Graphic Design Basics for Librarians (Plus Free Assets!)

Image isn’t mine, but I’m having a hard time pinning down the original source. Help me out.

Paper pieces like flyers, handouts, brochures – these seem to be my bread and butter for building buzz about the library. I also don’t have the luxury of Photoshop. GIMP is great, but I’ll admit I have a more familiar relationship with Publisher. (Publisher can still make good design pieces, I think. Just takes some fenangling.)

Graphic design is such a big part of my duties that I wish I would  have had a better formal grounding in it. In lieu of that, here’s some great places to learn and get assets for your design.

Tutorials and Guidelines

Graphic Design for Teen Librarians (or Any Other Non-Designer)

A great primer from Teen Librarian Toolbox about basic design for library marketing pieces. It’s a great place to start, especially if you’re in teen services.

Canva Design School

Canva is a free-to-use (pay-to-publish) graphic design tool, which can be useful in a pinch. What’s cooler is the “design school” they offer – covering fonts, colors, etc, and it’s all free with a free account.

Infographics Lib Guide

This guide from UPenn was designed for a workshop on creating infographics, which is a great skill, especially in advocacy. Beyond that, the graphic design resources gathered here are clear, to the point, and free. Well worth exploration.

Practical Graphic Design for Libraries

Created by the people at Influx (think DC Public Library and Sari Feldman’s campaign site), this presentation slideshow has lots of examples. Remember that it was designed to be paired with an oral presentation, because sometimes explanations feel sparse. Still the images tell a great story and present amazing examples of various principles of graphic design in library settings. There’s a call to perform a signage audit in your own library. Try it!

About.com Graphic Design Basics

I’ll admit that I love me some about.com. It’s not always the best designed (ironic, yes?), but they usually pull together some great explanations and resources. There may be more here than you want to glance through in one sitting.

Free and Legal Images, Fonts and Other Assets

78 Free Sources of Images for Your Library

MakeItHappen.us just put this up this week, and it’s a great resource for finding legal image sources in the post-Microsoft clipart age.

CC Search

This is my favorite starting point for legal images, music, videos and more. Created by the people who brought us Creative Commons licenses, this tool is a one-stop-shop for finding CC images. Various online services have CC searches built in, and this tool is an access point to quite a few of them (Google Images, YouTube, SoundCloud, and Flickr being my favorites). Word to the wise: Be smart about using this – just because one poster says an image is CC doesn’t mean they are the owner of the image. Use this as a starting point, then do your due diligence.

dafont.com

I discovered this site a decade ago and haven’t looked back. The forums are great for helping you identify fonts, there are tons of free fonts available to use both personally and professionally, and it’s all free. If your current font selection just isn’t doing it for you, take a look through these.

Creative Market Free Goods

Creative Market is like Etsy for graphic design assets. In a really excellent service, a handful of top-quality assets are offered for free every week. Go there regularly to get new stuff. Be aware that a lot of the files are designed for Adobe Creative Cloud products. If you don’t have that suite, keep an eye out for non-vector images and fonts.

MediaLoot Freebies

In the same boat as Creative Market, this site boasts a slightly larger collection of free stuff. As with lots of graphic design sites, a noted preference toward Adobe.

Smashing Magazine Freebies

This magazine is a go-to for great graphic design information, and they offer lots of free stuff. I’ve gotten previous WordPress themes from here, as well as fonts and icons. Lots of good blog posts about design, including web design and graphic design, here.

GraphicBurger

I just discovered this one, but I’ll be checking it regularly. Lots of free icons, mock ups, backgrounds, UI kits and more.

Bonus

I Love Typography is a giant, beautiful love letter to typography as an art. Lots of history, insight into how fonts are designed and notes on why we choose to use them. You can get lost here.

I hope that these help get you started with graphic design, another one of those “other duties as assigned” that sneak up on us. Let me know if you have a favorite resource that I missed in the comments.

