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Sunday Reflections: Why I Learned to Stop Thinking of My Patrons as “Stupid”

sundayreflections Sunday Reflections: Why I Learned to Stop Thinking of My Patrons as StupidWe’ve all done it; In a moment of frustration you walk into a back office and just begin to vent, sometimes out of frustration the word stupid might be invoked. Or some other variation of. But in a moment of frustration you become like a pressure cooker and you just have to go to a remote corner of the library and release the valve. Working with the public can be a frustrating experience, but a little perspective can go a long way.

The world shifted for me one day when a fellow employee came to me and said she had just gotten off the phone with a patron who was “so stupid” I wouldn’t believe it. This patron has simply asked for directions to the library. Apparently the staff member mentioned something about going South from a location, which the patron was having a hard time understanding. So out of the frustration of trying to explain directions to this patron over the phone she was given the S label.

The thing is, I am this patron. I am directionally challenged to the Nth degree. So when my co-worker asked me if I could believe how stupid the patron was, she was asking me if I could believe how stupid I was. And the thing is, I’m not stupid. I just don’t know everything and one of the things that I am conceptually very bad at is directions. So I told my coworker that I didn’t think the patron was stupid at all, just bad at directions. It was an eye opening moment for me in the way that people – in the way that I – look at and judge the people around me.

The Mr. and I have a running joke regarding me and directions. We’ll be in the car driving somewhere and he’ll ask me which direction we’re driving and of course the answer is North. For me the answer is always North. It doesn’t matter which direction we are going, it feels like North to me. This is, of course, a ridiculous concept because sometimes we are going in any direction but North. I do not know why my personal inner compass is calibrated to North, but it is.

Many years ago, The Mr. and I were driving to a concert down somewhere near Los Angeles. This was before our smartphones (yep, I’m old) and we were navigating with a good old fashioned map. He was driving and I was giving directions. We soon found ourselves being pulled over by the police who informed us that we were in the wrong neighborhood and given an escort out (and yes, this is a story with a lot of important implications). It turns out, we zigged when we should have zagged because I was looking at the map upside down. Well, the map wasn’t upside down, I just wasn’t looking at it correctly. It was very early in our relationship, I’m not allowed to give directions any more.

For me, my most frustrating moments with patrons often involves the public computers. I spend all day every day on a computer so it can be difficult for me to interact with those who have no idea how to use a computer but need to, and they often start clicking before you’ve finished giving them good instructions. These are the moments that are – were – most likely to end in my coming off my reference desk uttering exasperatedly about the intellect or skills of a patron. But the thing is that this patron is no different than me, it’s just our basic skill sets differ. I’m not good at directions, they’re not good (yet) at computers. They actually have a better chance of becoming good at computers than I do of getting good at directions.

We all are born with natural talents and challenges. In addition to directions, history has always been a thorn in my side. I’m not good at memorizing facts, which is a useful skill in history. But I can write a mean essay. The Mr. can memorize facts in ways that amaze and astound me. I’ll admit it, it makes me jealous. But he can’t spell. I can type well over 70 words per minute while he uses the tried and trued hunt and peck keyboarding method. In addition to natural skills, many of us are drawn to different things and invest our time studying in those areas, which may be different than those with whom we interact. The Mr. can talk to you about cars and fixing cars, a conversation that often sounds to me like the adults on a Peanuts cartoon. It’s not that I’m stupid, it’s just that cars aren’t my thing. I may be uninformed about cars, but to write me off as stupid seems immensely harsh and mean spirited. Which is why I had to change the ways I handled difficult patron interactions very early on in my library career.

In addition to natural ability and personal interests, there’s a lot of privilege involved in these moments. We’re not all given the same access to education for a variety of reasons, and some of those reasons are about socioeconomic inequality. Many of our library patrons don’t have the same technology skills as we do because they don’t have the same access to technology. I now try to keep my privilege in mind when interacting with patrons who don’t have the same knowledge of technology that I have (and trust me, my knowledge is minimal compared to so many others). It can be frustrating when you are telling the 30th person in 20 minutes how to print their document, but we have to remember that to them it is a new skill. What is rote and seems so obvious to us can be a source of intimidation and stress to those who are new to the situation. I try to remember what it is like for me to walk into a new space and not know the culture, the rules, the processes and treat my patrons as I would like to be treated in those situations new to me.

I’d like to pretend that in this moment of eye opening self reflection that I have completely stopped the need to go into a back room and vent at all, but that would be a lie. The truth is, we’re dealing with a wide variety of personalities, interests, skill sets, needs, etc. and sometimes patron interactions are just frustrating for a variety of reasons. But the common denominator in all frustrating patron reactions is me. I can’t control what a patron says or does, but I can work on controlling how I react. Now, even in these moments of frustration, I have come to better understand some of their causes and work to keep them in perspective. At the end of the day we’re all just human, but with a little effort on our part we can all work to be better humans.

Friday Finds – December 9, 2014

This Week at TLTfridayfinds 150x150 Friday Finds   December 9, 2014

Sunday Reflections: “I Saved Myself”

Middle Grade Monday – The Fight for Diversity

What’s new in LGBTQIA+ this winter

Teens and Poverty, an updated book list

It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye, a reflection on library life at a branch library

Teen Issues: Teen Homelessness and NO PARKING AT THE END TIMES by Bryan Bliss

Teens and Poverty, an updated book list

12 Blogs of 2014: DiversifYA

12 Blogs of 2014: Rich in Color

12 Blogs of 2014: YA Highway

12 Blogs of 2014: Robot Test Kitchen

Around the Web

Surprising Christmas feelings from one of my favorite authors.

