Mental health, college students, and their academic library

For National Library Week last week, another branch was doing a social media activity, inviting patrons to write and share #libraryhaiku. It was a fun idea, and we needed a NLW whiteboard question, so I asked visitors to write their own library haiku on the board.

library haiku reads "Anxiety sucks. I'm sensitive to loud sounds--I'm glad it's quiet" one added comment says "yaaassssss" and another says liked by 2

Several of the haiku were rather personal, about the patron’s struggle with mental illness or being overwhelmed with stress. These haiku were also the ones that comments of agreement added to them.
Last fall, I attended a session called “Linking Arms Around Students in Crisis: Connecting with Campus Safety Units” presented by Mary C. Aagard of Boise State University at the Access Services Conference. One small point Mary made has really stuck with me–as academic libraries, we address student stress management one time during the semester–during finals when it is too late to turn anything around. She asked what we could be doing better a month before finals to reach students who are struggling and support them  before they hit a crisis point?
library haiku reads "library I go--crying, stress, and worrying--library I go" with a comment added, "me too thanks"
These haiku were written at that one month point, and I think they illustrate that there are students struggling (or perhaps the better point is that students facing mental health challenges and crisis throughout the semester, not just during the last week).

I have lots of questions and no answers. What do you think? What can libraries do to better support student mental health throughout the year?


Armchair Roadtrip: The Great River Road

Shows books set along route of road trip following the Mississippi River
A long, road trip is a classic summer experience. But if you can’t fit your road trip in, why not read your way along a route. This Armchair Roadtrip takes us along the Great River Road following the Mississippi River from its headwaters in Minnesota to its end in the Gulf of Mexico. We make stops with fictional books with a strong sense of place in Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Arkansas, and Louisiana. And while we move from place to place, the settings slowly change but themes often remain the same: home and family.


The Mississippi begins its journey in Lake Itasca, Minnesota, and we start our reading journey in a similar setting–a cabin in the Minnesota wilderness with Evergreen by Rebecca Rasmussen. This family story spreads from the 1930s to the 1970s, and tells the story of a man trying to find his half-sister who was given away as a baby, and their attempt to make sense of a tragic past and heal, all set in this ramshackle cabin in Evergreen, Minnesota.


As we drive into Minnesota’s southern neighbor, we revisit a much beloved sports story, Shoeless Joe by W. P. Kinsella (the basis for the movie Field of Dreams). “If you build it, he will come.” With these words, Ray is inspired to build a ballpark for his hero in the middle of Iowa. A nostalgic look at one of America’s most beloved sports as much as family and what it means to come home.


We continue our journey south along the western border of Illinois as we visit small-town Illinois in 1928 in the semi-autobiographical Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury. Dandelion Wine is the story of one, glorious summer in the town of Green Town, Illinois, seen through the eyes of 12-year-old Douglas Spaulding. Nostalgic, with beautiful prose and a touch of magic, this coming-of-age story might just remind you what summers felt like when you were young.


Next stop on our grand, summer road trip is Arkansas with The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield. In Wingfield’s book, we dive into a family drama set in the heat of summer. Samuel Lake is a preacher who lives by a strict moral code. But after a series of tragedies during his family’s annual reunion at “the old home place,” Samuel’s morals are called into question after he discovers his daughter hiding a young boy from his abusive father.


After miles of reading, we reach the final leg of our journey with Cane River by Lalita Tademy. In this moving story, Tademy tells the story of one family by following four generations of women living along the Cane River is rural Louisiana from slavery to the Twentieth Century. You’ll be moved by the stories of these smart, resourceful, hardworking women, based on the author’s own family history.

Start Here with Non-Fiction Graphic Novels

Graphic novels are becoming more popular with readers of all ages. Despite the word “novel” in their name, these books aren’t limited to fiction lovers. If you’ve ever wanted to explore the world of non-fiction graphic novels, here are a few places to start.

Can’t get enough of Food Network?

Relish by Lucy KnisleyBring Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley along on your next picnic. Relish is a light-hearted, warm memoir told through connections with food and cooking. The art is simple and charming, with a homey feel. A big bonus for readers: each chapter includes an illustrated recipe either from Knisley’s family or of her own invention! If you enjoy food and its connections to our bodies, our families and friends, and the planet, be sure check out this book.

Do you enjoy learning about the past?

March by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate PowellStart with March, Book 1 by John Robert Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell. March is a first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong involvement with the Civil Rights Movement covering his boyhood in the South, meeting Martin Luther King Jr., training to be a nonviolent protestor, the start of the Nashville Student Movement, all the way to receiving the Medal of Freedom from President Obama. With gripping black-and-white pictures using heavy brushstrokes and ink-wash, Lewis’s story captures a vital piece of American history. This is the first in a trilogy.

What about a witty and poignant memoir?

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz ChastDive into Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast. Chast documents and celebrates the last few years of the lives of her elderly parents. Chast combines colored cartoons, photos, handwritten documents, and her mother’s poems to work through the laughter and the tears that accompany being a caregiver. This book is alternately funny, poignant, and comforting.