“Because I have a story too”: Diversity in Biographies

Image submitted by Tye Jiles to the #WeNeedDiverseBooks tumblr

“Why are there more biographies about white people?”

I’d been helping a family find children’s biographies to use for a family project on Black History Month, and the 7-year-old girl  asked a great question. I quickly came up with the best answer I could: “Because for a long time people thought white people were more important to write about. We’re just now fixing that.” She nodded, taking it in.  Her father didn’t chime in, and I thought I might have given a satisfactory answer. “Will they write biographies about you?”

She didn’t take a second to think about that. “Yep!”

“What will they say about you?”

“I’ll make speeches! Great speeches!” Though she didn’t know about what. With that, she took her books on Sojourner Truth, Madam CJ Walker, and Lebron James to the checkout desk.

But her question stuck with me: why are there still so many more biographies about white people?

Campaigns like #weneeddiversebooks seek to open people up to the idea that our books should reflect our reality. Far too often, we let our limited book selection influence our reality. If even in our library’s biography section there are only white faces, rich faces, straight faces… what do we tell the kids who ask where the other faces are? That we were too lazy to order them? That there are so many more books written about white people that it’s not worth seeking out the rest of the world’s history?

Someday I hope someone does write about the speeches that girl makes, and I hope they don’t get relegated to the “also ran” section of history. The section where we send those bits of truth that make us uncomfortable, or that interfere with the dominant narrative. I hope that when her biography is written, it sits among the George Washingtons and the Clara Bartons and the Daniel Boones. And I want people to know that her story is every bit as important as theirs – it’s all part of our larger story together.

This came at a great time – after all, Jacqueline Woodson’s autobiography Brown Girl Dreaming just won a Newbery Honor Medal, the Coretta Scott King Award, and the Robert F. Silbert Informational Book Award. The other Newbery books this year also represented severely underrepresented groups. So well done, us. But there’s a lot more to do. I have a lot that I need to learn about diversity, and a lot I need to communicate about it to my patrons.

We’ve been writing one version of history, showing off one story, for so long that it seems normal. The status quo has sunk in. I’d like that little girl to come back next time and see faces of every color, creed, and race on our shelves. Biographies, certainly, but picture books, chapter books, videos, and more. We need diverse books. We need diverse minds.

Grinding and gameification

Cover Image via Massively on Joystiq

I’ve been thinking about grinding lately. Grinding in video games, per Wikipedia, “is a term used in video gaming to describe the process of engaging in repetitive tasks during video games.” It’s an issue in gaming, of course, and there are numerous posts about that already. (I fall in the middle on that – some grinding is necessary and even enjoyable, but find a way to make it integrated into the plot. I don’t wanna always be killing 10 more rats.)

But today we had our first meeting for the Teen Summer Reading planning committee, and we had a discussion about gamification. It was a brief discussion centering around our use of bingo boards last year. The bingo boards were not very popular, and we were trying to figure out where to go from there. How did we make it “fun” without the grind?

Now, my two cents on the matter is that while the world is full of fun things, and even fun ways to learn things, the truth of the matter is that eventually you have to grind at least a little. You have to go into a place you might not want to go and do something that feels repetitive to get the experience you need to move on. Once you’re proficient, you can hop into bigger adventures, bigger challenges. Heck, you can even show other people the best way to get around that particular dungeon. But they’ll come to their own grind eventually.

When I started baking, it was boxed brownies. All the time. No variation from the instructions. Dozens of boxes of brownies over the first couple months that I was learning to bake. It wasn’t always fun, but it was nice to see people enjoying the product of my labor. Occasionally I regretted offering to make brownies for an event, but eventually it became no big deal. I could make a decent batch of boxed brownies in my 30 minute lunch from work (true story).

From what I learned making endless brownies, I figured out how my oven worked differently from the test ovens in the recipes, or how to modify it to make it fluffier or denser, how to tell by smell when sugar smells done but not burnt. I could use those skills on cookies, then cakes, then pastries. The skills built on one another, but it started with just a little bit of grinding.

