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Where are the others?

In response to the article "Things That Keep Us Up at Night," Beth (no email given or I would have asked permission to repost this) writes:

I wonder - where are the librarians who disagree with this [article]? I know they are out there. You point your finger right at them in this piece and tell them they are dragging us down. However, they never seem to enter the conversation. Many of us think we know some of these librarians. But they are absent from the debate.

I attended part of the @karlfisch inspired Elluminate session that asked "Is there a place for media specialists who don't know social media?" It was such an excellent presentation, but it was also a little unnerving - all the people who presented had the same answer to the question that framed the debate: no. Where are the people who say "yes"? Would we allow one of our students to investigate only one side of a debate topic when creating a presentation or making a decision? Why ask a question if you already know the answer?

Of course, those of us who have PLNs are likely going to be moving along in the same mindset - we engage in conversations on twitter and elsewhere with people who believe, more or less, in social media. Again, we only hear one side of the argument.

Yes, there are people in our profession who resist change. This is true in all of education. But outside of our blogging-tweeting-2.0 professional circles are librarians who are concerned about things like basic internet access, aging collections, fixed scheduling and no paraprofessional support. In my district, our high schools often have over 3000 students with two librarians. Test scores dictate instruction. Money to travel to conferences no longer exists. Filtering reigns. In many cases, the librarians are advocating for the immediate issues at hand: Basic access to information. Flexible scheduling. Updated resources. They may face administrators who don't support them, teachers with no time to collaborate, and few obvious opportunities to develop whatever a PLN is.

You say that there is no perfect library anymore. I agree. But there certainly seem to be many unacceptable ones in your view. I think we can all do better. We can all push for change. Maybe it is, instead of judging the person who does not tweet or have a webpage, taking an afternoon to sit with them and walk them through setting up a twitter feed or google site. Just because someone doesn't incorporate tech doesn't mean they are opposed to it. It is hard, as a professional in the world of schools, to admit you don't know something or don't understand it. I don't think our profession makes this easy either. Sometimes one-on-one mentoring can help. There are all kinds of opportunities to transform our profession if we take time to listen. The tone of pieces like this, in my view, may do more to drive people out of the conversation than invite them in.

In the end, we need to know what is going on with everyone. What barriers do they face as information professionals: material, professional or otherwise? Many librarians are not given autonomy. We operate within a system that has many many problems that affect our practice. I think if we created opportunities for librarians to share these stories we might better understand why they do what they do. I think we still have to listen to the "yeah, buts" - but that can't be the end of the conversation. We can't dismiss them, but instead open a dialogue and try to strategize through it with everyone's input. Then the transformation of the profession continues with more buy in than we have now, we hope.

Our brand really can't be social media. It can't be databases. It can't be 2.0. Not only will these things fade away, they exclude large parts of our profession from participation. I'd rather adopt our brand as "cultivating curiosity." That will stand the test of time. And it's something we can all gather around the table and talk about pushing toward.

So, excoriate or sympathize with our colleagues who do not push the professional envelope? Were Joyce and I too harsh, too out of touch with the "real" world of libraries? (Do remember Joyce is a practicing library media specialist and I am practicing library/technology director.) Do we owe an apology to those who struggle in silence? How can we give a voice to those who choose not to network?

Interesting comments, Beth, and I am guessing you speak for more folks than you realize. Thank you for writing.

But would you write the same eloqent defense of dentists who continue to practice their craft as though it were 1975?

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Reader Comments (17)

Thank you for this article and for contributing your perspective. I too feel that this voice in the debate is missing. Is it possible that this voice is there, but we are debating in two different rooms? (online and offline) How can we connect the two sides when both insist that their room is the correct meeting place? I appreciate your suggestion to take time to sit down with a librarian and walk them through Twitter, Google, etc.

I agree that that the brand can't be Web 2.0. "Cultivating curiosity" is a good direction to go, but I would like to add to that. I think it is also important that we include things at which librarians excel, whether they be archivists or "cybrarians." Analysis and selection of relevant sources are important skills, whether it be for research or personal enjoyment. These skills also translate across media. It doesn't matter if our students are reading letters, books, articles, or blogs, viewing videos, or participating in a social media site. They all require the same basic analysis skills to determine credibility and usefulness of the source.

