Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Book Review: Legend by Marie Lu (reviewed by Chris D)

Legend by Marie Lu was a pretty unconventional choice of reads for me in the sense that it has some pretty strong romantic undertones (you know… actual human feelings.)  But I needed to pull the car out of the ditch and read something with some emotional depth rather than just for a good story.  Fortunately this has both.

In my opinion, you can never go wrong with dystopian, but this one really played to my love of history.  The book takes place, from what I can gather, about 100 years in the future and revolves around the lives of two distinctly different characters living in the flooded remains of Los Angeles, California in the “Republic of America”.  Chapters alternate between the two characters, one being a 15 year old criminal known as Day, trying to save his younger brother from a fatal flu.  The other, June, is a young, prodigious military cadet born into one of the Republic’s elite families.
After some unknown calamity (possibly a global flu pandemic or runaway climate change) the continental US is broken up into two countries; the Republic and the Colonies.  Another faction is mentioned, the Patriots, who seem to be a terrorist organization working against the Republic government.   The constant state of war among the groups reminds me of the civil war and brings to mind other works of fiction concerning a “second civil war,” such as many of the Harry Turtledove novels.

Every child on their tenth birthday takes a “trial,” consisting of physical fitness tests, aptitude tests, and a string of interviews with Republic officials.  Those that pass are assigned various duties of the state (the higher the score, the more prestigious) and those that fail are sent to “work camps.”  What makes June a prodigy is she is the only child in the history of the trials to score a perfect 1500, she flies through college, and is the youngest cadet the military has ever seen. 
The differences between the rich and poor play a big part in this novel and presumably will continue to do so throughout the series.  The elite are given free flu vaccinations each year, have access to education, and tend to have very few worries. While the poor (such as Day’s family) live in squalor, die of the flu, and are denied even the most basic of assistance.  It’s no surprise then that the children most likely to fail the trials and be sent away come from the poor areas of the city.
Raised in an elite, military family June’s loyalty to the Republic is absolute and she is more than happy to perform any duty in the name of “Elector Primo.” But when she is sent undercover to capture Day, the Republic’s most notorious criminal and Robin Hood of Los Angeles, she begins to discover that her country, her superiors, and even her best friend are not what she was raised to believe. Conspiracies and corruption abound and June begins to question her loyalty to the system as she becomes more disillusioned by the actions of those around her.
An enjoyable read and what looks to be a great series forthcoming. It’s in the same ilk as The Hunger Games, Ship Breakers, and Divergent.  Think of it as 1984with a pandemic plague thrown in. 3.5 out of 5 stars.  Make no mistake though; this book has the feel of a movie just waiting to happen.

Salon and the Shushing Librarian

Things I Never Learned in Library School: To Shush or Not To Shush?

Just the other day I mentioned that I thought, perhaps, maybe, there should be a little more shushing in the library.  I know – it seems such a treasonous thought and sets back the fight against stereotypes 100s of years.   See: Renegade Library Thoughts.

Then today, I open up my browser and cruise online to find THIS article entitled Bring Back Shushing Librarians at Salon.com. (by Laura Miller)

Let’s get the obvious out of the way, shall we?  Seriously, speaking of stereotypes, could they have found a more stereotypical picture to illustrate this piece? At least they mention that we are “highly skilled, well educated and socially aware.”  Moving on.

Salon is referencing the latest finding of a PEW study that looks at what library users want from libraries and fourth on that list is “quiet study spaces for adults and children.” 

How a library can meet this need depends a lot on a library’s space.  The library I currently work at is a smaller branch to a main library.  Like most branches, it is one open space.  It’s a beautiful building, but spatially and architecturally challenged (the entry way is an echo chamber).  There is no space for smaller, private study rooms, which is typical of most branch libraries.  And to be honest, we can be very busy.  At times, I have counted over 60 people in our building with almost every chair and table occupied.

Libraries are busy places, and that business involves things like group studies, library employee and patron interactions at a variety of desks, parents reading to children, and more.  Families and children coming into the library have a different dynamic and need than an individual coming into the library looking for a quiet place to study, and not all library buildings are designed to meet both of those needs well.

