Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Google is Changing Libraries, But Not in the Ways You Think


I’ve never identified as a tried and true Reference Librarian, but I have worked Reference for years. When you are a Teen/YA Librarian, every system seems to put you some place different. Sometimes it is in Youth Services. Sometimes it is in Adult Services. And sometimes, if a library is doing it correctly in my opinion, Teen/YA Services is it’s own department, even if it’s a department of one. But, and this is a big but, even if you are your own department, a lot of libraries don’t have a public service desk in their teen areas and it is good practice to have someone available to talk with teens even when you’re not having a program, which is how I end up spending a lot of time working at the Reference Desk.

Even though I don’t identify as a Reference Librarian, I love working the Reference Desk. I love the challenge of answering a question. I love the joy of helping someone find a book. I do some days grow weary of giving directions to the bathroom and answering the phone only to say yes we’re open, but there is a lot of joyful and intellectual curiosity to be had at the Reference Desk.

Sadly, two of the four libraries that I previously worked in have totally gotten rid of their reference desks, their reference staff, and their reference services. People stopped using those services, or so administration believed. But what if we killed Reference ourselves?

I’m old enough to remember libraries before access to public computers was a big part of our service model. Yes, I’m the crypt keeper, carry on. I worked in public libraries as public libraries were tasked with trying to figure out how to incorporate the Internet and how to provide public access computers. These were challenging times because we were suddenly tasked with devoting huge chunks of floor space that we did not have to a new and high demand service. And then we had to figure out how to staff them.

In the beginning, as libraries began having public access computers, new often part-time and minimum wage staff were hired to keep paper logs and sign patrons in and out of the computers. Then time management software was developed and it was believed that those staff were no longer needed and computers were moved and they often became a part of reference services, simply by defacto because the computers were always near reference and it turns out that time management software and printing kiosks don’t completely eliminate the need for human regulation. In fact, in these scenarios, reference became much more about helping patrons sign on to computers and print then it did about helping patrons navigate the library collection or find specific answers to specific questions. We know this because many of our regular patrons told us that as they had to wait in longer lines to ask reference questions that they simply stopped coming as they found that climate and goals of the library changing.


This next part may be kind of controversial to say, but the idea of the climate of the library is important. You see, a lot of people who come into the library to use computers do so for one of two main reasons. One, they have a computer at home but don’t have a printer or their printer just ran out of ink. These patrons usually come in quickly, print, and leave. But the second main reason a person goes to the library to use public access computers is because they don’t have access at home and, often, this is because they are economically challenged, homeless, or a restless teen who travels in a pack and wants to sit at a computer with a couple of loud friends as they discuss whatever game it is they happen to be playing that day. Now suddenly, patrons have to wade through a sea of waiting patrons, some of whom smell, some of whom are engaged in questionable online viewing habits, and some of whom are loud or boisterous. Then there is the patron who is trying to pay a bill and they are talking loudly on their cell phone while the person on the other end is trying to walk them through their website.  There’s the parent with two kids and a stroller that doesn’t fit next to the computer who is ignoring the crying baby while they try to do whatever it is they are trying to do. In each and every one of these cases there is nothing wrong with the individual or their computer use, they are all there using a service we gladly provide, but taken together all at once it can be a lot. That’s a lot of people in one small space trying to use a service and trying to walk through or around them can be daunting and whether it is safe to say so or not, it does change the overall climate of the library. You know the expression location matters, and this is very true when it comes to where libraries put their public access computers.

So now we have large banks of computers with a lot of users that are located near the reference desk and increasing the patron load of reference staff and the wait time of patrons wanting to ask for help at reference.

Then comes Google. Google, it has been said and quite often really, will eliminate the need for librarians because everyone can just get it online. Anyone who really understands the Internet knows this isn’t true. For one, not everything is online. It just isn’t. Two, when you use Google it gives you thousands of responses and asks you to wade through a bunch of possible hits to determine what the correct answer might be. It uses a variety of algorithms to do this, some of which is influenced by number of hits and, yes, money. So if you ask Google a question, it searches and returns thousands of hits and says okay you, here are a ton of websites for you to peruse and find the answer.

Now, step up to the Reference Desk and ask the same question. A good reference librarian will ask you a variety of questions to help return a precise answer to you. In asking those questions, we are trying to filter out all the possible answers that Google is going to return and get you the correct answer or resource. In reference, we do the filtering for you.

It’s not just a failure to properly understand Google versus the reference interview, however, that has changed reference services. It is that Google has changed patron expectations, and in unrealistic ways. Google can return a list to you in mere seconds and it is immensely gratifying. It feels powerful. It feels immediate. You forget about the fact that you now how to wade through that list of replies, in part because more often than not the correct answer is in fact on the first page of links. But now reference users want reference librarians to respond as quickly as Google. It’s the ultimate man vs. machine conflict. I can get you a more correct answer than Google, but not in mere seconds. I like to call this the McDonald’s effect: Your way, right away. But the patron isn’t always correct and sometimes we can’t deliver right away.

I experienced this several times last week while sitting at the Reference Desk. A patron came up and asked a question, stating up front that they didn’t have any time, and then became frustrated when I asked some very necessary follow up questions to make sure I understood their request and got them a good answer. They were impatient and dissatisfied because I could not meet their unrealistic customer service expectations that have been formed by years of using Google. Librarian are often better than Google, but because we’re human, we’ll never be faster than Google. And that expectation is one of the main ways that I think Google and the Internet are changing libraries. It’s not that we are or will become obsolete, it’s that we must constantly manage patron expectations in a world where the myth of machine has a better PR spokesperson than libraries do.

What’s New in LGBTQIA+ YA August 2018

tltbutton7It’s time for another roundup for new and forthcoming YA (and sometimes not YA) books featuring LGBTQIA+ characters.  The titles I’m including here have LGBTQIA+ main characters as well as secondary characters (in some cases parents), as well as anthologies that include LGBTQIA+ stories. 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 August titles. Head over to this link for the previous post (July 2018) in this series. All annotations here are via the publishers/Goodreads. I also have a 2017 master list and am working on one for 2018. I’m happy to send you the list if you’re interested. Tweet at me or email me to request the list. I’m amanda DOT macgregor AT gmail DOT com.