Or stories of struggle and survival in war-torn areas?

The Photographer by Emmanuel Guibert, Didier Lefèvre, Fréderic Lemercier The Photographer by Emmanuel Guibert, Didier Lefèvre, Fréderic Lemercier captures photographer Didier Lefèvre’s travels with Doctors Without Borders around war-torn Afghanistan in the 1980s.  Like Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, The Photographer flawlessly combines multiple types of images, drawings alongside Lefèvre’s photographs. The Photographer is sure to interest anyone who cares about the Middle East, humanitarian work, or photojournalism.

Calling all animal lovers!

Primates by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks Cuddle up with Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks. The life work of three woman three women primatologists is celebrated here as they studied chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans, fascinating creatures in their own rights that also help us better understand ourselves. The lives of these women and the charming illustrations should interest any child or adult who loves animals.

None of these titles catching your eye? Ask a librarian for a personalized recommendation!

The Final Post: The End of the Maker Journey (For Now)

It’s hard to believe class is already over. Summer classes go by so quickly.

My final project is complete!

Translucent light growing green from a planter with basil

You can find the full directions on Instructables.

Once I finally got all the right materials and got to actually work on the project, I really enjoyed working through this. It wasn’t always easy (I’m looking at you, time.h library) and I spent a lot of time trying different coding combinations and looking at other examples. Oddly enough, I enjoyed the coding aspect the most, and it was also the area that gave me the most problems.

However, working on an actual project that I had chosen made it much more fulfilling to me. Before this, I was working through Arduino lessons, which were fun, but there are only so many times you can get excited about making an LED blink in a different pattern. And working with non-working materials was always more frustrating than rewarding, because you couldn’t actually test what you were working on.

I think this is a great example of project-based learning. While I am nowhere close to being knowledgable about electronics or the Arduino code, I learned a lot more and cared more about a project I had designed and chosen, than if I was working through the instructions provided by someone else.

I also learned that I’m not as comfortable with sharing my project when I’m in the middle. I found it hard to actually blog about what I was working on (rather than talking around it). I often put off blogging, because I was waiting to figure out just one more thing. Now that I think about it, I did feel more comfortable sharing my progress in short-form on Twitter. And I really enjoyed making the Instructable as well. So, I just need to extend that to other areas!

What’s Next?

This has been a really rewarding project to take on this summer. In fact, I’m already drafting ideas on upgrades to make to my light. However, I’ve also been doing some looking at projects involving microcontrollers and beehives. My parents are still avid, new apiarists, and I think it would be fun to make something for their beehives. I’ve found Open Source Beehives, who are still developing their sensor set-up. But, I love their printable beehives and look forward to learning more from them!

Road of Trials, pt 2: The Little Things

Well, I accidentally missed a bit of blogging, but here is the post I wrote in my head last week, but never got down in words.

While my project is moving forward, I feel like I keep hitting a thousand tiny, small blocks. This is very much a road of trials. Some specific challenges I’ve been working with:

Being a Beginner

As someone new to electronics and coding and soldering, it’s really hard to know what I need to learn immediately and don’t need to learn immediately. It’s also harder to troubleshoot and be flexible. If an online instructable tells me to use [enter random electronics piece here] and I don’t have that piece, it’s hard to know what I can and cannot substitute. I spend a lot of time on Google, trying to figure things out. Sometimes the challenge is that I don’t have the right vocabulary to describe an issue, so I waste a lot of time trying out different keywords until I finally find something that gives me the terms to describe my problem.

The “Hello, World” of electronics: making an LED blink. This is from a few weeks ago, but I had to work through some beginning Arduino lessons to be able to make any sense of my project. The “Hello, World” of electronics: making an LED blink. This is from a few weeks ago, but I had to work through some beginning Arduino lessons to be able to make any sense of my project.

Finding the Right Supplies

Another challenge is that I have yet to find a good place in the Cities that sells the small pieces I need. I’ve spent a lot of time going to Ax-Man, Radio Shack, hardware stores, and home improvement stores trying to figure out who has what I need. Often, I couldn’t find the piece (see my above description of not knowing what I can substitute) and would order it online. And because I have no idea what I’m doing, sometimes I would get to a step and realize I needed something, starting the “how to find this $.40 thing” process all over again.

I didn’t actually get all the pieces I needed to build my basic circuit until Saturday. I did the best I could without it. I actually created non-working prototypes of the LED and the light sensor I was waiting for out of pieces of wire and painters tape. My circuits didn’t work, but I could build them to think through how things would hopefully work and start working with my code based on them.

The non-functioning prototype of a light sensor I made so that I could start building my circuit

Not Having an Equipped Workshop

Working on this project has made it apparent why a makerspace is useful. When you’re starting a project as a beginner, you don’t have the basic tools you need to accomplish anything. I needed wires, a breadboard, a soldering iron, various implement to strip and cut wire, a multimeter, etc. The list kept growing. And, as I talked about earlier, it was hard to tell what was needed and what was nice to have.

