With the school year winding down and the summer reading season gearing up, it’s a good time to reflect on the partnership of public youth services librarians and school media specialists. The recent cover story by Rebecca T. Miller and Laura Girmscheid’s, “It Takes Two,” in the May edition of School Library Journal offers up some food for thought, and I urge everyone to read it.
Many of the partnership ideas suggested in “It Takes Two,” are great ones, including “middle school booktalks, outreach to school groups, shuttle buses between schools and libraries, and age-appropriate book clubs.” Miller and Girmscheid also suggest the possibility of a purchasing collaboration, noting that “the results of SLJ’s first survey of public library spending habits on children’s and young adult services reveals a disturbing trend: only 30 percent of respondents say their library collaborates with local schools to coordinate book purchases to support the curriculum—leaving 70 percent that don’t.”
I’d be interested in hearing others’ thoughts on this. Here are mine.
My library system has a centralized collections department, but that isn’t to say that individual branches do not have some say in the purchase of books. Several times per year, I am offered the opportunity to submit purchasing or replacement requests. Having a close connection with my community, I, of course, request books that I know will appeal to local children or will fulfill the need for commonly requested resource materials (e.g., Ancient Egypt, Colonial America) However, there is a definite difference between a public library and a public school library, particularly when it comes to the library’s collection. Personally, I believe that the school library’s mission should be to support the curriculum of the school and the education of its children. To some degree, public libraries do this as well, but I believe that our main focus is to foster literacy and a love of reading and learning, and to provide appealing, inclusive, informative and desirable books, programs and materials, as well as a place to enjoy them. This, I feel, is where our paths diverge.
Anecdotally, I can say that, over the years, to fulfill homework assignments, I have had children request lower elementary school level books on the brown trout, sea lettuce, Chinese stirrups, Ancient Egyptian jewelry making, anchovies, and obscure local inventors. These materials (were they actually to exist) would not necessarily meet the collection development criteria of the public library. With school and public library budgets shrinking, we definitely have ourselves a dilemma. The school library often doesn’t have the needed books. The students come to the public library, which may not have them either.
I am very fortunate to work in town where I have very close connections with the local school media specialists, as well as some teachers and school administrators. When I contact my district’s media specialists, to let them know of my inability to find age-appropriate reading material on some of the aforementioned topics, they commiserate. They in turn, contact the teachers from whom the requests originate. The teachers may also commiserate. Their requests are often dictated by government requirements.
I’m not offering an opinion on the initiative, but like it or not, the Common Core is coming. (Read USA Today article here) Read more at the Common Core State Standards Ini
I try not to post much about my personal life here unless it has to do with books or author events in some fashion. So sorry for this departure. It's not all directly book related.
But if any of you guys know me at all, you would know that I hate drama. I hate starting it. I hate getting embroiled in others' drama. So when drama comes knocking, I retreat into my shell.
Not like this guy:
He doesn't like drama either, but he usually goes after it with a katana.
There's been a lot of drama in the last few weeks regarding ARCs, greedy bloggers, angry librarians, paid bloggers, Goodreads
bullies, indie authors... it's enough to turn me off blogging completely. Several times this month I've thought to myself, What if I just stop? Wouldn't that be lovely?
I could still see my author pals and read lots of books (actually, more
books! since I will not have to stop every so often to blog about them) and not read other blogs unless I know the author personally. It was really, really tempting.
But the thing is, I was a bookseller for almost 14 years. You can't just turn something like that off. I can't just quit recommending books cold turkey. Connecting people with books and other cool stuff (like tv shows and artists and movies) makes me happy. Getting excited about stories and authors makes me happy. I can't let a few bad, overdramatic eggs spoil all that for me.
I have unfollowed some people that I think are just toxic to my environment at the moment. I'm sad because they are people I admired.