October 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEllsbeth

I think you and Beth agree more than disagree. She seemed mostly upset about "tone." In the original piece I don't think "networked" media specialists necessarily has to mean "constant use of online social networking tools." You don't do Twitter. Dr. Valenza doesn't do But the point is, you both know what they are and what they can do. The real point you guys seemed to be making was for library media specialists to Stay Current--going to conferences, networking (face to face still counts) and most importantly reading professional literature (whether magazines, books, blogs or all of the above). that is essential in one of the most ever-changing fields I can think of.

I too sometimes tire of these "21st Century Skills" and "Reading 2.0" discussions. No one would argue that authentic assessment and learning are the goals. But the "1st Adopter" mentality is not always something we can all strive for. The important thing that you and Dr. Valenza and Beth all agree on is that fostering curiosity, critical thinking, and information literacy is the goal.

My graduate class was fortunate enough to have Buffy Hamilton come speak to us in our cataloging class about how to use some of the online tools to accomplish things with MARC records and such. It was great and authentic and something we needed and wanted to know. Then she went on to talk about how she had networked her media center through wikis, blogs, social networking sites, netvibes, pageflakes, twitter, and more. Afterwards I was lucky enough to sit in the back of the room and geek out with her about some of these tools. I loved it.

But after she left I noticed that some of the other students looked pale and a few looked like they might even cry. It was all too much too fast for them. Maybe that's how Beth feels. I gave a few of them a pep talk about how much they'd learned so far and how much more they already knew than many of the practicing media specialists we'd interacted with. Buffy is awesome but she's totally a "1st Adopter" kind of person. Her big complaint was trying to get more of these database companies to provide widgets she could embed. Most of my fellow students didn't know what a widget was. Beth seems like the kind of person that might roll her eyes and say that embedding database widgets is not much of a problem when not everyone even has access to these databases.

We need people like you and Dr. Valenza and Ms. Hamilton pushing the envelope and keeping us all current with what's out there. We also need people like Beth to remind us that some of the filtering might be due to bandwidth issues and not just censorship (something I just learned about the other day). That not everyone is ready for everything all at once and to look back at whose falling behind and instead of shaking a finger at them, trying to figure out ways to bring them up to speed. I'm not saying that's what you and Dr. Valenza were doing, but that some of the "edtech/early adopter" mentality definitely do.

I agree that as media and information specialists we, of all people, need to Stay Current and aware of what's out there. I don't think that means that we need to all have a Facebook page and a Twitter account and fourteen Nings and twenty-one wikis, etc. We need to know what they are, how they can help us find, evaluate and share information and be ready to use whatever tool will help us accomplish our goals the best. I'm just happy I recently got my school to start a account so teachers can have a place to keep and share educational bookmarks. A principal I know recently used instead of a typical slide show program on my recommendation. My partner teacher and I use to collaborate. But we don't Twitter or Facebook, or do much else considered "social networking." It's all about keeping a balance and doing what works for you and your students.

I think the most important tools are the ones that would help anyone be more effective and productive: online word processors and social bookmarking sites are top tier. Those are things that would make any teacher's life better. Next I would say wikis and then a feed reader. These are nearly essential for me, but I don't know another teacher in the building that uses them. I'm working on it.

I guess that's the point, huh? Just keep working on it...

Thanks to all of you for the thoughtful discussion!


October 8, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterteacherninja

Where the people on the other side of the discussion? They are not reading this blog. They are probably not reading "School Library Journal" and if they are they have skipped over that article.

"Cultivating curiosity" as a brand for libraries as mentioned above by Ellsbeth starts with the librarian who is willing to drink out of the fire hose.

October 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFloyd Pentlin

I like your point of view. I live in Germany and the situation is really different here : students and teachers are pretty autonomous when it comes to finding informations, and therefore librarians have more a supervising role than a proper helping role.

October 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHans Rencontre

That is part of why I decided I needed to work in a school setting rather than as a consultant outside of schools (don't get me wrong, I really am glad for and admire people who keep us stretching). I kept reading and hearing people say things like, "I am so glad for my PLN because I am the only one in my school doing this". I always think... it has been like that for 20 years! Why?!!

