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This blog is no longer active as of 2017.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Beautiful Berkeley

This past week I was out in Berkeley, California for job training. This was my first time to the Bay area. The weather was sunny and mild. During some free time, I visited the UC Berkeley campus and went to the top of the Campanile (bell tower) where this photo was taken. Can you see the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance? That's as close as I got to San Francisco.

I thought I had left the snow behind me in Illinois, but who should I meet at the training but the Abominable Snowman's California cousin! When I stopped in at the UC Berkeley's Bancroft Library, I saw my old friend Mark Twain reading a book. I couldn't resist having my photo taken with both of them. 

See more fun and eclectic photos from my trip to Berkeley on flickr.

Monday, March 17, 2014

St. Patrick's Day Sign Story

For my intermediate sign language class, my "midterm" assignment was to bring in a food dish, tell a story about it in sign, and explain how to make it in sign. I chose to bring my St. Patrick's Day trifle and wear a green shirt with a shamrock pin at the collar.

Here's my sign story in English:
I enjoy celebrating St. Patrick's Day because my grandfather is from Ireland. Today I brought a fruit dessert called trifle that I make for St. Patrick's Day. The dessert's colors are the same as the flag of Ireland: green, white, and orange. Lime Jell-O and pistachio nut pudding are green. Angel food cake and whipped cream are white. Mandarin oranges are orange. My dessert has 6 layers. Starting from the bottom of the bowl: 1st angel food cake, oranges, and Jell-O; 2nd pistachio nut pudding; 3rd whipped cream; 4th oranges, 5th more pistachio nut pudding; 6th more whipped cream; and last few oranges on top.

Learning about classifiers is coming up soon in the class. For this presentation, I made the shape of a bowl and then used my left hand cupped upward as the bottom of the bowl with my right hand pressed into it for the first layer. Next my left hand became layer #2, my right hand became layer #3 and so on.

Our presentation was worth 100 points, 50 for the story and 50 for our signing. I was very pleased to received 100 with these comments from the teacher: pulled colors together in story for the Irish flag, good mime show layers. For this class session, we did not have to write down each others' signing for our receptive skills practice. We could just relax and enjoy the stories, creativity, and humor. After everyone had signed their stories we got to eat! There was a wide variety of food dishes to sample. Two food items I tried for the first time and liked were hummus and flan.

Today I bought this cookie at the grocery store. It was too cute to pass by. Hey, I'm Irish! Hope everyone has a Happy St. Patrick's Day, Irish or not!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Winter Beauty

This winter seems to be stretching on and on, much to the chagrin of many in the Chicagoland area. Personally, I haven't minded the long winter. My employer has closed several times due to the weather and I've had a "free" day at home each time. From my heated sun porch, I've enjoyed watching the heavy snowflakes fall secure in the knowledge that I didn't have to drive anywhere. I did have one awful driving time this winter in January; after that I stayed home. This winter has taught me to s-l-o-w down. The photos above were taken last Wednesday when overnight my backyard landscape was transformed into a fairy land. Isn't it magical?

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Captioned Webinars

Last Wednesday, I viewed a captioned webinar sponsored by the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). Presented by Julie Olson, the webinar's topic was HLAA's history and beliefs. I have recently re-joined the organization and found the material covered fascinating. Unfortunately, the audio was unclear due to technical problems. Fortunately, there were captions that let me read everything the speaker was saying. You can learn more about HLAA webinars at this link.

While on the topic of captioned webinars, I wanted to share with you that Bill Graham, a personal friend of mine, has a business that offers captioning for webinars and other meetings called CaptionAccess. I asked him to tell me how he got interested in starting this business. Here was Bill's response:

