Monday, April 30, 2018

#MiddleGradeMay Week 1: Memorable Characters

Welcome to MIDDLE GRADE MAY!!!

Yes, it's that time of year when we drop* all other reading and devote ourselves to middle grade books! Read middle grade during the month of May and post about it on any social media you like with the hashtag #MiddleGradeMay so we can all see what awesome books everyone is reading!

*Okay, I'm not entirely dropping all other reading, but I'm definitely making space for middle grade this month!

This year our lovely Booktuber Akoss has set some weekly themes to give you ideas on what to post about or just to highlight some great books that you might want to check out this month. And the theme for this first week is Memorable Characters in Middle Grade Lit.

And I made a video!! I am not normally a vlogger, but Akoss has inspired me to give it a try. Below you'll see three of my most memorable characters in middle grade lit.


If you don't feel like watching it or if you want more information, here are the books mentioned in this video:

One Crazy Summer (Gaither Sisters series) by Rita Williams-Garcia (Amistad, 2010). Other books in the series: P.S. Be Eleven and Gone Crazy in Alabama.

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (Dial, 2015). Sequel is The War I Finally Won (also awesome).

Ghost (Track series) by Jason Reynolds (Atheneum, 2016). Other books in the series: Patina and Sunny.

Stay tuned this month for tons of posts about middle grade lit. And I hope you'll join us in reading middle grade this month!

Who are YOUR favorite characters in middle grade lit??

Sunday, April 29, 2018

#MiddleGradeMay TBR

It's nearly May and that means I'll be catching up on all the wonderful middle grade lit that I have in my TBR pile and using the hashtag #MiddleGradeMay to spread the word. I have an amazing to-read pile lined up:

Here are the books at the top of my TBR pile for this month. I may or may not read all of them. I may read other stuff, too! But here's my starting pile: 

Who's joining me for #MiddleGradeMay this year? What are YOU most looking forward to reading??

Thursday, April 26, 2018

A Day in the Life

I've done many Day in the Life posts before for my previous Life as a Youth Services Librarian... it's high time that I type up a Day in the Life for my current position as Collection Development Leader! This day turned out to be a day that I had lots of little tasks instead of working steadily on a couple of big projects. Although my days are definitely more similar to each other now, I do have lots of different things that I work on. I've worked up a loose schedule of weekly tasks that I like to complete and then there are always long-term projects and a million little things to work on in-between.

So what does a day in the life of a collection development librarian look like? It could look like this:

7:40am - Arrive at work, put things away, check bullet journal for today’s tasks. It's a casual dress day, so I am wearing my new shirt from Book Riot and nerdily excited about it.

7:45am - We’re considering our options for digital content, so I read through a current contract, highlighting relevant information and jotting down some talking points and questions to go over with my Director later.

8:05am - Done with contract, skip down to lounge in search of something for breakfast. Check emails, greet colleagues as they come in.

8:15am - Since I am very new to the world of selection and acquisition, my director and I thought it would be a good idea for me to take a cataloging class. Now, I check in to my cataloging class and add to the discussion boards. I work on and submit my assignment for the week.

9:15am - I want to submit my weekly book order today, so I log in and start working on carts. I have been building them all week, but I check on how close I am to my weekly spending goal and add/subtract titles as necessary. I also double-check that I have my grids set on everything (grids tell our processing and cataloging team which area of the collection they’re for and which branch, if we had a branch) and that there are no books put in without a quantity.

10:00am - Short break for a conference call with our main book vendor. We’re outsourcing our processing to them and still in the process of getting it all set up. We chatted about how things are going and switching to electronic invoicing.

10:10am - Back to finishing up these orders. I’ve submitted them and now make sure that I enter the amounts I’ve spent into my budget spreadsheet.

10:30am - Short break to answer a question about changing call numbers and to look into the process of making global changes in our catalog. Then back to updating budget spreadsheets.

10:45am - We get an email about with the program schedule for an upcoming conference and I shoot out a recommendation to my staff on a session that I would like them to go to.

11:00am - Fun with POs! I put in POs for some previous orders and get a few in order to take up to our Business Office for processing.

11:30am - Early lunch today so I can make sure to be back on time for a call this afternoon. I am lucky to live close enough to work that I can go home for lunch.

12:30pm - Back from lunch and I spent some time poking around Edelweiss. This is a great resource for finding pre-publication books and I am not super familiar with it. I'm on the hunt for finding out about diverse books enough ahead of time that I might be able to read them and potentially nominate them for Library Reads.

1:00pm - My cataloger and I have a conference call with someone from our ILS who is training us on using their online selection and acquisitions module. We learn about updating vendors, importing MARC records, and placing orders through their system so that they get into our catalog as "on order".

2:15pm - I continue the discussion with our cataloger about the new module and what our next steps will be. We got a response to our help ticket about making global changes to the catalog, so we try out the instructions and discover that it is something we can do quite easily.

3:15pm - Read and respond to emails about Hoopla's new Book Club site, resources for finding diverse adult books, etc. I clean up my desk since it's possible we may have some visitors to the office tomorrow.

