Last week I attended “R.A. in a Day,” an annual one-day mini-conference on readers’ advisory – that is, finding books for readers.
It happens that the manager of my own “Readers’ Den” department is one of the principal hosts of the conference, and the Mississauga Library was well-represented in the audience. More than 100 people attended from libraries throughout southern Ontario.
It was a joy to spend the day focusing on the singular pleasures of reading and the experience of people who read. Part of what makes doing readers’ advisory fun is that you’re already (Read more…)
Continuing on the young-adult fiction theme, it’s been about six months since I blathered about my absolute favourite part of my job: teen book club. Our monthly gathering is still going strong, a small but dedicated group of young readers who love books, and love to talk about books. My posters for TBC invite teens to “hang out, eat snacks, talk about books, talk about life,” and that pretty much sums up what we do.
Every few months, the group votes on the next four titles, chosen from a selection that I gather, as well as their own suggestions. Most young (Read more…)
In June of this year, Slate ran a now-infamous piece called “Against YA,” in which Ruth Graham argued that adults shouldn’t read young-adult fiction, and should be embarrassed if they do. A flood of posts and essays were written in response; my own response is here. In the short term, as far as I can tell, not a single writer agreed with Graham.
Despite this lopsided showing, some headline writer (possibly here) dubbed this “The Great Y.A. Debate,” and the name stuck. There must be people out there who agree with Graham – surely hers was (Read more…)
When we moved to Canada (nine years plus a few days ago), I wondered what, if anything, I would miss about the US. Who would have guessed it would be watching “Baseball Tonight”? Yup, the only thing I miss about living in that crazy country is watching a baseball-highlights show on ESPN. Not bad!
In a similar vein, what do I miss about being a writer? A strange sound that I can’t quite decipher.
When people would ask that inevitable question, “What do you do?”, and I would answer, “I’m a writer,” invariably, I would get this (Read more…)
I must preface this post with a happy disclaimer: I love library customers. I love helping them. I love giving them a good feeling about the library. I value great customer service and I love to provide it. At least 90% of our customers are polite and appreciative. Perhaps another 5% are developmentally or socially disabled, and may or may not be conventionally polite. No problem. The other five percent is not a big deal.
Another preface: I am always very patient and polite. Some of you know about an incident when I lost my temper with a customer – (Read more…)
Do you ever borrow ebooks from your public library? Do you have any idea how your library adds ebooks to its collection, or at what cost?
The number of library customers who borrow ebooks is growing all the time. How many of them, I wonder, are aware of how their library gets screwed every time they do.
Even some library staff is unaware of the raw deal libraries are getting when it comes to ebooks. Library-themed journals, blogs, and conferences are filled with talk about digital technology and resources. Yet in this deluge of discussion, there is too little exposing – (Read more…)
Meet the new permanent youth librarian at the Mississauga Central Library.
I’ve been in this position since January, but on a temporary or contract basis. Two big things had to happen in order for this job to post as permanent, and they were completely out of my control: two other people also had to get permanent promotions. If either of those people didn’t get their permanent positions, my contract would have ended. I would have gone back to being a part-time library assistant (which would have been a huge hit both financially and in terms of responsibility) and tried (Read more…)
Central Library at National Autonomous University of Mexico, Mexico City
While I wait impatiently to post some exciting news, please enjoy these photos of amazing libraries all over the world.
I’ve seen six on this list: New York Public Library, Butler Library at Columbia University, Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library at University of Toronto, Trinity College in Dublin, Central Library at University of Mexico (from the outside only), and Los Angeles Central Library.
Library photos from BuzzFeed.
This is a library! (Image found here.)
This article about the incredible Nieuwe Bibliotheek (New Library) in the Netherlands got me thinking about the current state of libraries – and library staff and library customers – and people’s attitudes towards change. Facing declining visitors and uncertainty about what to do about it, library administrators in the new town of Almere in the Netherlands did something extraordinary. They redesigned their libraries based on the changing needs and desires of library users and, in 2010, opened the Nieuwe Bibliotheek (New Library), a thriving community hub that looks more like a (Read more…)
The conversation was simple enough.