Some libraries are better designed to meet the changing landscape of libraries today.  They have smaller, independent study rooms.  Their children and teen areas are a more reasonable distance from areas designated as quiet study areas.  But older buildings don’t always retrofit well to the changing needs of our library populations.  Perhaps nowhere do we see this more clearly than in teen services; how many of us have had to try and find a sensible place to put a new teen area in library that didn’t previously recognize the need for teen services?  You have to consider things like noise levels, line of sight, location in reference to both the children and adult collections, funding we don’t have and more.

In the end, I’ll admit it, I think that there are a few steps that libraries can – and should – take to create a shared space for a wide variety of people that have different goals.  Teens coming to use your teen area are often coming to work on group projects (which are being heavily emphasized in the schools) or be social, while others are looking for a quiet oasis to read and reflect.  For example, I am a huge believer that cell phone conversations don’t belong in the public spaces of the library.  Can we ever really stop them? No.  But I think when we overhear patrons talking loudly on their cell phones, it is perfectly acceptable to ask them to please take their conversation outside or end their call.  There is something about talking on a cell phone that seems to make people talk 10 times the normal volume.  And to be completely honest, I have asked a patron to turn their sound off so we didn’t hear their every click of the keyboard as they texted in the “quiet area”. 

As Salon mentions, libraries are changing and there is an emphasis on things like programming, being a community space and more.  In many libraries there is a sense of pride that we are no longer those quiet, stodgy relics of the past.  But sometimes, we stray too far from our mission and forget that we should also be that place for an individual to come in, browse the shelves and have that serendipitous moment with a book. So yes, let there be shushing, but as I mentioned in my Sunday Reflection, it needs to be consistent and polite.  And please, let’s dispense with the librarian stereotypes – even when shushing.

TPiB: The Fairy Garden (inspired by Return to Me by Justina Chen)

If you have visited a nursery lately, you have probably seen container gardens put together in whimsical ways and called “fairy gardens”.  There are tons of places in stores and online that sell items to make your own, but they are not cheap.  I have been wanting to make one for a while now and then I began reading Return to Me by Justina Chen and knew I could wait no longer.

Return to Me is the story of Rebecca Muir, who is getting ready to leave for college when her entire life falls apart.  Her father leaves the family and it turns out that everything she thought she knew about herself and her family may be a lie.  Sometimes, we don’t really know the people we love the most.

Return to Me is a thoughtful, spiritual journey of one young woman who must come to terms with radical change and accept parts of herself that she has long tried to deny.  It is about accepting yourself, forgiving others, and opening yourself up to love even if it means there is a chance that others can hurt you.

A very brief review:  Return to Me is inspiring and moving, but it also gets bogged down some in spiritual truthisms and inner dialogue, especially towards the end as Rebecca and her family retreat to Hawaii (who wouldn’t want to go there?) to heal.  There are some great multigenerational relationships showcased here that unfolds over time.  Return to Me also showcases a healthy male love interest, though the relationship itself is very rocky as Rebecca is reeling from her father’s betrayal and it causes her to act protectively.  Speaking of relationships, there are some wonderful female friendships modeled in this book as well.  Rebecca is real, raw and someone you can care about and identify with.  The messages are important, enriching and valuable.  3.5 out of 5 stars.  This book is a balm to the weariest of souls and a reminder to us all to embrace who we are and follow our dreams.

Rebecca herself wants to study to be an architect, and is drawn to tree houses.  And her mother creates healing gardens.  There is talk of creating fairy houses and fairy gardens, so, inspired by Rebecca’s journey, I knew that I wanted to create a fairy garden of my own finally.  And because Return to Me is also a moving story about generations of women finding healing in their relationships, including Rebecca, her mother, and her grandmother, I knew that I wanted to do it with my girls.  In fact, I highly recommend this book for a mother/daughter book discussion group.  And when you have your discussion, you can create your own fairy gardens.

Note: this is a great Earth day craft

What You’ll Need:

  • Shallow containers (you can buy serving bowls at the dollar store)
  • Dirt, sand or potting soil
  • Fairies-make them out of twigs or clothes pins or check at the dollar store, I raided my kids toy box
  • Rocks, pine cones, twigs, leaves, sea shells, tree bark, etc.  These can be used to make tables, chairs, etc.  For example, we used acorn tops as bowls and hats.
  • Small knick knacks (again, to keep costs down, try the dollar store)
  • Small plants, flowers and greenery (depending on the season)
  • Twine, hemp cord, or craft wire
  • Small shovels 
  • Egg cartons and paint (to make houses or mushrooms)
  • Wine corks 
  • Popsicle sticks
  • Oriental Trading has a variety of wooden embellishments that will also work, including little wooden spools
  • The little trinkets you get from bubble gum machines can be used as garden statues and gnomes
  • You can make clothespin dolls (ideas on Pinterest) to populate your garden 

What You’ll Do:
There isn’t really a lot of need for step by step instructions here.  In fact, part of the beauty of the fairy garden is that is cultivates creativity and individuality.  Here is a photo montage of our fairy garden in process with some instructions on making a couple of specific elements.

