Some “Revolutionary” Books for Your Library

By: Richard Hallman, M.Ln.hamilton graphic-2

A popular show or movie can spur new interest in a wide array of older books. Although I am not a huge musical theater fan, I do live with one. Hardly a day goes by without a discussion having to do with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Pulitzer Prize winning Hamilton. And the coffee table book that bears the show’s name is on our coffee table!

Hamilton: The Revolution        9781455539741
Miranda, Lin-Manuel               04/12/2016


The idea for the show came from Ron Chernow’s biography of Hamilton. To paraphrase a little, it explains how the man whose face adorns the ten dollar bill – a founding father without a father – got a lot further by working a lot harder, being a lot smarter, and being a self-starter.

Alexander Hamilton              9781594200090
Chernow, Ron                        04/26/2004



Chernow also wrote a compelling biography about George Washington, the “Pride of Mount Vernon” and father of our country. Washington was Hamilton’s surrogate father, and Hamilton was his right hand man.

Washington: A Life              9781594202667
Chernow, Ron                      10/05/2010


In the show, Angelica Schuyler, Hamilton’s beloved sister-in-law, has been reading Common Sense, by Thomas Paine, when she declares, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, and when I meet Thomas Jefferson I’m’a compel him to include women in the sequel!”

Common Sense                    9780062695529
Paine, Thomas                    06/06/2017

Federalist Papers Cover


Hamilton joined with James Madison and John Jay to write The Federalist Papers, promoting the ratification of the United States Constitution. Alexander Hamilton, who was a non-stop writer, personally penned 51 of the 85 essays.

The Federalist Papers             9781631064241
Hamilton, Alexander              10/01/2017


Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert Du Motier, otherwise known as the Marquis de Lafayette, was America’s favorite fighting Frenchman and another fascinating character from Revolutionary times. Sarah Vowell put her quirky spin on his historic activities.

Lafayette in the Somewhat United States             9781594631740
Vowell, Sarah                                                          10/20/2015

John Laurens Cover


Fans of the show and of history will want to know more about Hamilton’s good friend John Laurens, the man who promised to “sally in on a stallion with the first black battalion.”

John Laurens and the American Revolution        9781611176124
Massey, Gregory De Van                                        09/15/2015


Another notable line from the show comes when Hamilton asks, “Why should a tiny island across the sea regulate the price of tea?”

The Boston Tea Party: No Taxation Without Representation               9781499417265
Tovar, Alicia                                                                                              08/01/2015

American Tempest: How the Boston Tea Party Sparked a Revolution               9780306820793
Unger, Harlow Giles                                                                                               03/06/2012

Tea Party + Tempest Cover Combo


The show-stopping moment comes from King George III, who is flabbergasted upon learning that his subjects have left him. He says, “What comes next? You’ve been freed. Do you know how hard it is to lead? You’re on your own. Awesome. Wow. Do you have a clue what happens now?”

King George: What Was His Problem? : Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn’t Tell You …         9781250075772
Sheinkin, Steve                                                                                                                                  09/22/2015

The Founding Fathers vs. King George III: The Fight for a New Nation              9781482422177
Roxburgh, Ellis                                                                                                            01/01/2015

King George WWHP + Founding Fathers Cover Combo


Want to know more about the “damn fool” who shot Hamilton? Although this title is pure fiction, the main character is based on the very real Aaron Burr, and was used to develop the character in the show.

Burr: A Novel            9780375708732
Vidal, Gore                02/15/2000

Click here for an interesting article about Aaron Burr from



And finally, the dramatic finish:  “Most disputes die and no one shoots.”

War of Two: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr and the Duel that Stunned The Nation           9781592408528
Sedgwick, John                                                                                                                                 10/20/2015

Alexander Hamilton vs. Aaron Burr: Duel to the Death        9781482422139
Roxburgh, Ellis                                                                           01/01/2015

  War of Two + Alex Ham vs Aaron Burr Cover Combo                           

Hamilton is in the midst of a sold-out national tour, with an educational component that is expected to reach nearly 100,000 high school students. Libraries can expect huddled masses yearning to read more.


Richard Hallman, M.Ln.


Budding collection developer Richard Hallman finally set aside his dreams of becoming a rock star, movie director, and/or famous novelist to embrace librarianship. Click here for more.


Floating Collections

By Paul Duckworth, MLS

20984552 - a stair case of books floating on a cloudy sky backgroundThe concept of floating collections is one that tends to polarize librarians. Many of us either love or loathe the idea. Toss that topic out at a conference social hour and listen to the reactions.