Ingrid (The Magpie Librarian) shared her awesome display about the history of protest movements.

Kelly Jensen posted a great answer to the “Where are all the boy books?” question over at Book Riot.

And this was all over Tumblr. We will miss Norman Bridwell;  his was a life that impacted millions of small people for good.tumblr ngplbtQSm71t0ci9do1 500 150x150 Friday Finds   December 9, 2014

Teens and Poverty, an updated book list

As part of our ongoing series discussing the issue of teens and poverty, I thought it was time that we updated our book list. Although it may seem that a high number of YA titles present us with a lot of incredibly rich teens, often attending boarding schools (see, for example, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart or Winger by Andrew Smith), the truth is our current economy makes it clear that more and more teens are living in homes where parents are struggling to pay the most basic bills, often working multiple part-time jobs to try and make ends meet. And this year many of our favorite YA titles started to better reflect the very real socioeconomic realities of the teens we serve.

The truth is, there are a wide range of economic realities that teens today are living in. And although this has always been true, it is also true that we are seeing a huge and continuining shift in these economic realities in a post 2008 collapse U.S. For many families, these ripple effects are still being felt. As Kate Brauning writes in her terrific post on Writing Poverty in YA, “Not being able to provide for even the most basic needs for you and yours creates a host of mental, physical, emotional, and educational problems. And most of those issues aren’t ones you earned yourself– they were handed to you through cycles. Poverty isn’t mainly a lack of money. Poverty is a lack of community. A lack of support. Feeling like you have no voice in the system. Shame and isolation. A road that goes around and around, instead of out. ” Poverty is this living, breathing thing that informs the very environment you grow up in, thus informing so many parts of who you are and how you feel about your place in the world. When people state that the answer to poverty is just to get a job or an education, they don’t recognize the very real doors that poverty closes for you. If a job or education are the keys to opening those doors, what do you do when you don’t have the means to fairly access those keys? That’s the very real struggle that kids growing up in poverty face.

But there also has to be that middle ground between the rich kids of Gossip Girls and the teens living in true and very real abject poverty. There are those teens whose families fall somewhere into the shrinking middle and lower middle class that are making very real and very hard decisions about what they are going to cut from their budgets to help pay their bills. The teens who shop at thrift stores not becaue it’s edgy and cool but out of economic necessity.  The teens who aren’t watching Game of Thrones because they don’t have cable. The teens whose families sometimes show up at food banks because the monthly budget doesn’t stretch to meet food needs of the family, even shopping at discount grocery stores. These stories also need to be told, these teens also need a voice.

perfectlygoodwhiteboy 208x300 Teens and Poverty, an updated book listIn Perfectly Good White Boy by by Carrie Mesrobian, for example, we see the very real economic hardship of a teenage boy named Sean who is considering joining the Marines as his only feasible hope of a future. His family home shows its wear and tear, he works at a local thrift store where they constantly see those in similar hardship shopping for goods, and he works with co-workers who understand all too well what it means to barely scrape by. Perfectly Good White Boy is an engaging read in part because it perfectly captures the inner voice and real life struggles of the 47% of our population who are weighed down by the day to day struggles of barely scraping by and being forced to answer the question what comes next. Sean’s voice serves as an authentic stand in for the tons of teen boys I have served over the years in my public library career. I like Sean and care about his story because I know Sean, I see Sean every day signing up for a computer to try and complete a homework assignment or asking for books on things like college financial aid.

panic 199x300 Teens and Poverty, an updated book listOne of the things that I liked most in this year’s Panic by Lauren Oliver was how well Oliver captured the desperation of teens to flee both small town life and a life of poverty. It is that desire to escape, to flee, to get out at any cost that leads one of our main characters to enter into this very risky competition. And for a period of time we see Heather and her sister living out of their car. I have seen this fevered desperation in the eyes of many of the teens that I have worked with in the library and could see them diving into a deadly challenge like this for even the smallest chance that it might just finally be their way out. Panic reminded me in some ways of the older title Wrestling Sturbridge by Rich Wallace, which also captures this small town desperation.kisskillvanish 198x300 Teens and Poverty, an updated book list

Earlier this week I shared with you the upcoming title No Parking at the End Times by Bryan Bliss which highlights the plight of a homeless brother and sister duo. They are homeless for unique reasons, but the fact remains that they are very much homeless and this gives a very realistic look as to what that entails. This year another YA title was released that featured a teen that finds herself homeless for very unique reasons: Kiss Kill Vanish by Jessica Martinez. In Kiss Kill Vanish, Valentina is the witness to a murder so she flees to Canada to try and find safety. Here she is literally living in the closet of a group of barely surviving teens and early 20s. Kiss Kill Vanish is a thriller, but in the midst of reading it I was struck by Valentina’s plight to survive. It is such a stark contrast when you compare where Valentina is coming from to the life she lives in hiding. Kiss Kill Vanish is chock full of problematic relationships, but it was undeniably a decent thriller and the juxtaposition of Valentina’s two lives makes for an interesting discussion of what happens when you lose everything like so many families did after the crash of 2008.