Looking for more information on LGBTQIA+ books or issues? Check out the hashtag here on TLT and go visit YA Pride and LGBTQ Reads, two phenomenal resources. 


August 2018


deadendiaDeadEndia: The Watcher’s Test (Book 1): Book 1 by Hamish Steele (ISBN-13: 9781910620472 Publisher: Nobrow Ltd. Publication date: 08/07/2018)

Barney and his best friend Norma are just trying to get by and keep their jobs, but working at the Dead End theme park also means battling demonic forces, time traveling wizards, and scariest of all–their love lives!

Follow the lives of this diverse group of employees of a haunted house, which may or may not also serve as a portal to hell, in this hilarious and moving graphic novel, complete with talking pugs, vengeful ghosts and LBGTQIA love!



dark beneathThe Dark Beneath the Ice by Amelinda Berube (ISBN-13: 9781492657071 Publisher: Sourcebooks Publication date: 08/07/2018)

Black Swan meets Paranormal Activity in this compelling ghost story about a former dancer whose grip on reality slips when she begins to think a dark entity is stalking her.

Something is wrong with Marianne.

It’s not just that her parents have finally split up. Or that life hasn’t been the same since she quit dancing. Or even that her mother has checked herself into the hospital.

She’s losing time. Doing things she would never do. And objects around her seem to break whenever she comes close. Something is after her. And the only one who seems to believe her is the daughter of a local psychic.

But their first attempt at an exorcism calls down the full force of the thing’s rage. It demands Marianne give back what she stole. Whatever is haunting her, it wants everything she has—everything it’s convinced she stole. Marianne must uncover the truth that lies beneath it all before the nightmare can take what it thinks it’s owed, leaving Marianne trapped in the darkness of the other side.



mammothMammoth! by Dakota Chase (ISBN-13: 978-1-64080-672-6 Publisher: Harmony Ink Press Publication date: 08/07/2018)

In what might be their most dangerous adventure so far, Grant and Ash are sent back in time ten thousand years to recover a mammoth talisman for their teacher, Merlin. Life is a struggle in the Stone Age, and if they want to eat, they’ll have to learn to use spears, track animals, and build fires without the benefit of matches.

Most importantly, they must recover the artifact so they can get back to their own time, but it won’t be easy. They’ll need to reunite two warring tribes, help a boy around their age prove his worth, and demonstrate their own courage on a deadly mammoth hunt. In this harsh and unforgiving world, hate and suspicion are as prevalent as they are in modern times, but understanding and acceptance can also be found if they know where to look.



rebel wavesThese Rebel Waves by Sara Raasch (ISBN-13: 9781538551998 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 08/07/2018)

The thrilling new fantasy series-full of deadly magic, double crosses, and a dangerous quest in a new world-from Sara Raasch, bestselling author of the Snow Like Ashes series Adeluna is a soldier. Five years ago, she helped the magic-rich island of Grace Loray overthrow its oppressor, Argrid, a country ruled by religion. But adjusting to postwar life has not been easy. When an Argridian delegate vanishes during peace talks with Grace Loray’s new Council, Argrid demands brutal justice-but Lu suspects something more dangerous is at work.Devereux is a pirate. As one of the outlaws called stream raiders who run rampant on Grace Loray, he pirates the island’s magic plants and sells them on the black market. But after Argrid accuses raiders of the diplomat’s abduction, Vex becomes a target. An expert navigator, he agrees to help Lu find the Argridian-but the truth they uncover could be deadlier than any war.Benat is a heretic. The crown prince of Argrid, he harbors a secret obsession with Grace Loray’s forbidden magic. When Ben’s father, the king, gives him the shocking task of reversing Argrid’s fear of magic, Ben has to decide if one prince can change a devout country-or if he’s building his own pyre.As conspiracies arise, Lu, Vex, and Ben will have to decide who they really are … and what they are willing to become for peace.


hereticsHeretics Anonymous by Katie Henry (ISBN-13: 9780062698872 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 08/07/2018)

Put an atheist in a strict Catholic school? Expect comedy, chaos, and an Inquisition. The Breakfast Club meets Saved! in debut author Katie Henry’s hilarious novel about a band of misfits who set out to challenge their school, one nun at a time. Perfect for fans of Becky Albertalli and Robyn Schneider.

When Michael walks through the doors of Catholic school, things can’t get much worse. His dad has just made the family move again, and Michael needs a friend. When a girl challenges their teacher in class, Michael thinks he might have found one, and a fellow atheist at that. Only this girl, Lucy, isn’t just Catholic . . . she wants to be a priest.

Lucy introduces Michael to other St. Clare’s outcasts, and he officially joins Heretics Anonymous, where he can be an atheist, Lucy can be an outspoken feminist, Avi can be Jewish and gay, Max can wear whatever he wants, and Eden can practice paganism.

Michael encourages the Heretics to go from secret society to rebels intent on exposing the school’s hypocrisies one stunt at a time. But when Michael takes one mission too far—putting the other Heretics at risk—he must decide whether to fight for his own freedom or rely on faith, whatever that means, in God, his friends, or himself.



fresh inkFresh Ink: An Anthology by Lamar Giles (ISBN-13: 9781524766283 Publisher: Random House Children’s Books Publication date: 08/14/2018)

All it takes to rewrite the rules is a little fresh ink in this remarkable YA anthology from thirteen of the most recognizable, diverse authors writing today including Nicola Yoon, Jason Reynolds, Melissa de la Cruz, and many more, and published in partnership with We Need Diverse Books. This collection features ten short stories, a graphic short story, and a one-act play from Walter Dean Myers never before in-print. It will give readers the opportunity to discover how the next chapter is up to them.

Careful—you are holding fresh ink. And not hot-off-the-press, still-drying-in-your-hands ink. Instead, you are holding twelve stories with endings that are still being written—whose next chapters are up to you.