“Floating collections—what a neat idea!”

“Floating collections—I don’t want that to happen in my library.”

“Our library has been using floating collections for several years. We wouldn’t think of going back to static collections.”

“Well… yes, I can see some benefits. But what about …?”

The idea of floating collections is fairly new, wouldn’t you think? Surprisingly, the concept has been around longer than I realized. Floating collections began in a regional library system in Western Canada in the 1930s. The concept was later adopted by a district in Colorado in 1984 (a 50-year delay!). You have to hand it to those Westerners: they are free-thinking pioneers in many areas, including library practices.

I remember first reading about floating collections in 2003. The article I read intrigued me, but triggered several questions as well. It wasn’t until several years later that I found myself working in a library district that had been using floating collections for several years. After reading much more about it in the literature, visiting with librarians, and experiencing it firsthand as both a staffer and patron in a multi-branch system, I have developed my own observations and opinions.

There are some strong and clear positives. Floating collections make books available for patrons more quickly, while reducing staff time and delivery vehicle expenses. Collections get refreshed continuously, meaning branch collections better reflect what their patrons are using. Furthermore, there’s less wear-and-tear on materials, and centralized selectors don’t need to make branch-by-branch decisions on who receives a copy. The Cuyahoga County Public Library in Ohio found that floating led to budget savings of 10-15 percent and greater patron satisfaction. Another library’s experience was that floating collections brought the staff together in communication and collaboration through the bond of joint ownership between branches.

25661348_mSpringfield-Greene County Library (Missouri) began floating collections in 2007, and Lisa Sampley, Collection Services Manager, says she cannot imagine not using floating collections now. Her experience has been that the librarians buy fewer copies of some titles now and use the saved funds to purchase additional titles that they would otherwise not be able to afford. Another plus has been greater circulation. As Sampley put it, “Because materials are more readily available, they check out more.”

How could one argue against these advantages? Looking more closely, however, there are some drawbacks — or at least perceived drawbacks. Redistribution becomes a major issue: “We don’t have any room on the shelves for these items! How do we get them to another branch where there’s shelf space?” Branch collections can no longer be tailored to meet the needs of specific population groups, staff at branch libraries have little or no input as to what is in their collection, and portions of the collection can become unbalanced: “What happened to all the picture books?” “How did we get so much science fiction on the shelves?” Weeding can fall into the hands of busy front line staff, who may not recognize the value of individual items. Finally, patrons have a tendency to return items to a branch near a major road they travel or close to work, out of convenience, rather than to their usual library.

One library’s experience is that branches with high circulation become inundated with materials while those with low checkouts tend to notice their collection getting smaller and smaller. Another issue is with staff time. Much is made of saved staff time after implementing floating collections, but a survey1 revealed that several libraries were unhappy with the amount of time spent on managing collections, especially redistribution efforts. Overall, the redistribution issue is widely accepted as the most significant drawback.

What about circulation statistics? It is generally accepted that floating collections lead to an increase in checkouts—and the experience of many libraries tends to bear this out. However, the facts are inconclusive. Noel Rutherford, Collection Development Manager at Nashville Public Library, found that yes, checkouts went up—for some portions of the collection. However, for other areas or types of material, circulation decreased. Rutherford reported that following their late 2012 implementation of floating collections, some branches in her system experienced a more than 50% drop in circulation of large-type materials and more than 40% decrease in checkouts of AV materials.2 After much analysis and consideration, Nashville Public Library discontinued floating collections in late 2014.

22992147 - library with stack of books opened.The survey mentioned above, of over 100 library respondents, found that there is an almost equal divide between the pro and con camps on the concept of floating collections.3 So, what’s a library to do? Should we float collections or give them a permanent home? The answer isn’t simple. Prepare to take a good look at your library: its needs, user makeup, and objectives. Your answers to the following questions will help you determine whether your library is a good candidate for floating collections.

