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Librarian for a Day (Or Two)

I may have mentioned before that I volunteer at the Public Library of Brookline on Thursdays. A few weeks ago, I helped a record number of patrons: six. While this probably seems inconsequential to most people, this number is a breakthrough. This means six people thought I might help them; six people thought I looked like a librarian (whatever that means); and six people thought I was qualified. The usual number is zero, sometimes one or two. And, most of the time, I just get asked where the bathroom is.

Fact: I am the Teen Room monitor. This means I basically just sit in the room and make sure nothing too disastrous happens. But, since the kids aren't particularly rowdy on most days, I basically hold an after school study session. And the vast majority of the time, I'm doing my homework along with them. Or writing these blogs.

I think perhaps that I sometimes look like I'm terribly busy. But, really, I love being interrupted. Having never worked in a library setting before, this volunteering gig is my basically my introduction. It's a taste of what's to come--even though it's not exactly a complete picture. So, when I'm feeling brave, I sometimes like to pretend that I actually am a librarian. Because ultimately I am, right? I'm in library school. And these patrons won't really know whether I have the degree or not. They just see my badge (which looks terribly official, I might add).

I know I don't yet have reference training; I know I don't yet have any formal experience with reader advisory. And yet, on that day with six patrons, I dared to give out a list of recommendations to a mother. I wasn't familiar with the book (Maze Runner), so I gave her what advice I could. A title or two I was able to conjure from my limited experiences with dystopian YA. She seemed satisfied enough with my answer. But I wasn't. While she perused, I handwrote a list of more books along with their call numbers even though she didn't ask. It was literally the highlight of my week. I even told all of Facebook.

Anyways, this mother came in while I was volunteering this week. Her words to me: "You're the guy that gave me that list a few weeks ago. The City of Ember is a hit. He's onto book two. Thank you."

Sometimes, the people here make me feel like I actually am a librarian. But it's moments like these when, even if I don't have a job or a degree in the subject, I start to believe that I am. Or, at the very least, I know I must be doing something right. 

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Book Talking


Last week was spring break, so I took the week off from blogging. Most of my break was spent catching up on schoolwork and working, but I was able to escape home to Vermont for a couple days of much needed relaxation. One of my favorite parts of my trip home was visiting my local public library and attending a meeting of the "What is on Your Nightstand?" book club.

The premise of this book club is that it is not a book club, at least not in the traditional sense. There is no chosen book for each monthly meeting. Instead, on the second Tuesday of every month, anyone who is free to talk about books is welcome to come to the library and share what they are reading. The librarian running the meeting keeps a list of all the titles discussed and the conversation is always lively and interesting.

Before moving back to Boston to start school in January I was home in Vermont for eight months and had the opportunity to attend almost every monthly meeting during that time. Although there is no set book, there is a core group of women who attend every meeting and we have developed a nice sense of camaraderie. I am the youngest member of the group by a decade or two and I have come to look up to the women in the group as role models. I can only hope to have one day read half the titles discussed in our club.

Regardless of the theme that emerges during the meeting, be it memoirs and biographies, World War II fiction vs. nonfiction, spy stories, or audio books, I always leave feeling invigorated and excited to read more. I love the free form of the meetings,  the fact that all are welcome, and no pressure to have finished a certain book. Although, it has been discussed that just once it might be fun to all read the same book and have a traditional book club discussion. I miss having the monthly book club meetings to look forward to and hope to one day start my own in Boston!

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So Many Books, So Little Time

I have always prided myself on being well-read. I imagine most people considering a career in the library profession feel similarly. Starting the GSLIS program at Simmons has led me to question whether I really am the great reader I have always claimed to be. Sometimes it feels like all of my classmates are better readers than me.

One of my favorite classes this semester is Young Adult (YA) Literature with Professor Melanie Kimball. I love learning about working with young adults but this course is certainly putting my reading skills to the test. Along with professional development readings targeted towards young adult librarians, we are also required to read two or three YA books per week! So far I have enjoyed the challenge of keeping up with all of the readings but my speed and efficiency are being put to the test.

Although I have moments of insecurity because I do not feel as well-read as some of my classmates, one assignment allowed me to gain some perspective by making me spend time reflecting on everything I have already read. The assignment is called the reading autobiography and we were asked to discuss the role reading has played on our lives. To write this paper, I spent a great deal of time thinking about trends and patterns in my reading habits. Writing this paper allowed me to consider the importance I place on literature and realize what a constant presence the written word has been in my life. I may not have read every book on the list for my YA class but I have tackled my fair share of YA titles. I can’t be the only student in my class to occasionally feel daunted by how many books I have yet to read.