So, that's it. I'm going to keep on keeping on. I'll recommend books and bookstores and tell you in advance about cool author events. And if you have any drama for me, keep it to yourself, or else be studiously ignored by me.
Now back to your regularly scheduled blog ;)
On Fridays, many poetry fans across the KidLitosphere take part in Poetry Friday. Here, today, I offer my first contribution to the weekly meme in honor of my favorite prop, an old brown sheet.
“Ode to an Old Brown Sheet”
You’ve been a “cocoon” from which “butterflies” spring.
“Caterpillars” crawl in, then emerge on the wing.
At the Teddy Bear Picnic you’ve been a dark cave.
There’s snoring inside; enter only if brave!
You’ve helped created theatre – a shadow play,
hiding the actors, keeping bright light at bay.
When you’re a tunnel, toddlers know what to do.
I teach over and under, but you teach them through.
And when I go visiting, pan and bags in my hand
you are my clothing; and don’t I look grand?
Perhaps you have a prop of your own that is deserving of an ode?
Have a wonderful weekend!
Well, almost. In strict accuracy, it's time to register for KidlitCon
. This year, it takes place in New York City, September 28-29. This is your chance to meet and hang out with all the bloggers you ever wanted to know, plus a few more. Talk about bloggy topics, books, and blogging about books.
Because it's in New York City, AKA the Big Apple, AKA You Want How
Much for That Apple?,
they've lowered the price of the conference itself to just 55 dollars. For the whole thing! This includes a pre-con on Friday, with dinner (and special guest speaker Grace Lin!), lunch on Saturday, and naturally the conference itself. If you don't feel like coming to the other stuff (although I don't know why you'd miss out when you're already in New York anyhow), the conference itself is free. Can't get much better than that.
So if you've always wanted to try it out and you've always wanted to visit New York City, consider this your big opportunity. This is the seventh year and I haven't missed one yet.
Thank you, thank you to Carole Di Totsi, PhD, for giving me this reader appreciation award. If you don’t know Carole, you should! She writes a few amazing blogs (see below) and is a wonderful promoter of her friends and colleagues at her Twitter handle: mercedeskat45. I first met Carole when she took an online class from me through WOW! Women On Writing. She has now taken a few, and we have become cyber friends. I keep threatening to go to NYC and visit her!
The Reader Appreciation Award is given to writers who have supported other writers’ blogs. Happily, I’ve received the award from Carole, who has three blogs: The Fat and the Skinny, All Along the NYC Skyline, and A Christian Apologist’s Sonnets. All three are totally different because she blogs about health and wellness issues, NYC events, and her own sonnets respectively. But check them out and leave a comment!
There are a few guidelines for accepting this award:
l) Acknowledge the giver of the award and provide a link to his or her blog. (check!)
2) Copy and paste the award to your blog. (check!)
3) Pass the award on to up to ten bloggers. (see below!)
4) Notify the selected bloggers that you have nominated them.
I am happy to nominate these bloggers and their blogs for the Reader Appreciation Award:
1. Donna Volkenannt (Donna’s Book Pub)
2. Becky Povich (Writer-Humorist-Bliss Follower)
3. Cathy C. Hall (Writing is Easy. Rewriting is a whole ‘nother story.)
4. Penelope Anne Cole (Penelope Anne Cole)
5. Sarah Butland (Sarah Butland: For Writers, For Readers, For You)
6. Sharon K. Mayhew (Random Thoughts)
7. Camille Subramanian (A Day In My Life)
8. Erin (In Step With the Spirit)
9. Patricia (PM27′s BLOG: Notes and Observations)
10. Holly Helscher (Becoming Bookish)
These 10 ladies are super supportive of my blog and the authors I host here. I know I probably missed someone–I’M SORRY!–it’s like when you give your Oscar speech, and you forget to thank your spouse. . .
I hope you have some time to check out their blogs. Thanks, ladies, for your support. You are all well-deserving of the Reader Appreciation Award!