Because these stories are meant to be read. And shared.

Thirteen of the most accomplished YA authors deliver a label-defying anthology that includes ten short stories, a graphic novel, and a one-act play about topics like gentrification, acceptance, untimely death, coming out, and poverty and ranging in genre from contemporary realistic fiction to adventure and romance. This collection will inspire you to break conventions, bend the rules, and color outside the lines. All you need is fresh ink.

AUTHORS INCLUDE: Schuyler Bailar, Melissa de la Cruz, Sara Farizan, Sharon G. Flake, Eric Gansworth, Malindo Lo, Walter Dean Myers, Daniel José Older, Thien Pham, Jason Reynolds, Aminah Mae Safi, Gene Luen Yang, Nicola Yoon



raging onesThe Raging Ones by Krista Ritchie, Becca Ritchie (ISBN-13: 9781250128713 Publisher: St. Martin’s Press Publication date: 08/14/2018)

An edge of your seat sci-fi romance with twists and turns that you will never see coming!

In a freezing world, where everyone knows the day they will die, three teens break all odds.

Franny Bluecastle, a tough city teen, dreams of dying in opulence, to see wealth she’s never known. Like the entire world, she believes it’s impossible to dodge a deathday.

Until the day she does.

Court Icecastle knows wealth. He also knows pain. Spending five years in Vorkter Prison, a fortress of ice and suffering, he dreams of life beyond the people that haunt him and the world that imprisoned him.

Mykal Kickfall fights for those he loves. The rugged Hinterlander shares a frustrating yet unbreakable connection with Court—which only grows more lawless and chaotic as their senses and emotions connect with Franny.

With the threat of people learning they’ve dodged their deathdays, they must flee their planet to survive. But to do so, all three will have to hide their shared bond as they vie for a highly sought after spot in the newest mission to space. Against thousands of people far smarter, who’ll live longer, and never fear death the way that they do.



7thThe 7th of Victorica by Beau Schemery (ISBN-13: 978-1-64080-211-7 Publisher: Dreamspinner Press Publication date: 08/21/2018)

Gadgets and Shadows: Book Two
A Sequel to The 7th of London

Since Seven saved London and Queen Victoria, problems have begun growing in Victorica, formerly the free states of America. With government corruption running rampant and slavery becoming epidemic, rumors are flying about the Confederacy of the South building an army and threatening war.

Still haunted by the memory of his old enemy, Seven and his lover, Silas Kettlebent, are sent to investigate the growing corruption of the South, but they find that the problem runs deeper than they could have possibly imagined. Seven is determined to see not only the slaves freed, but the colony as well. It’s going to take the combined efforts of slaves, criminals, politicians, and Abraham Lincoln to avoid a devastating war, and if Seven has anything to say about it, to ensure the freedom of every single Victorican from British rule.

He’ll just have to do it while contending with the ghost of a previous enemy and another’s thirst for revenge.



toilToil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women & Witchcraft by Tess Sharpe, Jessica Spotswood (ISBN-13: 9781335016270 Publisher: Harlequin Publication date: 08/28/2018)

Scorn the witch. Fear the witch. Burn the witch.

History is filled with stories of women accused of witchcraft, of fearsome girls with arcane knowledge. Toil & Troublefeatures fifteen stories of girls embracing their power, reclaiming their destinies and using their magic to create, to curse, to cure—and to kill.

A young witch uses social media to connect with her astrology clients—and with a NASA-loving girl as cute as she is skeptical. A priestess of death investigates a ritualized murder. A bruja who cures lovesickness might need the remedy herself when she falls in love with an altar boy. A theater production is turned upside down by a visiting churel. In Reconstruction-era Texas, a water witch uses her magic to survive the soldiers who have invaded her desert oasis. And in the near future, a group of girls accused of witchcraft must find their collective power in order to destroy their captors.

This collection reveals a universal truth: there’s nothing more powerful than a teenage girl who believes in herself.




ruin of starsRuin of Stars (Mask of Shadows Series #2) by Linsey Miller (ISBN-13: 9781492647522 Publisher: Sourcebooks Publication date: 08/28/2018)

The thrilling conclusion to the Mask of Shadows duology that weaves a tale of magic, shadows, and most importantly, revenge.

As one of the Queen’s elite assassins, Sal finally has the power, prestige, and permission to hunt down the lords who killed their family. But Sal still has to figure out who the culprits are. They must enlist the help of some old friends and enemies while ignoring a growing distaste for the queen and that the charming Elise is being held prisoner by her father.

But there’s something terribly wrong in the north. Talk of the return of shadows, missing children, and magic abounds. As Sal takes out the people responsible for their ruined homeland, Sal learns secrets and truths that can’t be forgotten.



dariusDarius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram (ISBN-13: 9780525552963 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 08/28/2018)

Darius doesn’t think he’ll ever be enough, in America or in Iran. Hilarious and heartbreaking, this unforgettable debut introduces a brilliant new voice in contemporary YA.

“Heartfelt, tender, and so utterly real. I’d live in this book forever if I could.”
—Becky Albertalli, award-winning author of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He’s a Fractional Persian—half, his mom’s side—and his first-ever trip to Iran is about to change his life.

Darius has never really fit in at home, and he’s sure things are going to be the same in Iran. His clinical depression doesn’t exactly help matters, and trying to explain his medication to his grandparents only makes things harder. Then Darius meets Sohrab, the boy next door, and everything changes. Soon, they’re spending their days together, playing soccer, eating faludeh, and talking for hours on a secret rooftop overlooking the city’s skyline. Sohrab calls him Darioush—the original Persian version of his name—and Darius has never felt more like himself than he does now that he’s Darioush to Sohrab.

Adib Khorram’s brilliant debut is for anyone who’s ever felt not good enough—then met a friend who makes them feel so much better than okay.