We ask students to study and do homework to gain proficiency. It’s not because we think that homework is so gosh darned fun. It’s because that repetition with tiny variations help them learn. We ask for a certain number of practice hours with a supervising driving before getting a driver’s license.

Sometimes we mix the idea of “paying our dues” in with grinding, and I want to be careful here. Paying dues indicates that you have to start at the bottom for a certain period of time, which is not something I’m necessarily in agreement with. I will, however, agree that that sometimes starting a new skill isn’t always fun – it can have its fair dose of grinding. The important thing is to make the grinding seem relevant. If we want teens (or kids or adults) to learn new skills using the library as a resource, we need to make sure that the boring parts are made incredibly relevant. Just like the level ups you get from killing rats and looting chests let you beat the next boss, skill introductions need to have a visible and important benefit.

They’re going to have to grind. Video game designers need to make it relevant to their game. It’s our jobs as educators to make it relative to the goals of a learner.

Audiobook Review: Museum of Thieves

I can’t be alone in searching IMDB to find out who starred in my favorite things. I recently did this for Dragon Age. One of the voice actor’s in that series – Claudia Black, who voices Morrigan – branched into recording children’s audiobooks. Her first voiced series is The Keepers by Lian Tanner. Conveniently, my library owned the first book, The Museum of Thieves, and I have a long enough commute to crank through it. I’m guilty of sitting in my car longer than necessary, just to squeeze in a few more minutes.

Museum of Thieves is a great middle grade pick in the line of The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman or The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone – magic and mystery abound at quite a fast pace. The cast of characters is vast but memorable, and made more memorable by the distinctive voices used by Claudia Black. We are introduced to the city of Jewel, and to Goldie, a 12-year-old girl who wants nothing more than to finally be Separated. Children in Jewel are vastly overprotected, literally always attached to an adult or their bed via a chain tied to their wrists.

Jewel is a city that has resolutely pushed every dangerous thing away. Dogs might bite. Standing water might carry the plague. Children alone might get carried off by pirates. Little by little, Jewel has conquered their little corner of the world. But wildness will not be tossed aside so easily. In the tiny Museum of Dunt live all the wild forces that Jewel refuses to believe still exist. Most of all, inside the Museum is magic.

As Goldie learns about the Museum and the uses of wildness, she also learns of a truly terrible plan to destroy Jewel. Only the Keepers of the Museum can save the city – but only if the terrified citizens of Jewel will let them.

A very compelling book to listen to, with characters that leap out of the speakers. Black draws out characters both lovable and despicable – keep an ear out for Guardian Hope and Sinew, whose tones are unmistakable.

If my library didn’t already own this, we would soon.

UPDATE: Random House has a site for The Keepers Trilogy with games, character bios, and even lessons from the Keepers! Well worth a look at this companion site.

Book Review: The Red Pencil

I had a resolution to read more diversely this year, and I’m really pleased I started out with The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney. It surprised me on a number of levels, but really hit home.

The book is told in poems, written in the voice of Amira, a 12-year-old girl who lives in Darfur with her parents. She explores growing up in a conservative village, the confusion of understanding war as a child, and the harsh realities of the genocide in Darfur. Together, these themes could make the book too heavy for its intended audience of children, but the first-person perspective of a child, along with the poetic form, help to distance the trauma just enough that I don’t feel uncomfortable recommending this to the right middle grader.

I’ll admit that I cried several times throughout the book. There is real trauma in Amira’s life – trauma that is both inflicted and dealt with in the plot of this short book. Characters are fleshed out in small aside poems, along with Amira’s own thoughts on the people in her life.

What I liked most about this book was that it didn’t expect readers to understand the situation before beginning – a short glossary of terms in the back includes some of the cultural terms Amira uses, but also words like “Janjaweed,” a concept that any adult might have trouble explaining. Readers walk with Amira through her dawning understanding of the change in her world, and so we are allowed to join her at the end of the book, as she takes the first steps toward something new.