Just this week in class, I wrote down over sixteen titles I had never read. Of those sixteen I added seven to my list of must-reads. So while I arrived at class having crossed two more titles off my list, I left with a longer list than ever! Reading so many YA books over the course of just a few weeks has made me seriously consider the possibility of working with young adults as a career move. Although my list of books seems to increase exponentially I like the challenge of discovering as many new reads as possible across a multitude of genres.

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All but the best laid book plans...


A few posts ago you may or may not recall my assertion that what GSLIS students should be doing during their break was to take some time to professionally develop. Well develop I did, but in the exact opposite way I intended. You see, over the break I read prolifically (for me, anyway). I read books I had been dying to take home and snuggle with. I read when I woke up every day. I read after my luxurious mid-morning naps. I read next to my family's Christmas tree with a cup of tea in hand. 'Twas glorious! Now, while this wasn't strictly professional reading. I think it's SO VERY important for librarians, who have very little time for pleasure reading (BIG misconception about the profession in my opinion), to read their hearts out. To read until their eyeballs pop right out of their sockets. Readers advisory is a skill to be honed and the only real way to get anything done on that front is to read and share. This, I have done. This, I feel good about. And NOW I'm going to tell you about what I read.

Butter by Erin Jade Lange

This book is a dark look into the tormented psyche of the American teen. It examines obesity in our society and how what we are craving is so much more than food, but acceptance by our peers. I was disturbed by this book, but could NOT put it down.

The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling

This book was like a punch in the stomach, but in a good way. I was very disappointed in Rowling's wretchedly cruel characters in this book.  But I forgot that J.K. Rowling is a genius and should not be underestimated. The storytelling and caliber of her writing is so compelling that this book had me weeping for these characters and flying through the final chapters just like her previous amazing books.

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt

This novel follows a character previously featured in the Wednesday Wars, which I LOVED. It's about a boy whose life is bleak, on his best days. His abusive father uproots the family to a new town after getting fired from his job in Long Island. They move upstate to "stupid Merrysville" where slowly but surely things begin to happen to turn a miserable kid into an engaged, helpful, responsible, talented and sensitive young adult. Terrific!

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

I only include this book because I think it's just amazing. I read it every year with my family over the holidays. It should definitely be read aloud. It probably takes us about 2 hours, 3 if we laugh too hard. The book is an epic about a regular, boring old Christmas pageant taken over by the town thugs, the Herdmans. This gang of kids, the meanest kids in fiction, hear about church because they want free cake and suddenly get interested in this fantastical play they've never heard of before: The Christmas pageant. "HEY! Unto you a child is BORN!" SHAZAM!

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I thought I would save the best for last. I'm probably the last person in the profession to read this book. However, if you haven't read it, it's certainly not too late to squeeze it in before the semester starts next week. John Green tells us about the improbable journey of two souls doomed by cancer, Augustus and Hazel Grace. They are a perfect match in every way, and teach each other much about literature, poetry, video games, philosophy and how the world, surprisingly, isn't a wish granting machine. I took a long time reading it, mainly because I never wanted to let these characters go.

Reader's Advisory | Relaxing | 1 comment

A Book by Any Other Name


Yesterday was a busy day at my local library.  A recent phone call from a patron began with, “I can’t believe you have only one copy of this book…”  He wasn’t talking about the copy on our shelves, but about our virtual e-collection that we share with other libraries in our state (New Hampshire).   The discussion turned to an explanation about library costs for eBooks versus what a patron might pay on Amazon for a Kindle download, as well as a referral to other sources of free eBooks (such as Project Gutenberg and Amazon’s Lending Library), and lastly, of course, a brief lesson on how to search only for available titles one can read right now on the state’s downloadable eBook consortium.

This call was followed by a visiting patron, Nook in hand, who needed help to access the downloadable collection. Behind her stood a patron who wanted to download an audiobook to her iPhone…and a young lady of 12 with her new Kindle Fire… and a mom, with a stack of thirty picture books.

A recent webinar I took also filled me in on the Kobo , but I haven’t seen one of those yet.

Copies of our Guide to Free Downloadable eBooks and Audiobooks keep flying off the counter. I guess it was a big year for eReaders!  As my tiny library only serves 5000 residents, I can only imagine what big city librarians are doing to keep up with the different e-formats and different devices.  The stack of picture books was a welcome relief, but in the end, the transactions were the same – helping a reader connect with his book.  It was a good day to be a librarian.

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'Tis the Season to be Reading!