The #Resistance and Social Justice for Teens (#SJYALit: The Social Justic and YA Lit Project)

Today’s teens are very politically active, from the March for Our Lives to Pride and everything in between, teens are finding ways to be active, be engaged and be heard, even before they can vote. The Teen has participated in 3 political marches in the last two years, making her own signs for each. I had a group of teens visit the Teen MakerSpace in June who made a variety of flags, signs and buttons that they wanted to take to Pride. I am constantly hearing teenagers talk about the same issues that adults are talking about; they are informed, engaged and just as passionate as the adults around them.


We made buttons to hand out at the march

We made buttons to hand out at the march

Knowing that today’s teens are engaged, a lot of authors are working to put social justice themed books into the hands of teens. They’re sharing their personal stories or writing manuals that help highlight just what teens can do to help change the world. The books are out there, and they should be in our libraries.

Teaching Tolerance | Diversity, Equity And Justice

Many teens today are also choosing to join what is being referred to as “the resistance” or adopting the theme of resist. Teens may be choosing to join for their own personal reasons, but the theme is often the same: they want to resist fascism, racism, sexism, homophobia, or the growing rise in white nationalism that they see in the news. It would be too easy to express the resistance as being anti-Trump or anti-GOP, because for many teens, is framed more as being pro: Pro Equal Rights, Pro Gay Rights, Pro Democracy. It’s just as much that they are fighting for something as they are fighting against something.

I have taught The Teen and some friends how to use Canva to make postcards to send to representatives

I have taught The Teen and some friends how to use Canva to make postcards to send to representatives

Using Canva to Make Postcards

The Teen, for example, has grown up in a home where we talk openly and frequently about feminism and sexual violence. We talk about consent. We talk about healthy relationships. We talk about equality. So we choose to march in the Women’s March because we were personally appalled at the lack of concern that Donald Trump’s statements regarding his own admitted sexism and sexually predatory behavior garnered in the media. And on the one year anniversary of that march, we marched again. And having grown up in a system where she was taught armed intruder drills before she was taught her ABCs, The Teen also choose to march in the March for Our Lives march for more reasonable gun laws.

Teens resist. – Home

Teens Resist (@teensresist) • Instagram photos and videos

Teens started March for Our Lives, but all ages participated – Vox

In the same vein, many of my LGBTQAI+ teens and their ally friends marched in Pride to not only celebrate themselves, but to keep fighting for LGBTQAI+ rights and equality. They came into the Teen MakerSpace and found creative ways to use the supplies provided to share their message of love and equality. We didn’t host or advertise a program, they just knew we were there and used the resources provided in their own creative ways. That’s exactly what we like to see happen in a Teen MakerSpace, spontaneous creativity and self expression that is teen inspired and teen led.


Today, I am sharing with you a Take 5 list of books for teens like these who desire to be active in social justice. Although fiction books like The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas and All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely take a realistic look at social justice in action via the narrative, this list looks specifically at nonfiction titles with inspiring true stories, real life tips, and everything a teen might need to be inspired and engaged in social justice.


From Amy Reed, Ellen Hopkins, Amber Smith, Sandhya Menon, and more of your favorite YA authors comes an anthology of essays that explore the diverse experiences of injustice, empowerment, and growing up female in America.

This collection of twenty-one essays from major YA authors—including award-winning and bestselling writers—touches on a powerful range of topics related to growing up female in today’s America, and the intersection with race, religion, and ethnicity. Sure to inspire hope and solidarity to anyone who reads it, Our Stories, Our Voices belongs on every young woman’s shelf.

This anthology features essays from Martha Brockenbrough, Jaye Robin Brown, Sona Charaipotra, Brandy Colbert, Somaiya Daud, Christine Day, Alexandra Duncan, Ilene Wong (I.W.) Gregorio, Maurene Goo. Ellen Hopkins, Stephanie Kuehnert, Nina LaCour, Anna-Marie McLemore, Sandhya Menon, Hannah Moskowitz, Julie Murphy, Aisha Saeed, Jenny Torres Sanchez, Amber Smith, and Tracy Walker.

This title releases on August 14th 2018 by Simon Pulse.

Other titles on this list include:

resistbook1 resistance3 resistance2 resist5 resist4 resist3 resist2resistance6resist10ihavetherightto

There are a lot of things libraries can do to promote teens and civic engagement. Hold mock elections. Have a button maker? Allow teens to make buttons that express themselves. Have a postcard or sign making party, or just make supplies available. Put up displays that feature both fiction and nonfiction titles about teens and civic engagement. If your library is worried about being seen as taking a side on a controversial issue like gun control, remember you can encourage teen engagement as a concept without taking a position one way or another on an issue. Empowering teens is about teaching them how to use their voice for the issues that they care about. Democracy survives only if citizens are engaged, and that engagement begins long before you can press a button in a voting booth.

Sunday Reflections: Wrestling with Local History


This weekend, the city of Mount Vernon, Ohio is awash in the arts as we celebrate the annual Dan Emmett festival.

2018 Ohio Festival Schedule | OhioFestivals.net

If you’ve never visited the Midwest, the local small town festival is a glorious affair that celebrates, well, anything. In Fredericktown the celebrate the tomato, in Marion it’s popcorn, and in Circleville it’s pumpkin. But throughout the summer and fall, you can finally find a small town festival somewhere to celebrate something and it’s really quite charming. You wander from booth to booth, there are a few rides here and there, local talent shows, and my personal favorite, fried fair food.


In Mount Vernon, we celebrate the arts and our local artistic claim to fame, Dixie song writer Dan Emmett. Dan Emmet is said to have written the popular anthem Dixie, though there are also claims that he stole the song from a local black family, the Snowdens. He also was a regular participant in minstrel shows, which were popular during the time but now (most of us) recognize that black face is unacceptable and that a lot of the popular art that we celebrate when we celebrate Dan Emmett is, in fact, really quite racist.

The first day of the Dan Emmett festival this year, a man came in asking for a print out of lyrics to the song Dixie because he wanted to prove to his wife that the song was racist.

Civil War songs: Dan Emmett’s legacy in Knox County

At the library, we have a display case up with a variety of items celebrating the life of Dan Emmett and the Dan Emmett festival. One of the items in that display is the very old sheet music to the song Dixie, which has a picture of four men wearing black face on its front cover.