  1. Is your district suburban, with branches that serve similar types of patrons? Many librarians suggest that floating fits best in districts that have fairly similar clientele from branch to branch.
  2. Do you have a main library or central resource center, along with branches that all serve a somewhat distinct demographic group? If so, floating may lead to mixed results — working well for some branches and not well for others.
  3. What collections do you have that would not be desirable to float?
  4. Is participation from branch staff valuable in shaping collections? How important are tailored collections and branch-specific selections of materials?
  5. Is your district prepared to undertake a vigorous weeding program prior to implementing floating collections? Many librarians report that a thorough weeding effort prior to starting leads to greater satisfaction.
  6. Do one or more branches serve a geographic area and/or population that would benefit from a collection targeted at specific interests, needs, and usage patterns that are distinct from the remainder of your district?
  7. What place is there for low-circulating types of materials in your district? Does it matter where they are housed?
  8. Do you perhaps want to test the waters by initially floating small or specific portions of your materials?
  9. Can you develop a plan prior to implementation so that you can be proactive rather than reactive in dealing with the challenges of floating collections? Lisa Sampley at Springfield-Greene County Library wishes she had done more investigation and planning to deal with likely issues.
  10. Last but not least, what are other districts similar to yours doing? Why reinvent the wheel when you can tap into the rich experience of colleagues at other libraries? Sometimes the best flow of information starts during a library conference social hour.

Abby Hargreaves is a recent MLIS graduate and blogger who formerly worked at a large suburban library district with floating collections. She summed up the issue nicely with these comments from her library blog, 24 Hour Library:

The goal of floating collections is to create greater variety. This is especially important for smaller branches. So, with a static collection, if patrons are the kind of people who prefer to browse to look for something to read, especially in small libraries and especially if the patron prefers a specific genre, their options will be limited.

But what about patrons who prefer to visit a library knowing what they want to get? As someone with a lengthy to-be-read list, this is often my strategy. Floating collections make this challenging. I can check the online catalog, of course, before I leave for the library to go pick it up. But if the book is currently living at a library that’s a bit distant, I have three options: going to that distant library, putting it on hold and waiting two or three days for it to reach me, or going with something else.

So, this is why I don’t have a strong opinion either way about floating collections — or, rather, I have strong opinions both ways and they create this neutral space between them like the center of a rope in tug-of-war.

A Zen librarian might wonder, “What is the sound of one collection floating?” The Buddha would respond, “Be awake. Chaos is inherent in all compounded things. Strive on with diligence.” And so we shall!

1 Weber, Kate E. The Benefits and Drawbacks of Working with Floating Collections: The Perceptions of Public Librarians. A Master’s Paper for the M.S. in L.S. degree. March, 2014. School of Information and Library Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. p. 27

2 Rutherford, Noel. “To float or not to float?” Library Journal, April 1, 2016, p. 47

3 Weber, Kate E. The Benefits and Drawbacks of Working with Floating Collections: The Perceptions of Public Librarians. A Master’s Paper for the M.S. in L.S. degree. March, 2014. School of Information and Library Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. p. 43

Paul Maya party


Nothing brings a smile to Paul Duckworth’s face quite like a good book, a long walk, and the unmatched beauty of country life. Click here for more.

The Visible and the Invisible

By Lauren Lee, M.Ln.

10679235_mOne of the absolute pleasures of my job is the “requirement” that I visit libraries (and librarians) each and every month. This year so far, I have been to 29 libraries in nine states. Attending four conferences added two more states to my running total, while vacation added both a state and a library (yes, I even visit libraries when I’m on vacation). And if our only blizzard of the year hadn’t intervened, I could have added one more state and two more libraries! What a privilege it is to see so much of what our profession has to offer!

Highlights have included:

  • Collections that made me say “I’d love to be a patron of this library”
  • Nonfiction collections that looked vibrant and alive
  • Creative displays to encourage passersby to pick up books on impulse
  • Colorful children’s rooms with incredibly creative artwork (and children engaged in play and reading)
  • Maker spaces with recording studios and the now-requisite 3D printers
  • Music rooms with instruments and listening spaces
  • Incredible architectural details in buildings both new and old (and best of all, buildings that blend the two together)

Anyone who thinks public libraries are dying has not been to a public library lately. If they had, they would have seen people waiting for the doors to open, children crowded in for story-time, and ranges of shelving for books on hold for avid readers. They certainly haven’t heard the statistics for digital media downloads or the constant replacement of test preparation materials.

Many of my visits take me to “lower levels” or separate buildings, where technical services departments lie hidden away. The general public has no idea of the labor that goes on here behind the scenes. They don’t see the pallets of boxes or the “corrals” of book trucks (sometimes even cleverly named!). They don’t understand the intricacies of OCLC records or RFID encoding. They may even think that all those colored dots and labels are just for fun (while vendors ponder whether they are a unique form of torture).