altheaoliver 201x300 Teens and Poverty, an updated book listIn Althea & Oliver by Cristina Moracho, Althea makes her way to New York City in pursuit of Oliver where she spends a couple of unsafe nights literally sleeping in her car. She finds temporary shelter with a group of teens and young adults who also serve food to the hungry. Here we get multiple perspectives into poverty and homelessness. Although there were many things I liked about Althea & Oliver, there is some questionable handling of male rape that I think merits more discussion; but if you are looking for some good representation of our economic times this title definitely fits the bill.alltherage2 197x300 Teens and Poverty, an updated book list

In the upcoming All the Rage by Courtney Summers, the main character Romy is a part of a family that is struggling on a very low income. As any woman knows finding a good fitting bra can make all the difference in the world, but it can also put quite the burden on your pocket book. There are some excellent scenes that play out in All the Rage where Romy is looking at bras in a discount bin at a local low end market, think Dollar General. The longing and heartache and acknowledgment of Romy’s economic struggle are played out with a visceral force in these scenes. Romy has a stepdad, really a mother’s boyfriend, who is on disability for a bad back and there is some very good nuance in this family dynamic as well, including the way he is looked down on by members of the community.

thedevilyouknow 195x300 Teens and Poverty, an updated book listWe can also see in the upcoming The Devil You Know by Trish Doller and Dumplin by Julie Murphy, both 2015 titles, some realistic depictions of struggling lower middle class families.  I once had a discussion with an administrator of a public library who said libraries needed to weed 75% of their books because everyone just reads ebooks now, which is someone speaking from a position of privilege because of course not everyone has the technology necessary to do this. Many families struggle to meet their basic bills and extras like smart phones and wifi aren’t necessarily part of their necessities.  There is some discussion of that struggle and a little glimpse into the stress that comes with being a member of the middle class or lower middle class in titles like these. While youth homelessness saw a dramatic increase in 2013, still many other families are forced to find ways to cut corners, juggle bills, and forgo some of life’s basic necessities and it’s validating for teens to see this economic reality affirmed in their literature as well. Even little glimpses can help us all realize what economic hardship can mean to teens and families and develop a more compassionate approach to our fellow human beings. Sometimes even in the nicest of neighborhoods the families are huddling under forts of blankets to try and cut down the heating bill and barely holding on to their homes, which means things like smart phones and new cars are right out. The truth is, we don’t know what is going on behind the doors of our neighbors and far too often many of them are struggling in silence, they don’t necessarily qualify to stand in line at the food bank but they aren’t shopping in places like Whole Foods either. Their day to day existence features some very real sacrifice and struggle. Stories can help us remember the diversity of socioeconomic lives we are all living in this new economic reality. And for the teens who can’t relate to some of the real wealth often found in YA lit, it can help make the stories more relate-able and accessible.

More on Teens, Hunger and Poverty in our Teen Issues series:

See also Stacked: Socioeconomic Class in Contemporary YA Lit: Where Are The Poor Teens? Guest Post by Librarian Faythe Arrendondo and Kate Brauning: Writing Poverty in YA

Additional Titles [Read more...]

12 Blogs of 2014: Robot Test Kitchen

rtklogocolor4 12 Blogs of 2014: Robot Test KitchenI can’t tell you how much I love The Robot Test Kitchen. Mainly because I blog there and it would be a little too self-promotion-y for me, but also because the experience of getting that project up and running is one of the best things that’s ever happened to me professionally. So instead I’ll tell you what it is and why I hope you check it out.

RTK began as a project through ILEAD, a statewide technology and leadership program in Illinois, which is now in ten other states. Check with your state library to see if they participate, and if not, tell them they really need to! What we set out to do was to demystify robotics for youth and teen services librarians, and we wanted to do that by getting robotics toys, tools, and kits, testing them out in different settings, and talking about our experiences. What makes The Robot Test Kitchen more than just a review site is that we take into account the fact that just as each of us brings our own experiences, likes, dislikes, hot button issues, fears, and passions to every book we read, we take those same things into every technology programming experience we have. So when you read that post that talks about how awesome it is to play with Sphero and teens, you also hear about how it’s intimidating for me to be leading a program where I’m not able to explain everything. And how when I see the kids having a great time, I’m reminded of how important it is for them to play in order to stay engaged with learning. And how I sometimes question whether or not the learning is really there in the midst of all of the play.

The five of us, Kim, Michelle, Jacquie, Sharon, and I all come from different backgrounds and different comfort levels with tech, and we work in different communities with different aged kids who have different expectations from their library.

Stop by for the reviews, stay for the support and commiseration. We believe that where imaginations play, learning happens and that it’s ok to try and fail and learn and move on. We want to hear from you too!


12 Blogs of 2014: YA Highway

Welcome to blog number 11 of our 12 Blogs of 2014! If you missed some of the series, make sure you go back and check them all out. Lots of great blogs to read and smart people to follow on Twitter. Be sure to check out the end of this post for a list of just a few more blogs I love. Want to share your favorites with me? I’m on Twitter @CiteSomething. 