The author, Andrewa Davis Pinkney, will be visiting Pittsburgh next month as part of the Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures Kids Series. Follow the link for more information.

Catching Up on Last Year

From last year’s New Year’s blog:

I have smaller, simpler goals too: I want to start cooking dinner again, get back into baking, remember how to crochet and cross stitch. I want to write stories like I haven’t since I finished undergrad, and maintain the great friendships I’ve made with a little more gusto. I want to read whole books again, rather than just skimming them for papers. I want to beat DragonAge on something other than easy level.

I have been slacking on these goals. Granted, these were the small ones on the list. I did manage to graduate and get a job, so I don’t feel too bad about these. But that means it’s time for a revisit.

I still would like to cook more of my own meals. This means I’ll have to relearn how to cook since I do it so rarely.

I’ve been reading books (check out my first New Year’s Resolution about reading more diverse books). Audiobooks totally count as far as I’m concerned.

As for Dragon Age: Origins, I re-downloaded it to my new computer, and it’s next up on my to-play list as soon as I finish this second playthrough of Dragon Age: Inquisition. There may be a pattern here.

As for crochet and cross-stitch, I’ve more officially given up on these. They’re awesome hobbies, and I may come back to them, but for now I just don’t have the kind of interest it takes to keep up with them.

Trying to think of things that I missed. Any resolutions you’d like to share?

Getting Some Jbrary Love

In web life, there’s those moments where you’re like – I’ve made it! When a former Twitter account crossed 1000 followers (now defunct), I squeed. When @neilhimself tweeted back at me, I jumped up and down. And now Jbrary has linked to me. The happiness spike is quite high, to say the least.

One of the things I love about the library world is how open we are about sharing resources and information. Jbrary has been an amazing help to me as I get set up as a youth services librarian. They took me from terrified before my first solo storytime, to slightly less terrified (a major accomplishment). If you’ve never checked them out before, try it now. It’s well worth looking through if you work with young kids as a teacher, librarian, or caregiver.

I’ll keep posting – I’ve got a lot to live up to now!

Ocarinas, Light Sabers, and Learning Gateways

Cover image via Kotaku. Original owner’s site seems disabled, but if you know it, pass it on so I can credit.

About 2 years ago, a good friend of mine tried to get me into gaming. I was not enthused about the idea. I mean, I barely played Angry Birds. He sat me down in front of his console, put in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and sat down eagerly to watch me play. I was instantly… disenchanted.

Don’t get me wrong. Ocarina of Time is a great game – it’s still my friend’s favorite to this day – but it wasn’t for me. After that defeat, he practically gave up on me, convinced that if Link and Zelda couldn’t make me a gamer, then I was a lost cause.

A few weeks later, he mentioned that he was playing an MMO that I had heard of – Star Wars: The Old Republic – with his friends. Since I still wanted to get on board with some of his interests, and I already loved Star Wars, I figured why not? I created an account. I played a few quests. And then I went and bought KOTOR. Beat that. Twice. Countless hours (and dollars) later, I would say I’ve been turned on to video games.

My friend and I both laugh at the fact that he thought I could never start playing games. The real problem was that I didn’t want to play the same games he did. I still am not likely to ever sit down and play Ocarina of Time, but I do invest a lot of hours into Bethesda and BioWare games, and am branching out into some pretty sweet Indie territory (Gorogoa needs to come out yesterday).

Our problem wasn’t that I couldn’t be interested – it was that we were trying the wrong gateway. He was trying to usher me into games the same way he had been ushered in. While logical and well-intentioned, it just burned me out and made me frustrated.

Instead, I had an eye on the enjoyment other people seemed to experience, and poked around until I found my own way in. Gamers love to find workarounds, hacks, and glitches to get them where they’re going in ways that no one else has ever gone. Maybe I already had that motivation to go my own way (though that doesn’t explain my love of led-by-the-hand BioWare titles).

