Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Cybils Season

I'm late in writing about this - Cybils season has been going on since October 1 - but I want to share this great resource with you since you can use it to help you spend your budget money. What are the Cybils? The Cybils are the Children's and Young Adult Blogger Literary Awards, book awards that have been given out by Children's and YA bloggers since 2006. The judges are all kidlit bloggers and they aim to choose books that have a blend of high literary merit and kid appeal.

One amazing thing about the Cybils is that the organizers provide an amazing amount of transparency. You can see exactly who the judges are and who has nominated what. You can see what books have been nominated and ANYONE can make one nomination per category.

And it's these nominations that I find really useful at this time of year. I'm at the point in the year when I'm trying to wrap up my spending before our purchasing cut-off. I want to try to make sure I didn't miss anything, since it'll be a couple of months before I can start placing regular orders again as we close out the books on 2018. The Cybils nominees are often books that have high kid appeal, so I love to check out what's on those nomination lists each year.

Particularly helpful to me are the categories that have high circulation at my library but are rarely professionally reviewed: board books and easy readers. I also pay special attention to the picture books and graphic novel lists as those categories also check out frequently. Of course, I read professional reviews of these titles, too, but the nomination lists can bring titles to my attention that I may have missed.

There are a bunch of nomination categories, so whatever age you buy for, you're likely to find something that could help you out. Don't miss this great resource!

Sunday, November 4, 2018

One State One Story

This October, my library participated in Indiana's One State One Story program celebrating the 200th anniversary of the original publication of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. We've not done a program like this during my time at the library and I was so interested to see how it would go. I wasn't certain we could get people interested in reading a classic or engaging with us about it.

Abby holding up our Frankenstein event booklet.

It turns out we had a total blast and I can't wait for our next community read!

Not everything we tried was successful, but here are some things that made our community read a success for us:

  • Staff buy-in. We ordered everyone Frankenstein t-shirts that they could wear on Fridays or days that we had Frankenstein programs. Our town harvest festival happened during this month and we themed our library booth around Frankenstein and STEM, showing off our new 3D printer from the Makerspace at our branch and providing science activities for kids to stop in and try. This gave our staff concrete ways they could engage patrons in the discussion, whether or not staff members were willing to read Frankenstein (some did, some didn't). 
  • Marketing! Our marketing director created a really snazzy-looking booklet with all the Frankenstein related events so we could promote everything at once. 
  • Giveaway copies. We won 50 copies of Frankenstein as part of our grant from Indiana Humanities, but we ended up purchasing 100 additional copies so that we could give out copies to all our book discussion participants and to other patrons throughout the month. This was possible in part because this particular book has many versions and is available at an affordable price. Being able to actually hand patrons a free copy got them excited about it and each copy had discussion questions inside (more on that later). 
  • A variety of events. We hosted STEM and Frankenstein-themed children's and teen programs, as well as a variety of programs for adults. Some of these were grant-funded and some were paid for from our normal programming budget.
  • Special book discussions. Instead of just holding our book discussions at the library, we held a Frankenstein Tea at a local state historic home and at our Carnegie building (which is now a museum branch of the library). These extra touches (and FOOD!) gave these events some additional appeal. 
One of the things that I tried and that flopped was posting discussion questions on our Facebook account throughout the month. My thinking was that people who might not come out for a program might prefer to engage that way and participate in the discussion. I used Indiana Humanities' "big idea" questions because they are more general questions that mostly do not require you to have read the book and linked to the downloadable ebook and audiobook available through Hoopla. I did not get any engagement on those posts, even when I commented and shared them myself. I still think there's something in creating an online book discussion, but next time I'd experiment with some different platforms, or maybe hold a discussion at a certain time, like a Twitter chat or even Facebook Live? 

Book discussion leaders posing with tea and a book at the Culbertson Mansion.

My big event of the month was our book discussion and tea, held at the Culbertson Mansion State Historic Site. It was really neat to be having a literary discussion in a similar kind of environment to where Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein. It was my first time hosting a book discussion for adults and I was not sure how it was going to go. I utilized some of the discussion tips from the Indiana Humanities event guide and the event went REALLY well. 

I opened up our talk by asking everyone to go around and say their name and one word that describes how they feel about the advances in science and technology in our world. This was a nice icebreaker with vary varied responses that helped get the conversation started. I had prepared a TON of discussion questions beforehand, but I wanted the conversation to flow from the participants, so I let that happen as much as possible and only chimed in with my questions if we seemed to have reached a stopping point. I wish I had made the event longer - we could have talked about Frankenstein for another hour, I think! 

Lots of libraries around the state participated in One State One Story and I'm pleased that it was so well-received by our patrons and staff. I can't wait to hold another one! 

Have you done a community read at your library? What tips would you share? 

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Four Crossover Books by Native American Authors

November is Native American Heritage Month and it's a great time to promote Native American authors. Of course, you can and SHOULD be doing this throughout the year, but I know this is a time of year when folks might be particularly paying attention. There have been some AMAZING books by Native American authors published in 2018 and here are some of my favorites. Bonus: these titles, two published for teens and two published for adults, are all great crossovers for both teens and adults.

Give Me Some Truth by Eric Gansworth (Arthur A. Levine Books, 2018. 432 pages). It's 1980 and Carson has his heart set on winning Battle of the Bands. One problem - he needs a band. Second problem - he's caught up in a movement against a racist restaurant owner that ends up meaning more than Carson ever imagined. Maggi has just moved back to the Tuscarora reservation after years of living as a "City Indian" and she's desperate to get out of making the traditional bead art that her family sells and make her own art. With a strong sense of time and place, and The Beatles tying everything together, this is a novel for teen or adult readers of John Green or fans of classic rock. This one's published for teens, but adults who have '80s nostalgia or love music will dig it, too.

Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, 2018. 304 pages). When Louise's boyfriend mocks Native people in front of her, she dumps him over email. It's her senior year and Lou doesn't have time for anyone who's going to disrespect her people. She concentrates on navigating relationships and her Muscogee culture while competing for bylines on her school's newspaper. When a huge story breaks - a controversy about the non-white casting for the school musical The Wizard of Oz - Lou finds herself in the middle of it as her little brother, cast as the Tin Man, starts becoming a target of attacks. Here you'll find a super smart protagonist trying to balance romance and her principles while learning more about life and herself each day. Hand this to readers of contemporary social justice titles like Love, Hate and Other Filters. Published for teens, adult readers of contemporary YA will dig this one, too.

There, There by Tommy Orange (Knopf, 2018. 294 pages). Alternating viewpoints tell a story of a wide cast of intergenerational Native American characters, all building up to a modern powwow in Oakland, California. Each character has a reason for traveling to the powwow and they are connected in unexpected ways. Readers of character-driven fiction will love getting to know these characters and piecing together their connections. Hand this to readers of literary urban fiction. Published for adults, teens, especially lovers of urban fiction, will find characters here to identify with.

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga Press, 2018. 287 pages). After the Big Water, not much is left of North America except the Navajo reservation Dinetah, protected by walls that their leaders had the foresight to build. But with the rise of the waters came the end of the Fifth World and the beginning of the Sixth and the return of mythical monsters to Dinetah. Maggie is a monsterslayer - a vocation she's particularly suited to due to her supernatural Clan gifts. But now there is a new kind of monster appearing in the mountains - a monster that must have been created by humans. And Maggie, who always works alone, must join forces with an apprentice medicine man to seek out the evil that's taken root in her home. This is an action-packed, blood-soaked read by an Ohkay Owingeh author, perfect for fans of urban fantasy. Published for adults, there is definitely teen crossover potential for teens who don't mind a bloody story.

There's no better time than the present to pick up or hand a reader a book by a Native author. Have you read any of these? What did you think?

Sunday, October 28, 2018

An Awesome App for Your Book Club

Have you heard of the Book Club App by Book Movement? My book club started using it and it has been so super helpful and fun to use! 

(This is where I tell you that this is not a sponsored post - I just think it's a really neat app!)

Book Club is a free app available for Apple devices (doesn't look like it's available for Android). There are links within the app to purchase books via Apple iBooks or Amazon, but you can use the app for free. I learned about it on Book Riot and their post lists several other apps that might be great for using with book clubs. We decided to try Book Club and it's really worked for us. 

Here are the things I love about it: 

Schedule your meetings, RSVP, and remind everyone all in the app. No longer are we all emailing each other a few days before asking who's hosting book club or trying desperately to remember to send a reminder email out. When we schedule our next meeting, I put it in the app and everyone has access to the information (date, time, who's hosting) right on their phones. Bonus: Book Movement sends automatic reminders to everyone, so we no longer have to think about that. 

Discover books and keep track of potential books your book club might like to read. This was always a struggle for us: choosing our next book. We'd have lists and lists of suggestions one month and then the next month we couldn't remember what was on our lists. The app allows you to save possible future books AND to vote anonymously, making it easy to give everyone a vote without putting anyone on the spot. 

The app automatically keeps track of your past books and meeting dates. I input the older information from before we started using the app, but now as each date passes the books get recorded in our Past Books section. I get a lot of satisfaction of keeping track of what we've read and I love that this keeps the meeting dates, too. No need for a "book club historian" if you have this app.

We've been using this with my personal book club, but I think it has potential for library book clubs, too, particularly if you have a group of regulars that come very frequently. It could be useful even just as a tool for letting everyone know about upcoming meetings and upcoming books. Once you create a book club, you can email members or share a code with them so that they can connect to your particular book club. 

Do you use anything to keep your book club organized? What works for you? 

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Seven Scary Middle Grade Books

It's October! Around here that means the wind's blowing colder, it's getting dark earlier, and lots of people are in the mood for a good scary story. Something we learned quickly as we were visiting schools for booktalks: kids LOVE scary stories. Not every kid, of course, but lots of them. So today I've got seven of my favorite scary stories for your middle grade readers. I would love to hear about your favorites in comments!

Doll Bones by Holly Black (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2013. 244 pages). Zach, Poppy, and Alice are best friends, getting together to weave awesome adventure stories starring their action figures, a pastime that none of their fellow middle-schoolers would probably understand. But things are starting to change between them and when the end of the game seems nigh, the girls visit Zach in the middle of the night to tell him that Poppy is being haunted by a mysterious china doll who claims that it is made from the ground up bones of a murdered girl. The friends must set off to figure out where the murdered girl lived and bury the doll or risk being cursed forever. This is the perfect fall read with a chilling atmosphere and a solid friendship story at its heart.

Hoodoo by Ronald Smith (Clarion, 2015. 208 pages). Twelve-year-old Hoodoo Hatcher was born into a magic family, but he hasn’t yet figured out how to harness his powers. When a spirit arrives in their woods, Hoodoo has a vision telling him that it’s up to him to defeat this demon, but how can he when he doesn’t have his magic? This is an atmospheric story with some seriously creepy magic going on. I would especially recommend this one for fans of historical and Southern gothic stories.

The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste (Algonquin, 2015. 234 pages). Eleven-year-old Corinne doesn’t believe in jumbies – what folks call supernatural creatures on her island home. But when she goes into the mahogany forest to get back the necklace the village boys stole from her… something follows her out. This is one of my absolutely favorites to booktalk. It's a strong friendship story, as well as being a terrifying tale of supernatural creatures. Readers who liked Doll Bones will love this book.

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier (Abrams, 2014. 350 pages). When two abandoned siblings find work at an English manor house, they quickly realize that all is not right in the house. People there have awful nightmares every night and each morning Molly finds muddy footprints that don’t match the feet of anyone living in the house. Can they save themselves and the family from the night gardener? From the warnings of townspeople that no one enters "the sour woods" to the dulling of Molly's bright red hair as she continues to live in the house, this book is filled with little details that add up to an un-put-downable scary story.