Teenage girl: “Where is the nonfiction?”
Me: “Nonfiction is upstairs, but it’s organized according to subject. There should be some nonfiction books on the Bingo display.”
Teen: “I think they’re all gone.”
Me: “OK, we’ll find you something. What would you like to read about?”
Teen: “So far I’ve read one nonfiction book. It was about a man who left the war in Iraq. It was called The Deserter’s Tale. I loved it.”
Why did this make me so unreasonably happy?
1. War resisters! Teens reading about moral choices! Teens (Read more…)
My summer youth programs have been going really well. Attendance has increased with each program – first 7, then 13, then 15 – and yesterday we hit the jackpot with 23 teens. We actually had to turn away three kids without tickets, as our program room was so packed with people and materials.
I wasn’t planning on blogging about individual programs, but there seems to be some interest. Plus, since I regularly Google for ideas for programs and displays, I’m happy to give back by adding to the ideas out there.
Upcycling was a huge hit! For those not familiar (Read more…)
Yesterday was my first summer program at the library. Attendance was low, but very keen. An artist and activist (who happens to be a friend of mine from the war resisters movement) led a workshop I called “Comix that Save the World”. We explored the use of the comics form to express larger social concerns. It was so much fun, the teens were so into it, that I’m thinking of expanding it to an ongoing series, where kids could really develop something. The summer at Mississauga Central Library will be packed with programs for teens – sometimes as many as (Read more…)
One of our regular Readers’ Den customers approached me with her usual long list of movies. She researches movies online, prints out lists, and comes to the desk to see what we have in our collection. Anything we have, we place on hold for her. She’s a great customer, in terms of library use. She has an intellectual disability, and sometimes helping her can be a bit of a challenge. This customer talks very fast, and a little too loudly. While you’re searching for one item, she’s rattling off the next few, so after placing each hold, you must (Read more…)
Ruth Graham, writing in Slate, says, “You should feel embarrassed when what you’re reading was written for children.” How sad. If anyone should feel embarrassed, it’s Graham. She apparently writes this commentary without realizing how narrow-minded, outdated, and ignorant it makes her appear.
Then again, what can we expect from a person who describes a love scene by saying a young man “deflowers” his girlfriend? Perhaps Graham hasn’t noticed, but in the 21st Century, women are not passive objects; their first sexual experience is not imagined as a loss of innocence and delicacy. Hazel, the hero of The (Read more…)
A boy, maybe age 8, was confused about what he needed. He said he needed “chapter books about the human body,” which sounded to me like two things – books about the human body for a school project, and chapter books, meaning junior fiction that is not a picture book, not a series, and not a graphic novel. But he was convinced he needed “chapter books about the human body.” He would not be helped, casting aside everything I found for him, and getting increasingly frustrated.
Following him around the library (it’s a Sunday, so I’m working overtime, not (Read more…)
I thought readers’ advisory was the best part of my job, but that was before I began running our library’s teen book club.
Once a month, I spend an evening with a group of teens who choose to spend their evening at the library, talking about books. We hang out, eat snacks, talk about books, talk about life. Although I’ve never had an interest in book clubs for myself, facilitating these young people’s enjoyment of reading is a joy and a privilege.
The teens themselves come from diverse backgrounds and experiences. Most are the first generation of their family born (Read more…)
My final post about the OLA Super Conference sessions I attended saves the best for last. “Sub-Urban Beats: Hip-Hop Programming in the Library” thrilled me with possibilities. Even more exciting, it was co-presented by two librarians from the Mississauga Library System who are youth specialists, Erica Conly and James Dekens. They worked with Damon Pfaff, of the Now Creative Group and Marcel DaCosta, a street dancer, community artist, and arts educator whose performance name is Frost Flow. Frost Flow is part of the Mississauga hip-hop collective Ground Illusionz; you can see some of his work here on YouTube.