My dad is a huge maker (although he wouldn’t use that term) and has a full woodworking workshop above our garage, as well as a lot of other tools. I was able to borrow things like an old soldering iron, multimeter, and various handtools from him. Without access to him, this project would have become much more expensive. As it is, I now own my own soldering gun. Because he solders larger things (for home repairs and improvements), so the tip of his soldering gun was much too big to solder the tiny things I was trying to connect. After bringing his iron to several stores asking if they had replacement tips (and receiving rather horrible customer at pretty much all of them), I finally had to just buy a new one with a smaller tip.

My makeshift “So You Live in An Apartment” soldering station. An upside down plastic bin on the balcony using painters tape to hold things in place.

Coming soon, I’ll talk about my finished project!

Road of Trials: Harry Potter Charging Pad Complete (sort of)

Harry Potter Charging Pad Updates

The charging pad I talked about making from a spare Harry Potter book is done! Sort of.

Last time I talked about this project, I had set everything up, but the transmitter and the receiver had to be directly touching to charge. Once you put a few pages of a book and a case between them, they no longer could connect.

I took a chance and purchased a new universal qi transmitter from Adafruit, which was a bit more expensive than my original transmitter. The new transmitter require a little bit of tweaking. It could connect with the case and the book cover between it, but the hole I had carved out of the book was too deep. So, I carved a second hole that was just the right depth, put a thin layer of modpodge around the edges of everything I had cut out, because it was getting a little loose from all the different spots I had carved out.

I figure out last time that the receiver does not work well with my hard case (it makes it really hard to remove), so I borrowed my sister’s leather case to test it out.

With everything in place, exactly, it charges!

Why only sort of finished?

My end product is extremely finnicky. The iPhone has to be in just the perfect place to charge. Exactly. So, I can’t just throw my phone on the book to charge. Instead, I carefully set it towards the top of the book and nudge it around until if finally makes an alert sound.

I could keep trying to improve this, but I don’t really have a way to figure out the problem. Would a different receiver help? Should I try a wireless case instead? Is there something I can do to spread out the charging area of my book (a quick Google search didn’t bring up any immediate answers)? Would this work better with phones that have wireless charging built in? Is the technology just not quite arrived yet?

I don’t know. And while I’d love for this to work, I don’t know if I want to keep spending money on it. So, I’m putting it on the back burner for now. I’m am going to try using the pad for a week or two, to see how it goes. I’d love to hear any ideas anyone else has!

This post was originally published on the St. Kate MLIS WordPress website.

Another pause in the maker journey: Maker sessions at ALA

I didn’t have time to attend many sessions at ALA Annual, but two of the sessions I did see relate to makerspaces, both on programs running out of California public libraries.

Make-HER at Sunnyvale Public Library

Make-HER is an ongoing library program of two-hour workshops designed specifically for young girls (to encourage interest in STEM). Girls attend a maker program with their mother or other significant female in their life. In this way, the older women learn what the girls learn and can continue working with them on their project. MakeHER sessions are led by female makers from the surrounding community (called #ladymakers), who are approached and asked to teach something their passionate about.

They archive all of their workshops on a blog, so those who cannot attend can find all the information they missed.

I really enjoyed looking through the pictures of past events. Check them out at Sunnyvale Library Make-HER website.

The last portion of the session was a hands-on chance to try using paper circuits. We made glowing paper gems to attach to our nametags.

The inner workings of my glowing paper gem. It consists of copper tape, an led, and a battery.
Glowing paper gem in action

Naked Truth: Connect. Create. Contribute. at Mill Valley Library

I really liked this session on true storytelling (think The Moth, StoryCorps, This American Life) programming from Mill Valley Library. While this is not as directly related to makerspaces, I think there are some natural connections that you’ll see later.

This started as a one-time event in which the library brought in several local professional storytellers from the area to tell a story (wine was served). The event was highly successful, and from there the library got a grant for encouraging true storytelling.

With this grant, they continued their evening events with professional storytellers (connect). However, they also began to offer workshops in live storytelling and digital storytelling (create). And, all the works from this project are being saved in a central place for the community to view (contribute).

The digital storytelling is where I see the strongest connect to makerspaces. One of the panelists, Joan Bullen, was a patron who had participated in a digital storytelling class. She talked about how she learned to write and edit a script, tell a story and record it, and then edit the recorded story with photos. She talked about how it inspired her to create more, and then shared her digital story: My Two World Daughter.

Another panelist, Josh Healey, was one of the first storytellers at the live events who later ran live storytelling workshops. He talked about how he got involved and then performed his excellent piece, The Phoenix, about taking his nephew to the waterpark in the middle of a drought.

If you’re interested, the library put together a toolkit to help other libraries develop live storytelling programs: Naked Truth Toolkit.

This post was originally published on the St. Kate MLIS WordPress website.