A Genius Idea

I blame Star Trek Beyond. I feel like Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” is haunting and taunting me! I went to see Star Trek with my husband last weekend, and when the song came on,  I was reminded of a really cool lesson on illustrating the “scholarship as conversation” frame.

As I was reading ACRL’s Instruction Section’s Spring 2016 Newsletter this past May, and I came across an intriguing lesson idea submitted by Tim Miller, a librarian at Humboldt State University, “Citations & Hip-Hop: Using Genius to Illustrate Scholarship as Conversation.” You can find the article at the link above on page 2, but I also have included it below.

This semester I’ve been participating in a book circle on Emery Petchauer’s Hip-Hop Culture in College Students’ Lives. Our first discussion coincided with an upcoming workshop that I facilitate on citations & plagiarism that I was also in the process of revamping. While discussing the symbolism behind Boogie Down Productions’ 1990 album, Edutainment, I was struck by the similarities between the asynchronous conversations within hip-hop and academic writing. I’m not a huge hip-hop fan, but I decided to delve in and put this idea to practice using another song from that era: Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power.”

Hip-hop music incorporates sampling (using audio snippets) and is filled with references to other songs, lyrics and imagery. Genius, the online song lyric knowledge base and annotation tool, provides a visual representation of these references by incorporating interactive features that allow users to create annotations alongside the text of the lyrics. These annotations provide explanations and context in the form of comments, hyperlinks and images. I purposely chose “Fight the Power” because it is particularly rich with samples, references and imagery that not only provide a background to the meaning behind the song but also point listeners to artists and individuals who inspired the song.

The imagery within Genius helps demonstrate that references in hip-hop create a conversation akin to scholarship: a conversation that is ongoing and unfinished. Just within the intro and first verse there is a variety of examples, including: a link to the music video (with its own visual references), an image of the single for James Brown’s “Funky Drummer,” a link to The Soul Children’s “I Don’t Know What This World Is Coming To,” and a movie poster to Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing, for which the song was written. Genius makes these references come to life by incorporating comments, images and sound – all added by the various Genius users participating in the conversation. (Miller, 2016, p.2).

I would actually really love to do this as a workshop. I think it’s because of my history background; I did a lot of classes related to slavery and Civil Rights, and my interest in social justice. I will definitely keep this idea on my radar. I emailed Tim to let him know how much I enjoyed reading his piece in the newsletter. He let me know that he also uses Genius “to annotate an online article for my workshop on reading academic articles. It is a very easy way to add instructive elements into a webpage. I may explore using it with [LibGuides] to create virtual tours for our online programs” (T. Miller, personal communication, May 9, 2016).

Napa: Eats, Antiques, & Library Tourism

In October, my husband and I went on a romantic getaway to Napa. Neither of us had ever been to Napa, and we only live two hours away. I don’t know why we hadn’t done it before. While there, we saw traces of the damage the earthquake had done in August 2014, but we saw a community that was vibrant and confident.

Our hotel had a homemade chocolate chip cookie hour at 6 pm. Yum!

I really enjoyed the plant life. I don’t have a super green thumb, but I do appreciate nature and am okay with low-maintenance plants.

We ate at Celadon and at The Pear Southern Bistro, checked out the Riverfront, watched an Americana show, and got our antiquing fix at Antiques on Second where we picked up a theater-style bench for our front door area, a corduroy blazer for me, and a couple of vintage necklaces. We also made a quick stop to the Oxbow Public Market. I picked up some cranberry and white polka-dot (I am really into polka-dots) Keds at a chain department store when my feet were giving out from the flats and boots I brought with me.

We also went to Napa Bookmine.

I also, unexpectedly, came across a September 11th Memorial. I noticed a structure of some kind outside a store, and I didn’t realize what it was until I got close to the sign. I was looking at beams from the World Trade Center.

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We made an impromptu trip to the Napa County Library, and I was not let down. What a gorgeous, modern library! Study rooms for days, different seating arrangements, lovely signage, and it was busy! People reading, people browsing, and people finishing up activities from the first annual How-To Festival. The staff were above and beyond amazing! I introduced myself and one of the staff members (I am so sad that I can’t remember her name anymore; I meant to send an email about the spectacular customer service we received) showed me a project they did involving a succulent planter made out of a book. I love succulents, so I was very into this! She also gave me a book art example that she had made for the book art activity from earlier that day. You rock, Napa County Library!