Small Spaces by Katherine Arden (G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2018. 218 pages). When Ollie’s class school bus breaks down on the way back from a field trip, the creepy scarecrows in the fields start to look all too real. Their teacher goes for help and the bus driver has some strange advice for the kids: “Best get moving. At nightfall they’ll come for the rest of you.” And then Ollie’s broken wristwatch displays a terrifying message: RUN. Katherine Arden, author of popular adult fantasy books, is a master of atmosphere and she brings that to this middle grade book, too. There were so many passages that I just read over and over for the shiver down my spine before I raced on, needing to know what happens next.

Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh (HarperCollins, 2017. 276 pages). When Harper and her family move to a new home, rumors are that their new house is haunted. But Harper doesn’t believe them… until her little brother starts acting very strange. Could he be possessed by a spirit? And how can Harper save him? This creepy mystery from We Need Diverse Books founder Ellen Oh totally reminded me of the scary books I loved to read as a tween. Details of Harper's Korean-American family and portrayals of the racist microaggressions Harper faces make this title stand out in a sea of haunted house books.

A Path Begins (The Thickety #1) by J.A. White (Katherine Tegen Books, 2014. 488 pages). When Kara was a little girl, her mother was convicted of witchcraft and hanged. Now, Kara and her family are outcasts. One day, a strange bird appears to Kara and leads her into the Thickety – the enchanted forest that no one is supposed to enter – and Kara finds her mother’s spell book. She knows that she should leave it behind or destroy it – it’s illegal to have magic books – but it’s the one thing she has of her mother’s. So Kara takes it out of the Thickety. And that’s just the beginning of the story. I've written before about how much I love this series of books. If you have readers who are into magic and witchy stories, this is a can't-miss!

Ooh I hope you've found the perfect scary tale for the young readers in your life here, and I'd love to hear about your favorite scary reads! Tell me all about 'em in the comments!

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Lucky Duck Collection

Tons of people want to read what's popular right now. So how do we get these popular books into the hands of our patrons who want to read them when they have long holds lists?

A photo of our Lucky Duck bookshelf with books and a display sign that explains the checkout rules for the books.

One thing I've implemented is our Lucky Duck collection. Lots of libraries have something like this - I've seen it called Lucky Day, Bestsellers, and Bestseller Express among other names. Basically, it's a collection of bestsellers and popular titles that have special checkout rules to ensure that they're on the shelf as frequently as possible. In our case, that means they check out for 7 days with no renewals and no holds can be placed on them. If a patron comes in and sees the book they want on the shelf and they want to read it right away, they're a lucky duck and can skip the long holds line!

Photo of Lucky Duck book Lethal White by Robert Galbrait. The sticker reads "Lucky Duck Collection. 7 day checkout. No renewals. Limit 2."

We still have copies of these books in our regular collections so you can certainly be placed on the holds list and wait your turn. I still purchase additional copies of popular books as the holds lists grow. But we wanted to give patrons a chance that the book that they want RIGHT NOW might actually be on the shelf for them if they came to visit us. For some popular books, a wait can be as long as six months until your hold comes in, and pretty frequently the wait list is at least a couple of months.

My goals in implementing this collection are:
  • Increased patron satisfaction - patrons being able to get the hot new book without having to wait months for their name to come up on the holds list. 
  • Increased staff satisfaction when they're able to show patrons a Lucky Duck copy instead of constantly telling them that they have to wait. 
  • Increased visits to  the library - if patrons know there's a chance that the hot new book will be there for them, maybe they will visit the library more often to check. 
  • Smaller or more quickly moving holds lists - maybe some of the patrons on the holds list will check out the Lucky Duck copy instead. 
  • Increased circulation - since these popular books only check out for 7 days instead of 28 days like our normal collection, there's the potential to get LOTS of circs from each copy, making it a great investment for our library. 
Some issues I've had with this collection are: 

There's no way with our ILS to have patrons who check out these copies automatically come off the holds lists. In order for the specific circulation rules to apply (the biggie is that these copies do not satisfy holds), they have to be placed on a separate record. This is not ideal, but even if a hold does come in for a patron who's read a Lucky Duck copy, the worst case is that it sits on the hold shelf for a week and then goes to the next patron.

Because we don't charge fines, we don't have any consequences to try to ensure that the books actually come back in 7 days. I've seen some libraries charge higher fines on these items to try to get them back on the shelves. I was worried that people would just ignore the 7-day checkout, but for the most part they do seem to get back on the shelves quickly! 

I'm still trying to figure out a system for when to order a copy for the Lucky Duck collection. Since previously I would order an additional copy when our holds list hit 5 holds per item, that's what I'm looking at for ordering Lucky Duck copies. But it's not ideal - some authors I know are going to be so popular that I'm ordering enough copies from the start so that the holds ratio is not getting to five copies. Now that we have this collection, I will probably adjust my ordering of these known popular authors.

And I haven't yet begun to think about how/when to weed this collection. I guess when normal copies of the books are appearing regularly on the shelves, it'll be time to take the Lucky Duck copy out and either make it a circulating copy or weed it.

One reason I really wanted to try out this type of collection was so that we could have some popular adult titles on the shelf at our new Digital Branch, but circulation of browsing books has been low out there so far. I have to keep in mind that it's only been open about 6 weeks, so lots of folks have not yet discovered it. And I've found that many people hear "Galena Digital Branch" and think there are NO BOOKS there, which isn't true. I did a Facebook Live video last week when I brought out some new teen and children's books and I might try doing more of that to try to raise some awareness. We may find that folks prefer to just wait and pick up their holds at the branch (which they are doing PLENTY!), which will be fine, too.

So far, I'm seeing these books getting tons of checkouts and staff have been very enthusiastic about it, so it seems like it's working well for my library right now!

Do you have a bestsellers or similar collection at your library? How do patrons like it? Do you have a system for what titles to add? 