Recently my blogging buddy, Cecelia Lester, passed along to me and a few other bloggers the Liebster Award.
I am such a forget ninny sometimes that I forgot the thank her for that.
So, A BIG THANK YOU! to Cecelia for honoring me as one of her favorite bloggers. You can read Cecelia's beautiful, sincere devotionals at her blog, Following My King. Her heartfelt words often reach out across
I have been doing a secret happy dance for a week. Why, you ask?
Do you need a reason to do a happy dance?
Well, in this case, I actually had a reason, and that reason is because I got asked to be a Round 2 Judge for the YA category! I'm awfully excited about this. Can you tell?
I'll be judging with these other magnificent bloggers:
By Singing Light
The Writer's Republic
The Hungry Readers
Reading on the F Train
Congrats to all the other judges and the other panels. It's always a fun time, working on the Cybils.
Nomination period opens up, as always, on October 1 and run to the 15th of that month. Follow the Cybils blog
for the latest!
Since KidLitCon, an annual conference for children’s book bloggers, took place right here in New York City this year, I had the happy chance to attend for the very first time, and I also spotted several other publishing people in attendance. I don’t know how the bloggers felt about us publishing folk dropping in on their conference, but hopefully they didn’t mind too much. There were some pretty open discussions of publisher/blogger/author relations at various points, so I don’t think anyone was holding themselves back on our account. And from the publisher standpoint I was glad to be there to listen, in addition to the fact that I am personally a bit of a fangirl of lots of the bloggers who were there and it was fun to meet them face to face.
The inestimable Betsy Bird
There are lots of other great recaps of KidLitCon up around the blogosphere, so I thought I’d just list a few of the things I took away from the conference on the publishing side of things:
1. Don’t forget your friends.
There are many different levels of familiarity and relationships, even when you’re just talking about the Internet. As the women of From The Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors explained in their panel on community building, some people are readers or browsers while others are followers, fans, or even true friends, and friends/fans should not be taken for granted. For those people, that might mean scheduling an in-person meetup or just emailing to say hello.
The important thing, I think, is that those levels – reader, follower, fan, friend – are not set in stone. With the right book, conversation, or connection, relationships can deepen and become more meaningful.
2. “Google is forever.”
As Greg Pincus explained in his session on avoiding the echo-chamber, once something is up on the Internet you can NEVER really take back. So think through what you post, and make sure whatever you are putting out there adds *value* as opposed to just trying to sell something. I think this is especially true for authors and for us as publishers: there is a lot of noise out there, so don’t just add to it through self-promotion. Instead, contribute to conversations in a meaningful way.
A panel on whether reviews have gotten too nice
3. “New authors should be put in werewolf cages when their books are released. They can be fed, though.“
Author Maureen Johnson suggested this unorthodox but elegant solution to the problem of authors responding to negative reviews of their books. If you are an author (or author’s wife/husband, editor, agent, or personal bodyguard) don’t do it! If you want to respond to a blogger who has reviewed your book, pop online to say “thank you” and then, if need be, go drown your sorrows offline in a pint of ice cream. And if you are a publisher or agent, teach your authors that there is a right and a wrong way to respond to bad reviews.
BONUS: What blogs do your favorite bloggers read?
One last thing I loved, and I think it even came up as kind of an afterthought, was the discussion of what some of my favorite bloggers read themselves. During a panel on whether reviewers have become too nice, Betsy Bird, Liz Burns, Monica Edinger, and a few other reviewers shared some of their own favorite blogs. The ones most mentioned were Pink Me, The Book Smugglers, and Bookshelves of Doom, which was pretty much a universal favorite.
The takeaway of the day, besides the general fact that bloggers are awesome, is that blogging and reviewing is constantly evolving. Luckily, the community of bloggers is a supportive one, so there’s a lot everyone can learn from each other and a lot that everyone can do together.