The beginning stage.  We literally pulled stuff out of our yard and our toy box.  We tried to make a faerie path with rocks, a house with wood pieces, etc.
I was working with a 4-year-old here, so of course Minnie Mouse has to be in our fairy garden.  The best part about this is you can buy little figurines and things like this at the dollar store.  Doll house furniture and dishes are great additions so check out your local thrift stores.


Because there is something wrong with my family, our fairy garden became a zombie dystopian landscape.  The bonus side is, we finally figured out what we could do with the Barbie head we have been hanging on to.  I knew we could do something fun with it.

You can make our fairy garden fencing by using craft wire to string a bunch of old nails together.

You can make mushrooms using egg cartons, wine corks and markers (or paint).

Because it is winter, this is a winter themed faerie garden.  Imagine how wonderful they would be in the spring and summer if you plant living plants and flowers.  Here we use a large rock for a table, acorn tops for bowls, and a popsicle stick and paper to make our sign.  Choose your favorite inspirational quote from the book – and there are many to choose from – to put on your faerie garden sign.

If you are truly ambitious, you can make small chairs, tables and houses using twigs and hemp cord or crafting wire.  Here are some resources:
A few more programming ideas:

  1. If you build it, they will come: you can also use things like Legos, Tinker Toys, etc. and have tweens and teens make buildings, etc.  This ties into the architecture theme.  I have done a space themed version of this with Legos and it is fun. 
  2. Do an Oreo stacking contest just for fun, it is slightly architectural in nature, and then have milk and cookies to cap off your discussion (although you’ll want to eat fresh cookies, not the ones everyone has just manhandled for the stacking contest).
  3. Canstruction: Do a canned food drive and have teens at your program use the cans to make towers, buildings and more.
  4. Or make dirty pudding cups to go along with the gardening theme.

Return to Me by Justina Chen is recommended for all public and school libraries.  It has an empowering message to all readers, but especially female readers.  I loved the mysticism and spiritualism presented and the reminding nudge to us all to be true to ourselves.  Published in January 2013 by Little, Brown. ISBN: 9780316102551.

The mystery of movie making made simple: There’s an app for that

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tUYlrjgZLY]

You can use iMovie to create fun movie trailers that will work as commercials for your library, an individual program or your SRP.  Here’s a tutorial on how to use it.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kIumHiKZoDA]

Graphic Novel Review: Once Upon a Time Machine, reviewed by Karen D

 photo 15739430_zps59600daa.jpg
Once Upon a Time Machine 
edited by Andrew Carl, Chris Stevens, and Jason Rodriguez
Graphic Novel Anthology
Oct. 2012

Book Jacket Summary
Fairy tales have fueled our dreams and fired our imaginations for centuries. Step inside a time
machine built by a collection of today’s finest storytellers, and enter a range of futures where familiar tales are reimagined in an astonishing variety of styles. Editor Andrew Carl and Producer Chris Stevens bring you the next wave of leading writers and illustrators, working alongside superstar creators like Farel Dalrymple (Pop Gun War), Ryan Ottley (Invincible), Khoi Pham (Daredevil), and Brandon Graham (King City) to deliver a reading experience that will delight generations young and old.
My Thoughts

This graphic novel anthology was a play on fairy tales set in an alternate reality or the far future. 

John Henry is a space mechanic that is being replaced by machines. Pinocchio is a computer that wants to be real. The Three Billy Goats Gruff is a girl trying to get medicine in an abandon city with robots guarding the buildings. The Tortoise and the Hare is a dangerous race with traps and betrayal. 

These stories are creative and vary from author to author. The artwork is suburb in each story and I found myself wondering what other works some of the artist have done. There were also panels between stories with a look at Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs that I would have loved to see in actual stories. I guess there is the expression- Always leave them wanting more! 