I know I’ve been guilty of the same well-intentioned error when teaching people new skills an interests. I know how I got interested in making/gaming/baking/books, and I want to show people in the same way. Sometimes this works. Other times though, my enthusiasm for the One True Way of getting involved in something can turn people off, leaving them feeling excluded and frustrated.

I can take a page out of my own book when I’m teaching. If the point of entry I’m most enthusiastic about isn’t working out, let them see the end goal – having fun learning something. Then share a WHOLE BUNCH of ways to get involved, even if they seem like the more boring, more intense, more complicated way. Each person will respond to different gateways. I certainly shouldn’t hold them back from trying each and every door.

Winter Reading has Begun

Cover image Wie leest wie voor? by JoséDay on Flickr.

Last summer, I sort of found myself in charge of a Summer Reading Program at the last minute. It didn’t go so well, as you might imagine. We had great summer learning events, but not a lot of participation in traditional, tracked summer reading.

Since then, I’ve started a new job at a new library, and we’re running a short, low-key winter reading program during the month of January. Originally, it was just a youth services thing, but the adult services department has gotten on board too, making for a great full-library event.

For youth services, we’ve divided up participation into a few categories: Pre-K, K-5, Middle Grade (vaguely grades 5-7), and Teen (vaguely grades 6-12). Obviously, there’s overlap because of the creation of the Middle Grade category. We’ve had success with the creation of a Middle Grade collection and program set, so why not extend it to the reading club? Kids in this age group can choose whether to participate in Kids or Middle Grade (for the 5th and 6th graders) and Teen or Middle Grade (for the 6th & 7th graders). It’s not really about forcing certain categories – it’s more about encouraging kids to read at the age group they enjoy.

Each child/teen gets a welcome bag at registration with a pencil and such – teens have different bags than the kids. Then they take a bingo sheet to fill out. Each space is a type of book to read, and they try to create a bingo of any kind on the card. When they bring it back, they get a ticket for a raffle at the end of the month. There are 4 baskets, each with a target age, although participants can choose any raffle to enter.

Example of a Kids Bingo Sheet:

Kids Week 1 Bingo Sheet: Row 1 Newberry book, New book, Reader's Choice, book in a series, paperback. Row 2: Author whose last name starts with M, Book on CD, Free space, Book published in 2014, Non-fiction book. Row 3 Book with a blue cover, graphic novel, book with more than 100 pages, book of poetry, reader's choice. Row 4, a book that became a movie, book based on a true story, cookbook, mystery book, Caldecott book.
Our week 1 K-5 Winter Reading Club Bingo Sheet.

It’s low key enough to work during a really busy programming season, and it also has pretty low barriers to participation.

This program is exciting to me for a variety of reasons. The biggest one is the tension between traditional summer reading proponents and advocates of other ways of directing and tracking summer learning. This kind of program – super easy to run and participate in – allows people for whom reading clubs are important parts of the library world to get that fix. And it also frees up staff time to develop other facets of summer learning at the library.

Remind me that I talked about all the “free time” this program leaves me toward the end of this month.

New Look, New Stuff

Cover Image:

Happy New Year Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  anyjazz65 

If you read this on my site, you may have noticed that it looks a lot different. I’ve opted to go with the new Twenty Fifteen theme from WordPress, because I really like how clean it feels. I tucked a lot of my old blog posts away in the archive, too, to give the site a fresh start.

I’ve started – and promptly forgotten about – dozens of blogs, tumblrs, LiveJournals, MySpaces, Twitters, and more – each while I tried to figure out just what I wanted to say. Theme blogs didn’t work well for me – my interests vary and change too quickly. I tried personal blogs, but they felt uncomfortably confessional, and I’m no Sylvia Plath. Academic, fandom, library…they’ve come and mostly gone.

This is the first year I’m ostensibly settled. I graduated for what might be the last time, got another new living situation, got a first “real” librarian job, and dug in a little bit to the place I live now. I’ve gained a lot of friends, a few new hobbies, and adjusted my perspectives on a lot of things.