Monday, October 8, 2018

So We Opened a Branch

Last month, I didn't blog very much. One of the reasons is that we were very busy opening up our very first branch library. Our new Galena Digital Branch is located in a restored historic home and it's a very small and cozy space, so it has a VERY small physical collection, but it does have physical books there. It also provides internet access, space for individuals to work or groups to meet, a play area for children, devices for check out and use within the library, and a Makerspace with a 3-D printer, laser etcher, sewing machines, and more.

This has been a huge undertaking on the part of our director and it's her vision that's shaped this wonderful new space, providing a much-needed access point for the more rural parts of our county. Staff throughout the library have worked on parts of this branch and put in an amazing amount of effort to get everything ready. From a collection development standpoint, it's been a really interesting project to work on. We are learning every day about what folks want from this branch location and what's going to be our best bet with a physical collection up there.

Here is our tiny Children's Area - two bookshelves, a small table and play items. 

We started with children's books. Knowing that young kids may not have the ability or level of access needed to utilize digital materials, we wanted to make sure to have physical books on the shelf for them. Board books, picture books, and easy readers are the most popular with our patrons up there so far. We also have a collection of children's and teen fiction and nonfiction. We got a great deal on a couple of large Junior Library Guild subscriptions which help ensure that there is always something brand new on the shelves up there.

Our tiny Teen and Adult collections. Teen shelves on the left and adult on the right.

Since we opened a couple of weeks ago, we have also debuted a new Lucky Duck collection of best sellers and popular books that have holds lists. We have a collection of Lucky Duck at the central library and a small collection of them at the Digital Branch to try to ensure that we also have some popular adult books on the shelves. A patron requested some large print to browse, so I sent a small collection of new large print books up there, as well.

The print collection at the branch is almost entirely a floating collection. Everything is processed identically to the central library books and we float books up to live on Galena's shelves as needed. They get changed to a temporary collection in our ILS and we put red masking tape on the spines as a visual queue of where they go when they are returned.

And patrons can request any circulating item to be delivered to the branch from our central library. Often we can provide 24-hour turnaround.

And of course we are emphasizing the digital collection, as well. We provide ebooks, downloadable audiobooks, and downloadable media through Overdrive and Hoopla. We are also really utilizing our databases and I'm trying to determine what our most-needed digital resources are and provide training for staff. We don't have space for a physical collection of test prep materials, but staff can show patrons how to access Testing and Education Reference Center and Gale Courses for SAT practice, etc.

I'm really excited that we have been able to open this new location and I'm really excited to see where it goes from here and how we can creatively fill the needs of our patrons with such limited physical space.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

What I'm Reading

I'm in the middle of a bunch of great books again! Here's what I'm reading right now:

American Like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures edited by America Ferrera (Gallery Books, 336 pages). This collection of essays features tons of star writers like Roxane Gay, Diane Guerrero, and Lin-Manuel Miranda addressing the topic of culture in America. America Ferrera writes the opening essay and it's super, talking about where her name comes from and her struggle to find a place for herself as an actress in the stereotyping landscape of American film and TV.

New Poets of Native Nations edited by Heid E. Erdrich (Graywolf Press, 2018). I am NOT a big poetry reader, but I have been trying to read more Native authors this year. I picked this one up and have already fallen in love with some of these poets and sought out their individual publications. There are some really powerful poems in here, worth perusing for poetry lovers and poetry dabblers alike.

Temper by Nicky Drayden (Harper Voyager, 2018). I picked this up to peruse it* and fell in love with the world-building. It's set in a magical Africa where (for some reason I don't know yet) people are born as twins and get proximity symptoms if they're too far away from their twin. The seven deadly sins are divided up among each twin. And there is magic and machinations are banned and... I just can't wait to figure out more of this intriguing world.

And of course I've got an audio going:

The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King, read by LeVar Burton (Oasis Audio, 2018). I needed a new audiobook for a couple of short road trips this week and when I saw that LeVar Burton narrates this biography I've been meaning to pick up, I was SOLD. It's a genius pairing: the voice of Reading Rainbow reading a biography of a man who affected millions of children's lives through television. The 80s kid in me is very pleased.

*I've been taking a leaf from Robin's book and checking out tons of new books to peruse, knowing I'm not going to fully read all of them. The ones I love and want to finish, I'll hold on to. The rest I'll read the first chapter or so and return with a better idea of what's new in our collection.

What have YOU been reading lately?

Monday, September 24, 2018

Small Spaces

Kids love scary books. It's a thing. And if you're looking for a great scary book to hand to middle grade readers, I have one for you.

In Small Spaces by Katherine Arden introduces us to Olivia, an eleven-year-old girl reeling from the loss of her mother. Ollie's pulled away from everything - she avoids the other kids at school, she's quit all the activities she used to do. Ollie just wants to be alone with her books, and on this last glorious, sunshiney afternoon of the fall, that's what she's headed to do. But when she stumbles across a distraught woman about to throw a book - a book! - into the river, Ollie stops her and takes the book.

As Ollie becomes entranced by the story in the book - a story about two brothers and a sinister deal made with a man called "the smiling man" - she starts to realize that the story might be based in reality. Her sixth-grade class is taking a trip to a nearby farm and when their teacher reluctantly tells the class about some of the ghost stories surrounding the farm, they sound eerily familiar.

And then on the way home from the field trip, the bus breaks down close to dark. The creepy bus driver warns Ollie "Best get moving. At nightfall they'll come for the rest of you." And Ollie's long-broken digital watch, a keepsake from her mother, starts displaying a countdown and one word: RUN.

(Is there anything creepier than someone in a story getting a message that just says RUN? Instant panic, amiright?)

If you've read Katherine Arden's adult fantasy novels The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower, you know she is a master at creating atmosphere and she brings this mastery into this middle grade story as well. From the weather changing to the descriptions of small creepy things like the leering scarecrows in the field and the recalcitrant new bus driver, Arden paints a picture for the reader. There were so many passages that I just read over and over for the shiver down my spine before I raced on, needing to know what happens next.