And my other takeaway of the day was these amazing Charles Dickens postcards that I picked up at the NY Public Library’s Charles Dickens exhibit during a break:
M is for Abel Magwitch, H is for Miss Havisham
All in all, a good day.
Recaps & more recaps: A Fuse #8, Bookshelves of Doom, SLJ, Nova Ren Suma, The Cath in the Hat, and Jon Yang.
Filed under: Publishing 101
This past weekend was one of my favorite weekends of the whole year. It was KidlitCon, in which bloggers gather to talk about books, blogging, and the intersection of the two. There's also many hijinx and some drinking of alcoholic beverages.
Every year, a different city is selected and different bloggers organize it, making each KidlitCon a unique experience. This year, it was New York City, and it was put together by Betsy Bird of A Fuse #8 Production and Monica Edinger of Educating Alice.
On Friday, we were treated to publisher previews, which were apparently Monica's brainchild, as well as her blood, sweat, and tears. No word on the proportion of tears to blood and sweat. I attended the Simon and Schuster preview in the morning, and the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt one in the afternoon. I heard about a lot of exciting books coming up, and got a few advanced reader copies to take home. More valuable than that, however, was meeting publisher peeps and talking with them.
At Simon and Schuster, we got the chance to see the research and art that goes into one of Megan McCarthy's appealing nonfiction picture books. She shared with us some of the things she had to do in order to get the pictures and info she needed for her next opus, coming out Summer of 2013. (Hint: illicit photography was involved.)
At the Houghton Mifflin, we discussed Common Core and how books can be used in the classroom. For those of you not in the know, Common Core is the newest thing in education circles. Basically, it's an upgraded set of standards for teachers to plan their lessons by. Of particular interest is that it emphasizes nonfiction reading in language arts, which means librarians get to haul out all the incredibly awesome nonfiction on our shelves. We also briefly chatted about e-galleys vs print ARCs. I was interested to hear that they limit their e-galley distribution just as they do their print galleys, and they were interested to hear that I actually prefer e-galleys.
By the bye, I've since heard from others that they prefer print, so now I'm interested in the topic. How many of you like e-galleys better, print ARCs better, or don't really care as long as you get to read a good book? I may actually do a blog post. Craziness, I know.
On Friday night, the bloggers en masse descended on a midtown restaurant, decimated their sushi bar (Actual quote from a blogger who would prefer to remain anonymous [me]: "Oh, I'll try this one, it's pink!"), and heard Grace Lin speak about her journey from art school to children's-book-illustration. I hear tell that she came into the city with a very small baby and a very large Sasquatch (also in attendance) just to talk to us, and I can't help but feel flattered. We also got the chance to purchase Starry River of the Sky a few days before it was officially on the shelves. If you think we were all over that, you would be right.
Next time: How All The Bloggers astonished Maureen Johnson, and this particular one creeped her out a little bit.
Blog: Margo Dill's Read These Books and Use Them!
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I’m welcoming Alex Boles, whom I met through my critique group (she’s the sister of one of our members) and who has a very exciting and important website and book! I encourage everyone to check out the website here and then the book through the Amazon link at the bottom of the post. I will let her tell you about the book and the website because she took the time to answer some questions! This seems to be teen week on my blog this week because this is another book and website PERFECT for teens! Here we go:
Margo: Hi Alex! Welcome to Read These Books and Use Them. How do you describe the Unwritten Letters Project? When did you get the idea?
Alex: The Unwritten Letters Project (ULP) is a website dedicated to allowing people to release emotions in a cathartic, non-violent fashion. It’s a place where anyone can write a letter to those who they haven’t had the chance to say goodbye to, didn’t have the courage or resources to say these things to them before or just release feelings, or confessions about themselves or their lives. ULP is more than just a letter-writing, interactive website. It’s a place where people can come to release emotions they didn’t know they were feeling and use it to cope and heal. Reading the other letters helps people to realize that we’re not alone in this huge world, and chances are, someone else has gone through or is going through something similar. If you can’t connect with the people close to you, maybe you can through someone’s letter from across the world.
