summaries are from NovelList Plus and I’ve included links to Google Books so you can find out more about these books and authors.

The Story of Forgetting by Stefan Merrill Block
Resigned to memories of the family he has lost, seventy-year-old recluse Abel Haggard spends his life alone on the family farm while, hundreds of miles away, fifteen-year-old Seth Waller seeks to uncover his mother’s genetic history after a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s.

The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean
In a novel that moves back and forth between the Soviet Union during World War II and modern-day America, Marina, an elderly Russian woman, recalls vivid images of her youth during the height of the siege of Leningrad.

Memory Wall:  Stories by Anthony Doerr
A collection of short stories, set on four continents, describing how memory affects different people.

Keeper: One House, Three Generations, and a Journey into Alzheimer‘s by Andrea Gillies
‘Keeper’ is a very humane and honest exploration of living with Alzheimer’s, giving an illuminating account of the disease itself. Gillies tells about the time she and her family spent living with someone with dementia, in a big Victorian house in the far, far north of Scotland.

The Good Husband by Gail Godwin
The brilliant, charismatic Magda Danvers had once taken the academic world by storm with her controversial book, “The Book of Hell,” and now, gravely ill, she still influences and transforms the lives of those around her.

The Wilderness by Samantha Harvey
With his memories slowly eroding from Alzheimer’s, sixty-five-year-old Jake Jameson struggles to preserve his sense of identity by building stories about his feelings and the events of his life, unaware that even his clearest recollections may not be true.

Tangles by Sarah Leavitt
Recounts in graphic novel format how the author’s well-educated, intellectual mother, Mildred, known as Midge, began showing signs of Alzheimer’s disease at fifty-two, and follows the effects of the disease on the woman and her family.

Choke by Chuck Palahniuk
Medical school dropout Victor Mancini comes up with a complicated but ingenious scam to pay for his mother’s elder care, cruises sex addiction groups for action, and visits his zany mother, whose Alzheimer’s disease hides the bizarre truth about his parentage.
What is your story?  Share yours in the comments or message me.

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Why I Love Libraries: Celebrate National Library Week

It’s National Library Week!  As a librarian, of course I am going to encourage everyone to visit their library this week and share the love with friends and family.   The American Library Association is also recognizing several other areas of librarianship during the week with special events:

Follow on Twitter at #nlw12

Join the conversation on Facebook with atyourlibrary.org

Aside from loving books, reading, stories, the written word, and being a librarian, etc., I would not be able to call myself a bibliophile without being a library patron.  Many would argue I’m a bibliomaniac, which is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as someone with an extreme preoccupation of collecting or admiring books. Yep, that sounds like me.

When I tell people I am a librarian and I went to graduate school to become a librarian, I often get that inquisitive look back with the question, “what did you learn?” or “I don’t read” or “I haven’t been the library in years.”

If you haven’t been to a library in years, months, weeks, days, hours, go and take a 30 minute visit this week!  Not only are you positively supporting your city services and seeing your tax dollars be used for great use, you are telling the world that libraries matter!  It is more than just a building with books.  You say you don’t read but do you watch movies?  Check out a DVD for free.  Are you doing genealogy research about your family?   Talk to the reference librarian for better resources than just Google and learn how to effectively use Ancestry.com.  Many libraries even have subscriptions to sites like Ancestry.com that you can access with your library card.  Do you have children and want to help them make friends or find activities other than homework?  Bring them to storytimes, playtimes, craft sessions, video gaming programs and more for free.

The library is also a place that is no longer managed by the stuffy, old, grumpy lady with her hair in a bun and ugly shoes and glasses.  That’s quite a bit of negative adjectives to describe such a person, and it’s unfortunate so many people still associate the library with this image.  Most likely, it’s because of a bad experience they had while in school and so never went back to the place.  So you say, you don’t read and haven’t been to a library in years.  Could it be because you were one of these kids?  Hopefully most of the libraries in your area have moved to a friendlier, warmer, and more inviting atmosphere with librarians who know their ‘stuff’ and have a passion for helping people embrace their inner bibliophile.  It probably wouldn’t hurt if they have really cool glasses and trendy shoes.