I’ve weirdly become known in my friend group as the library/craft alcohol/fanfic/video game girl. It’s a pretty fair assessment of my time spent, and it didn’t seem reflected in my online persona. There was a time where I wanted to make sure that my “IRL” self wasn’t the same as my online self – after all, it was the Wild West days of the World Wide Web – but I’ve kind of settled into the fact that my identity is what it is. There will probably be more farm ale posts; or a few about my thoughts on fan fiction’s role in developing story telling in young adults; my opinions on the launch hiccups in Dragon Age: Inquisition, and my experiments in making a gosh darn good Last Call. There will be library stuff, book stuff, learning stuff – after all, I haven’t stopped being interested in that either.

Learning, Teaching, and Teen Mentors

Now that we’re actually in range of decent New Year’s resolution-making, I’ve been thinking. I actually started my first set of resolutions (reading more diverse books) last night – but more on that later. I also was thinking about what I want to learn this year, and what I want to share with others.

I asked that question of my Teen Advisory Board at the meeting just before Christmas. We were sitting there, decorating cookies (well, some were just unabashedly shoveling sprinkles into their mouths), and I asked what they were good at that they could share with others. It took some prompting – most of my teens didn’t seem to think that their skills were anything to call home about. But one of them managed to come up with accounting – accounting! – and figured she might be able to help middle school kids with math, or high schoolers with creating a balanced budget. It was a great start, and pretty soon the rest of the group had their own skills to bring up – baking, video games,  painting… the list went on.

Then I asked another question – What do you want to learn that you’re not sure how to start? This was a hard one for them too. We talked through this one based on the other question. Some of the teens really wanted to learn to bake, or how to design video games. A few even acknowledged that it would be a good idea to learn how to budget, since they’re old enough to get their first jobs.

Once the ball was rolling, we started to hear some more – robots! applying for college! dancing! It turned into a great discussion about how we could shape our programming going forward by allowing the older teens to mentor and teach the middle graders.

We can’t start that til this summer, at least not officially, since the Winter/Spring schedule is already released. But it’s a good path to be on.

Reading Resolutions

So I’m a little early on this post, but there’s Christmas music blaring over the intercom and it puts me in the year-end mindset. There’s been a lot happening in the world, and in my life, this year. I’ve made some big changes (graduating, moving, starting a new job), but I’m trying to think about the ways I can make next year even bigger, even better.

So, I’ll be blunt: I’m going to shamelessly steal from all of you. Library folk internet-wide have been posting AMAZING programming ideas, library philosophy, and book suggestions. And I feel like a David that’s forgotten his slingshot in a matchup with Goliath. WHERE DO YOU ALL GET THESE AMAZING IDEAS?

For instance, I read about a really amazing Etsy workshop for teens today. That’s baller. Or how about this crazy cool library blog that should make all public library blogs jealous from my home state? Or the people who accomplished reading lists that make me think.

50 books by POC. 50 books about LGBTQ characters. 50 books in translation. Books with non-Western style illustrations. Books with narrators with less privilege than me. With different viewpoints than me. With different ideas than I could ever think of. That’s what you’re all reading, and it blows my mind.

I read an old Slate article (which is the owner of the beautiful header image) about reading a book a day all year. I’ve decided to layout some more modest goals for myself, since I know I have trouble getting outside of my reading bubble, which is a problem. So let’s mix it up. In 2015 I will:

– Read 25 teen/middle grade books by POC.

– Read 50 picture books written/illustrated by POC

– Read 25 books with LGBTQ protagonists

– Read 25 books in translation.

In complete honesty, this is more than I’ve read for pleasure since before I started grad school (gasp!). But I’m not stopping there.

– Listen to 25 books on CD (any length)

– Design an app (which means learning how to build an app)

– Update my blog more often (this probably means I’ll be linking it up to tumblr, because I love some tumblr and I’ve gotten away from it)

What do you think? Worthy aspirations? Suggestions or tweaks? What are your reading resolutions, if you’ve gotten that far?