I came upon the idea for the Unwritten Letters Project in 2009. I was a junior in college; and once the book version was released, I became the youngest (and some say first) undergrad to publish a book at Truman State University. The idea was inspired by a number of films and a class I was taking at the time called “Family Communication.” After reflecting throughout the course on how I would communicate my feelings growing up, I realized I tend to write how I’m feeling in journals or through creative writing. I created the website to see how many others use the same writing method of coping. If others used writing or could see how writing can be healing, then I figured the website could help a lot of people through difficult times and overcome hardships.
Margo: So, it started as a website! What were people posting to the website? What did you post?
Alex: Yes, the Unwritten Letters Project is in its truest form, a website. At the beginning, professors at my university would use the site for classroom projects and assignments. I used those letters to create the original base of letters and then began a self-ran marketing campaign to solicit letters from across the globe. Seemingly overnight, I was receiving letters from countries like Japan, Germany, and Great Britain–sometimes in their native languages adding to each letters authenticity. People would write about current love interests, lost love, friendship, regrets, passion, their own lives and wishes. I would receive letters about bullying, suicide, and self-harm. It seemed to open up to somewhat of a confessional, and people began trusting me with their deepest secrets. I feel very overwhelmed and lucky to be trusted by thousands of people just trying to heal.
Truthfully, I have posted a few of my own letters. I posted my own letters more in the earlier years because I had some old letters from my past that I wanted to let loose. Nowadays, I let the readers’ thoughts make up the website. It’s always been more about letting others utilize the website than what I can get out of it.
Margo: What a wonderful service you are providing other people! Why did you decide to make it into a book?
Alex: I decided to make the Unwritten Letters Project into a book because I wanted people to be able to get as much out of this project as possible. It’s a “coffee-table” book–something you read to feel comfort and hope. It’s something to read to realize you’re not alone, and things will get better. I wanted something tangible that readers could cherish and pass down to their children as something that helped them get through life’s hardest moments. I also wanted to use the resources I had while I had them. My college experience was amazing, and my university was very welcoming of ambition. They let me saturate the campus with my dream and embraced my enthusiasm for the project and its message. I was able to go in to classrooms to spread awareness, and the University Bookstore even hosted a book signing where the president and provost attended with campus and local media present. I realized I had an amazing support system through school, family, and friends and wanted to take advantage of the resources at hand, so that I could continue to spread the Unwritten Letters Project.
Margo: How awesome! I went to TSU, too–way before you–it was still Northeast Missouri State University. (smiles) Anyway, what a great opportunity and what a great way you use that opportunity. So, how can teachers, parents, and counselors use the book with young adults?
Alex: Educators and professionals can definitely use the Unwritten Letters Project as a resource for learning or healing. It’s a great example of real life hardships and how people deal with, overcome, and react to these situations. Nothing is embellished or changed from the original letters. Every letter is pure raw emotion and real-life scenarios and actions. With so many fiction and fantasy novels becoming increasingly popular, we lose sight of reality and how people can really be affected by life’s decisions and our actions. Reading this book can remind us of our humanity. It reminds people that we feel, we’re alive, and we need to consciously make an effort to keep living our lives to the fullest each day. Because if we don’t, then we end up regretting the moments we didn’t have or wishing we would have done something when we had the chance.
Margo: WOW! That is powerful and so true and such an important message. Can people still post letters to your website?
Alex: Readers don’t post letters to the site directly. They submit the letters to a portal that sends them to a private e-mail. I then choose letters that are posted. I continue to receive letters on a daily basis and post as often as I can. I am definitely still accepting letters on the website. I encourage everyone to try writing at least one letter. I think you’d surprise yourself.
Margo: I hope some of my readers will consider it and use the website and book with their students/children. Do you have plans for future books?