Why do I love libraries?  I love to read. I love to explore.  For bibliophiles like myself, I love going to the library and just wander through the non-fiction stacks looking at the titles.   Dewey Decimal is a great invention because it organizes subjects according to interest.  Yes, libraries still use Dewey Decimal, mostly for non-fiction, and I hope they continue with this grand tradition because it works!  If I had a dog, I would probably name him Dewey.  I absolutely love the wander, it helps me dig deeper into topics I may have thought about but never really explored.  In fiction, the wander is a little tougher for me because I want to read everything on the shelves so I tend to get lost.

Why do I love libraries?  I love to bring my laptop and surf the internet, perhaps do some writing or reading in a completely different environment than the coffee shop or my living room.  It’s quiet, but not annoyingly silent, with just enough distractions.  People are usually friendly and I have unofficially joined the ‘reading room newspaper’ club at my local library.

Why do I love libraries?  I love that such a simple concept became such a unique place in our world where you are granted permission based on the honor system to borrow books, movies, music, and the internet.

Why do I love libraries?  I love that my local library is a place only 5-10 minutes from my house.  I love that I can ride my bike there or drive.  I love that it is the best way I can ‘go local’ in every sense of the word.

Why do I love libraries?  Somehow it became trendy, popular, and cool to be a nerd.  I love libraries because I can embrace my inner nerd.  I can admit to reading the encyclopedia at home when I was a kid because I had read everything else we owned.  I think we are all nerds at some point in our lives and the library is the best place where we can all just be ourselves with no judgements and no apologies for what we enjoy.

Check out this site for even more information on why people around the country love libraries. 

Embrace your inner bibliophile.  Embrace your inner nerd.  Embrace what makes you YOU and check out your local library this week.   Help celebrate National Library Week with one small visit, and I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed.  I would love to hear why you love libraries in the comments!

Spark and Spirit

Old Books taken from Wikimedia Commons

Sparked by the love of books and reading, a spirit for knowledge, and a quest to continually find truth in matters both mundane and controversial, librarians have found themselves at the center of a new world unlike one they have been historically trained to uncover for the people. Guided by a much different principle of service, one that is free of any profit or personal gain, librarians hold a unique desire to give of their skills and knowledge, perhaps a gift to those they serve.

Enthusiasm and excitement are two words that come to mind when I think of my experience in graduate school.  My professors embraced such feelings in a very genuine way and it has certainly influenced my decision to enter the library world.  I hope to become the librarian that acts as a conduit between the world of knowledge and the expanding social world surrounding our everyday lives.  What I remember most about the library as a child is that of the summer reading program and wandering the stacks to find a new book to read.  A self-proclaimed booknerd, I found the library as a place where there was always a new discovery.  As a librarian, I hope to be able to create or influence that same feeling in patrons, one of spark and spirit that engages them in a way they perhaps didn’t know existed and provide my gift of skill and knowledge, enthusiasm and excitement.

Perhaps my goals are idealistic, but I have to believe that we as librarians entered this profession because of an underlying desire to learn and teach in a way that reaches all people of a community.I am so thrilled to enter such a profession where ideals and ethics are valued, where service is for a greater good, and where a librarian can make a difference.

Connecting Users With Information

Connecting users with information can take many forms from, assisting in a reference question to helping with a homework question, to serving as a reader’s adviser in helping a patron discover their next favorite book.  While face-to-face contact is best, outside of this, the best resources I not only utilize as a library patron, but also frequently find are helpful ways to connect users to information, is through the use of pathfinders and reading maps. These tools are resources that offer a wealth of information on a specific topic, often engaging patrons to seek out ideas and interests.