And the level of scariness is a good fit for this age group. This is a book that I wouldn't hesitate to hand to upper elementary students looking for a scare but not yet ready for the violence that often comes with scary stories. It delivers a good eerie, sinister vibe without getting graphic.


Readers who enjoy a scary story with tons of atmosphere might also enjoy The Riverman by Aaron Starmer (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2014).

The tone and atmosphere of this book also really reminded me of a couple of my favorites: The Thickety by J.A. White (Katherine Tegan, 2014) and Doll Bones by Holly Black (McElderry, 2013).

Book info: 

Small Spaces by Katherine Arden. Grades 4-6. Putnam, September 2018. 224 pages. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

Friday, August 31, 2018

What My Book Club's Been Loving

Several years ago, my sister-in-law proposed starting a family book club. I posted about it way back in 2015 when we first started and we've been going strong, meeting nearly every month since then. Our book club has grown beyond strictly "family", but I consider them all part of my family, so we've kept the name.

We typically meet once a month and rotate who is hosting. Our meetings are typically on a weeknight evening and the host provides dinner and wine. Two of our ladies have young kids and they are always welcomed with joy - although we DO talk about books at book club, it's also a great time for us to get together and check in and snuggle babies and tickle toddlers.

As we've continued to meet, I think we've found out what types of books different book club members enjoy and what we all tend to gravitate towards. Our favorite books are stories of women and we often have conversations about feminism and female life. Some members prefer lighter books, some prefer heavier books, and I think we end up with a pretty good mix. Here are some of the books that have provoked the best discussions.

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover (Random House, 2018). This was our most recent read and we found it absolutely riveting. It's the true story of a young Idaho woman raised by off-the-grid end-of-days preppers with no schooling (not even homeschooling, really). Westover eventually realized that the only ticket out of her abusive family life was to go to college, so she taught herself to take the ACT, got into BYU and eventually earned a PhD from Cambridge. Our book club was amazed by her story and we talked for a long time about the difficulties she faced, the hardship of having no power as a woman in her family's culture, how schools might or might not "brainwash" students, what it would be like to life without modern medicine or hospitals, and more. 

Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain (St. Martin's Press, 2013). This was my first Diane Chamberlain, but it won't be my last. This is a historical fiction story based on real events. In the 1960s poor women were sometimes sterilized, sometimes without their consent, if they had real or perceived disabilities. Ostensibly for their own good, but also to keep the state's welfare bills down. This story follows a newbie social worker and a poor pregnant teen as they deal with the ramifications of this program. This one was a particularly good match for our book club because among us we have a social worker, a lawyer, a doctor, and two pharmacists. We all had lots of opinions to share about this little bit of American history. 

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (Penguin, 2017). This story, set in the planned community of Shaker Heights, OH, explores the concept of belonging (and not belonging) in many different ways. A custody battle over a Chinese-American infant threatens to split the town apart and we had a deep conversation about culture and nurturing children. Further reading for book clubs who discussed this book is the upcoming memoir All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung, adopted by a white couple in infancy, she decides to search for her Korean-American birth parents when she gets pregnant with her first child. 

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (Viking, 2017). Eleanor is, of course, NOT completely fine, but her truth is slowly revealed to the reader as we navigate her quest to meet and marry the man with whom she's fallen in love-at-first-sight. We talked a lot about the different characters in this book and how they related to Eleanor, as well as the reveals throughout the book and how they made us feel. This is a must for lovers of character-driven stories. 

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult (Ballantine, 2016). When African-American labor and delivery nurse Ruth Jefferson is requested to be reassigned by the white supremacist parents currently giving birth, things get complicated when the baby goes into distress and Ruth is the only one in the room. The baby dies and Ruth is accused of murder, starting a court case that will change her life and the lives of many others. This was a book that encouraged some deep discussion about race and privilege in our multigenerational, varying degrees of wokeness book club. 

What books have started the best discussions in your book clubs or among your friends or family?

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Diversify Your Booktalks - YOUR SUGGESTIONS!

Last week, I had the pleasure of presenting a breakout session at the Indiana Library Federation's Youth Services Conference. This conference (formerly called CYPD) is one of my favorite learning experiences for youth librarians - it's completely youth-centered, they always have amazing authors, and they have great sessions with practical ideas for programs and services. It was my pleasure to join them briefly to talk about diverse books!

Of course, in a 50-minute session that included info on resources for seeking out diverse titles to add to your booktalking and reader's advisory rosters, I could only include so many books. So I asked attendees to chime in and suggest their own favorites. And I now present our compiled list!

Here's the handout from the session, complete with everyone's additions. Y'all doubled the books I had on my list and added some really awesome titles that I'm so glad you shared! This is a GREAT list to work from if you want to read more diverse books.

And for everyone playing along at home, feel free to leave your suggestions for great diverse books you love to include in your booktalks, reader's advisory, and displays. Comments are open below!

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Sun Does Shine

So, a few years ago I read Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson's book about his work with the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice serving the poor and wrongly condemned. One client that he writes a lot about in that book is Anthony Ray Hinton, a man condemned to Alabama's Death Row for a crime he didn't commit. In 2015, after living on Death Row for 30 years, the charges against Hinton were dropped and he went free. The Sun Does Shine is his story in his own words.

You don't need me to tell you about this book - it's Oprah's latest Book Club pick and hopefully it's everywhere you look. What you might need me to tell you is that it is a compelling, readable story that's definitely worth picking up. This is one of those books that should be required reading for all Americans.

Hinton's the first one to tell you that he's not been perfect his whole life. He went behind the back of his girlfriend, dating her sister on the side, he even stole a car and served time for it (after he brought the car back and confessed). But when Hinton was accused of robbery and murder even though he had a solid alibi, he was astonished to be convicted and sentenced to death.

Hinton's book really puts the reader in his place as he writes about life on Death Row. He writes about trying to comfort his fellow inmates when they were upset, even though he couldn't physically go to them. He writes about the book club he started so that Death Row inmates might have something to occupy their minds besides their own impending deaths. He writes about banging on the bars of his cell whenever an inmate was taken to the electric chair (and later lethal injection) so that inmate would know he was not alone.