Alex: I don’t have a second book planned for the near future, but I do have plans to publish more books with specific themes. As long as readership continues or improves, I will always run the Unwritten Letters Project. When the demand for another book increases, I will solicit publishers and agents. I’d like the second book to have a heavier following and possibly a blog/book tour if possible. Another book is definitely a possibility, but when it happens is up to the fans and future unknown publisher.
Margo: Thank you so much, Alex. I am just really in awe of what you are doing and think it is a wonderful idea and service. Readers, you can look inside the book on Amazon!
Hop on over to the Cybils blog to discover the winners for this year. Congratulations to all the authors and illustrators, and many, many thanks to all the judges and organizers. This is a big job and it's all volunteer-driven.
I had a great time with my fellow judges for the YA fiction panel, and I feel awfully proud of our choice. Hope you like it as much as we did.
Also, there's some holiday about love or something. Yeah. I don't see it catching on.
A patron asked the librarian why Tales of Robin Hood had been withdrawn from the children’s collection. The librarian replied, “Too much Saxon violence.”
(adapted from http://www.booknotions.com/riddles.html)
Ever wonder where librarians lark about on the Internet? If you’re in need of a laugh, here are some great sites to put a smile on your face. It’s all in good fun. Enjoy.
- Unshelved – a comic strip devoted entirely to libraries and librarians
Psst … Want to see more of Tamara, Unshelved’s perpetually cheerful children’s librarian? Send your funny stories about library service to children to the creators of Unshelved. You may see them in a future comic (shhh … act surprised) ! (email@example.com)
- Awful Library Books – a collection of the worst books in library collections around the globe. You’ll get a good laugh and some weeding inspiration from these “winners!” You can submit your own worst books, too! (anonymously, of course) Visit Awful Library Books at their blog, Pinterest, or Facebook.
- Doughnuts made me do it!
Need some fast humor? Twitter has it covered.
And if you are the #saturdaylibrarian, #sundaylibrarian, or #nightlibrarian, join your hashtag comrades on Twitter. If you don’t get a laugh in there somewhere, I’ll be surprised.
Is Tumblr your thing?
Or for humor of a more “academic” nature, try
- It’s a mixed bag, but if you search “librarian humor,” you’ll find something to make you smile.
Did I miss any of your favorite sites for library-themed humor?
Emoticon image by The people from the The Tango! Desktop Project [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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Has an ALSC blog post every spurred you to action? Spawned a great new idea? Opened up a new opportunity? We all hope that these daily posts help advance the cause of librarianship to children – helping librarians and their young patrons reach a brighter, more meaningful and more interesting future.
Here is one such success story.
Back in the summer of 2012, ALSC guest blogger, Tess Goldwasser of St. Mary’s County Library in MD, wrote a post entitled “Music and Libraries: A Natural Combination.” I read it and thought,
“Hmmmm… I wonder if I could play the ukulele.”
I emailed her about using the ukulele in library storytime programs and I was enthusiastic about the possibilities. She was very helpful, offering advice on purchasing a ukulele and finding music. Then Superstorm Sandy hit, and my life took a different turn for several months; but still, I couldn’t shake that ukulele from my mind.
In the winter, I resettled in my home, and I acquired a shiny red ukulele! I reconnected with Tess, and she gave me continued encouragement and some great ideas for easy songs. I’m still learning and my repertoire is thin, but children are so wonderful – they love it! We learn the letter “U,” we count the strings, we take note of its lovely color, and of course, we sing! I even play at home. “Ho Hey” by the Lumineers lends itself very well to the ukulele.
So that’s my success story. Thanks, Tess. Does anyone else have one to share?
The current nugget that’s lodged in the back of my brain? ”The StoryMob.”
Note: Ukulele enhancements are courtesy of PicMonkey. It doesn’t look quite so effervescent when sitting on my couch, but it certainly comes alive in storytime!