Earlier this year, a local group exploring the issue of racism in our community met to discuss whether or not having a Dan Emmett festival is racist in and of itself.

Mount Vernon’s Blackface Minstrel – The Collegian Magazine

I currently work in a community which is 97% white. I previously worked in a community that was much more diverse, but was also at one time considered the headquarters of the KKK. That’s a lot of local history to wrestle with.

This weekend, White Nationalists met to reconvene one year after the murder of Heather Heyer in Charlotesville. Although they may not recognize it yet, this community too will have a lot of complicated local history to wrestle with.

The truth is, most towns in this country have a lot of local history that they have to wrestle with, and in the year 2018, we see this happening on a national level. I never imagined that I would actually live in a time where we discussed race riots as something other than in the past, but these past couple of years we have seen the resurgence of white nationalism, neo-nazis, racism, hate crimes and more. Make no mistake, these things have always been present, they have just been more well hidden in my lifetime to white people like me than they are now. Today, these issues are once again front and center, making it harder for comfortable white people like myself to pretend that we live in a just world or that racism is anything other than it is: real, hateful, and deadly.

Public libraries serve their local communities. We are steeped in local culture and history, we preserve, protect and celebrate it. But what happens when that history is full of racism?

In Mount Vernon, there are people who want to rename the Dan Emmett festival. Some people want to adopt a new name that incorporates the history of the Snowdens into the festival as well. Some people just want to drop any human from the name of the festival at all. I’m not going to lie, as we reflect on our country’s history and discuss things like statues named after Confederate soldiers, I see the wisdom in celebrating tomatoes and popcorn as opposed to people. People are complicated and even the best of us are not perfect.

I have walked the streets of the Dan Emmett festival. I have watched friends sing. I have eaten funnel cake and buckets of fries. I have felt that sense of community as I nodded hi to people that I recognized from the library or stopped to pet that cute dog on the leash. There are lots of charms to living and working in a small, rural Midwest community. In fact, Mount Vernon, Ohio has a rich and thriving arts community and it is definitely something to be proud of.

There’s also a lot of ugly history to wrestle with, as there is everywhere. And you would be surprised how often librarians are asked to do this. How do we preserve that local history? How do we talk about it? How do we present it or display it? Should we include Confederate flags or figures in our local history displays? Should we put up sheet music with black face characters on the cover? Should we ignore it? Pretend it didn’t happen? Put it on display without comment?

Working with local history can be a complex challenge because people are invested in their local communities. On a global scale, we have never figured out how to talk about the violent and racist past of United States history. We can’t do it on the macro level, and we certainly haven’t figured out how to do it on the micro level. This falls under the umbrella of things I never learned in library school. Where are those conversations about how to deal with local history in local public libraries?

Four years ago, on August 9, 2014, Michael Brown was killed by police in Ferguson. Protests broke out in the surrounding community. The Ferguson library became a haven for the local community, staying open. They are now tasked with preserving the history of that time in the local community. What they do in this project of preservation matters.

‘In This Together': Ferguson Library Stays Open Amid Violence

When we talk about the Nazis and World War II, we often reflect on how we personally might have responded. Racism today is no less urgent, those conversations are happening. I think often about what I want the history books to say about me, about who I am right now and the choices I am making. I want to be on the right side of history.

History, it turns out, doesn’t stay in the past. It’s time once again for public libraries to think about what it means to be neutral or not and how we engage in current events by how we talk about and present history in our libraries.

We have to wrestle with our local history because our local futures depend on it.

Friday Finds: August 10, 2018

tltbutton3This Week at TLT

Book Review: Heretics Anonymous by Katie Henry

Listening to Old Ghosts : The Haunting Influence of Our Town and Spoon River Anthology, a guest post by author Mary Amato

Talking with Nancy Evans, Creator of the Strong Girls Program, a guest post by Natalie Korsavidis

Rethinking Book Displays – Again

YA A to Z: Peace and Quiet – Recharging Your Battery After Summer Reading, a guest post by librarian Lisa Krok

Sunday Reflections: Sometimes, If You’re Lucky, You Find More Than Books at the Library

Around the Web


Tiny Pretty Things breakout Sona Charaipotra previews solo debut Symptoms of a Heartbreak

A Patron Wants to Print a Gun: Now What?


Book Review: Heretics Anonymous by Katie Henry

Publisher’s description

hereticsPut an atheist in a strict Catholic school? Expect comedy, chaos, and an Inquisition. The Breakfast Club meets Saved! in debut author Katie Henry’s hilarious novel about a band of misfits who set out to challenge their school, one nun at a time. Perfect for fans of Becky Albertalli and Robyn Schneider.

When Michael walks through the doors of Catholic school, things can’t get much worse. His dad has just made the family move again, and Michael needs a friend. When a girl challenges their teacher in class, Michael thinks he might have found one, and a fellow atheist at that. Only this girl, Lucy, isn’t just Catholic . . . she wants to be a priest.

Lucy introduces Michael to other St. Clare’s outcasts, and he officially joins Heretics Anonymous, where he can be an atheist, Lucy can be an outspoken feminist, Avi can be Jewish and gay, Max can wear whatever he wants, and Eden can practice paganism.

Michael encourages the Heretics to go from secret society to rebels intent on exposing the school’s hypocrisies one stunt at a time. But when Michael takes one mission too far—putting the other Heretics at risk—he must decide whether to fight for his own freedom or rely on faith, whatever that means, in God, his friends, or himself.


Amanda’s thoughts

Well, this book was right up my alley. As an atheist, I am always looking for more atheist rep in YA. I picked this book up because the summary sounded super interesting, and also because I TOTALLY judge books by their covers and this cover is amazing. Add in the fact that this book is thoughtful, compassionate, funny, and filled with great characters, and the result was I read this book in one sitting.