It's riveting, terrifying stuff and this book made me cry and it made me shake with anger. It is well worth the read for anyone, but especially anyone who read Bryan Stevenson's book will not want to miss this book.


For more about the Equal Justice Initiative and Bryan Stevenson's work with Hinton and other inmates, don't miss Just Mercy (2014, Spiegel & Grau). It's written with less immediacy than Hinton's memoir, but it's a fascinating look at the failures of our justice system.

Readers also may be interested in The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander (2010, The New Press).

For another devastating true story of an innocent person convicted of a crime, pick up A False Report: A True Story of Rape in America by T. Christian Miller & Ken Armstrong (2018, Crown). This nonfiction book tells the story of a young woman who was raped and reported it but the police did not believe her story and accused her of false reporting. In fact, she had been raped and the rapist went on to attack more women.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

A Day in the Life

What does a Collection Development Librarian do all day long? Read on to find out. Click on the Day in the Life tag to find more (most recently for my collection development position, but older ones are from my Youth Services days).

8:00am - Arrive at work and start checking in books for Our New Branch! We're opening our first branch in a couple of weeks and it was time to get the books we'd ordered up there.

8:30am - While our processor keeps working on checking in new books, I decide I should process the weekly magazines that have arrived so I can go ahead and get those out to patrons who might be waiting for them. To do this, I barcode them, input the new issues into the system, mark our spreadsheet with the issues that have arrived, and put a "current issue" sticker on them so patrons know they don't check out yet. Newest issues of magazines can be read in the library, but only later issues can check out.

9:00am - I help a staff member collect the book drop (we always have two people get it together for safety reasons). When we come back in, a patron's waiting to use the meeting room, so I head down there and unlock it for her. Even though I'm in a behind the scenes position now, we all pitch in to help patrons whenever needed.

9:15am - Back in the office, I resume checking in the new books for the branch. Because it's a floating collection, the books are cataloged and processed just like the books for our central location, but they'll circulate as part of the branch collection for as long as the branch wants them. Patrons at either location can place holds for materials at either collection.

9:50am - I start setting up a placement experiment on Collection HQ for the titles that have been mentioned on our staff blog. Each month I set up this program to track the circulation of those specific titles so I can gather data on how our blog might be affecting circulation.

10:25am - Our Marketing Coordinator stops by for a chat about the blog - we talk about new users recently added and troubleshoot why the RSS feed is not working after changing the blog's URL.

11:00am - Time to head to the branch to deliver the new books! My staff in Collection Development come along since they have not yet seen the new location. They head back after about an hour, but I stay to try to get the books in some kind of order. When our new Branch Manager takes over, she may rearrange or relocate them, but I at least want her to be able to make sense of what we have. We have a VERY small physical collection since it's a tiny space. We're concentrating on digital access and our Makerspace up there.

1:15pm - Back at the central library, I now head home for lunch.

2:15pm - I'm back from lunch and I work on an Overdrive order of ebooks and e-audiobooks. I try to place an Overdrive order every week, even if it's a small one. Having new stuff added regularly encourages patrons to log in regularly and see what's new. I've found that it's really working to increase our circulation of our ebooks.

3:00pm - I finish up the Collection HQ placement experiment.

3:30pm - I need to investigate changing the email we use as contact for our Gale Courses and as I'm looking into this I fall into a little rabbit hole of marketing materials for our databases. I start brainstorming some ideas about how to increase their usage and make some notes about ways to market them.

4:00pm - Our new Branch Manager stops by and I show her the photos I took of the books at the branch and explain how I arranged them and basically how the collection works and what we think the procedure will be for moving materials around and handling holds both at the branch and the central library. Since this is our first branch, this is all new to us!

4:45pm - We wrap up our conversation and I have just enough time to check Library's Journal's Book Pulse and add some books to my weekly carts. I try to place orders once a week, but I work on the carts a little bit each day.

5:10pm - Got that under control, time to head home!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Path to the Stars

I was never a Girl Scout, but reading Path to the Stars: My Journey from Girl Scout to Rocket Scientist by Sylvia Acevedo has made me want to be one. This memoir written by the CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA is an engrossing book for those who like to learn about life in a previous decade. This book comes out September 4, so put it on your purchase list now - you will want this for your library!

Sylvia grew up poor in a small town in New Mexico. Her world was small - she mostly interacted with her family and a close circle of friends in their close-knit neighborhood. When her family bought a house in a more affluent - and white - part of town, Sylvia found herself on her own, not knowing how to bridge the gap between her experiences and the experiences of the white kids at her school. Her teachers assumed she was behind in school because of the lower income school district she had transferred from and put her in remedial classes.

All this changed when Sylvia was invited to a Brownies meeting with a classmate after school one day. There, Sylvia began to learn skills that she wouldn't have otherwise had access to. Her parents were not planners, they were not savers. In Girl Scouts, Sylvia learned how to plan for events and be prepared. She learned how to budget by selling cookies to fund the events her troop wanted to do. Eventually Sylvia's mother and younger sister got involved, as well. Her mother gained skills in money management by volunteering to help with the cookie sales. Sylvia's involvement with the Girl Scouts not only enriched her life by teaching her new skills, but it enriched the life of her entire family.

Sylvia Acevedo speaks so well and so passionately about the skills she learned in Girl Scouts and how they helped her gain confidence and build a future for herself that I found myself wishing I could go back in time and join myself. I kept flagging page after page where she writes about the various ways that the Girl Scouts helped her develop as a person.

This is an inspiring book about one girl building a future for herself and not giving up on her dreams, even though she was repeatedly told that girls couldn't fix cars/be scientists/etc. Repeatedly, Sylvia was shown ways that men and boys had more value than women. Her brother was given a library card without even asking for one, but when Sylvia asked for one, she was told she had to save up $5 to cover the late fees in case she wasn't responsible with her books. Through the Girl Scouts, Sylvia began to learn about her own value and that she could develop the skills to have any future she wanted for herself.