Teens will love the updated stories and I know there is an artwork style in this book that will for them.

Cover Reveal: Stained by Cheryl Rainfield

In this heart-wrenching and suspenseful teen thriller, sixteen-year-old Sarah Meadows longs for “normal.” Born with a port-wine stain covering half her face, all her life she’s been plagued by stares, giggles, bullying, and disgust. But when she’s abducted on the way home from school, Sarah is forced to uncover the courage she never knew she had, become a hero rather than a victim, and learn to look beyond her face to find the beauty and strength she has inside. It’s that—or succumb to a killer.
Sometimes you have to be your own hero.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sr0a8pw-csQ]

From the author:
Like I did with SCARS and HUNTED, I drew on some of my own experiences of bullying, abuse, and trauma to write STAINED and to give it greater emotional depth. Like Sarah in STAINED, I experienced abduction, imprisonment, periods of forced starvation, mind control, and having my life threatened. And like Sarah, I tried hard to fight against my abuser, keep my own sense of self, and escape. I hope readers will see Sarah’s strength and courage, and appreciate her emotional growth as she reclaims herself.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, November 19, 2013

Cheryl Rainfield is the author of several gripping, realistic novels for teens including:

Parallel Visions: Kate sees visions of the future–but only when she has an asthma attack.
Hunted: Caitlyn is a telepath in a world where having any paranormal power is illegal. Monica Hughes Award finalist
Scars: Kendra must face her past and stop hurting herself before it’s too late. GG Literary Award Finalist, YALSA’s Top 10 Quick Picks. 
Available For Pre-Order on:

Book Review: October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Leslea Newman

I first heard about October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard from Terri Lessene at the 2012 YALSA YA Literature Symposium, who described it by saying:

“it introduces Matthew Shepard to a generation too young to remember him.”  

My heart sank when I heard that. Matthew Shepard’s story was pivotal for me and many of my contemporaries.  I was two years younger, three inches taller, and twenty pounds heavier than him when this slight, bright, trusting young gay man was beaten to death in a hate crime that would later play a part in national hate crime legislation. A number of of my friends and classmates were in the midst of coming out, and Matthew Shepard’s murder was a shattering event.

With the passage of time, most names and lives and stories will be forgotten,  but this is one name, life, story, that needs to remain in the public memory, and this slim volume is a beautiful, powerful way to aid in this.

For those too young to remember Matthew Shepard’s story, too young to get chills and feel an ache at the bottom of your heart when you see it, the fence pictured above may just look like a fence.  It is the fence outside of Laramie, Wyoming where Matthew Shepard was tied for eighteen hours, beginning October 7th, 1998, after being lured into a truck by two men, beaten savagely with fists and a gun, and left barefoot, alone, for eighteen hours, before he was discovered, hospitalized, and later died from his devastating injuries.  He was twenty one.  He was a college student. He was gay.
October Mourning doesn’t tell Matthew’s story as a straight narrative, it invokes everything involved in the incident, giving each element a distinct voice thorough poetry:  the man who didn’t invite Matthew to stay for an extra drink, the bartender who offered him his last kindness, the truck, the killers, the  fence, the moon that saw it all, the biker who discovered this beautiful blonde boy, who was so crumpled and beaten he was first mistaken for a scarecrow, the parents who heard the news, the nurse, the tree that became the urn that held his ashes, the friends who wore angel wings to shield mourners from the protesters that picketed his funeral, Matthew’s own heart:

This is just to say
I’m sorry
I kept beating
and beating
your shattered chest

Forgive me
for keeping you
so long
I knew it would kill me
to let you go

I am no great fan of novels in verse.  They can seem affected, using the form as a gimmick more than a deliberate and correct choice to tell the story.  But when they work, they really, really, really work. This one really works.  You may note that the poem above is written in the style of William Carlos William’s famous piece.  Newman uses this device a number of times, turning the wry apology of the original into genuinely grief filled moments of regret here.  She also employs classic forms to great effect a number of times, notably in her use of the rhythmically echoing pantoum as the fence speaks in THE FENCE (that night) (excerpted from page 16 below)

His own heart wouldn’t stop beating
The cold wind wouldn’t stop blowing
His face streaked with moonlight and blood
I tightened my grip and held on

The cold wind wouldn’t stop blowing
We were out on the prairie alone
I tightened my grip and held on
I saw what was done to this child