Michael has moved four times in ten years. He’s starting his new school, a private Catholic school, a month and a half into his junior year. He’s never believed in any god, but his father’s boss got him into St. Clare’s, the best private school in the area. He figures it will be terrible—after all, he’s an atheist—but is quickly proven wrong when he meets Lucy and her friends, an eclectic group of kids who all have their own reasons for not quite fitting in at school. Outspoken Colombian American feminist Lucy, whom Michael initially mistakes as a fellow atheist, wants to be a priest and has many thoughts on how and why the church should grow and change. Avi is Jewish and gay. Korean American Max is a Unitarian who just wants to be able to wear a cape to school. Eden is a Wiccan—well, actually, she’s a Celtic Reconstructionist Polytheist. Even though Michael is an apostate, and not technically a heretic, he’s invited into their group, Heretics Anonymous, which is basically a support group serving as a place to air their grievances about school. It doesn’t take Michael long to feel the group should do something more, go public, figure out how they can make things better for everyone at school. They “fix” the sex ed video, challenge the dress code, and begin to leave their mark (literally) all over the school. But shaking things up and starting dialogues has consequences, and soon security cameras are popping up and innocent classmates are getting accused of these pranks. Things spiral out of control, causing HA to go on hiatus, but when Michael’s personal life becomes stressful, he pushes things at school too far and stands to lose all that good that has come out of landing in this most ill-fitting place.


I enjoyed that Michael and his friends all came from different backgrounds but worked to understand each other, even as they made mistakes and disagreed over big ideas. This isn’t some story where Michael sees the error of his ways and finds religion, but he does start to understand that God and faith is maybe far more complicated than he had previously thought. Michael may not believe in any god, but he does believe in plenty of other things that are meaningful. At its heart, this is a story about friendship, respect, beliefs, acceptance, and differences, but it’s also a very amusing look at a subversive secret society determined to bring about change and expose hypocrisy. Excellent dialogue and genuine character growth make this layered look at religion sparkle. A great recommendation for those who like their deep subjects peppered with humor. I look forward to more from this author. 



Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

ISBN-13: 9780062698872
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 08/07/2018

Listening to Old Ghosts : The Haunting Influence of Our Town and Spoon River Anthology, a guest post by author Mary Amato

I have had the pleasure of working with author Mary Amato in the past, as we worked together to discuss ways in which librarians could provide more music based programming in libraries. GUITAR NOTES by Mary Amato is a moving story of grief, music and friendship that I will never stop recommending. Today, I am honored to have her join us here at TLT to discuss her newest release, OPEN MIC NIGHT AT WESTMINSTER CEMETERY.

My high school produced Thornton Wilder’s Our Town and I was in the “chorus”—one of the unimportant dead sitting quietly in the town cemetery. Although I was devastated that I did not get the part of Emily, the main female lead, the play had a lasting impact on me. I still remember the chill I felt at each performance, when the character of the stage manager simply walked out and said: “This play is called ‘Our Town.’ It was written by Thornton Wilder. . .”

The other plays I had seen tried to trick the audience into believing they were watching something real by having a scene pop to life. This was something different. This was a character telling us that what we were about to witness was a work of fiction—and yet that character was a part of the fiction. I was hooked.


During my high school years, I was introduced to Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters as well. Reading this 1916 work was like strolling through a cemetery and meeting the ghosts of the buried souls. The book is a collection of short poems each from the point of view of a person buried in a fictional small town in Illinois. I was an Illinois kid, and my favorite poem in the collection was The Fiddler: “The earth keeps some vibration going/There in your heart, and that is you/And if the people find you can fiddle/Why, fiddle you must, for all your life.”

Librarians and English/drama teachers have no idea what material they introduce will resonate with students. Those two works have been partners in my literary life and you can see their influence in my latest YA, Open Mic Night at Westminster Cemetery (Carolrhoda Lab™, 2018), a script-novel hybrid about a 16-year-old girl named Lacy who wakes up dead in an old cemetery.

I use the conceit of a narrator, a stage manager, who breaks the fourth wall by speaking directly to the audience to kick off the novel. “Dear Reader: This play, based on a true story, was originally written for the Deceased and was first performed in Westminster Cemetery in Baltimore, Maryland. All the characters you will meet, unless explicitly identified as Living, are Dead.” Like the stage manager in Our Town, my narrator seems to be in two worlds at once.

You can see Spoon River Anthology in the novel—especially in the book’s second act— as the various inhabitants of this cemetery rise and tell their stories.

The idea that every person has a story, no matter how ordinary, and that every story is worth hearing is a theme in Wilder and Masters that speaks to teens. During those turbulent years, teens want to know that their own stories matter. There is also comfort in realizing that a story can endure even after someone much loved has died.

As a teen, I loved walking through cemeteries and reading inscriptions on gravestones, imagining each person’s story. I still do. That exercise is what led me to set my latest novel in a cemetery and watch the characters emerge.


Now, one of my favorite creative-writing exercises is to provide students with photos of old gravestones and ask them to use their imaginations to write a monologue from the point of view of the name engraved on the stone, a mission that would surely resonate with Wilder and Masters, wherever they now reside.

 Meet Author Mary Amato

mary amato

Mary Amato is the author of many books for children and teens. Her latest novel, Open Mic Night at Westminster Cemetery, is available from Carolrhoda Lab™. Visit Mary online at www.maryamato.com.

Mary and I previously worked together to discuss ways to involve more music in public and school libraries and getting teens journalling. Please check out those posts:

Bring the Power of Music Into Your Library

YA A to Z: Being Heard – Anne Frank, Diaries and Teens

Talking with Nancy Evans, Creator of the Strong Girls Program, a guest post by Natalie Korsavidis

strong girlsToday librarian Natalie Korsavidis joins us to interview Nancy Evans, Head of Young Adult at the Levittown Public Library. Nancy was recently named a Library Journal Mover and Shaker for her Strong Girls program. She is a past-President of the Nassau County Library Association and the Young Adult Services Division of the Nassau County Library Association. Her book Cultivating Strong Girls: Library Programming That Builds Self-Esteem and Challenges Inequality was just published by Libraries Unlimited.




