LIS Professional Development during a Pandemic

As a recent MLIS graduate, I wanted to share library-related professional development opportunities that have helped me stay current during the pandemic, while job searching, or while working in a library or similar setting. The resources I mention here include current, past and ongoing events and panels, including author talks (majority are free to attend) for library and information science students and professionals, in order to continue to develop and expand on their skills, knowledge and expertise. I also included some of my go-to library resources for things like program ideas, booklists, and inspiration: e.g. organizations’ websites and blogs. For ease of access, there is an expanded list with links and blurbs to most of what I mention below, in the form of an interactive collection on Padlet.

Blogs and Websites: Librarians, Libraries, and LIS Organizations

Teen Librarian Toolbox is an amazing School Library Journal blog. It is a useful resource for students, staff and professionals alike, created by Karen Jensen and curated/maintained by her along with other librarians, LIS professionals, and even teens. There are booklists and reviews, PD resources, ideas for teen/middle grade programming, and so much more. The Professional section of the blog includes PD resources, Teen Services 101, webinars, etc. I discovered TLT in graduate school and referred to it often for program ideas and book reviews while working as a library assistant in Teen Services.

A recent screenshot of the Teen Librarian Toolbox homepage

I may be biased, but a couple other blogs worth following were created by professors I had while pursuing my MLIS degree. Namely, Joyce Valenza’s SLJ blog, The Neverending Search, featuring Dr. Valenza’s regular posts that focus on school librarianship, which is full of resources for using web apps and tools, remote teaching tricks, and more. Jennifer LaGarde’s website, Library Girl, features her blog posts with YA and children’s book lists, commentary on education and librarianship, and other library- and book-related goodness. LaGarde links to some of her past talks, resources related to her book Fact vs. Fiction, coauthored with Darren Hudgins, and BreakoutEDU resources.

Other librarian/LIS blogs/Organizations to check out (more linked via Padlet):

  • Cicely the Great: Cicely Lewis, founder of the Read Woke movement. Lewis was a classroom teacher for over ten years and is now a leader in Literacy and Information Technology.
  • Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBDLF): A nonprofit organization “dedicated to the protection of the First Amendment rights of the comics art form and its community of retailers, creators, publishers, librarians, and readers.” Their website also includes many webinars, as well as resources for readers, teachers and librarians.
  • Critical Librarianship (#critlib): According to their website, “A movement of library workers dedicated to bringing social justice principles into our work in libraries. We aim to engage in discussion about critical perspectives on library practice. Recognizing that we all work under regimes of white supremacy, capitalism, and a range of structural inequalities, how can our work as librarians intervene in and disrupt those systems?” Most discussions take place on Twitter, via #critlib, and are also archived on their website.
  • The Daring Librarian: Gwyneth A. Jones is the Future Ready Teacher Librarian & Ed Tech Leader at Murray Hill Middle School in Howard County, Maryland.
  • We Need Diverse Books: A nonprofit organization of children’s book lovers that advocates essential changes in the publishing industry, with the aim of helping produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people, according to their website.
From the Community Tools section of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s (CBLDF) website, a page focusing on suggesting graphic novels and comics for librarians. The site includes countless resources for educators and librarians.

Panels and Webinars

Tuning in to virtual events, whether live or recorded, for professional development in the field is always a best practice. But having the opportunity to attend virtual programs that are not normally free, would ordinarily require travel, etc., has been rewarding and uplifting for me, during this complicated and stressful time for many of us. It is both a way to stay connected and grounded, interact with others in an online space, and to learn new skills, topics and stay current.

As an introvert (are you surprised?) an added bonus for me is being able to take a break, pause, and recharge between sessions if they are older or live but being recorded. Not being in a large, cramped space to listen to hours of presentations and socializing with strangers, as with a traditional conference is nice, too. Don’t get me wrong, I do miss library-related conferences and other events and the opportunity to learn and network, but the pressure is off in some ways, and I like to consider that a definite plus for the time being.

One virtual event I’ve been catching up on lately that will be available to watch online through October is the annual SLJ Teen Live! and this is my first time tuning in. There is a great balance between what I consider more “practical” and library-focused events and genre/author panels. The talk on Virtual Events featuring YA author Kelly Yang, NYC School Librarian Jillian Ehlers, YA Librarian Damla Bek, and moderated by Teen and Outreach Librarian, Regina Townsend, was something I found incredibly relevant and timely. It is for anyone who works with or is interested in working with youth in libraries, but is definitely still applicable for other librarians and library staff. It was fun, educational and included examples of programming by the librarians and authors involved. Other noteworthy webinars from this event included one that focused on immigrant experiences in YA novels, “Reclaiming the American Experience,” and another panel called “BeTween: Books for Young Teens,” in which authors discussed their books for readers in between the middle and early high school readers.

