"It is our duty as educators to prepare our students for life. We want them to be lifelong learners and that doesn’t always mean using Google."
Lone Star Literary Life: When we chatted at the Texas Library Association Annual Conference in Austin this year, we talked about the perception versus the reality of the school librarian. Can you get our readers up to speed? What does today’s school library / librarian look like?
Karin Perry: The school library of today SHOULD be the hub of the school. Libraries aren’t quiet places because there should always be activity. School librarians collaborate with teachers and assist in teaching lessons. They make sure students know how to research effectively and use resources ethically. In the simplest of terms, school librarians are the jacks of all trades. They need to be familiar with the curriculum of all grade levels, competent in technology, well-versed in various teaching strategies, and familiar with a wide range of literature. It’s such a wonderful job. Every day is different.
School librarians are extremely important to student learning. Research shows that having a school librarian and a properly funded library increases student achievement. However, oftentimes, when budgets get cut, the school librarian gets cut. Parents and community members need to be vocal and let school district administrators know that school librarians are valued and need to remain in leadership positions in the schools.
LSLL: At TLA, I asked for your opinion about some of the latest trends happening in libraries. As I recall, you have some strong opinions. Care to share?
KP: As you can tell, I’m a huge advocate for school libraries, but that doesn’t mean that I’m on board with every trend that comes down the pike. For instance, there are three very popular trends I’m opposed to and they are: genrefication of fiction sections, getting rid of the Dewey Decimal System in the nonfiction section (and putting another self-created system in place), and makerspaces.
LSLL: Ooh, I smell LOTS of controversy! Let’s first explore genrefication. For our readers who aren’t familiar with the term, this is basically when a library follows a bookstore model for organizing its inventory. What are your arguments against genrefication?
KP: One of the main reasons for genrefication is to make coming to the library more appealing for students because it’s more like a bookstore. Some people even say it’s done so students can more easily find things to read. In my opinion, these aren’t reason enough to change the organization of the library. We need to teach students how to find information in the library using the library catalog. Teach them how to choose proper search terms in order to get the desired results. By simply putting all the “chick lit” together (which is another problem since chick lit, adventure, mystery, humor, etc. aren’t genres and instead categories), you are encouraging students to always gravitate to the books they are used to reading. You aren’t allowing for reading outside students' comfort zone since they’ll rarely explore other areas of the library. Not to mention the disservice we are doing the students by not teaching them how to properly use the library’s online catalog.
LSLL: AMEN, sister. I’m in total agreement (and it’s not because you were my professor when I was getting my MLS.) Now, will you please elaborate on why you are Team Dewey?
KP: Getting rid of Dewey in favor of a personally created system is silly. Dewey is already organized by categories. All the dog books are together. All the basketball books are together. There is absolutely no reason to use another system. As with the genrefication issue, we need to teach students to use the library resources properly by searching the online catalog. Also, except for the few years they are in college and use the Library of Congress Classification System, students will need to use Dewey in public libraries as adults. It is our duty as educators to prepare our students for life. We want them to be lifelong learners, and that doesn’t always mean using Google.
LSLL: Yes, yes, yes. Let’s talk about makerspaces. I think when I first asked you about this hot topic, I may have provided the soapbox to you. Where has this gone wrong?
KP: Makerspaces are good. They can be super cool, but most libraries aren’t using them in the right way. Putting out LEGOS or coloring sheets doesn’t mean you have a makerspace. A makerspace is supposed to be a place in which people with shared interests, especially in computing or technology, can gather to work on projects while sharing ideas, equipment, and knowledge. Too many makerspaces are glorified “centers” like you’d see in a primary grade classroom. In the perfect world, makerspaces wouldn’t be housed in the library at all. There are already too many things that should be happening in the library to properly manage a makerspace.
LSLL: I remember, when I was your student, that I was amazed at how you found time for so much reading and how many books you read – and since then, how many books you have written. You've written Sci Fi on the Fly that had a forward by Neal Shusterman, you have all the sketchnoting books (we’ll get to that), and I just discovered Murder of Crows, your illustrated book of collective nouns. But there’s more…and you are willing to let Lone Star Lit have the big reveal… do tell!