Of course you'll want to hand this memoir to passionate Girl Scouts, former Girl Scouts, and troop leaders. Also give it to kids who enjoy reading about others' real experiences or are curious about what childhood was like in the 1960s.


Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tonya Lee Stone (Candlewick, 2009) is another gripping story about women who are told they can't, but they go on trying anyway. Readers who are interested in more books about women in the sciences despite odds being stacked against them may enjoy this one.

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai (Little, Brown, 2014) is another memoir of a girl facing odds stacked against her and coming out in support of the education of women. Readers interested in personal stories about women standing up for their rights to have an education and careers may enjoy this one.

First Girl Scout: The Life of Juliette Gordon Lowe by Ginger Wadsworth (Clarion Books, 2012) is a great choice for readers who are Girl Scouts or who are interested in the history of the Girl Scouts.

Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio by Peg Kehret (Albert Whitman, 1996) is another great memoir to suggest to kids who are curious about what life was like for children growing up in the 1950s and 1960s.

Book info: 

Path to the Stars: My Journey from Girl Scout to Rocket Scientist by Sylvia Acevedo. Grades 5+ Clarion Books, September 2018. 320 pages. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

What I'm Reading

I'm in one of those periods where there are SO MANY BOOKS I want to read RIGHT NOW that I keep starting new books, even though I'm already in the middle of a bunch of great ones. I spent yesterday cleaning things out and putting together this brand new reading nook since I finally found a chair that I liked:

So of course all I want to do is sit in this sunny spot and read away! Here are the books I've got going right now: 

All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir by Nicole Chung (Catapult, October 2018). This one's eligible for the next LibraryReads selections, nominations due by August 20. It's a memoir about cross-cultural adoption. Korean-American Chung was adopted by a white couple in 1981 and spent her life navigating the world not knowing anything about her birth family. Celeste Ng called this one a book that everyone should read and I can see why. When my book club read Ng's Little Fires Everywhere we had a heavy debate about the adoption portrayed in the book and this memoir would be a great choice for book clubs who had similar debates! The e-galley is available on Edelweiss, so go get it today!

The Kinship of Secrets by Eugenia Kim (Houghton Mifflin, November 2018). This is another one that I'm seeking out for potential LibraryReads nomination. It's historical fiction set in the 1950s about two Korean sisters, one who is living in America with their parents and one who was left behind in Korea with other relatives. There have been so many great books about Korea lately and I'm so into it. I've only just started this one, but it seems right up my alley. 

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (Pocket Books, 1985). This one is for Book Riot's Read Harder Challenge, which calls for a western this year. I was glad to see this category on the challenge because I've never really read any traditional westerns and we have some library patrons that are die-hard fans so I've been meaning to pick some up. 

Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins, narrated by Kim Staunton (HarperAudio, 2016). This is another one for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge: a romance novel by or about a person of color. I've actually already read one that would count in this category, but as soon as I saw it I knew it was time to try Beverly Jenkins. This one is historical (might also count as a western!) and I'm enjoying it on audio so far. 

Pitch Dark by Courtney Alameda (Feiwel & Friends, 2018). #Ownvoices YA horror set in space with a Latina protagonist. Yes, please. From the publisher summary: "In space, nobody can hear you scream . . . but on the John Muir, the screams are the last thing you'll hear."

Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, October 2018). I was hoping beyond hope that I'd get approved for an e-galley of this title because I keep hearing such great things about it. Contemporary YA about a Muscogee (Creek) teen dealing with relationships and figuring out life. I've only just started it but I already love it. 

Whew! I have a lot of reading to do! What are YOU reading??

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Darius the Great is Not Okay

You guys, I can't get Darius out of my head.

Darius is a teen who's half Persian and half white and he feels like that doesn't actually add up to a whole.

Darius loves tea and Star Trek and Tolkien. He feels like he's never good enough and that his dad is always disappointed in him. He's never had a true friend... until he meets Sohrab. Sohrab cares about him and makes his feel valued and seen and connected to... but the problem is that Sohrab lives in Iran and Darius is just visiting with his family.

There are so many things I loved about this book.

Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorran is a realistic story of a teen living with mental illness. Darius and his dad both have diagnosed depression and take medication. When Darius visits Iran, a country where mental illness has a seemingly impossible-to-overcome stigma, he's forced to confront his brain chemistry in a different way.

Darius's thought patterns are so realistic for someone with depression and anxiety. Throughout the book I wanted to pick him up and give him a hug or sometimes shake him. But his thoughts are his reality. The reader may realize that Darius's dad cares for him, but to Darius the reality that he's experiencing is that he's worthless and no one cares. That he doesn't have a place. This is exacerbated by his feeling like an outsider in many different ways - in America he's different because he's Persian, in Iran he's not Persian enough.

This is a story about a boy having feelings who feels like he's not allowed to have feelings. I think this is probably something that is pretty prevalent no matter where you're growing up, and it's great to read about a protagonist who not only has feelings but remains true to himself by expressing those feelings. Darius feels like he's an outsider no one will love because he can't help that he is the way he is. He doesn't realize that people might look up to him for staying true to himself even when it makes him an outsider.

Throughout the book there's this chorus of "That's normal. Right?" usually said about stuff that is not really okay with Darius. And the journey in this book is Darius beginning to realize and accept that sometimes he's not okay. And that it's okay not to be okay.

I loved experiencing and learning about details of Iranian life through Darius's story, too. Because Darius is visiting Iran for the first time, he's learning a lot too, so his sharing of details and explanations feels very organic. And I personally loved the Star Trek jokes throughout the book - not every reader will get those and that's okay, but it added something extra for those who are familiar with The Next Generation.

I'd hand this to fans of John Green looking for more thoughtful teen protagonists. It's out August 28, so pre-order now!

Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorran. Grades 7 and up. Dial, August 2018. 320 pages. Reviewed from galley provided by publisher.