YA highway2 12 Blogs of 2014: YA HighwayToday’s featured blog

YA Highway

From the blog:

We’re writers from different corners of the globe, united by our affinity for travel, costume parties, and writing and reading young adult fiction.

Find them on Twitter  @yahighway and tumblr.


Who runs YA Highway

7 full-time and 6 contributing members


Kirsten Hubbard (Twitter @kirstenhubbard), Kristin Halbrook (Twitter @KristinHalbrookWebsite), Kaitlin Ward (Twitter @Kaitlin_WardWebsite), Kate Hart (Twitter @Kate_Hart, Website), Stephanie Kuehn (Twitter @stephkuehnWebsite), Sarah Enni (Twitter @SarahEnniWebsite), Amy Lukavics (Twitter @amylukavicsTumblr)



Lee Bross (Twitter @Lee_BrossWebsite), Leila Austin (Twitter @thatleilaWebsite), Sumayyah Daud (Twitter @sumayyahdaud, Tumblr), Debra Driza (Twitter @DebraDrizaWebsite), Emilia Plater (Twitter @emiliaplaterWebsite), Kristin Briana Otts (Twitter @kbotts,Tumblr)


Why I like YA Highway

Such a wide range of awesome posts! Information, discussions, and advice from writers, editors, agents, and publishers (including a query series), author interviews, recommended reads, writing tips, cover reveals, and more. I love that they include ways to join in on their fun: “submit a collection of music for a mix tape/playlist, ask them YA-related questions, guest posts, Road Trip Wednesday (Answer the weekly prompt on your blog and link it in the comments, or use hashtag #roadtripwednesday on Twitter or Tumblr. (It’s helpful if you tag @yahighway in those as well!) We’ll do our best to share your answers and help you find other people playing along!) and Field Trip Friday (Use the form on their site to submit your links and giveaways below for inclusion in the weekly industry round up.)”


Some posts to check out

The Landscape of YA Lit: A State of the Union

Five Ways to Stay in Touch with Your WIP During Busy Times

 YA Before YA: What My Parents Read

Guest post: I Love You and I Want to Kill You; Let’s Make Out by Catherine Egan

Guest post: Memorable Food in YA Literature by Elissa Sussman


Other great blogs you need to be reading: Kristin Cashore’s blog, Stacked, Forever Young Adult, Carrie Mesrobian’s blog, A Chair, a Fireplace, & A Tea Cozy, Bookshelves of Doom, GayYA, Kelly Barnhill’s blog, Screwy Decimal, The Dead Have Issues, The Diary Project.

You can find me also blogging at Cite Something


Teen Issues: Teen Homelessness and NO PARKING AT THE END TIMES by Bryan Bliss

noparking 198x300 Teen Issues: Teen Homelessness and NO PARKING AT THE END TIMES by Bryan BlissIn November of this year the results of a new study were released that indicate that the U.S. had achieved a disreputable goal: In the year 2013 1 in 30 youth were homeless at some point. That’s 2.5 million children experiencing homelessness. This was an unprecedented level of homelessness for our youth, a shamefully high and unacceptable number for a first world nation that is supposed to pride itself in its compassion for the least of these and be such an economic powerhouse.


Fast Fact: Children under 18 accounted for 39% of the homeless population – See more at:–facts-69.html#sthash.PufCz7ha.dpuf

As we have discussed in our ongoing series on Teens and Poverty (listed below), being from a low income family presents a variety of very real challenges to our youth. Being homeless even more so.

In 2015 a new book titled NO PARKING AT THE ENDS TIME by Bryan Bliss will be released that takes a very stark look at a family with two teenage children living out of their van in the San Francisco area. The reasons for their homelessness are unique, but the results are very much the same: these teens are not enrolled in school, they are forced to memorize a schedule of local meal distributions to find basic food, and they are in constant danger of being noticed both by local criminal elements and children’s services.

Many families typically find themselves without a home due to job loss, medical issues that bankrupt them, or fleeing from a violent home.  A large number of teens are homeless because they are rejected by their family when they come out as GLBTQ. But the family in NO PARKING AT THE END TIMES is homeless because their parents got involved in an end times cult and they sold all their possessions to travel to San Fran and wait for whatever is supposed to come next. Except it doesn’t come.

Fast Fact: Approximately 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBT – See more at:–facts-69.html#sthash.PufCz7ha.dpuf

Author Bliss makes some really interesting decisions here. By choosing to have the family become homeless due to issues of faith, he creates a really interesting discussion piece about the role of faith in the life of modern day believers and juxtaposes them against the discussion of parental responsibility. If you were to go with a literal interpretation of the Bible, Jesus did indeed say that believers should abandon everything and follow him, which these parents are doing. He even says that you should literally walk away from your plow and just leave it in the field to come follow Him. Wealth and riches are considered one of the largest stumbling blocks to entering into the kingdom. But our modern day world also insists that we take appropriate care of the children we bring into this world, which these parents are failing at miserably. In fact, they may be the worst parents I have ever encountered in YA literature outside of the sexually and violently abusive ones, although they are ironically very loving and well intentioned.

