How to be the Bieber of eBooks


Temporary home until the cart arrives

After jumping the gun on a big announcement last week, I have unwittingly become the Justin Bieber of Books. Let me state for the record that I can’t carry a tune, my dancing is limited to flat-footed swaying and off-tempo snapping, and my hair is in an unattractive growing-out stage that holds zero visual appeal. Yet, I can relate to the overnight-idol status enjoyed by The Biebs. This leap into the frenetic world of starry-eyed students and impossible scheduling demands was not due to my talent or my charming smile but to an unexpected call from our district technology coordinator which went something like this:

HER: “Hey, I have a few thousand dollars I need to spend soon or I lose it. How do you feel about Kindles in the library?”

ME: <Stunned Silence>

HER: Seriously. We could order around 30 and still have $600 dollars to buy content.”

ME: <After stammering and thinking about how this was the first year that I was given NO money to buy ANY books and suddenly a windfall of e-cash appears out of nowhere.> YES! DO IT NOW!

In reality, we did have more in-depth conversations, and decided to order the Kindles three weeks ago. They arrived twelve days ago, and my giddy announcement to students and staff slipped out shortly after that. Elated chaos ensued:  students lined up at the circulation desk, posted to the library Facebook page, emailed me, left notes in my mailbox, and accosted me in the hall. It was then that the reality of my situation took shape–in short, I had vastly underestimated the time it would take to prepare the Kindles for actual use.

I will conclude this post, which will be the first in a series related to my Kindle saga,  with

Truths I Wish I Had Known Before I Announced the Kindles to the World:

1. As of today, none of the 30 Kindles in my possession are ready to be checked out. In fact, due to a mysterious “credit cap” at Amazon, we were told last week that we had to re-submit paperwork which pushed back my ability to purchase content another week.

2. There are a thousand details about setting up accounts, hand-registering devices, purchasing content, assigning content, and storing the devices that need to be ironed out.

3. There are a thousand more details and decisions regarding cataloging the Kindles themselves, not to mention cataloging the eBook titles loaded into each device.

4. When you are the only librarian in the district (no aides or volunteers), and the only librarian in your OPAC group who has eReader devices, there are no readily-available ebook records. This means you will spend countless hours researching outside programs, doing original cataloging and modifying derived MARC records.

5. And in the middle of ironing out the details in each of the above areas, a thousand other considerations will present themselves.

Progress as of Today

As of this post, 30 Kindles, organized into groups of 5 with color-coded cases lay spread on carts in my office, not-so-far from the madding crowd of students who are drooling to get their hands on them, while the Beiber of eBooks happily fights to keep them at bay. The Kindles are registered and cataloged, A document listing titles-to-be-purchased, along with the link to the Amazon download, sits in My Documents, and I am awaiting the gift cards with which I will purchase this content.

I will keep you posted, IF I can maintain my sanity and keep the fans from breaking down the walls in the meantime.


“You never call it work …”

Last weekend I was spending time with some friends when the conversation turned to work. We shared our perspective re-caps of the exciting, frustrating or droll events of the past work week. After the sharing, one friend pointed at me and said, “You know, you never call it work, you always just say ‘school.'”

I didn’t think much about it at the time, but in retrospect, that observation could not have more significance. I have never met a passionate educator whose life is not profoundly defined by their profession. My “job” has never been just a job. It is the heartbeat of my life, and the only ones who can fully understand what I mean by that are other passionate teachers. I believe this so strongly that it always gives me pause when I meet teachers who are married to non-teachers. It doesn’t seem possible that someone outside of education can truly understand how a profession can flow like blood through your veins.

The first thing that drew me to my partner was her passion and brilliance she brought to her “job” as a teacher.  Thirteen years later, it remains one of the  strongest, most important bonds we share.I can’t imagine not sharing hours grading and trading in the evenings and over the weekends. Or not having someone who knows your pain when your heart breaks for a student. Or not being able to share stories or triumph with someone who has experienced those same magic moments. And what about the sleepless nights spent trying to figure out how to get through to that ONE student? Or the nervous insomnia before the first day of school – Every. Single. Year! Non-teachers might be quick to write those things off as “weird little quirks.”

School was cancelled today for most of my state. Ice and snow have made roads nearly impossible to navigate. But search the hashtag #oetc11 on Twitter, and you’ll find hundreds of passionate educators who elected to brave dangerous roads for an opportunity to spend a voluntary day learning and sharing for the sake of their students. They aren’t people who are  “going to work.” They are people following the heartbeats of their lives. They are teachers.