Another great and free virtual event was Library Journal’s Fall Day of Dialog on Friday, September 25. And yes, you can still register for this event, since it will be available to view through December 2020. The full program is viewable from the event page, which includes booth chats with vendors and authors, and author panels focusing on genres from literary fiction, to thrillers, sci-fi/fantasy and historical, as well as nonfiction topics. The talk on centering Black Nonfiction, which was phenomenal, is an example of the latter. Library Con Live! sponsored by Library Journal and School Library Journal, and Banned Books Week events, are just some of what to look forward to this fall and winter.

Register for Banned Books Week webinars focusing on issues and topics related to comics and graphic novels, happening from September 28 to October 3, 2020.

Books, Books, Books: Author Talks and Panels

Author talks and panels of interest are among some of my favorite events I have attended virtually since the spring. At that time, some was to fulfill coursework requirements, but I also felt encouraged to continue professional development that aligned with my interests beyond graduate school. Now, I can proudly say watching so many of these talks from events like Book Conline and San Diego Comic Con (NYCC is coming up soon!) during the pandemic has been a truly uplifting experience, both as an aspiring librarian and lover of books and many things book-related.

Sometimes, I attend panels to learn more: in terms of books, more about the latest own voice novels by LGBTQ+ authors, books about the immigrant and Black experiences in the United States, as some examples. I also try to make a point of attending things I may not normally have an interest in or know much about, but want to expand my own awareness while keeping current, which is also a great reason to attend. This year, I found out more about ALA’s Graphic Novels and Comics Round Table and their #LibcomixOnline initiative, which you can also follow along with on Twitter. I really enjoy following their panels and webinars specific to comics, including artists and writers, and even topics related to comics I had not previously been aware of, like Graphic Medicine.

A recording of this panel is available via YouTube, via the NYCC YouTube channel or by clicking the linked photo above.

The LibraryReads in conversation panel, “Actively Anti-Racist Readers’ Advisory” was an educational and entertaining panel that featured the best of both worlds: there was much discussion about books in various genres like romance, horror and sci-fi, as well as tips and overall ways of going about diversity audits in libraries. LibraryReads also has a great backlog of past webinars and courses on their website and YouTube, which I linked to in the Padlet resources.

At this year’s National Book Festival, which spanned September 25-27, hearing Q&A sessions from comics writers like Gene Luen Yang and Jerry Craft, YA authors like Jason Reynolds, Sabaa Tahir, M.T. Anderson and Nic Stone, among many others, was really great to attend virtually. The festival is still free to register at the link below (you can also click the photo), with the sessions being recorded. Videos are featured in collection on the Library of Congress’s YouTube channel as well as the festival portal on different stages and by topics/age groups, as well.

The event featured sessions related to working at LoC and other specialized areas of librarianship (e.g. serials and collections, science, business, and more), and partnerships and talks with other organizations. Beyond fiction, there were also talks with authors writing in other genres and nonfiction topics for all age groups. I was both surprised and pleased by the Q&A questions from participants, ranging from librarians and library workers, to fans and students that enriched the experience and made it feel that much more like a shared community online.

So much of what I discussed are free to attend panels, events and webinars, for which live events often have interactive components (chats, Q&A sections, etc.), which can be helpful and fun. For more info on events and additional resources, be sure to refer to the Padlet I created, which collects what I talked about in this post all in one place. Hopefully some of what I discussed will be of use now or in the future – these times are certainly not easy, but determination to continue improving our practices and learning new things is always important, and feeling a sense of connection is essential. Happy viewing!


Writing in a time of Quarantine

It’s been a little while, but I thought now was as good a time as any to dig in and post something to my writing blog about, yes, writing — but also about feeling inspired or creative, imagining, and learning during COVID-19 and this time of social distancing, staying home, and making time for things we enjoy and wish to pursue.

Since I’m a graduate student pursing my masters in Library and Information Science, I wanted to share this Wakelet I recently created for a literacy course. It features creative writing resources for educators, librarians, and middle grade and high school students. But this Wakelet can really be for anyone who finds this bunch of curated resources interesting or useful.

Below I listed additional resources (some of these are in the Wakelet!) that have inspired and interested me lately, since I haven’t been really able to focus on my fiction writing and personal reading in some time, and I’m somehow sure I’m not the only one in a creative slump.


NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) has started #StayHomeWriMo, which you can also follow along with on Twitter. Also, make sure to check out the virtual write-ins they are hosting on YouTube through April.

ONline workshops

Some of these are hosted by well known writers and authors, and can be found on Twitter and other social media. Libraries, schools and writers host workshops, activities and panels year-round, which are free and noteworthy while writers and learners are seeking to keep busy and motivated. Many of these were found via Twitter, doing a search for “writing workshops.”

Building (or Rebuilding) Your Writing Practice is a “free, seven day, on-your-own-schedule course,” by Nebula-nominated author Kate Heartfield.