Below are three examples of pathfinders I’ve created to help connect patrons with information surrounding a specific book, author and topic.

Gardening Tips and Resources Online Pathfinder

Behind the Book: Online Reading Map of the Suspense Novel 13-1/2 by Nevada Barr

Jane Eyre and the Bronte Sisters Online Pathfinder

Teaching Others

Teaching others is at the core of what the librarian does every day.  It is through engaging in all of the other 6 principles do we effectively take on that which is teaching others how to read, learn, be entertained, discover and hopefully want to then teach someone else.  It is by using creative solutions that librarians are able to connect users with information, provide access to and freedom of information, and take advantage of new information needs and opportunities all for the ultimate advantage of serving the patron.

Such creative solutions involve many aspects, two of which are exemplified here.  Through creative use with what is otherwise a simple flyer, ideas are fostered, information is shared, and opportunities arise for further learning and enjoyment of an author or a subject.  It is by providing this access that we serve the library patron.

Children’s Author James Marshall

Christian Fiction for Young Adults

Philosophy of Service

An important, almost gallant aspect in librarianship, is that of service, to the patrons and to the community it serves.  Below is an example of two outreach programs. These programs not only create access of information to those that may otherwise not have it, but also displays how the librarian embraces a philosophy of service to their community.  It is this philosophy that make such a program useful and helpful, to what is often an underserved patron group.

Program Outline:  Outreach Program to Teens

Theme: Teen Pregnancy, address the needs of pregnant teenagers, their parents, and those who are already teenage parents.

Statement of problem and need

The program is necessary even in the wealthiest communities because every year, an estimated 750,000 adolescents 15-19 years become pregnant according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in Washington DC.  According to the Illinois Department of Public Health and Human Services, Teen Parent Services, 4,100 Illinois women younger than 19 draw public assistance every year.  Illinois is also ranked 18th out of all 50 states in teenage birth rates and above the national rate of 56.8 out of 1,000 births at a rank of 60. In addition to such statistics, sex in general, especially sex education, is often a taboo topic.  The library is needed to address teenage pregnancy because the library is a neutral informational facility where parents and teenagers can go together to get information or guidance without judgment and maintain privacy.

Statement of a solution or answer

If there is a program in the library addressing teenage pregnancy, it would promote public awareness, including teenagers, of the increasing situation and provide another educational opportunity other than school, on the consequences of unprotected sex.   The program would also provide education for future pregnant teenagers on their options and also for those young teenage mothers that need parenting advice.

Project Description

The target audience is teenage parents, pregnant teens, and their parents needing information and advice.  In the library, a pathfinder of books relevant to sex education, teenage pregnancy, adoption, abortion, parenting will be available for checkout.  The pathfinder will detail where the books can be found.  Each month, a different counselor or professional whose focus is teen pregnancy will be at each session to facilitate.  Materials will be available from the agencies presenting.  These agencies we partner with will also cooperate in assisting with promotion of the program to their teenagers.

Best Information Resources

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists http://www.acog.org/

Medline Plus from the US National Library of Medicine http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/

The Illinois Department of Human and Health Services http://www.hfs.illinois.gov/

The Rural Assistance Center’s Guide to Teen Preganancy http://www.raconline.org/info_guides/teenpregnancy/

The American Pregnancy Association http://www.americanpregnancy.org/links/#TeenPregnancy

Positive and negative issues and/or concerns

The biggest issue or concern we have is the controversial nature of the topic and the appropriation of funds to an underserved or challenged group of people.  The library staff would need to be educated on teenage pregnancy, statistics, and the local agencies.  In addition, the staff would need to be able to answer the challenging questions, and especially for those that don’t agree with the program being held.    In choosing materials, we would need to ensure they are as objective as possible and offer a variety to satisfy all options of the teenager in need.  The groups or agencies involved would need to be screened and approved by the head of teen services to again ensure objectivity and privacy of the participants.