The rallying repetition of a villanelle is employed in a pair of poems, one from the perspective of anti-gay protesters who spewed hate filled epithets at the mourners, and another, on the opposite page, from the silent counter protesters from the Angel Action group, formed for this event and still active today to provide a silent, peaceful barrier between mourners and protesters.
But this is not a book filled with strict poetic forms.  Free verse, found poems, and notably a concrete poem from the perspective of the stars overhead, scattered across the page like stars in the sky keep the reader connected to the voice of the various speakers.  A note at the end explains the forms and construction of the poems.  Many teen readers will be unfamiliar with the references to famous works and use of forms, so I wish this note had been a part of the front material.
Because the crime was so far beyond words, so senseless, so divisive (will today’s teens even understand why it was divisive?), the impact so far reaching, spawning plays and movies and crime tv shows and counter protest measures and federal legislation, it is not just a crime story, not just a hate story, not just a story of gay bashing.  And while the facts of Matthew Shepard’s murder are startling enough and certainly could and have been told in narrative form, Newman’s “song” gives voice to the players in such a way that the reader moves through the event with a different kind of understanding.  It forces the reader to think of the event not as a story – it is not a fiction – rather a life and an experience that has a power all its own and needs to be remembered.

A Day In the Life of a Library: Lock-In Preparation

A lock-in can be extremely rewarding for teens and libraries if done the proper way.  You, the teen services specialist, need buy in not only from your teens (which is relatively easy- I mean, if you don’t have teens clamoring to stay all night in the library, email me, we need to talk), but also within your community (meaning the parents/guardians and other patrons) and your administration (not only your boss, but your director, the Friends of the Library, and the Library Board).  Getting that buy-in may not always be easy, but if you have a secure plan in place, I find it’s a sure-fire way to start.

I have always tied mine in with a reading program (summer or winter) in order to have the teens EARN the privileged to stay the night.  I know that other libraries may not do this (I know others have special lock-ins for TAG groups, for instance) but I work (and have worked) in areas where teens need that extra push to read- they need a goal to work for, and the prizes that we’re able to give may not be the encouragement that they need.  Having adults that care enough to spend the night with them, and crazy enough to plan fun and interesting activities, shows that there is someone out there that wants them to succeed enough to devote the time and energy to them.  And it is a LOT of time and energy, so much that I don’t think anyone really realizes it from the outside. I know that a lot of my teens don’t. On lock-in days alone, I am physically AT my building starting at 5 p.m., and do not leave before 8:30 a.m. the next morning (15 1/2 hours).  In addition, on lock-in days, I am gathering donations from sponsors and collecting last minute necessities and prepping for the day.  Easily, I work (and I mean WORK) 20 hours on a lock-in day.

A typical lock-in day will go like this:

    11 a.m.-1 p.m.
    Placing calls and finalizing details.  This can involve arranging last minute delivery of donated food from local vendors like pizza, or arranging to pick-up T-shirts for the lock-in.  I’m also going over my check-list of places I need to go to and things I need to pick-up, as well as packing for the day.  I’ll stop back by my house between 4-5 p.m., and then I won’t be back until 9 a.m. the next morning, so I need to have everything in bins ready to grab and go. 
    1-4 p.m.
    Driving and gathering donations from various vendors around town.  This can be anything from pre-packaged pastries for breakfast, to freebies and trinkets from the Dollar Store, to juice and Kool-Aide donated from the local grocery stores.

    4-5 p.m.
    Packing up any supplies and materials at my house for transport to the library: PS3 and Wii games and controllers, board games, plates, napkins, and other donations that have been given by parents or other members of the community.

    5-7 p.m.

    Arrive at building, and set up library and large meeting rooms for lock-in.  Check off teen and chaperone names as they come in, and remind them that they need to be in the large meeting room at 7 for lock-down.  Have teens help set up tables and chairs for dinner, and gaming systems in the library.

    7-8 p.m.
    Building check with other staff to make sure building is clear, call any parents of teens that are AWOL.  Dinner.

    8-9 p.m.
    Group games.  We have done Clue, Werewolf, Building Capture the Flag, Muggle Quidditch, Apples to Apples, Killer Bunnies- anything that can be done as a group that will get some energy burned off.
    9-10 p.m.: Free time.  Teens can be anywhere in the building except the off limits zones.  I will be wandering halls, checking on teens, and making sure things are going smoothly.