I've been involved with captioning from the birth of CART. I co-founded the Association of Late-Deafened Adults (ALDA) in 1988 and we were the very first organization in the United States to have all sessions of their annual convention captioned (and signed as well...). Court reporters were just coming out of the courtroom to try their hand at real-time captioning in public. They found ALDA the perfect test tube since as people who became deaf as adults our members largely didn't sign, lipread very well, or hear....the only common denominator was we could all read the King's English--captioning was our communication salvation. In my work life in the publishing industry, captioning was never a stranger--I drove a project at Microsoft to closed caption their multimedia encyclopedia and I was the first person there to use remote captioning. Then I got laid off (twice!) and decided to start a new career. Captioning and interacting with deaf and hard-of-hearing people came naturally. I never particularly wanted to be an entrepreneur, but in this case the shoe fit too well to pass up the opportunity!
For my job I often have to watch webinars to learn the latest in librarianship. The advantage of webinars are that they save employees from having to travel. I have never requested an accommodation for them so I asked Bill, "How can a hard of hearing\deaf employee request captioning from their employer? This is an important question for me because I hate to be a bother and am really uncomfortable asking for accommodations. I would imagine overcoming this hesitation from clients is a key to your business model." Bill replied:

It's always hard to ask for something that makes you stand out as different. Particularly when, more than anything, as a deaf/hoh person you want to show that you can do anything as good as your colleagues. It took me many years before I asked for accommodations in the workplace. I just wasn't understanding what was being said at meetings--simple as that. How could I perform my job as well as I knew I could without some form of accommodation for the fact that I couldn't hear what others were saying? I eventually asked for some help and wow, what a difference that help made in my career. A not uncommon reaction from bosses and employers is "Why did it take you so long to ask?" Most employers want their workers to do their best. It's in everyone's best interests.
So the first hurdle is to simply ask. Most companies are required to be accessible. So know what kind of accommodation you want, let's say captioning, and go to your boss and ask for captioning for a particular meeting. You can say: "I really want to take full advantage and participate in the upcoming meeting and I can best do that with captioning."  If your boss asks what is that?  You can ask them to contact a particular company, say CaptionAccess, and we will be happy to explain captioning--how it works, what equipment is needed, the benefits for the whole work team (such as the transcript provided afterwards)--all of the details. Ask them to contact us. Also if your boss is unfamiliar with accommodations, then you can ask them to talk with your Human Resources department. HR departments are typically familiar with disability accommodations and can be a helpful advocate. But a company is typically not required to do anything unless you put in a request. At that point we will work with your company to provide appropriate services in the most cost-effective manner.
But again, what it all boils down to is...ask. Just ask. It's a win-win waiting to happen.
Thanks, Bill for answering my questions. To learn more about Caption Access visit their website at

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

1st Time Webinar Presenter

Digital Preservation Workshop, November 2013.
Today I had the new experience of presenting a webinar or online workshop. I have listened to many webinars as part of my job, but this was the first time I was a speaker for one. My subject was identifying digital content for preservation purposes through conducting a collection inventory. I was part of a team of four librarians who taught Identify and Select, the first two modules in the Library of Congress' DPOE curriculum.

Some of you may remember that I wrote last summer about receiving training on digital preservation through a sponsored program for Illinois librarians. In November, I presented an in-person workshop with one of the other trained librarians at her academic library which was open to the general public. That workshop was a basic introduction to the whole digital preservation process six stages (as pictured on the poster above). Today was a more in-depth look at the first two stages and geared towards library professionals.

I enjoyed organizing the ideas we wanted to convey and helping create the slide presentation. I wanted to be accurate and true to what I learned from the Library of Congress so I wrote a script for what I would say. To prepare, I tested my audio connection a week in advance. Everything was coming together. I felt confident going into the presentation. It may have helped that it was audio and slides only with no web cam views. I could have been in my pajamas for all anyone knew. But rest assured, I wasn't.

So what was it like being on the other side of the microphone? It was kind of strange to be speaking in an empty room and not knowing how my listeners were taking in what was said. I'm used to looking at people, reading their body language, and adjusting my talk as needed. All I knew today was the number of people attending - around 50. 

We did have a chat box available for listeners' comments and questions. While I was speaking someone wrote in they couldn't hear me well and asked could I boost the volume. I stopped what I was saying and did that by turning my mic up to the max and moving the mic part of the headset closer to my mouth. I also tried to project my voice more. That seemed to do the trick because someone typed in "much better". I was so relieved.