Overview of budget

  • AV equipment already held by the library
  • 1 staff member present for the hour program, greeting before and closing after
  • $150 per speaker each month includes all their costs and handouts
  • $30 each month for pizza, pop and paper goods
  • No charge to attend, but registration will be required

Overview of timeline

The program will be promoted through in the library through the website, social networking tools, newsletter, and through flyers and signs in the teen department.  The program will also be promoted through signs and flyers at the speakers’ agencies and at hospitals and other health facilities such as free clinics and doctor’s offices.  We will also reach out to local high school nurses and health educators for librarians to speak to classrooms announcing the program and encouraging attendance.  A press release to announce the program to the larger public will also be distributed to local newspapers for inclusion in their community events or calendar.

Promotion through these outlets will be on an ongoing basis once the program is approved to move forward.

Evaluation will be done by providing quick surveys after each session to attendees.  A once-a-year survey will be done for those that attended several or all sessions.

One example of some demonstrable aspect of the program

The librarian will close the program with a book talk of a useful book offered in the library, which each of us will demonstrate.


Program Outline:  Outreach Program to Older Children

Theme: “Choose Your Own Display”; Bringing creativity outlets to kids.  The theme of the book display is chosen by the children and voted on through a form from the library.

Target Audience: Children ages 9-12, approximate grades 4th, 5th and 6th.  If used in a public library setting, these children will ideally have some interest in art whether it is through painting, drawing, photography, scrapbooking, etc.   If used in a classroom setting, the children would then be part of a specific class or as an after-school club activity.

Program Basics and Format:

The children will be given the opportunity to decorate and create a book display, and choose the books in the display.  The book display will be in the juvenile section of the library and overseen by the youth services department.

The program while ultimately ending in the public library, can also be executed at the local community center, park district facility or as an after school activity by involving the local school librarian.  If used in a school setting, more thematic approaches or specific types of artistic methods could also be used to correspond with the class curriculum of either art class or language arts/reading class or a combination of the two.

The logistical format of the program will be kept simple to allow for the arts and crafts to take center stage.  Voting sheets will be available at the youth services and circulation desks for children to circle their favorite theme from a variety of topics.  The form will also have write-in spots for favorite authors, series books or other topic not listed.  The theme with the most results after the deadline noted will then be the display theme that month!  The display will run for 1 month, with the voting and actual arts and crafts creation to be done in the previous month.  The first display will require a longer timeframe so as to setup the schedule with voting to take place for 1 month and the arts and crafts to commence the second month.

Rationale, Goals and Objectives:

The purpose of the program is to provide a venue for those children interested in art living or going to school in an area that does not support an art program.  It also offers a free venue for children who cannot afford art classes through the park district while still contributing their community.  The ultimate goal of the program is to provide young artists a place to grow in their artistic talents, exhibit their work, and have fun!  The program would serve different displays each month giving multiple children the opportunity to contribute regularly.

Materials used:

These will change each month, but a set budget should be in place to determine the amount and types of materials.  Basics would include crayons, markers, construction paper, poster board, glue and enhancements such as glitter and ribbon.  Materials would also be needed to create promotional flyers and posters in the library and/or school classroom.  Flickr would be used to provide initial ideas of displays until actual photos of the library’s own displays could be used.

Promotion Plan:

The program will be promoted in the library through the website, newsletter and its own “arts & crafts” display.  The program will also be promoted at the local community centers and park district art classes through flyers and posters. Further promotion can happen at local bookstores, arts & crafts or ‘pottery painting’ stores where children and adults may go together.   The public librarian and the local elementary school librarians and art teachers will also work together to tell students about the program and encourage participation, perhaps even adding it to one or two class’s curriculum.  The display will be photographed and promoted each month through the library website and newsletters to show children and parents how creative and fun the program is to encourage more participation.

Evaluation:

Do the children participate?  Do more children participate each month?

Are there enough votes gathered each month to facilitate different displays?

Do the children comment on the new displays or ask how they can get involved?