Fast Fact: Every year, approximately 5,000 homeless young people will die because of assault, illness, or suicide while trying to survive. – See more at:–facts-69.html#sthash.PufCz7ha.dpuf

Outside of the very interesting discussion of faith that happens in the pages of this book, Bliss also presents a very realistic and compelling look into the physical and emotional struggles of homeless teens. And while many homeless teens in YA lit are homeless and living on their own, here we see a homeless family trying to stay together – a very real life scenario as some kids and teens are homeless not in isolation but as one part of a homeless family unit. This family is living in their van, which they have to make sure and move periodically in order to avoid getting ticketed, arrested, or towed. They have to find ways to stay together in the absence of communication devices that would make it easy for them to find and locate one another if separated. They must find ways to shower and brush their teeth, to stay warm in the cold nights, and to find food. In the pages of Bliss’ book we see these very real struggles and although the reason behind them may make you angry, they did me, it’s a very compelling and compassionate look into the lives of what recent statistics tell us 1 in 30 youth are living.

If one of our goals in reading is to get a glimpse into lives different then our own, and I believe it sometimes is, then No Parking at the End Times should be on every TBR pile out there in 2015, both for its fascinating look at the spiritual lives of teens and for its insightful look into the lives of family homelessness. In the media we hear a lot of debate and anger about the causes and solutions for poverty and homelessness, but we forget that at the heart of this matter are actual people, often children who are in no position to help themselves. Abigail and Aaron are stand ins for the 1 in 30 homeless children whose stories we aren’t hearing because they are too tired and hungry and marginalized to speak up. Bliss has created a compelling narrative that reminds us all that there are real and vulnerable people behind these statistics, and we need to listen to their stories.


“Abigail’s parents have made mistake after mistake, and now they’ve lost everything. She’s left to decide: Does she still believe in them? Or is it time to believe in herself? Fans of Sara Zarr, David Levithan, and Rainbow Rowell will connect with this moving debut.

Abigail doesn’t know how her dad found Brother John. Maybe it was the billboards. Or the radio. What she does know is that he never should have made that first donation. Or the next, or the next. Her parents shouldn’t have sold their house. Or packed Abigail and her twin brother, Aaron, into their old van to drive across the country to San Francisco, to be there with Brother John for the “end of the world.” Because of course the end didn’t come. And now they’re living in their van. And Aaron’s disappearing to who-knows-where every night. Their family is falling apart. All Abigail wants is to hold them together, to get them back to the place where things were right. But maybe it’s too big a task for one teenage girl. Bryan Bliss’s thoughtful, literary debut novel is about losing everything—and about what you will do for the people you love.” (Publisher’s Description)

Will be published February 24th, 2015 by Greenwillow Books. ISBN: 9780062275417

More on Teens, Hunger and Poverty in our Teen Issues series:

See also Stacked: Socioeconomic Class in Contemporary YA Lit: Where Are The Poor Teens? Guest Post by Librarian Faythe Arrendondo and Kate Brauning: Writing Poverty in YA

It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye, a reflection on library life at a branch library

bwbldesk 300x300 Its So Hard to Say Goodbye, a reflection on library life at a branch libraryBy the time I graduated high school, I had attended 9 different schools in 3 different states. My college career involved taking classes on 5 different campuses, again in 3 different states. So you think I would be good at saying goodbye, but the truth is I suck at it. It’s hard. And I keep looking for that place that I can call home.

But today is another day for goodbye. Today is my last day at my library, The Betty Warmack Branch Library. It’s a very sad day for me, a hard one. Betty Warmack Branch Library has meant a lot to me, these people are my friends and a lot of great things were accomplished here. My children spent 3 years + growing up here. This library is full of echoes of my life, it is a part of me.

For the past 3 and a half years I have worked as the Youth Services librarian, my first time working at a smaller branch and not the main building.

Just as being a parent has made me want to call and apologize to my parents for so many of the things I said and did, working at a branch has made me want to call and apologize to previous coworkers. It turns out they were right, it is hard. So let me share with you some things I have learned about working in a branch versus working at the main library in a multiple library system.

You sometimes do feel like the neglected stepchild

Because administrators and decision makers are usually housed in the main library, and because the main library is usually so much bigger than any of the branches, a lot of policy tends to be made with that main branch dynamic in mind. A lot of the following points will touch on this in various ways, but it all comes back to this sentiment I have heard time and time again in my library career. It turns out, sometimes there are some valid reasons for these feelings and our job is to help create situations that minimize these feelings and empower our employees.

No two branches – no two libraries! – are alike

I have always been aware that no two branches are alike, this is not new information to me. But I experienced in a very different way these past few years. The teens in my library branch tend to come from the surrounding suburbs; they are very education focused and often come into the library with at least one parent. This was a new experience for me when at other locations I worked at the teens came in alone after school, spent a great portion of their day there not because they wanted to do homework but because they wanted a place to hang out. I found that the programming I did at this branch had to be education oriented in some way because these kids were far too busy with extra curriculars to spend time just hanging out. For this crowd, the teen volunteer program became one of the most successful program/outreach activities we did because it filled their need to have community service for NJHS or college applications. Although it was a constant struggle to find ways to meet the high demand at a facility our size. In comparison, another library in our system had a larger number of teens who hung out for hours and were looking for ways to fill that time. So while movies were successful at that location, I never had more than 2 people show up for a movie at my location and it didn’t seem a valuable way to spend our programming time.