Here are things I am finding at the school I am working at:
* The quest to cover all of the curriculum (every day is completely full I don't have time to do something different)
* A misunderstanding that technology is adding something MORE to what is already being done
* The fear that test scores might go down if I change anything about the way I teach (I work in a high income area where all of the children are above average-and their parents tend to be type A personalities)
* An uninvolved principal. He likes technology and says yes to anything I ask for, but is rarely out of his office. The teachers are all excellent, but isolated.
* Different personalities and preferences-not all teachers want to use technology. They didn't learn that way and it doesn't seem like kids could either. The learning curve is too steep.

And so on... It is hard working this way sometimes, but I do see some change...slow...

October 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJanice Friesen

Hi Doug. Beth here.

Thanks for responding to me. Thanks also to everyone else who has followed up and allowed me to learn more.

As you can probably tell, this has been bothering me for a while - it actually has kept me up at night, as your article suggests.

I wouldn't say you are totally "out of touch" with librarians and I apologize if it came across that way. I have no doubt that you've heard resistance from librarians many times. As a librarian who is also now a researcher, I see my job as being a listener. Our profession is so big that many people can be in touch with what is going on but still see things very differently.
I think Jim is right - we agree more than we disagree. What worries me is when we say we won't listen anymore. When we hint that everyone is just making excuses. Instead many librarians may be facing real problems and obstacles to transformation, be they surmountable or not.

So it may surprise you, but I am on your side. I just fear that when we stop listening to concerns and "yeah, buts", there is very little chance that anyone either reluctant or faced with real barriers will listen to the other side of the argument.

I could write a lot more, but I think your last question is the one to focus on: "How do we give a voice to those who choose not to network?" (or, I would add, those who can't.) I get stuck on this. I can't tweet for their thoughts (and I do tweet, for the record), they may not attend conferences...I see Floyd's point that they may skip over the SLJ article once they start reading it.
I do think there is a need to find ways small and large to collect these stories. I am in complete agreement that this affects the future of our students. I certainly share your urgency in that regard. I'll keep working on this and hope that others will continue to share their ideas and perspectives.

Thanks for listening and for the thoughtful conversation. I'll keep listening too, even to the "yeah, buts." :)


October 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBeth

Hi Ninja,

Ironically, the folks who are involved in Web2.0 stuff really don't have a voice BECAUSE this is how leading edge professionals seem to be communicating.

Would the mute wish to argue that being speechless is a benefit, how would they do so?

Thanks for this thoughtful comment!


Hi Floyd,

I'd we have a pretty large percent of librarians who read print professional journals but don't do social networking (and may well skip over articles about it.)

I agree that "cultivating curiosity" is a good motto/mission for libraries.

Hope things are good in MO!


Danke, Hans. Always interesting to read an international point of view. Appreciate the comment,


Hi Beth,

Again, I so appreciate the courage you showed in writing your post. I always try to remember the old saying that there is usually not one right answer but many right answers to most question. I'd be willing to bet there are many possible bright futures for libraries and librarians as well.

Hope to hear from you again on future posts!


October 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

When I remember Darren Draper's question as well as Karl Fisch's--the ones that led up to the Elluminate session Beth refers to earlier here, I think the SLJ article very well articulates the need out there in librarian circles. There are some great role models for the teacher librarian all around, and I celebrate them regularly in my own PLN. I find it shocking that anyone would consider the article finger wagging, but to that I say tsk, tsk the truth hurts sometimes. I consider the teacher librarians I network with regularly, both the ones already (in the words of Joyce Valenza I think) "drinking the koolaid" and the ones not yet there. Hey, i can even find some of my own inadequacies there after reading it. But instead of finding insult in this article, I find a road map or a plan of action to get more on board. I thank you, Doug and Joyce too for such a GREAT article. I have shared it with MANY!

October 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCathy Nelson--aka Cathyjo

"Our brand really can't be social media. It can't be databases. It can't be 2.0. Not only will these things fade away, they exclude large parts of our profession from participation. I'd rather adopt our brand as "cultivating curiosity." That will stand the test of time. And it's something we can all gather around the table and talk about pushing toward."