Indeed! Classes are over. Perhaps  you have a vacation of sorts on the horizon. Whatever shall you do?  Well, I'll tell you what I'll be doing. I will be doing some professional development. Wait! It's not as boring as it sounds. Here's my rationale: I'm going to a wonderful school that costs a lot of money. I'm not fully taking advantage of everything the school/faculty/facilities have to offer. I'm going to get on that. Here's a holiday list of books to read about the library profession, libguides to peruse, and people to bug about how to really get the most out of your Simmons Education. Also, I've included a fun list of holiday reads. What's Christmas without a giggle or two :-)

1) The Librarian's Guide to Writing for Publication by Rachel Singer Gordon

I'm loving this book that reminds every librarian, and librarian to be, that it's important to contribute to the field of library science scholarship. Gordon quells the reader's fears, by putting forth a baby step approach to writing about a field that you're already passionate. "Write what you know," is common wisdom that she deftly applies to the library field. And it makes sense. Write about something that you accomplished: a display, a book group, an outreach campaign. Start with something you're proud of and then write about it. Your colleagues want to hear from you :-)

2) How to Pay for Your Degree in Library & Information Studies by Gail Ann Schalachter

This book was recommended by my dear, smart friend Julie (see her posts on this blog for excellent advice). It's pretty comprehensive and a great place to get started when thinking about ways to fund this excellent education we're receiving. It's a great place to start. It's only for perusal in reference at Beatley BUT, it's pretty affordable online.

3) The Library and Information Science Libguide at Simmons

I know, seems obvious, but according to many studies most students don't take advantage of all they have to offer. True, a lot of the libguides could use some work in terms of presentation, but the guts, the meaty information is really helpful. The libguide provides a whole slew of databases that only GSLIS students have access to, the "Gratis LIS Vendor Databases". I particularly and starting to know a fun reader's advisory database offered on that page, NoveList. Check it out, see what you think! The libguide is also pretty regularly updated with new acquisitions in Library Science collection. I know it seems like I'm shilling for Beatley, but I think it's important to remember that our library is trying to help us succeed as much as possible and this is a great place to start when looking for tools to help you succeed in class and out of class.

4) Rex Krajewski - Head of Information Services

The man is a fountain of information. He's been working in the reference department at Beatley for a loooong time. He's seen it all and is really wise when it comes to helping GSLIS students make the most out of their education and discover what part of the field they want to focus on. Yes, I'm probably biased after just taking a class with him. He knows the collection REALLY well, also he's a GSLIS alum. Who better to have a chat with than this awesome, friendly librarian?

Holiday Jollies:

Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

The Lump of Coal by Lemony Snicket

Little Tree by e.e. cummings

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Dude...that's hot

Today is exam day at my school, so the library is chillingly quiet. Not a creature is stirring...not even the cockroaches we sometimes find under the desk. EW!

In celebration of this peaceful respite from the sound and the fury my colleagues and I are catching up on wonderful YA blogs/excellent blogs/pinterest/goodreads quizzes. It really feels like a two hour holiday. The following blog post is a snapshot of 12 of the "hottest" and most talented male authors on the YA scene today. Marginalized by their gender, they're exerting their manliness and proving that the YA realm isn't just a game played by lady writers. It's pretty hilarious. Enjoy!

The Dudes of YA, a "Lit-Erotic" Photo Spread


[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="270"] Kevin Emerson, author of The Lost Code, the Oliver Nocturne series, Carlos is Gonna Get It, and the forthcoming Fellowship For Alien Detection.[/caption]


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Reader's Advisory

One of the hot topics in reference is reader's advisory. It's the reason many people engage in reference interactions with librarians, but it's often hard to narrow in on exactly what a patron liked about a particular book.  And for me at least, when a patron admits that they don't enjoy reading or actively dislikes it, I feel a lot of pressure to deliver.  I have long felt that there is a book out there for each person, it's just a question of matching the two together.  But doing that can be a complicated, frustrating, and sometimes disheartening experience.   If I sound down, it's because I've just handled two reader's advisory interactions which went less well than I would have hoped.  In the first case, I had a freshman who "hates reading" looking for a short, funny book, but not one that would make her feel dumb (so graphic novels were out), no vampires ("read my lips: N-O, NO!"), no romances, no chick-lit books, nothing I could suggest caught her interest. "You know who's really good at finding me books that I like? Mrs. F_____" (the librarian, who is out today).

Finally, she started to drift onto the fact that she wanted to know more about why she felt sleepy after getting enough sleep, and mentioned that a classmate had told her she could get shaky from low blood sugar even if she wasn't a diabetic.  Aha! Science books!

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