3:50pm - Work on letter of recommendation for one of my colleagues who is applying to library school.

4:30pm - Help our cataloger finish cataloging some video games and game controllers that were brought in by our Public Services Dept. for us to put in the circulating collection.

- Run a report to find the new Large Print titles that have been added so I can update our new LP binder… then think better of it and email our most recent large print selector and homebound outreach coordinator to make sure the binder is still useful now that we’ve implemented some other strategies to make patrons aware of new books. She felt like we don’t need it, which saves me quite a bit of work. I write up a little reminder for her about running a list of the new titles in case she needs it and we’ll leave it at that!

5:00pm - Type up this Day in the Life and schedule it to post...

5:20pm - Done! Time to head for home!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Mary's Monster

I've got Frankenstein on the brain.

2018 is the 200th anniversary of the publication of the classic science fiction novel Frankenstein and Indiana Humanities is celebrating with a One State / One Story program, encouraging communities all over the state to read and talk about this book. My library was one of the lucky ones to receive a grant to provide programming, so we definitely have all things Frankenstein on our radar.

Enter: Mary's Monster.

Mary's Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein by Lita Judge is a biography in verse that tells the story of Mary Shelley. AND HER LIFE WAS DRAMATIC AS HELL!!!

Seriously. Drama. Her mom died when she was a baby, something Mary always blamed herself for a little bit. She got sent away to Scotland by a stepmother who didn't like her. She fell in love with a married man (who wasn't that much older than her - Mary was 16 and Percy was 21), left her family to be with him and then he started fooling around with her sister. She had a baby with the married man and the baby died. And that's just like the first part of the book.

In Mary's Monster, this is all told in carefully crafted prose poems that are paired with dark, brooding artwork that really brings the time period and the intensity to life. The text and artwork in this book are equally impressive to me. The texture of the art really conveys a lot of emotion - dark and smokey backgrounds lend a sense of mystery and foreboding. At times it looks like ink has spilled across the pages, appropriate for a biography of a writer.

And author Lita Judge gets teen love. Look at this poem about the first time Mary meets Percy Shelley:

The day Percy Bysshe Shelley
walks into my life
is as if a bolt of lightning
shoots through my soul

My heart
had been like the Holborn sky,
thick and cold
and the color of coal.

Then, in an instant,
a crack of thunder
and the entire landscape
of my existence changes. 

(Pg. 74)

This is a powerhouse of a book that will give teen readers a new perspective on Mary Shelley's life. You don't have to have read Frankenstein to get swept up in the drama, but this would make a super supplementary title for students who are reading it. You really see where the creature's longing to be loved and to have a place where he belongs comes from: Mary was searching for the same thing.

The back matter is a joy. Lita Judge includes end notes that flesh out the story of Mary's life and finish the stories of characters we meet in the book. She explains events she left out and why, and there are extensive source notes.

Hand this to teens with dark and gothic souls who will be swept up by the tragic romantic story of Mary Shelley's teen years, teens who are writers, and teens who love to read about All the Drama.


Fans of dark graphic novels like the newly illustrated Speak: The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson, illustrated by Emily Carroll will dig this verse/graphic hybrid.

Readers who enjoy biographies in verse like Your Own, Sylvia by Stephanie Hemphill (Random House, 2007) or Borrowed Names by Jeannine Atkins (Henry Holt, 2010) may also like this one.

And readers who like intense, dramatic books about historical figures like The Borden Murders by Sarah Miller (Schwartz & Wade, 2016) or Terrible Typhoid Mary by Susan Campbell Bartoletti (Houghton Mifflin, 2015) may also be fans.

Mary's Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein by Lita Judge. Grades 8 and up, adult crossover. Roaring Brook, February 2018. 312 pages. Review copy provided by my local library.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Middle Grade May!

Yes, it's once again time for #MiddleGradeMay!!!

There's nothing fancy to it - just read middle grade books during the month of May and share them on social media with our hashtag. You can blog about middle grade books, tweet about them, post photos on Instagram, post about them on Litsy, share them with your Facebook friends... wherever you are on the web, share about what middle grade lit you're reading in May.

This year, I am so excited to be collaborating on #MiddleGradeMay with the wonderful Akoss and her YouTube channel. We actually met and bonded over #MiddleGradeMay last year. Check out her intro post here:

She's got it all planned out with themed weeks, so feel free to share your favorites for the themes each week OR just read whatever middle grade you want and tell us all about it.

Here are the themes for each week in May:

  • Week 1 - Favorite memorable middle grade literature characters 
  • Week 2 - Favorite heartbreaking middle grade novels 
  • Week 3 - Favorite under-rated middle grade books (less than 1000 ratings on Goodreads) 
  • Week 4 - 2018 Middle grade debuts you want everyone to request from their Libraries 
  • Week 5 - Middle grade books that feature diversity in a positive and uplifting way
Annnnnd don't forget to check out our cohosts who will be posting videos in May: 
I am so not a YouTuber, BUT I have promised Akoss that I might give it a go, so you MAY see some of that, too. ;) 

Which middle grade books are YOU looking forward to reading in May??