Other than that incident, I only made a couple of flubs. I was the workshop's first speaker and I started really getting into what I was saying when I noticed I hadn't advanced past my opening slide. Oops. Fortunately I was still on the script for slide two so it wasn't too bad.

Another thing I noticed was that when I had practiced reading aloud my script, I had been good at speaking slowly, but when it was time to present for real, I found myself talking much faster. Pacing yourself probably comes with practice. I had a little jokey comment I wanted to say and had even made myself a note to laugh after it, but when it came time to say it, I didn't really pull it off. Again, it's hard to talk just to your computer and not know the expressions on your audience's faces. Of course, not everyone's a born comedian.

Before I knew it, my part of the presentation was over. When I was done, I simply muted my microphone and the next speaker took it from there. We only received one question at the end of our presentation and it was directed to someone else. I got off easy there. But my co-presenter was nice enough to allow me to weigh in on the answer as well. Afterwards, the sponsor for the workshop told me she didn't have any trouble hearing me and that the audio problem was probably due to the equipment of the person who complained. That made me feel much better. All in all, it was a very good experience. 

I don't think most of you have a strong interest in digital preservation for librarians. But if anyone reading this is interested and would like to watch the recorded presentation, please contact me by email and I will send you the link when it becomes available.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

In the Kitchen with Miss Melody

Are you hungry, Mom?

Just let me open this gate...

...and I'll fix dinner tonight!

Cooking can be messy... 

...I think I'll wash the dishes!

I'd say I've earned this spot on the couch.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Toy Librarian

Ashfield Play Forum in Nottinghamshire, England has made a toy library available to local children. My best friend Liz told me about it when she began volunteering there. I was intrigued by the idea of a toy library and asked if she would tell me and readers of Speak Up Librarian more about it. She agreed to answer any questions I had and good-naturedly allowed me to title this post Toy Librarian.

Sarah: Hi, Liz! Thanks for joining me online today . I am interested to learn more about the Toy Library. It sounds such fun.

Liz: Yes, it is so much fun and I feel the skills I have are being put to good use there. I also learnt that Ashfield Play Forum has been going for 30 years now.

Sarah: How many toys does the library have?

Liz: I don't know exactly, but definitely over 100.

Sarah: That's quite a lot. What types of toys are they?

Liz: There are books, puzzles of different kinds to suit different ages, and floor games to name a few. 

Sarah: I see. Quite a variety then. What ages of children do the toys appeal to?

Liz: The Toy Library is for children between 0 to 8, so there are toys to suit those age groups.

Sarah: How do parents or caregivers borrow toys from the library?

Liz: They just come along to any Toy Library session, bringing along two forms of identification to register. They then look at catalogues of toys available and pick what they like. Its 20p each week to hire a toy and they are allowed two toys maximum at any one time.

Sarah: How did you get interested in volunteering at Ashfield Play Forum?

Liz: I discovered Ashfield Play Forum by accident after attending a coffee morning last year, which money raised was for Children in Need. While there volunteering was mentioned, saying they were needing volunteers for the Toy Library. I was naturally interested and gave my details to Jane. I had a chat with her later to find out more and although it wasn't working with children in a play setting as I first thought, I was still interested. I volunteer two days a week.

Sarah: What do you do at the Toy Library?

Liz: Every day is different. I have stocktaken some of the toys one day, which was to check they were ok, like not being scribbled on and no missing parts for example to writing addresses on envelopes another day and I also helped with jobs in the Scrapstore, like replenishing stock and making stuff to show what could be made out of materials available in the Scrapstore which is another service to their Toy Library that they have.

One of Liz's craft creations from the Scrapstore
Sarah: Thank you, Liz. It's always a pleasure chatting with you. The Toy Library sounds like a marvelous resource to parents who would like to entertain their children with a variety of toys at low cost. I think that sharing of our inventories is what makes libraries (of all types) a great asset to their communities. 

Liz: To learn more about the Ashfield Play Forum, visit their website at

Sarah: To learn more about Liz, visit her blog at