I totally agree that we should adopt a brand of "cultivating curiosity," however the problem I see is that many educators I work with and librarians in my district do not adopt that philosophy. You say to help them get over their fear of change and to introduce them to "Web 2.0" and networking tools - to show them how to use them, to create a PLN, but many could care less about taking the time to learn. I hear: "I don't have time" and "where am I supposed to fit that into my schedule" and "you want me to do what?" and "I don't have time to cover my standards as it is and you want me to assign a project/assessment using a tool that not only I have to learn, but then has to be taught to my students?" [all pretty much word for word quotes from actual conversations]

We'll I'm tired of hearing the "reasons" you can't. To me reasons ARE just excuses to justify why you wont do something you just don't want to do. Everyone has the same number of hours in the day/week/month/year. You can make the time to do the things you truly want to do: family, exercise, reading, watching TV, church, and any number of activities that you LIKE to do.

I say "suck it up," - you CHOSE to be an educator/librarian and part of that job/duty is to stay on top of the NEEDS OF YOUR STUDENTS. They NEED 24/7 access to information. They NEED you to read professional journals/blogs, to attend district, state, and national conferences where YOU can learn HOW to keep up with your profession. They NEED you to know: widgets, databases, YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, Nings, wikis, Twitter etc. It doesn't mean you have to actually USE them yourself. You just have to know what they are and why they are important to YOUR STUDENTS. To succeed in today's world, students have to know how to use social media and how to use it responsibly. We have to teach it to them or they are going to "learn" it from their peers and possibly make mistakes that will follow them the rest of their lives.

Bottom line, isn't one of our goals as educators to teach our students to be lifelong learners? If you aren't continually learning yourself all you are doing is telling your students to "do as I say, not as I do?" How many listen to that logic?

By the way, I don't use Facebook or MySpace and at this time in my life I don't think I ever will. Doesn't mean I don't understand how they work and why my students find them fascinating. I'm a member of nings, but don't participate frequently. I'm on Twitter, but can go days without posting a comment; however, I bookmark resources shared on Twitter by my PLN every day. I carve out at least 20 minutes a day to read blogs and I try to learn one new networking/Web 2.0 tool a week - doesn't mean I'll like it, doesn't mean I'll use it, doesn't mean I'll share it, just that I become familiar with it. My point - just TRY something new.

October 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

I think Beth's response is well thought out, and I think that part of the reason many librarians are put off by what the Annoyed Librarian calls "Twopointopians" is that so often the debate is framed as either-or. Either you do ALL SOCIAL NETWORKING ALL THE TIME or you do a card catalog and shushing. This makes me sad because one of my favorite parts of my profession is the vast scope, the freedom for everything that interests you personally and professionally to be useful to your job. I use library bloggers and library literature to introduce me to new tools that might be helpful or might not. Then I try the tools and investigate the morass that is school board approval for them, and use them if they're worth the hassle.

Right now, my time is limited. I have to keep up with all the great new children's and YA and educational philosophy literature that's out there (and for those who think literature and selection are not still a major part of libraries, I must express my shock at the idea, as much shock as they may feel about recalcitrant librarians who don't like tech). My school has an excellent technologist, and we work together to encourage use of new technologies, but since she exists, I don't have to be an immediate adopter of tech. Which is good, because frankly 12 hours a day is about as long as I can handle work.

I have long said that I can do my work at work, but I need time when I get home to practice my profession. Checking blogs and trying out new tools is sometimes practicing my profession, and sometimes it's just work. When my feed reader is clogged with librarians bashing other librarians for not doing their jobs the "right" way, it's not even work, it's just frustration. I don't expect archivists to use the same tools as I, I don't expect public librarians to do the same job as I do, and I don't need to talk about how they're dragging me down by portraying my profession as full of shushers and/or leftists by doing what works for them and their patrons. I'm tired of the straw men - I certainly don't KNOW any of these reactionary school librarians (MLS-degreed or LIS-endorsed) who don't touch computers, but I can see how people get left out of this echo chamber debate and actively choose not to participate.