Because our library was smaller, we had a much different relationship with many of our patrons. They came regularly and shared their life stories with us. And because our staff was so much smaller there were only a few different faces you would see at the desk which helped create that comfortable feeling. At a previous main facility I worked at you would have some regulars to be sure, but daily you saw a string of new faces and the interactions were different; not bad, just different.

This library branch also had a more economically comfortable patron base. Still struggling, but so very different from a previous library I worked at with a large homeless and impoverished population. Even here our main library struggled with meeting the needs of a homeless population that we did not see at our branch.

Communication IS hard

You don’t realize until you are in a different environment how much casual conversation comes to influence library policies, procedures, goals, programming, etc. The problem is that not everyone has access to those casual conversations and when they do become some type of formal conversation, it often is passed on to the branches at a point way later in the conversation. Those casual conversations in the hallways can lead to important changes, and it turns out we often don’t bring branches into those conversations until very late in the process. Remembering to reach out to and involve the branches takes a very concerted effort that involves purposeful and inclusive leadership. I have discovered that all anyone wants is an opportunity to share their library branch’s point of view – it’s story – and ask that it be considered in the decision making process. In the end compromises have to be made and a one size fits all policy needs to be made that best fit the needs of the entire system, but it’s also important to recognize that each branch within our system has varying flavors. Feeling like you have been heard and were part of the process, that the needs of your staff and patrons are being considered, go a long way in helping create staff buy in.


I’m going to go with a Biblical metaphor here, please humor me because it works as a good example here. In the Bible there is a verse (1 Corinthians 12-31) where it mentions that while we are all parts of the whole, we all have different roles to play: “Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.” I have worked at more than 1 library system that has wanted us to think of our library as a system to the point that they forget to recognize the unique qualities of each branch and, more importantly, the unique communities that they serve. They in effect wanted everyone to think of themselves as say an ear when what we needed was an ear and an arm and a foot . . .

What we need is to promote system wide team thinking and still allow each branch of the library system to thrive in its uniqueness. It’s a delicate balance, but it also allows each branch to recognize the unique needs of its immediate service community and meet them. For example, one of the library systems I worked at had a large Amish population and they needed a much bigger Inspirational fiction collection as well as a well stocked shelf of Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries. While our main branch needed a larger collection of Urban Fiction. You of course always want all kinds of diversity in all collections, but you also want to make sure that you have enough of the high demand types of titles in each specific location to meet the needs of the patrons using those locations. That same type of balance needs to be considered in programming as well. I had many a successful author visit at the Betty Warmack branch but we had less success at our main branch location. A one size fits all approach doesn’t work because our populations even within our systems can vary so much.

Work Life Balance is Important, No Matter Where You Work [Read more...]

12 Blogs of 2014: Rich in Color

Did I mention that choosing just three blogs to share has been agonizing? There are just so many awesome blogs out there and I want to tell you about all of them! I hope you’re adding all of the blogs we’re featuring to whatever blog reader you use and following the blogs and their creators on Twitter. I’m always looking for more blogs to read, so make sure you share your favorites with us, too! You can find me on Twitter @CiteSomething. 

Rich in color 12 Blogs of 2014: Rich in Color

Today’s featured blog

Rich in Color

From the blog:

Rich in Color is dedicated to reading, reviewing, talking about, and otherwise promoting young adult fiction starring people of color or written by people of color. We believe that teens (and adults!) should be able to find themselves in the kinds of books they love to read. At Rich in Color, we want to showcase a wide variety of multicultural books so that kids will be able to see themselves as more than just the sassy best friend, the very special lesson, or the extra in the background.

The discrepancy between books that feature people of color or are written by people of color and the actual composition of the U.S. population is a concern for us. We think it’s important to support these books/authors, and one way we can do that is to talk about them.

Find the blog on Twitter @Rich_in_Color and check out their tumblr.


Who runs it

Audrey, an editor and copywriter (Twitter @audrey_gonzalezMy Writing Life); Crystal, an elementary school teacher and librarian (Twitter @librarygrl2Reading Through Life ); Jessica, a bookworm to the core (These Mortals Be); K. Imani Tennyson, a teacher and writer (Twitter @K_ImaniImani Scribbles); Jon, a writer and the site’s webmaster (Twitter @jayang, Website)


Why I like Rich in Color

Extensive information on YA books featuring characters of color and authors of color. A handy reference with their release calendar. Reviews, booklists, topical posts, roundups of new releases, links to diverse resources, and so much more.


Some posts to check out

 Finding Diverse Lit

Shorter Days Equal Shorter Stories

 The Thorny Issue of Race

Getting Graphic

Five YA Books Featuring American Indians




What’s new in LGBTQIA+ this winter

Every other month I’ll be doing a roundup of new and forthcoming LGBTQIA+ YA books (and sometimes some non-YA books). I’ll try to include as many titles as possible. Know of a title I missed in this list? Or know of a forthcoming title that should be on my radar for an upcoming list? Leave a comment or tweet me @CiteSomething. This list covers a couple November titles I missed, December 2014, and January 2015 titles. All annotations here are via WorldCat or the publishers. My previous post, from October, can be found here. Lots of great titles.