Tips for Beginners archive of articles on worldbuilding, writers’ block, and even grant applications from the SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America).

Other resources and inspo

  • Creative Writing Prompts from Writers Digest is a source for hundreds of writing prompts, or you can even download their free writing prompt boot camp for more structured writing and ideas.
  • The Time is Now from Poets & Writers offers a weekly writing prompt, different genres on different days of the week, including poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction.
  • Plot Generator can help you get inspired to write a story re: plot, characters, settings, and so much more. It can be a fill-in-the-blank resource for anything from a poem or story to move scripts and blurbs for all different genres.
  • Flash Fiction Resources as part of the Flash Fiction Resource Center includes articles, tips and prompts for writing flash fiction, defined as “a style of literature providing a complete story within 500-1,000 words,” with variations like microfiction, nanofiction and Twitfic (Flash Fiction Online).

As always, thanks for reading! May your writing endeavors be fruitful and rewarding, and may you feel inspired to sit with your writing, think, or maybe find new ways to approach your work.

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A Semester in Review

“Digital Merge” painting by Wiley Wallace

With April drawing to a close, the end of the semester is right around the corner — and I am thankful for the opportunity to start an MLS degree at an ALA-accredited school, for the people I’ve met in the program, and for getting back into doing what I enjoy in my spare time in between work, editing and school papers and projects.

On the bright side, I managed to survive a hectic first semester as a graduate student! I have already learned so much, and I am all the more interested to delve deeper into the field of information science.

Also this semester, over the past few months, I finally began thinking about and writing/working more on my current novel, Shifts of Solace, in a more serious way than I have been able to perhaps in the past six months or more. I read fiction submissions for Apex Magazine, and will be making a point to catch up on fiction submissions for The Literary Review, for which I’ll be soon reviewing a forthcoming graphic novel!

I am realizing more and more that it is so important to enjoy what you do, and make time for it — because we are always busy, aren’t we? Always moving, and making plans, and going on to the next thing. To do what you really love doing, you have to set aside time and commit. I am working toward achieving that goal, but it isn’t always easy.

Tree blooming outside of Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers–New Brunswick

This blog post may be a short one, but I also want to acknowledge that I have read tons of great books this semester, and they have gone a long way in fueling my creativity and motivating me to keep writing, as well. Works by Jeff VanderMeer, Ursula Le Guin, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Katherine Arden, Annalee Newitz… I’d like to discuss some of my literary influences later on, for sure.

I have also had some time to knit up some lovely projects — hats, a cowl, blanket progress — more pictures to come in a future post after the semester is officially over. Big things are coming!

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A Little Change of Pace, Notes on Shifting

“Dark Forest” Illustration by Helena Perez Garcia

I have been surprised, as of late, to see the influx of subscribers to this blog. It is as pleasant as it is perhaps somewhat bewildering, and has in a strange way encouraged me to add a life/writing update.

Since I posted last– about wildlife, nature and plans to begin a compilation of local hiking/recreational spots– I have begun a graduate program, with the hopes of obtaining an MLIS degree, at an ALA-accredited university. Everything is going great so far, but I have (not so surprisingly) been extremely busy. Now that my first semester is drawing to a close, I am turning again to more writerly things. I will have a forthcoming book review for a graphic novel for The Literary Review. You can see other book reviews I’ve written here.

Unfortunately, there has been very little (at least recreational) writing I have had time for this semester. I’ve been doing much more journal writing, than progress with any given book or short story than anything else, which I have found to be a step in the right direction. Also immensely helpful is having positive, encouraging people in my life (you know who you are) who help me through a lot, and help me to write and be creative in other ways, like knitting and otherwise– the former of which I have been able to do much. Updates on that to come later, perhaps.

More to the point, I am trying to work to refine a novel I have been working on and, to some extent, struggling with for the past couple years. I was given a book entitled “Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix & Finish with Confidence” by Roz Morris. Still near the beginning, I find it so far to be a much more logistical approach to the practice, rather than something like Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones” or even Jeff VanderMeer’s “Wonderbook,” both of which are incredibly helpful in different ways, but which aim to spark a writer’s inspiration, and further develop craft.

A tidbit of some writing from last night follows:

There is this moment. And then one more. And suddenly she needs to shift– into a new form, a new body only secondarily as she needs to place-shift, life-shift like turning an old kaleidoscope with beads inside and you turn it, turn it so anxiously so as to see that pattern change see the colors blend, mix, alter but then there is an unexpected jolt and maybe, just maybe, the new image is lackluster for it is no longer the old and so the other, it is realized, was all the time fleeting and therefore all the time missed in this flashbulb moment, this glistening memory.

To end, I want to do something a little different and share a song by a band that is amazing live, and has been the soundtrack to countless late-night writings, musings, and too many scenes throughout my writing to count.

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