What inspired you to create this program?

I had a writing group that was, coincidentally, all girls. I read them a tumblr post by YA author Maureen Johnson, about photoshopping in magazines. It was written in response to a 14 year-old girl asking Seventeen to include one non-photoshopped spread in the magazine each month and they said no. I thought we would discuss the writing style, but they were far more interested in talking about the issues that they were facing as girls, around beauty and body image and gender bias and discrimination. I was listening to them talk and I thought, “This is a program.”


How does the program work?

I run it as a program series of 6-8 sessions of an hour and a half to two hours each. The groups have really enjoyed it and most have asked if they can continue meeting as a club once it ends and it morphs into a club. I’ve tried to accommodate that as much as I can.


What topics are covered? Are there any off limits?

There’s no topic that’s off limits but I do ask the girls to refrain from discussion that’s unproductive, like gossip. I also try to avoid drama by asking them to approach situations with an intent to identify the feelings and problems involved and come up with potential solutions rather than making things bigger or more complicated than necessary or complaining with no desire for change or growth. We cover beauty, body image and the media, gender bias and inequality, self-esteem building, friendships and relationships, cliques and bullying, social media and more. The amount of time spent on each topic is dictated by the group and their needs. Younger girls have tended to want to talk more about things like popularity, fitting in and navigating social groups whereas older girls have wanted to talk about family relationships and parental expectations, how to communicate honestly and effectively, and how to increase self-esteem and confidence.


IMG_1112croppedWhat has the feedback been from the girls, their parents, and the community?

I received a Woman of Distinction award from a local legislator and of course, the Movers and Shakers award from the library community and those were very flattering. I’m aware though, that many people are doing amazing work with no recognition and I wish that wasn’t the case.

The girls who complete the program like it a lot. Often, the participants are unpopular, socially awkward and/or experiencing bullying so it’s nice for them to have a safe space where they can make friends and receive support. Several parents have told me that they’re grateful that we offer it.


What have been some of your best moments running this program?

My best moments have been:

  1. Finding a message on my whiteboard written by 2 group members that said “I love being a strong, empowering (sic), self-motivated girl. Thanks Ms. Evans.”
  2. Having a participant in my first group come in and tell us that she had ended a very unhealthy relationship due to what she had learned in the program about relationships and with the support and advice from the group.
  3. One of my participants was being forced into a career that she did not want by her mother and she was able to stand up for herself and have an open and honest conversation about what she wants for her future.


What is your exact role? Do you facilitate? Do you share your stories?

I mainly facilitate, but I do participate. The girls seem surprised when I tell them that I was bullied, as a teen and as an adult, and that I’ve experienced many of the same issues that they do, but I got through it and they will too. I’m selective about the stories that I share because I have to maintain appropriate boundaries, but there’s still a lot that I can discuss.



Altered Altoids tin craft


Altered Altoids tin craft

What advice would you give to a librarian wanting to run this program?

My advice would be don’t be afraid to try it. You don’t have to be a therapist or social worker, (although you can certainly team up with one if you like). I do advise that a woman runs the program for authenticity, so that you’re saying “I know how that feels” instead of “I can imagine how that feels.” The reality is, I don’t know a single woman who hasn’t experienced some form of gender bias, hasn’t stressed over their looks or body and sadly, hasn’t experienced some form of girl-on-girl or woman-on-woman bullying and we need to talk about those things, with each other and with younger girls and women, why they’re still happening and their effects.

I always say that, in this program, I’m just doing what we do best-connecting people with information and each other. The girls are not always informed about things like what constitutes sexual harassment, what a healthy relationship looks like, how to handle conflict and confrontation or what they can do if they’re being bullied. Sometimes, it’s assumed that they do know these things but when you have a conversation with them, you realize that they don’t and they don’t know where to go for information and assistance.


How did the book come about?


I presented my program at PLA in Denver in 2016 and a Jessica Gribble, an acquisitions editor from ABC-CLIO was in the audience. She ended up contacting me and asking me if I had ever considered writing a book about the program. I hadn’t but I’d written several articles for VOYA. She asked if I’d like to begin the proposal process. I said yes, and to my surprise, it was accepted.


Talk about your writing process. How did you make it into a full book?


I had NO idea what writing a book entails! I thought it would be like writing articles and stringing them together and that seemed reasonable and doable. That wasn’t the case at all and I had to figure out how to approach it. My original concept of how it would be structured had to be tweaked and I realized that it was going to be much harder and take a lot longer to write than I had thought.


How long did it take to write? Has it inspired you to write other books?


It took about a year to write. I did have to ask for a few extensions and since I was working full time, was the president of an 800 member professional organization and am a mother, it basically meant that I had zero leisure time for a year (and that my kids were always asking “Are you ever going to cook dinner again?)”


It actually did inspire me to start a novel. I love to write and in the very small amount of free time that I had while I was writing the book, I began writing a novel. My husband thought I was crazy to begin a second book when I hadn’t finished the first but it was a stress reliever for me. There’s no contract for the novel so I can write it at my own pace and since there are no expectations, including my own, it doesn’t even have to be good. I can write strictly for my own enjoyment. It’s about a librarian, of course.


What has been your takeaway in creating both the program and the book?


My takeaways have been that I shouldn’t be afraid to try things and that I’m capable of achieving more than I sometimes believe. My initial reaction to most challenges is to think “I can’t do that!” but apparently, I can and I did. I was afraid to run the program—that someone would stop me or that girls with big problems would attend and expect me to solve them or that they wouldn’t like it, so I delayed running it for two years and I regret that.


The book was a major accomplishment for me and something I’ll always be able to look back on with pride. But most importantly, I feel like I’ve actually made a difference in someone’s life or lives and that’s what we all want-to do work that matters. That’s my goal as a librarian, to positively impact others and I’ll continue trying to achieve it. I’m not done.


Meet Natalie Korsavidis

Natalie Korsavidis is a Reader’s Advisory Librarian at the Farmingdale Public Library. She is a guest contributor for Teen Library Toolbox and has spoken at New York Comic Con.