    10-11 p.m.
    Gym time.  We have a tradition of chaperone vs. teen volleyball games, then dodgeball, basketball, or anything else we desire.

    11-12 midnight
    Free time.

    12 midnight- 2 a.m.
    Group movie time.  Anyone not asleep in the safe rooms (separate for boys and girls, and I check) is required to come to the library to watch the group movie.  This year it will be Flash Gordon.

    2 – 3 a.m.

    Free time.

    3 – 4 a.m.
    Group games.  Anyone not asleep in the safe rooms is required to join us in the large meeting room for group games.  These are usually based around a theme- this year it will be 80’s games like Twister, musical chairs to 80’s bands, and Team Operation.

    4-7 a.m.
    Free time.  This is the most important time to be wandering around.  Anyone found asleep who is not in the safe room is fair game for marking, and I get LOTS of pictures.  We’ve found them under desks, in corners, everywhere.  And one teen always gets marked, no matter what he does.

    7-8 a.m.
    Group wake-up, clean up, and breakfast.  One of the main rules I have with any teen program is that we set up and we clean up, and a lock-in is no exception.  We have to leave the BUILDING in opening order, so we have to clean up any messes that have been made, and when I mean WE, I mean the teens.  Kool-Aid on the floor, go find the mop.  Pizza crusts didn’t make in the garbage, go clean it up.  Everything is clean before the donated breakfast (usually donuts or other pastries) is served.

    8 a.m.
    Teens are released.  Those that are within walking distance can walk home, and those that need rides can call, or leave with parents. Hopefully all parents are waiting by 8 to pick up everyone, but I have had some be as late as 9.

    8:30 a.m.
    I am hopefully leaving the building after doing a final walk-through, loading up my car, and locking up everything before the building opens in 30 minutes.  The library staff will show at 9, the building itself will open at 9, but the library won’t open until 10.  If any teens have not been picked up, I stay until 9 when the building is opened, and then they are on their own.

    Yet, the fact that I have 12 at-risk teens who read 35 hours over their winter break, and the fact that my summer lock-in grows every year, shows that I’m doing something right.  These same teens are the ones who’s reading scores were failing and are now passing or higher.  While I cannot concretely tie it to involvement in the library, the reading program, and the lock-ins, I have to be doing something right.  They’re coming to the library, and they are reading.  They’re sharing their favorite authors with me, and I’ll catch two or three of them reading new books during free time. Every year, my roster of volunteer chaperones gets larger- they are my former teens wanting to make a difference.  So, something is right.

    Sunday Reflections: Renegade Library Thoughts

    Like all professions, library land is full of its own sacred cows.  Today, I reflect on some of them as I wrestle with what I think of those sacred cows. 

    Not everyone a reader, and that’s okay

    When a teen says they don’t like to read, librarians have a tendency to say things like “You just haven’t found the right book yet.”  But you know, I have never found the right sport.  That’s right, I hate sports.  I do not watch them.  I have seen at least one of each sport live and nope, it didn’t make me a fan.  I think the reality is that some people are just not ever going to be pleasure readers – and that’s okay.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I think that everyone should know how to read.  Literacy is an important goal and key to life long success.  But at the end of the day is everyone going to walk into their house, throw their keys down on the table and pick up a book to spend their evening reading?  No, and that’s okay.  We still have the information that they need to meet their needs when they get a new diagnosis at the doctor’s office, or they want to research the best new car to buy, or when they want to learn how to garden or sew or cook.  Libraries have value beyond book circulation.  It breaks my heart when someone doesn’t love reading the way I do, but I am coming to accept that for some people, reading will never be their “thing” and that is okay.

    Reading by any other name?

    I am a huge advocate of audio books.  I have listened to them in my car while traveling and driven past my destination to finish the story. When parents ask me how to help their tweens and teens be better readers I always suggest having them listen to an audio book while reading along.  But if you are listening to an audio book, is it in fact reading?  Let’s look further, shall we.