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

On Ordering Ebooks

Boy howdy. Ordering ebooks.

As you may know, I recently stepped into a new role at my library as the Collection Development Librarian. One of my duties is, of course, maintaining our electronic collections. This means ordering and managing our ebook collections.

There's a lot I'm still figuring out about this job and ebooks is one of them. Part of the problem is that we're all still figuring out ebooks, including the vendors and publishers. Yes, ebooks have been available to libraries for years now, but the pricing schemes are still sometimes ridiculous and I just have to hope that someday they may become more reasonable.

At my library, we currently use Overdrive for ebooks and e-audiobooks and we just recently subscribed to Hoopla for downloadable movies, music, ebooks, and audiobooks. Since Hoopla is really new to us, I'm closely monitoring how it's doing. Hoopla operates on a cost-per-circ model. That means we pay nothing to make the entire catalog of Hoopla's offerings available to our patrons; we only pay when our patrons actually download the material. And everything Hoopla offers can have simultaneous users, meaning there is never a holds list, all Hoopla materials are always available. We offer 8 downloads a month to our patrons.

Overdrive has recently offered a selection of books that can be offered on a cost-per-circ model, but I haven't explored it in depth yet. I'm waiting to see what our spending on Hoopla will be once it evens out a bit.

I want to offer our patrons what they want to read. I want to purchase the newest releases and the best-selling titles. But it becomes a balancing act because these titles are almost always incredibly expensive. Depending on the publisher, an adult ebook could be upwards of $60-70 per copy (and that one copy can only be checked out by one user at a time). Popular downloadable audiobooks often run $80-90 per copy. I want to provide the most in-demand stuff, but my budget only stretches so far. When I might not think twice about buying 5 or 6 copies of popular print books, doing that with ebooks might break the bank. So that means lots of decision-making.

It's also fascinating to me to see titles that circ like crazy as downloadable when the print copies sit collecting dust on our shelves. Lots of teen titles, in particular, are like this. I'm astonished at the high number of ebook circulations for some whose print counterparts collect dust on the shelves.

The children's ebooks are the opposite of that (for the most part). We tried to build up a good selection of children's materials, thinking that the way to convince families to use them is to have them there so we can promote them. But a lot of the children's material has very low circulation, particularly when compared to adult titles. It's another conundrum: I have a special passion to provide high-quality children's material in all formats. But if it doesn't check out, how can I justify spending my limited budget on it when I know I could buy adult titles that would check out?

I mostly have questions and no answers here, but one technique I have had some success with is placing small orders each week. I try to place an Overdrive order once a week so that there's something new on a regular basis. This helps to keep our circulation up as it keeps people coming back to check for new stuff. Even if the new stuff has a wait list, they may discover something else they want if they're in the mood to download a book. It's frustrating to look at my weekly budget and know that I will only be able to afford 10-15 titles a week (and a lot of times those get eaten up by additional copies to satisfy holds or by copies that have reached the end of their metered access and I need to replace them). But I just take each victory as it comes. Whenever I buy something and then see that it's checked out, I do a little happy dance.

What are your techniques for ordering ebooks? Any special tricks I should know?

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

All the Names They Used for Gods

Y'all know that I dig short stories. I've been making a point of seeking out short story collections and adding them to my TBR pile this year, and I just finished an amazing one.

All the Names They Used for God by Anjali Sachdeva is a masterpiece collection. Each story in this delightful collection completely transported me to a new world. It grabbed me from the first story about an albino woman in the pioneer west who discovers a network of caves near her house and explores them while her husband has been gone for months on a trip. Then there's a steel worker injured in a factory accident watching his daughter grow into his supporter and caregiver. There's a fisherman who meets and becomes obsessed with a mermaid and teens abducted by zealot soldiers who will do anything to get away.

Each story is its own world and completely immersive. The characters and settings are so strong that I would have read any one of them as a full-length novel, but they're the perfect length for what they are. They left me feeling like I wanted more, but also like I was satisfied. They're sticking around in my head, is what I'm saying.

There's a mix of genres here, although each story has at least a touch of the fantastic. There's historical fiction and science fiction here, too, making this a true genre-bender of a collection. There's something for everyone here, tied together by striking imagery and unforgettable characters.

I loved this collection. Like, I think I might buy a copy for my personal library, which is a strong statement from a practicing librarian.

All the Names They Used for God by Anjali Sachdeva. Adult. Spiegel & Grau (Penguin Random House), 2018. 256 pages. Review copy provided by my local library.


Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri (1999; 198 pages). This is another great short story collection that has stuck with me throughout the years.

The Power  Naomi Alderman (2017; 386 pages). This novel has similar science fiction elements and strong female protagonists as several of Sachdeva's stories.

The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror by Mallory Ortberg (2018; 240 pages). I haven't read this one yet and it looks scarier than Sachdeva's stories, but it might make a good choice for fantasy or horror readers dipping their toes into short stories.