Monday, July 30, 2018

What My NieceS are Into

My niece S just turned two and she is still SO INTO sharks. She has also increased her repertoire of words to include just about any sea creature you can imagine. She had the most amazing ocean-themed birthday cake for her party a few weeks ago:

Of course whenever I am reading reviews of board books or picture books I look for anything that she might like. I came across a new board book that looked super cute AND it was on super sale at Amazon, so I scooped it up and added another recent gorgeous board book that I had purchased for the library. 

Hello Humpback! by Roy Henry Vickers and Robert Budd (Harbour Publishing, 2017) is a gorgeous book featuring animals of the Pacific Northwest. The text is super simple and the illustrations are just so beautiful. It's a great book for talking about the pictures and naming different animals, including some that are rare to find in books like skate, halibut, and prawn. Roy Henry Vickers is a First Nations artist and this book truly celebrates the diverse life found on the West Coast. This would be a perfect gift for kids living in or visiting the Pacific Northwest or for any little ocean lover. 

Goodnight, Seahorse by Carly Allen-Fletcher (Muddy Books, 2018) is another gorgeous book about sea creatures. The text is very simple - each spread says goodnight to a different sea creature as seahorse heads to bed - but this one also includes some unusual words like wobbegong and lionfish that go beyond your typical book sea creatures. The back of the book identifies many of the background creatures found throughout the pictures and it would be fun to go back and search for them all. 

So, some new ocean books for my niece annnnnd I bought a book to welcome my new niece (!!!) due in September! 

We Sang You Home by Richard Van Camp, illustrated byJulie Flett (Orca, 2016). This has become one of my favorite new baby books to give. I touched on this one a little bit in a previous post, but I want to expand on that. This board book is written by a First Nations author and illustrator and features a family welcoming their new baby. The words are so affirming and perfect for reading to a new baby: 

We give you kisses to help you grow
And songs to let you know that you are loved
As we give you roots you give us wings
And through you we are born again

and so forth.... Just a beautiful message in a beautiful book that features a First Nations family but with a message that is so universal. 

I can't wait to welcome a new niece and find out what things she will be into as well! 

Thursday, July 26, 2018

If You Leave Me

1950s and a Korea at war in If You Leave Me by Crystal Hana Kim.

The country is splitting in half and Haemi feels like she's splitting in half, too. Her family has fled their village due to the fighting and they're now refugees, surviving day to day. And Haemi has a choice to make. She is in love with her childhood friend Kyunghwan and he loves her back... but another boy in the village, Jisoo, has proposed marriage to Haemi. Jisoo is well off, he can provide for her family, while Kyunghwan has nothing but dreams. Haemi yearns to follow her heart with the boy she loves, but her heart cares just as much about her ailing little brother who desperately needs food and medicine. Haemi must make a choice that will affect not only her own life but the life of her family for generations to come. And that's only the beginning.

I loved this multigenerational novel set in Korea during and after the Korean War. It was a book that I just wanted to keep reading forever because I loved the characters and I was fascinated to see how their choices took their lives in different directions. Crystal Hana Kim writes with such emotion and her prose is heartbreaking; I felt like I was living the story along with the characters. Readers get the story from multiple points of view allowing us to see the story from different perspectives.

The setting is just as important as the characters as there are many parallels between a country being split apart and the characters being split, caught between their desires and reality. The book brings the Korean War to life, too, illuminating how families were literally split - if your family resided north of the dividing line you would likely never see them again.

This book is out August 4 - preorder now!


Hand this to readers of multigenerational historical fiction. I would press this into the hands of Pachinko's many fans (Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, Grand Central Publishing 2017) or readers of The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (Knopf, 2013). Readers of character-driven historical fiction set in wartime like The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (St. Martin's Press, 2015) will also enjoy it.

Book info: 

If You Leave Me by Crystal Hana Kim. Adult. William Morrow, August 2018. 432 pages. Review copy provided by publisher at ALA.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Stopping by Bookstores on a Summer Afternoon

This past weekend my husband and I drove down to Nashville, TN for a long weekend. We had a ton of fun and one of the things I wanted to do was stop by one of my favorite independent bookstores, Parnassus Books. This is a wonderful bookstore co-owned by author Ann Patchett and I love to stop by whenever we find ourselves in Nashville and have a little time.

As a librarian I don't often need to purchase books. I have a whole library at my disposal and I often get access to galleys and e-galleys. But it's important to me to purchase books by diverse authors so that I can show publishers with my DOLLARS that I want diverse books. It's one thing to show them with my words, which I try to do, and with my library dollars, but I also want to show them with MY PERSONAL DOLLARS. So much better when I can do that and support a great independent bookstore at the same time!

I was so impressed by the diverse selection offered and displayed by Parnassus Books. They had diverse and own voices books heavily on display and faced out. There were many diverse books among their staff picks. They are doing what all libraries should be doing: championing marginalized voices and providing access!

Here are the books I ended up purchasing:

Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li (Henry Holt, 2018) was prominently on display as a staff pick and I have read some great reviews of it. Kirkus called Li "a writer to watch" and I love immigrant stories. 

I picked up The Book Club Journal off a display of the store's recent and upcoming book club selections. Although I already have a notebook designated as my book club journal, this one is specifically designed for the task with space to keep track of where the club met, what food and drink was served (always important!) and everyone's thoughts about the book. 

And of course I had to pick up some board books for my niece(s). I was so excited to see that they had two copies of We Sang You Home by Richard Van Camp, illustrated by Julie Flett  (Orca, 2016) on the shelf! This is a super sweet board book perfect for welcoming a new baby and it's written by a First Nations author. It features a First Nations family and the message of welcoming and surrounding a new baby with love is so universal. It's the perfect first read-aloud and will be my first gift to my new niece (ETA late September)! More on that in a future post. 

I also grabbed one of the newest Baby Loves Science books - Baby Loves Coding by Ruth Spiro, illustrated by Irene Chan (Charlesbridge, 2018) - and The Babies and Doggies Book by John Schindel and Molly Woodward (Houghton Mifflin, 2018).