KP: Books are very important in my life. I read a lot. I read a book every day or two and while I love reading physical books, I find that I read mostly on my e-reader - simply for convenience. By embracing the e-reader, I can get a book at any time of day and can put multiple books on one device without lugging around extra pounds wherever I go.
With stories floating around in my mind all the time, it’s probably not a surprise that I decided I wanted to try and write my own. My first attempt at writing a young adult novel was in 2010 when I analyzed my writing process for my dissertation. I wrote the first draft and even took it through a writing critique group but have yet to edit it for publication. I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNoWriMo several times and have completed two additional novels during those events. One has been published on Amazon and the other is its sequel. The sequel is ready for editing and then I can list it on Amazon as well. I have one other novel in the drafting phase and hope to finish it soon. My novels are technically young adult since the main characters are seventeen to eighteen years old, but I’d say they are extremely mature young adult novels. There is both explicit sex and graphic language in each of the books.
I am a major fan of young adult literature, but for my escape, I love to read extremely steamy romance. I love erotica when it is done well, and I love dark romance. Since the books I write are graphic in nature, I don’t publish them under my real name. This is for professional reasons and also because I really don’t want my dad reading my “bow chicka bow wow” books. (Get a copy of Ride Through Disaster. The sequel, Ride to Live, will be released before the end of 2019.)
LSLL: You write under a pen-name, but as Dr. Karin Perry, you have embraced sketchnoting and are writing books about it and presenting about it every chance you get. I heard you present at the North Texas Teen Book Festival Educator’s Day, and your passion pulsed through the room. What’s sketchnoting all about?
KP: Sketchnoting is a form of notetaking that involves using images along with text. Using images increases comprehension because the brain is better at remembering images than text. You don’t have to be an artist to sketchnote, but you do have to be comfortable with putting images on paper. You have to be okay with doodling, and so many adults have lost that ability simply because they’ve stopped doing it. My colleague and I present about sketchnoting around the country and even internationally. Most recently we presented in Paris, France, at the 3rd Annual International Sketchnote Camp. Sometimes, people just need a nudge to start doodling again, so I’ve published several how-to doodle books. These books include simple 3 - 4 step instructions for drawing common objects. (Find Karin’s sketchnoting- related books)
Lightning Round / Fun Facts:
*Dr. Perry usually has 2 - 3 books going at one time.
*She has a 5-hour commute to work (Oklahoma to SHSU in Huntsville, TX), so she listens to a lot of audio books.
*Her favorite audio book narrators are: Kirby Heyborne, Rupert Degas, Jacob Morgan, Andi Arndt, and Sebastian York.
*Like a scary audio book? She recommends Scowler by Daniel Kraus, narrated by Kirby Heyborne.
*She’s a librarian, so she book talks:
“One of the best independent authors who should get more credit is Tillie Cole. She has written a great young adult novel titled A Thousand Boy Kisses that will tear your heart out. I mean you’ll be crying from just about page one until you get to the end. Then you’ll still cry when it’s over because you can’t stop thinking about it. She’s also written some great New Adult and some VERY dark romance. She writes one of my favorite series - Hades Hangmen. It’s a dark, motorcycle romance with some cult stuff mixed in. I’ve read them all and also listened to the ones that are available on audio.”
“One of my favorite YA books is Freak Show by James St. James.”
“One of my favorite graphic novels is My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf.
*She’s a major fan of the Oxford Comma.
Karin Perry has been in education for over twenty years. She started her career as a sign language interpreter, but soon realized she wanted to be more involved in the classroom and went back to get her bachelor's in elementary education degree and started teaching fifth grade. She then continued her journey by getting a master’s of library and information science from the University of Oklahoma and worked as an elementary school librarian and then a middle school librarian. It was during her time working at the middle school that she started work on her PhD, and in 2010 she received her doctorate in instructional leadership and academic curriculum, also from the University of Oklahoma. Karin currently is Associate Professor and Assistant Chair of the Library Science and Technology Department at Sam Houston State University.
Karin has always been a doodler and colorer. She’s had a long-time obsession with pens, markers, and crayons. Once introduced to sketchnoting she took to it like a duck does to water. When she isn’t working, you’ll find Karin reading or drawing/lettering. She lives with her husband of over twenty years, plus a Chihuahua with major attitude, two stray tomcats, and two longhorns. Dr. Perry invites you to email her if you have questions about anything she mentioned in this interview. Seriously!