November 2014

Unicorns and Rainbow Poopby Sam Kadence (Harmony Ink Press/Dreamspinner, November 6, ISBN 9781632164179): Vocal Growth series book 2. Ex-boyband member Dane Karlson is struggling to overcome an eating disorder and a body dismorphic disorder. His fall through a glass table puts him in rehab and on the road to recovery. Then a friend dies. Bas, an openly gay high school student who’s recently lost his grandmother, is trying to survive his last few months of school before escaping to Stanford. Having just lost the only person in his family to care for him, he is victim to the cruelty of the others. His younger brother bullies him, and his parents are suing him for his gran’s inheritance. Together Dane and Bas find a middle ground, supporting each other through the lows, dancing together during the highs.


Always Leaving by Gene Gant (Harmony Ink Press/Dreamspinner, November 13, ISBN 9781632165879): When Jason Barrett wakes up, he remembers only one thing: his name. Frightened and driven by paranoia, Jason keeps moving, going from town to town working odd jobs and making no friends. When he stumbles onto an emergency in New Hanover and saves a fellow teenage boy, it offers him the first connection he’s felt in a while. To return Jason’s kindness, Ravi wants to help solve the riddle of Jason’s missing past. As they work through clues, Jason begins to feel settled. He finds a place he belongs with Ravi—maybe something more.


Speaking Out: Queer Youth in Focus by Rachelle Lee Smith, forward by Candace Gingrich (PM Press, November 15, ISBN 9781629630410): A photographic essay that explores a wide spectrum of experiences told from the perspective of a diverse group of young people, ages 14–24, identifying as queer (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning), Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus presents portraits without judgment or stereotype by eliminating environmental influence with a stark white backdrop. This backdrop acts as a blank canvas, where each subject’s personal thoughts are handwritten onto the final photographic print. With more than 65 portraits photographed over a period of 10 years, the book provides rare insight into the passions, confusions, prejudices, joys, and sorrows felt by queer youth and gives a voice to an underserved group of people that are seldom heard and often silenced. The collaboration of image and first-person narrative serves to provide an outlet, show support, create dialogue, and help those who struggle.


If You Knew Jack by MC Lee (Harmony Ink Press/Dreamspinner, November 20, ISBN 9781632166883): Sequel to You Don’t Know Jack. Jack Carlisle has returned to the Center after an assignment designed to push him to the edge of his limits—and beyond. He is given just a few short days to get used to a new identity and a new team. He’s been trained to assume a new identity, but working with a new team is more difficult, especially since it throws him back in the path of Leo McCormack, the boy who stole Jack’s heart and handed it back broken into tiny pieces.
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December 2014

Driving Lessons by Annameekee Hesik (Bold Strokes Books, December 16, ISBN 9781626392281): Abbey Brooks has recovered from her end-of-freshman-year heartbreak and has vowed that this year, her sophomore year at Gila High, will be different in every way. Her to-do list: get her driver’s license, come out to her mom, get (and keep) a girlfriend, and survive another year of basketball. As always, though, nothing goes according to plan. Who will be there for her as her plans start to unravel? Who will bring her back to life after another round of heartache and betrayal? These remain a mystery—even to Abbey. But one thing is for sure, she’s not confused about who she is. And that is going to make all the difference.


Asher’s Shot by Elizabeth Wheeler (Bold Strokes Books, December 16, ISBN 9781626392298): After uncovering the truth about his parents’ divorce and his brother’s death, fifteen-year-old Asher Price is ready for a shot at happiness. Armed with a Canon camera borrowed from his nutty neighbor, a date to homecoming, and revitalized relationships with family and friends, Asher’s on the right track. Even though Asher’s black-and-white view of the world has shifted to color, he still believes the only way to protect the people he loves is by keeping their secrets. His candid pictures capture the truth, but what if his success as a photographer requires exposing an enemy? In the end, Asher discovers protecting the people he loves can have devastating consequences, and his only shot at happiness involves revealing secrets of his own.


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January 2015

The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson (David Fickling Books, January 1, 2015, ISBN 978-1910200322): UK BOOK: Two boys. Two secrets. David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth – David wants to be a girl. On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal – to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in year 11 is definitely not part of that plan. When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long ….


Sienna by Helen Eve (Macmillan Children’s Books, January 1st 2015, ISBN 9781250054593): UK BOOK: Prequel to Stella.

Worshipped, envied, desired, and feared by all, Siena Hamilton reigns over Temperley High. Nothing can shake her place as the head of Temperley’s elite – not even that unfortunate incident at the end of last term . . . Siena is her mother’s daughter: she knows how to be perfect, and she will not disappoint. There is only one person who could possibly get in her way…. Romy, former Starlet, and Siena’s ex-best friend is back. And no one is happy about it, least of all her. Romy has changed after her term away in France, and is trying hard to be normal, to blend in and to keep the secret of what really happened that night safe and hidden. But when you’ve betrayed your former best friend, you don’t get to come back without a fight.


The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, January 13, 2015, ISBN 9780316261043): In the town of Fairfold, where humans and fae exist side by side, a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives awakes after generations of sleep in a glass coffin in the woods, causing Hazel to be swept up in new love, shift her loyalties, feel the fresh sting of betrayal, and to make a secret sacrifice to the faerie king.