    1. The action or skill of reading written or printed matter silently or aloud: “suggestions for further reading”; “reading skills”.
    1. Written or printed matter that can be read: “his main reading was detective stories”. (Merriam Webster online)

    I propose that listening to audio books without reading along is definitely engaging in story, which has its own benefits and rewards – including developing empathy, learning new vocabulary words, etc. – but that it is not the same physical act of reading.  There is no real point here, just that I am not sure we are 100% accurate when we call listening to audio books reading.  But I am sure you are going to tell me your opinions in the comments, and I am totally open to them.  And like I said, I think there is tremendous value in audio books and I am in fact a connoisseur.  As I write this, I am listening to Gone Girl on audio.  I think perhaps it is just a matter of semantics. 

    Overprogramming the already overprogrammed

    I am a huge advocate for teen programming in libraries and I have written about them extensively here at TLT.  In fact, I regularly share program outlines for us all to use (see TPiB).  But (and isn’t there always a but?), I worry that we are putting too much emphasis on programming to an already over programmed audience.  Yes, programming can help get teens in the library.  But let’s not put such an emphasize on programming that we set us all up to fail, even our teens.  If traditional library programming doesn’t work in your community, that’s okay.  What matters is that teens are coming and using the library and having successful library experiences.

    Let there be shushing (and cake)

    I am a loud person.  There is no real explanation, but I talk loudly.  And frequently burst into song.  I am not a stereotype.  Many a patron has complained to me that the library should be a quiet place and I have explained to them why it isn’t: people studying in groups, those spontaneous meet and greets at the door, babies crying, cell phones ringing.  Having said all that, I don’t think there is anything wrong in occasionally asking a patron to quiet down or take their cell phone conversation outside.  The whole library doesn’t need to know about enlarged prostates and your personal finances. There’s nothing wrong with a little gentle reminder that we are in a shared space and a little common courtesy goes a long way.  While I don’t mind shushing, I do mind unequal distribution of shushing.  If you are going to shush, make sure you do so fairly and without bias.  Don’t tell a group of teens to quiet down while a group of adults are standing in the entry way having a loud conversation about how mad they are at the school system, or whatever.  And do so politely.  Admit it, you have shushed.  (I just really like cake so I thought we should put that in there, that part had no real point.)

    Totally Tech Teen Space? No!

    Here’s my disclaimer: I am not a stodgy ole’ librarian who poo-poos technology.  I own, use and love a lot of tech.  But let’s not get rid of all the books quite yet.  Let’s not even get rid of the focus on books in our teen spaces.  The library is still the #1 place for kids to find pleasure reading materials according to a recent survey, and 2/3 still prefer print books.  We want to make sure that we are on point with trends and staying ahead of the curve, but it doesn’t seem like today is the day to walk away from one of our core values and services.  Our patrons are still reading print books, so let’s keep making them available.  Also, let’s remember that 1 out of 5 children are going to bed hungry, so they probably aren’t worried about how they are going to get free e-books for their e-readers.  There is still a large income disparity in America, growing larger every day, and we need to serve them all.

    Sources: Where do kids find books, PEW report on the rise of e-reading

    So, what about you, what are some of your renegade library thoughts? Please share in the comments.  And feel free to flame me, I no that people will disagree with me.  That’s okay, I am open to conversation and find that my opinions shift and evolve over time.  Just like everyone else, I am a work in progress.

    The Montgomery County Book Festival

    I’m going to go meet Jonathan Maberry! Keynote Speaker
    40 + Authors at the NEW
    Montgomery County Book Festival
     February 2, 2013
    Free Event Offers Area Readers of All Ages
    a Chance to Meet Authors
    And Enjoy Music, Food and Books

    The NEW Montgomery County Book Festival presents over 40 authors on February 2, 2013. The list includes authors who write for Children, Teens, and Adults. The Opening Keynote author is NY Times Best Seller, Jonathan Maberry.  The Closing Keynote author, also a NY Times Best Seller, is Sherrilyn Kenyon.  There is a special presentation during the lunch hour by local author, Deeanne Gist.  Ten author panels repeat twice during the three panel sessions.  Many local authors are moderating the panels.  Short book signing sessions are scheduled between author panel sessions, as is a general signing session after the Closing Keynote.  See the website for the full list of authors.  Books are sold by Murder By the Book, food and drinks for sale at the concession and entertainment from a live DJ will provide music. Through the generosity of our donors, the Festival is free and open to the general public. It will be held at Lone Star College – Montgomery at 3200 College Park Drive, The Woodlands, Texas, from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.

    For more information visit the website:
    Join us on Facebook; Twitter @montcobookfest
    Contact: Tabatha Perry, President; mocobookfest@gmail.com