Lost in this debate - the fact that things done online but not enjoyed are just work, and they're work we can't do at our places-of-work due to filtering and time constraints. Also lost - often, being an early adopter means spending a lot of your personal cash on technologies - and many librarians don't have that cash or choose to spend their money elsewhere. And one more - libraries can be places of intense study and reflection - but being constantly connected can be, for some, a block in the way of that study and reflection. We're not all the same as people or as librarians. Wish we could all respect each others' professionalism a bit more.

October 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKate W

First off, what a great converation this is--in fact, it'd be awesome just to see this whole conversation published in a journal article, or film this sort of conversation for YouTube. Makes me proud to be a librarian to see the thoughtful and engaged dicussion here!

I think whether or not librarians embrace some of the web 2.0 tools--there are some realities every librarian HAS to face--the way Google is changing the nature of search and how that affects our use of databaes, how the internet affects our purchasing of fiction/nonfiction, what to do about e-books, etc.

I also don't think it' an "either/or"--I think to me the question is more one I hear echoed above--how do we reach librarian who aren't on some sort of network? Workshops at conferences? Bringing in mentors into districts? (like the work Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Will Richardson are doing for schools?) I think all of the different way we approach sharing our knowledge are olive branches we extend to all of our colleagues.

And given what Janice mentions(people seeing web 2.0 tools as "add-ons")-how do we each do our part to change that perception.

I do agree that what we can best do is mentor a culture of curiosity in our incoming librarians. It doesn't matter if you know everything, it just matters if you are willing to learn!

October 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCarolyn Foote

Hi Cathy Jo,

I don't think any of us can hold ourselves up as the definitive model of the librarian of the 21st century with any degree of confidence. The fun thing about the whole PLN concept is that we are struggling together to create the model!

Thanks for the reassuring words,



All I can say is "here, here!"

Thanks for your passionate comments,


Hi Kate,

You make some terrific points. I've always said libraries can all be wonderful in very different ways, each according to the needs of their institutions and patrons. We should be able to say the same of librarians.

All the best and thank you for writing. Great discussion.


Hi Carolyn,

I agree - this is a wonderful discussion. Smart people with so many ideas - I am waaaaay out of my league here.

I would add that one other reality that all librarians need to face is the changing nature of the students they serve - their need for engagement, fascination with technology, craving for meaning, etc. We ALL have to change to meet these new needs and help our teachers do so as well.

My sense is that too many librarians right now DO feel left out and left behind and are worried about staying relevant. And nobody likes feeling inadequate or inconsequential. So we do need to figure out how to help these folks who can't seem to figure out PLNs on their own. I think they'd be happier too.

I am flattered that you'd leave a comment, Carolyn. You (and CJ Nelson) have become such a strong and thoughtful voices in the field representing the best of our profession.

All the best,


October 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

I find all of this rather fascinating. I am trying hard to keep up with all that is available. I do wonder, though, as an elementary media specialist in a high poverty school, how can I best prepare my students? Much of the social networking is blocked at my school. Many of my students are not into reading anything! I work hard at getting them excited about picking up a book. I hold book discussions online through our school website. I have book clubs that produce videos about the books they read. I run a news show that incorporates technology - BUT - my teachers are so busy just trying to teach all that they are required to teach in a day, that I have a hard time getting them to let me have the students for any extra time to do these things. I KNOW that what I do with these kids helps them perform better, but I am not accountable for their test scores. Much of the 2.0 seems focused on high school. We need to start with the younger kids so that they are not lost - but how do you do this?

October 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah Bobo

Deborah--Sounds like your'e doing the right things to me. All you can do is try to integrate the cool-sounding projects you're doing with them into things they're already working on in the classroom. You are right when you say the "web 2.0" stuff comes more into play in the upper grades (although my ESOL kids contribute regularly to our class wiki). I think the secret is, as you said you're doing, to stay as current as you can--so if those filters ever come down, or you get better technology, you'll be ready. They'll figure out social networking just fine as soon as they get the access. But will they be ready to contribute ethically and productively? That's where what you're teaching them comes in.

I think what I've gotten out of this discussion is that it IS an either or thing. Carolyn is right, it shouldn't be "either/or" when it comes to who is using what tools. It's about Change. You're either excited by Change and embrace it--or you don't and you'll become irrelevant. Heck, you probably already are.