44906029_mSo, let’s send up a cheer for invisible technical services workers everywhere! You order, you unpack, you catalog, you process, you de-process, you organize, you pay bills. You make it possible for materials to be found by their readers/viewers/listeners. You may be changing lives and you don’t even know it. Thank you for your hard, and sometimes tedious, work!

I will close with a reference question that arises from my constant perusal of spine labels: Why do some libraries use “X” as the call number prefix for juvenile (I’m talking about you, California)? The most common prefix is “J” for juvenile. I’ve seen some C’s for children’s titles. However, no one has been able to explain to me why “X” was chosen. If any of you can shed light on this technical services mystery, I will be forever grateful. And maybe I’ll come visit your library. After all, there are still a few states that I haven’t visited.




Lauren Lee is approaching her 40th year as a librarian, with more than half of that spent at Brodart. Although she rarely gets to select now, she loves life on the road, visiting as many public libraries as possible. Click here for more.


By: Paul Duckworth, M.L.S.

pexels-photo-264635Every library’s collection needs to be weeded. Here at Brodart, our collection development experts have decades of combined direct experience working at public and school libraries. We weeded—and weeded again. We survived. The collections thrived. Don’t object, don’t complain, weeding books need not be a pain!

We’ve got a few tips to help you dive into those book stacks!

  • Make it a habit. Build weeding into your workweek in the same way you schedule meetings, projects, and lunch hours. Try it: 30 minutes, two times a week. Or, how about 15 minutes a day?
  • Get practical. Your shelves may be close to 90% full—or more. Shoot for no more than 75% capacity. Ignore all the objections you hear going through your mind. As Shia LaBeouf would say, “Just do it!”
  • Remember that you are a professional. You have training, experience, and good judgment. So arm yourself with courage and conviction. If there’s a good reason for every book, then there’s also a valid reason for culling some titles from your collection.
  • There’s only so much space. It’s time to accept it: It’s a real world with limits.

It is good practice to maintain written policies and procedures. Educate all staff and board members so they understand the reasons for weeding. To avoid misunderstandings and minimize objections, be sure to communicate with your public openly, clearly, and positively. Be prepared for negative feedback and bad PR–step in right away with cool heads and factual information to support your claims.

59256631 - classmate classroom sharing international friend conceptKnow your community and their needs. You are going to make mistakes—no one is perfect. Just remember that different feelings and perspectives exist among users and other staff. It’s important to listen, respect, and communicate. Consider sharing your intentions with patrons by posting signs that announce your weeding efforts and encourage input. “We’re making room for the new books that people want, Thanks for caring enough about the library to speak with me. Books are vital to our community. We focus on keeping them up-to-date, useful, and appealing. We sincerely welcome your suggestions for materials to add to our collection.”

Expecting proprietary collection analysis software to take care of the weeding process is magical thinking. Electronic data will save time and help you, but doesn’t take into account your decisions about usage thresholds, age cutoffs, and other parameters.

Keep your collection fresh, up-to-date, appealing to the eye, and rich in variety. Don’t allow new books to be hidden on shelves that are crammed tight with old, worn out, unappealing titles.

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, and many resources are available to help you:

  1. The CREW Manual, tried and true since the late 1970’s, has been revised more than once since 2000. It is available online at Click here for article
  1. The recent book by Rebecca Vnuk, The Weeding Handbook (2015), has been well-received. ISBN: 9780838913277
  1. Making a Collection Count (2013), by Holly Hibner and Mary Kelly is an intelligent resource for collection management, including weeding. ISBN:  9781843347606

2 books


Paul Maya party


Nothing brings a smile to Paul Duckworth’s face quite like a good book, a long walk, and the unmatched beauty of country life. Click here for more.

Hipster Trends 2

Mary Jane: What’s a Library To Do?

By Fern Hallman, M.Ln.

44186145_m.jpgAn extremely popular topic right now, both in the news and in publishing, is marijuana. At least 26 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws broadly legalizing marijuana in some form, and several other states may soon follow.

How does your library handle a tricky subject like this?

Publishers are taking advantage of this movement. There are lots of titles coming out about growing cannabis, cooking with it, healing with it, and legalizing it. There are also several books about starting your own marijuana-related business.