About Cultivating Strong Girls: Library Programming That Builds Self-Esteem and Challenges Inequality by Nancy Evans

strong girls 2An essential “how-to” book for youth services librarians who are interested in effecting social change and offering a dynamic, relevant program for girls.
• Presents complete, low-cost program instructions and recommended resources for librarians who want to offer relevant and dynamic programming for girls

• Suggests extension activities, including peer mentoring and community service opportunities for girls who complete the program

• Addresses programming concerns and potential pain points

• Encourages librarians to develop meaningful and lasting relationships with patrons



ISBN-13: 9781440856686
Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
Publication date: 04/16/2018
Series: Libraries Unlimited Professional Guides for Young Adult Librarians Series
Pages: 130

Rethinking Book Displays – Again

Display Coffin

I am very lucky in that I have two very artistic assistants who do displays for our teens. After 20some years doing displays, I was getting kind of burned out and to be honest, I wasn’t awesome at it. But my assistants are, so it was a task I was happy to delegate. We would work together to come up with themes and I would put together book lists, but my assistants did all the artwork. It was win-win and a great team effort. We were all proud of the displays we were doing. I mean, look at these awesome displays . . .

Display Teen Videogaming Display Once Upon a Crime display6 Display Stranger Thingsdisplay5

My assistants put together elaborate and artistic displays that often involved custom made letters, artwork and a lot of bling. They were amazing to look at. The only problem is, they weren’t doing what we needed them to do: nobody was checking the books off of the displays. We were doing displays to help get teens reading and books circulating, but the books were sitting there on the displays without being checked out. This became a concern. So we put our heads together and started asking what we could or needed to do differently.

After a lot of discussion, we decided that maybe it was because our displays were too good. That sounds like a weird thing to say, but think of what happens when you visit an art museum. You are taught to stand back and look at the artwork from a distance with admiration and respect. Look, but don’t touch. So we wondered if maybe patrons weren’t viewing our book displays in the same way that you might view art at an art museum: look, but don’t touch.

So we began a series of experiments. First, we pared down the amount of bling we had on our display, but still had a colorful background. We wanted to still have colorful, eye catching displays but didn’t want to intimidate our patrons and make them think that they couldn’t walk up to the display and check out a book. And thus our experiment began . . .

display3 display4Display Social Justice

This still didn’t create the result we wanted. One or two books would circulate, but on the whole our displays still weren’t moving books the way we wanted them to.

So then we decided to pare down our display to the very basics and put the emphasis on the books. We went with bare walls, a simple sign and books galore. When possible, we would include interactive elements, such as this what YA would you like to see on Netflix display where we invited teens to participate and share their thoughts with us. Or we are including buttons like the display below that has an “I Read Past My Bedtime” button to take when checking out a book from our Read Past Your Bedtime display. We even include signage that says things like, yes please check these books out and read them.

display2 display1

At this bare minimum, we discovered that yes, the books were being circulated off of the displays more. In fact, in the Netflix themed display you see above, we filled more holes than we ever have on one of our YA displays. This made us very happy; our goal is, after all, to get books into the hands of readers.

We are going to be continuing this experiment for a while as we try to determine how best to utilize our display space to increase circulation and get YA books into the hands of teen readers. Let us know below by leaving a comment what you’re doing with your display spaces and what you have found to be the most effective ways to get books circulating off of a display.

YA A to Z: Peace and Quiet – Recharging Your Battery After Summer Reading, a guest post by librarian Lisa Krok

 It’s almost here, the end of summer. Which means for a lot of us, summer reading is wrapping up. Today librarian Lisa Krok is joining us to talk about recharging your batteries.


We all know that summer reading brings with it a flurry of activity, endless prep and cleanup, and most importantly, happy kids who are keeping their minds engaged and avoiding the summer slide. Now that your maker projects, crafts, concerts, slams, book clubs, cup stacking, video games, and cupcake wars are done, catch your breath. Literally…stop right now and take in a few deep inhales and exhales and be mindful of feeling yourself decompress. I think we get caught up in go-go-go-go for so long that we forget how to unwind and relax. We have served our patrons well, and now we need to recharge in that blissful month between summer reading ending and school starting, August.

Think of the speech they give every time you board an airplane: put the mask on yourself first before assisting others. Our nature as librarians is to be helpful, but we must take care of ourselves first to be of any good to anyone else. If you’re feeling burned out and exhausted, it is time to recharge. Ironically, one of the things that will help you recharge is to unplug. Yes, I said it. If you can’t do it for a week, do it for a day. If not a day, do it for an hour. No phones, no emails, no social media, no screens of any kind, just BE.

Stop and breathe some more; enjoy your surroundings. There are many things to appreciate that cost little to no money at all. Go for a walk in the park or visit your local botanical gardens for some beautiful sights and intoxicating scents. Many towns have free music in the park or at local colleges on the green. Bring a blanket along and enjoy a picnic. If you enjoy cooking, make your favorite meal; if not, treat yourself to a cherished restaurant. Have a soak in the tub for as long as you want (bring a book, of course).

Spend some time on your own or as a family at a local lake, beach, or pool. Sunshine and good books have tremendous healing powers! So do furry friends that may live in your home and relish extra cuddle time. Catch up with friends and family you haven’t seen because you have been too busy. Enjoy simple pleasures like lemonade or iced tea on the porch, smiling as your kids create with chalk on the driveway, or just watch the world for a while: wind blowing in the trees, squirrels running, birds chirping. Bring out some bright pencils and color in those Harry Potter and curse word coloring books (my two personal favorites) you bought but rarely use. Have a nap. Paint your nails. Practice some yoga poses. Light those scented candles you have been saving for something special. YOU are special, and you deserve them.

Lisa Krok

 Meet Our Guest Blogger


Lisa is a branch manager and teen librarian in the Akron-Summit County Public Libraries in Akron, Ohio, a member of the 2019 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers team, and a Ravenclaw. She can be found being bookish and political on Twitter @readonthebeach. A to Z