Alex as Well by Alyssa Brugman (Henry Holt and Co. (BYR), January 20, 2015, ISBN 9781627790147): Alex is ready for things to change, in a big way. Everyone seems to think she’s a boy, but for Alex the whole boy/girl thing isn’t as simple as either/or, and when she decides girl is closer to the truth, no one knows how to react, least of all her parents. Undeterred, Alex begins to create a new identity for herself: ditching one school, enrolling in another, and throwing out most of her clothes. But the other Alex—the boy Alex—has a lot to say about that. Heartbreaking and droll in equal measures, Alex As Well is a brilliantly told story of exploring gender and sexuality, navigating friendships, and finding a place to belong.


The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson (Simon Pulse, January 20, 2015, ISBN 9781481403108): Andrew Brawley was supposed to die that night, just like the rest of his family. Now he lives in the hospital, serving food in the cafeteria, hanging out with the nurses, sleeping in a forgotten supply closet. Drew blends in to near invisibility, hiding from his past, his guilt, and those who are trying to find him. His only solace is in the world of the superhero he’s created—Patient F. Then, one night, Rusty is wheeled into the ER, half his body burned by hateful classmates. Rusty’s agony calls out to Drew like a beacon, pulling them both together though all their pain and grief. In Rusty, Drew sees hope, happiness, and a future for both of them. A future outside of the hospital, and away from their pasts. But to save Rusty, Drew will have to confront Death, and life will have to get worse before it gets better. And by telling the truth about who he really is, Drew risks destroying any chance of a future.


Love Hurts compiled by Malorie Blackman (Corgi Children’s, January 29, 2015, ISBN 978-0552573979):  UK BOOK: Malorie Blackman brings together the best teen writers of today in a stunningly romantic collection about love against the odds. Featuring short stories and extracts about modern star-crossed lovers from stars such as Gayle Forman, Markus Zusak and Patrick Ness, and with a brand-new story from Malorie Blackman herself, Love Hurts looks at every kind of relationship, from first kiss to final heartbreak.


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Middle Grade Monday – The Fight for Diversity

middlegrademonday 150x150 Middle Grade Monday   The Fight for DiversityI struggle with finding books for my little friend Aaron. My good friends qualified as foster parents a few years ago and were given care of one of the sweetest, most delightfully loving babies I have ever had the opportunity to know. As time went on and it became apparent that Aaron’s family was not going to be able to care for him, he became eligible for adoption, and my friends were thankfully able to adopt him. One of the greatest joys in my life is picking out books for all of my friends’ children, whether I’m taking them to the library or shopping for them at my local book stores. It’s been no different for Aaron; he loves books and being read to is one of his favorite activities. So, what’s the problem? Aaron is African American and his parents are white.

51I11U6l4qL. SX258 BO1204203200  150x150 Middle Grade Monday   The Fight for DiversityEarly on, I purchased this board book for Aaron; he was delighted with the page that shows a child’s palm and insisted on giving the book a ‘high five’ every time that page was shown. I explained to his parents how important it is for children to see themselves in the characters they read about. I provided them with articles on diversity in children’s literature, lists of authors and illustrators who focus on portraying African American children, and online resources for updated lists.  They were very receptive to my urging and have done a wonderful job providing Aaron with a continuous stream of reading material. I also continue to forward them articles about the topic and list of books I find. But now Aaron is almost 3 and I wanted to purchase some board books for him for Christmas.

My local book store is a treasure and has a vast collection of children’s materials from which to choose. They even have a special section devoted to displaying works by and about African Americans. It’s an excellent resource – it’s where I got I like Myself, which was on their oversized board book spinner rack.  I started there again, then moved on to the African American section, then to the display full of regular sized board books. Here’s my dilemma, there just aren’t enough! Sure, I could get him an Ezra Jack Keats title, but I know he has all of them. As I continued to look through the books, I was disheartened to find that almost everything that was available Aaron either already has or is too young to read. Most of these books are stunningly beautiful, but they are too old for him. They have complex language and pictures that are not appropriately interesting for his stage of development. An so many, so, so many about are about history – historical events, historical setting, topics, and people. He’s 3 – I just want a board book with at least a few little black faces to stare back at him! Where are the books with characters who just happen to have black or brown or yellow skin? And why am I writing about this for Middle Grade Monday?

Because it’s the same for Middle Grade titles. Where are the novels about kids in the middle grades who just happen to be African American, Latino, Asian American, Native American, etc.? There are so few of them. History, yes, that is there, and books about what it is like to be non-white in America. There are not even enough of these, to be sure, but I am hard pressed to think of more than a handful of titles that prominently feature minority characters that are not specifically about the minority experience. We need these, as well, but we need more. We need so much more. More books like Varian Johnson’s The Great Greene Heist, or Coe Booth’s Kinda Like Brothers, and even more like Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming. We don’t just need diversity, we need diversity within diversity – fantasy and science fiction and mystery and horror novels that feature minorities as main characters. The historical and realistic fiction we have is great, but there isn’t even enough of that. I want a bounty of choices! When I’m doing collection development, I want to have to DECIDE BETWEEN two great series that feature minority characters instead of continually purchasing multiple titles of the few books available. (Ideally I’d love to do both, but that’s a budget issue…)

If you’re similarly interested in making a difference in this fight, I’d urge you to check out the We Need Diverse Books Campaign web site. Continue to promote and purchase books that feature diverse characters, and do what you can to support the development of new voices in young people’s literature. It’s up to us.