Click here for article on State Marijuana Laws in 2017

Some librarians take the approach that if their patrons are requesting titles on a particular topic, it’s their job to make them available. As a matter of fact, some library systems base their selections directly on patron demand. Others feel that it’s a waste of money and that books like these will “walk away” after one or two circulations. If your patrons are interested and your budget allows, here are some examples of the most recent books on marijuana.

book 1 mockupCannabis Pharmacy: The Practical Guide to Medical Marijuana
By: Michael Backes
ISBN: 9780316464185   NYP 12/05/2017

Cannabis for Chronic Pain: A Proven Prescription for Using Marijuana to Relieve Your Pain and Heal Your Life
By:  Ray Ivker
ISBN: 9781501155888   NYP 09/12/2017

book 2 mockupThe Cannabis Grow Bible: The Definitive Guide to Growing Marijuana for Recreational and Medicinal Use
By:  Greg Green
ISBN: 9781937866365   NYP 08/29/2017

Idiot’s Guides: Starting & Running a Marijuana Business
By: Debby Goldsberry
ISBN: 9781465462060

book 3 mockup


Marijuana Edibles: 40 Easy & Delicious Cannabis-Infused Desserts
By: Laurie Wolf
ISBN: 9781465449641

Big Book of Buds Greatest Hits: Marijuana Varieties from the World’s Best Breeders
By: Ed Rosenthal
ISBN: 9781936807321


More conservative libraries may want to stick with titles like these, which cover the basics in a fairly straightforward, uncontroversial way:

book 4 mockupLegalizing Marijuana: Promises and Pitfalls
By: Margaret Goldstein
ISBN: 9781467792431

Is Marijuana Harmful?
By: Bradley Steffans
ISBN: 9781682820971


Marijuana: A Reference Handbookbook 5 mockup
By:  David Newton
ISBN: 9781440850516

Brave New Weed: Adventures into the Uncharted World of Cannabis
By: Joe Dolce
ISBN: 9780062499912


Whether you choose to provide these books for your patrons or not, it’s certainly a question for you to consider. Some patrons may regard your library as being more current and relevant when your collection reflects emerging trends and changes in public opinion.




Fern has worked for Brodart as a Collection Development Librarian since 1990. She also did a stint as a reference librarian in the CNN newsroom and is married to a newspaper librarian. Click here for more.


Turning Over a New Leaf

By Stephanie Campbell, MLIS

66735564 - staff turnover word cloudWhether you are in a library with a smaller, mostly public-service staff, or a larger system with a dedicated collection development department, the problems are the same. Just when you think you’ve assembled your dream team and everything is running like a well-oiled machine, opportunity knocks and staff leave for greener pastures – other libraries or other departments. Or you may have a hiring freeze and find yourself having to do more with less. For whatever reason, turnover can be a problem, both for the ones leaving and the ones left behind.

Those entering new libraries or departments can feel their excitement turn to horror when they discover it’s been years since anyone updated policies and procedures, or that collections haven’t been weeded or kept pace with circulation trends.

Managers and co-workers facing vacancies may realize that over-reliance on dedicated staff has left them totally in the dark when the “institutional memory” leaves or retires. And few of us have the luxury of a succession plan.

Over the course of my career, I’ve been in all of these situations and asked myself:

  • Who should order what, when, why, and in what quantities?
  • When was the last time continuations and standing order profiles were updated?
  • Is collection spending and shelf space in keeping with collection usage?
  • In essence, why do we do what we do in the way we are doing it?

48356021_sWhen faced with questions like these that may seem daunting, it’s important to remember although trite, it’s often true—challenges can be opportunities.

Whether you are teaching yourself or training replacement staff, now may be a good time to examine and rework how your collection is built and maintained. Sometimes a vacancy can necessitate a reevaluation of all staff and their contribution to the organization. Similarly, this may be the time to make a sea change in a new workplace.

Not everyone comes to the table with the same skills and interests, and some may gravitate more toward public services, technical services, or particular collection areas. The best employees do what they love and love what they do. If possible, play to people’s strengths: make the job fit the person.

If not enough staff (or your new hire) have the right collection development skills or passion, can you shuffle staff responsibilities or look toward automating processes?

Putting more authors and series on standing orders and continuations can help shift the focus on important debuts and sleeper hits and allow more time for public programming, policy-making, and administrative tasks.


Chances are, your holds list does not always reflect titles from print reviews. Your clientele hear about new materials on radio programs, network television, podcasts, and blogs.  Library staff need to listen, watch, and read broadly to keep up on trends. Creating targeted selection tools out of the journals and bestseller lists that are important to your library will free up time to follow newsfeeds and social media. Lack of staff time or interest can also lead to ordering prepublication titles too late, or not anticipating sufficient copies. What types of notification lists could make you proactive rather than reactive regarding patron demand? What lists could streamline your selection or provide help in problematic collections and genres?