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We had a really great trip! We did an epic Souhtwest adventure this past summer, so this getaway was just perfect. Short and sweet! We actually used the photo below for our Christmas cards this year. At the library, where else?

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Spanish, Salsa, and Small Towns

I live and work in different counties, and I find it difficult to stay connected to the community where I live and the community where I work, *Los Banos. As the community college librarian in LB, I do feel guilty, but my husband and I bought a great house in a great neighborhood four months before I was offered a full-time position in our hometown. I do what I can in LB outside of work, mostly with the public library.

This spring, the woman who volunteered for Spanish story time had many health issues and decided to take a break. All the story time programs are volunteer-run, which is very different from the early literacy skills-based training I received during my first regular part-time library job as a bilingual Spanish/English library assistant in the children’s department of the Stanislaus County Library. In May, I got together with the supervisory library assistant at the local branch of the Merced County Library and some Friends of the Los Banos Library members to talk about starting a bilingual Spanish/English program on Saturdays. I volunteered to do two bilingual programs this summer.

I did the first program in mid-June, and it had been two years since I had last done a story time program. It wasn’t full-blown with music and dances, but I did incorporate sitting and standing fingerplays. It was a magical experience. The supervisor said it also looked like I was really enjoying it, and I really was all smiles. Since Merced County Library’s summer reading program is music-inspired this year, I focused on music, song, and dance. The supervisor started the program with a reading of Farmer Joe and the Music Show. I picked up with Salsa, Squeak, Rumble, Whomp! Whomp! Whomp!: A Sonic Adventure, and De Colores. I chose these because they support diversity, specifically showing people of color; introduce kids to new music styles they might not have heard before (jazz and salsa); and Salsa and De Colores are both bilingual, so I could decide which language to read in, etc.

In my planning I completely forgot to choose a clip of salsa music, but thanks to smartphones, it was pretty easy to pull up music on YouTube. I also showed a clip of salsa dancing courtesy of one of those dancing shows because, you know, if it’s on TV, it’s got to have some kind of standard.  After I read De Colores in Spanish, I also looked up José-Luis Orozco singing “De Colores,” and we all sang as I re-read (sang) the book along to the video of Orozco. Now the big secret about me is that I do enjoy singing, but I clamp down when it comes to singing in public. But story time is just different. I remember being really unsure when I was asked to apply for the bilingual story time position at one of my former employers, but doing story time really helped me break out of my shyness a little more.

For fingerplays, we did Pulgarcito (Where is Thumbkin?), the Bee Hive, and Ábranlas, Ciérrenlas (Open, Shut Them). I think the parents were pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t just all reading and sitting. I also mentioned that singing helps kids hear different sounds, and that this will help them when it’s time for them to learn how to read. (Phonological awareness–I’m legit, people.)

I also brought in a book of children’s poetry I have used before, but I ended up not using it. If you’re a bilingual children’s librarian or library assistant, parent, or teacher, you  might want to check out Alma Flor Ada’s Todo es Canción. You’ll be sure to find something no matter what theme, and the poems are all short and sweet.

While I was there, I also saw the library sub for the college library, Willie, who is one of my favorite people. She has so much kindness and also keeps it real. She also takes classes at the college. I took her to lunch at Wendy’s, and all the people working were our college students. That’s what it’s like to work in a smaller town.

After dropping Willie off back at the public library, I went downtown to Sweet as Cake Bakery to buy cupcakes for a cousin who just had a baby a few weeks earlier and checked out a home interior store, The Country Duck. The store had donated to the public library’s Small Works of Art Sale fundraiser in October (I won that gift basket, and I  never win stuff), and they also had a booth out at LB’s Tomato Festival that my husband and I went to earlier that same month.

I left LB in such a good mood, I’m not even kidding. Volunteering gives me my children’s library services fix and a chance to strengthen my relationship to the town.

If you commute to work, how do you connect to your commuter community?

*It’s really Los Baños, but because the town doesn’t have the tilde listed on its government documentation, we aren’t allowed to write it as it’s pronounced per the college board. It’s a pretty dicey issue in the community, and while I’m not in agreement, I did change all of the college library information and documentation to reflect the anglicized version. And, yeah, I guess we shouldn’t be “changing” the name if its officially “something else.” With racial and ethnic tension all over the news in our country, this banning of the tilde just doesn’t sit well with me.