Thanks all!

October 19, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterteacherninja

Thank you, thank you Kate W (whoever and wherever you are), for providing a voice of reason!! As much as I myself use and promote technology, I still believe that "there are more things in heaven and earth" than can be conveyed through a computer screen....

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

Hi Deborah,

Good questions. I am not sure that social networking at a young age is as important as doing the kinds of things you are doing - making kids productive and creative. They can share and collaborate in a face to face environment too!

Thanks for the comment,


Hi Karen,

Good perspective. I agree that much ought to be done face to face as well. Just don't stop trying new things!


October 23, 2009 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

I was in a workshop a few years ago where a trainer was working with a group of teachers and showing all the wonderful things that can be done with Google Earth and other online tools to make learning more engaging for students. One of the teachers said, with no small amount of exasperation in her voice, "look, I have two young kids at home, I'm in school all day, I correct papers at night, and so when am I supposed to find time to explore all this stuff and then figure out how to integrate it with my instruction?"

The trainer, who happened to be from a teacher preparation program in South Dakota calmly responded, "You no longer have a choice."

This conversation made me think about how perhaps that teacher is doing things the same way she has been doing them for several years - and maybe they've worked reasonably well-- but she has not really looked to see what could be done in a different, more effective way. She has not engaged with what might be a more relevant experience for her students. The "you no longer have a choice" response has stuck with me as I struggle in my own work to do things better, to do them differently, to do things that make a positive difference to the schools I serve.

By the way, I am not be a school library media specialist. I am, however, a huge school library media specialist advocate. I am very distressed by what I see happening to the profession. I agree there are people who are disengaged from this conversation, and that is very unfortunate. I am very active in a professional organization whose mission is to get school library media specialists to engage and to be strong, proactive, viable educators.

I have, however, also participated in and delivered a number of staff development programs to school library media specialists and clasroom teachers. I am sorry to say I have observed that that such disengagement is often a choice. I am not just picking on school library media specialists, but I see this in classroom teachers and administrators as well.

I know in economic times like these, it is very hard for school library media specialists to get the training and time they need to keep up with all they are expected to know and accomplish. There is little money for staff development across the board. Positions are being eliminated right and left, many school librarians have been cut to part time or are expected to serve multiple buildings. They are beingset up for failure due to high expectations and low support.

Yet I can't help but think, how much do we as humans perform tasks a certain way because "we've always done it this way." Because it is what we know. It is comfortable. It is what we believe. Is this maybe a big part of what is impacting the profession? The stereotype of shushing and card catalogs lingers on because our human nature inhibits the ability to look at what we are doing and make some hard decisions about doing things in a different way that might have a greater impact, be a better use of time, and provide a better experience for students? Do you suppose it is possible that the positions are cut because administrators and school boards do not have a good understanding of what a school library media specialist does because all they see, if they happen to visit the media center at all, is a person standing at a desk checking books in and out? This is not to say school library media specialists all need to be technology wizards or that those who believe reading is critical and love to promote books are doddering fossils in a Web 2.0 world. What really matters most is the impact on the student. What is the best way to achieve a visible, positive impact on a student? No matter what your belief system is about the nature of school librarianship, is that what your work is designed to do?

There will always be economic problems. We will never, ever have enough resources in our schools to do everything that needs to be done. There will always be politics, policies and work rules that interfere. But what we do have is the creativity, excitement, and passion that I see in many of my school library media specialist friends, their understanding of information and technology literacy skills, and their incredible base of knowledge - knowledge that is meant to be shared. With students. With other teachers. With parents. Not hidden under a bar code scanner.

School library media specialists are ESSENTIAL. Their relevancy might be questioned in this day of massive digital resources, but I shudder to think of an education system and society without their influence. So engage. In whatever way works for you. You only have the kids 30 minutes a week. So make the most of those 30 minutes. Your filter blocks social networking. Talk to your technology coordinator and see if there is another application you could use to accomplish the same goal. Invite your administrator in to watch you TEACH. Just please, please don't hide in your media center and wait for the world to come to you. There is no longer a choice.

November 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMary

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