I’ve just finished my first March Break (the Canadian equivalent of Spring Break in the US) in my new position as a youth librarian. It was exhilarating and a lot of work, but not nearly as exhausting as I imagined.
March Break was great for many reasons. One, I have great support from a senior librarian and manager who appreciate my efforts. Two, I am part of an amazing team of people who pitched in so I could devote myself more fully to programming, and who encouraged me daily. Three, so many amazing people lent their time and energy and (Read more…)
Image from Freedom to Read website
Freedom to Read Week 2014 runs from February 23 to March 1. This year marks the 30th anniversary of Freedom to Read Week in Canada.
Freedom to Read Week – called “Banned Books Week” in the United States – encourages Canadians to think about and reaffirm their commitment to intellectual freedom, a human right guaranteed to us under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. For me, it is also a time to celebrate the library as a bulwark against censorship, and for library workers to reflect on our jobs in a broader political context.
Tweens – older kids who are not yet teens – are among my favourite library customers. Tween books are my favourites to read, and a tween audience is my most natural writing voice.
Sadly, tweens are often underserved at libraries. Library programming often focuses on either pre-school kids or youth, usually defined as ages 12 and up. The 8-12 group is too old for baby stuff, but usually too young for the real teen scene. And libraries are often desperate for tween programming ideas.
To that end, two librarians from the Oshawa (Ontario) Public Library, Brianne Wilkins-Bester and Tiffany Balducci, (Read more…)
Yesterday I attended one of the most exciting and inspiring sessions of the OLA Super Conference, one of three that I will write about. It was a presentation by two people from MakerKids, one of the world’s only makerspaces dedicated to and for young people – and lucky for us, it’s in Toronto.
Makerspaces… and MakerKids
In this previous post about attending “OLA” for the first time, I listed “Maker Culture in Action” as one of the sessions I wanted to attend. A reader asked what that meant, and a little discussion ensued: here. That was a good reminder (Read more…)
For the next three days, I’ll be attending the Ontario Library Association’s annual Superconference, always referred to simply as “OLA”. As the name implies, this is a gigantic conference covering issues related to all three types of libraries – public, academic, and special. You can see a program here. In library school, we were strongly encouraged to attend OLA. Students can volunteer to help run conference sessions in exchange for free attendance. I never did (honestly, I never even considered it), so now I attend my very first OLA, already a professional, and in place of three working days. (Read more…)
I’m enjoying my new position so much! Things are going really well so far. I’m preparing for teen book club, researching display ideas, and planning some (I hope) interesting programs. I’ll write about those as they happen.
So far I’m feeling well, too. I’m still adjusting to full-time work, but I’m not collapsing from it, either. Readers, you were right. Doing work that you love makes a huge difference. So does a more humane work environment. In the library, no one expects everything done yesterday, everyone understands the concept of a learning curve, and most people truly understand teamwork and (Read more…)
I am so excited about my new position! As I mentioned, I am now a librarian in the Mississauga Central Library’s “Readers’ Den” department. It is a full-time position, and lasts until July of this year. Right now it feels like my ideal job; I only wish it were permanent.
My main areas of responsibility involve youth services. I’ll be planning and delivering youth programming during school holidays, after school, and Saturdays, and I’ll facilitate the teen book club that meets monthly. I’ll be responsible for the library’s youth book displays, and will share responsibilities for purchasing ( (Read more…)
My annual I Hate Christmas post is a mixed bag this year.
Last year, I found Christmas less awful than usual, thanks to the absence of both commercial TV and my law-firm job. Those changes are permanent (at least I hope they are!), so I may never need to hide from Christmas quite so much, ever again.
On the other hand, Christmas at the public library is a grand opportunity for alienation. The decorations, the displays of children’s Christmas books, the Christmas-themed storytimes… and everyone thinks it’s all hunky-dory, as long as we stick to Santa and ignore Jesus. (Read more…)