Are you running out of space or faced with an obsolete collection? Armed with usage reports from your ILS, you can analyze your holdings and determine which areas to grow and shrink. Could a collection builder list help you strengthen underserved areas?

61242607 - young plant in the morning light on nature background

Think of turnover as turning over a new leaf. It can lead to a new, exciting era with efficient staff workflow, smart selection, and useful collections.

How do you and your library tackle staff turnover? Share your thoughts and experiences below!


stephaniecampbellBefore joining Brodart in 2016, Stephanie Campbell worked for more than 20 years in public, academic, and special libraries. She is an avid gardener, bicyclist, and kayaker. Click here for more.

Oldies but Goodies

Part 2 — Old Favorites

By: Richard Hallman, M.Ln.

Back to my favorite topic, old favorites for modern libraries.

y is for yesterdayWhen a new volume arrives in a beloved series, demand often rises for earlier entries in the series. Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone “alphabet series” (so named because there is a book for every letter in the alphabet), is nearing its end. NPR’s Maureen Corrigan underscored the popularity of this series when she said, “Makes me wish there were more than 26 letters.” When the final book in a series is published, some readers like to start over again, reading from the beginning. This is a cue for librarians to check their holdings and reorder any missing titles or replace copies that are particularly dog-eared.

Library patrons often take a new interest in titles that appear on “best books” lists. One book that appears on many such lists is How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie. Originally published in 1936, this is a book that is still relevant today. It explains how to make people like you, win others over to your way of thinking, and change people without causing offense or arousing resentment. Hmmm…

how to win friends

Here’s what the New York Times said about the book on its 50th anniversary: Reluctant Dale Carnegie’s 50-Year-Old Classic

think and grow rich

Think and Grow Rich is another older title that is constantly coming out in new editions, updated versions and audio versions. Napoleon Hill explains that people can succeed in any line of work, and that they can do and be anything they can imagine. This one is a replica of the original 1937 edition:

by love possessed

One of my favorite assignments in library school was researching what was happening the week we were born. I will confess that I have never read this one, but the New York Times bestselling title for the week when I came into the world was By Love Possessed, by James Gould Cozzens (later made into a movie starring Lana Turner – Click here for details.) It’s still in print, and still listed in the latest version of H.W. Wilson’s Fiction Core Collection. Maybe this will inspire you to check out popular books from when you were born!

For reference:

  • Y is for Yesterday     ISBN: 9780399163852
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People     ISBN: 9781439167342
  • Think and Grow Rich     ISBN: 9780143110163
  • By Love Possessed     ISBN: 9780786705030


Richard Hallman, M.Ln.


Budding collection developer Richard Hallman finally set aside his dreams of becoming a rock star, movie director, and/or famous novelist to embrace librarianship. Click here for more.

What Drives You?

By Stephanie Campbell, MLIS, Collection Development Librarian

I joined Brodart in 2016 after 20 years as a public and academic librarian. Over the course of my career, I have attended numerous library conferences of all types. But until last week, I had never attended the American Library Association (ALA) annual 44256158 - teamwork hugging people  vector imageconference. I thought I would be intimidated by the size and scope but I felt very at home. Despite its numerous celebrity/author signings and the myriad opportunities to rub elbows with the rock stars of our profession, this mecca of all things library struck me as surprisingly low key and collegial.

ALA is a microcosm of the industry: Public, academic, school, and special librarians representing institutions both large and small, from areas that are rural, suburban, and urban, come together to be the best they can be.

I always find conferences energizing. The validation of being surrounded by thousands of like-minded individuals is palpable and undeniable. Taking in the crowd at McCormick Place, I was reminded of Kyle Cassidy’s “This is What a Librarian Looks Like.” Of course, there is no commonality of appearance, but I do believe there are shared values.

Sometimes it’s all too easy to get bogged down in the minutiae of being a librarian: juggling the priorities of boards, administrators, and staff, not to mention the demands of working with the public. Days are filled with managing public service schedules; calculating circulation, reference, and programming numbers; analyzing collections while keeping up with weeding and ordering; getting quotes on furniture, supplies, and building repairs; attending meetings; etc. When managing the day-to-day library operations, losing sight of the big picture is an ever-present potential pitfall. That’s why it’s so vital that we remain aware of what drives us and remember why we became librarians in the first place.

My first career choice was journalism. I was motivated by a love of writing and the written word, along with a desire to make information understandable. From there, it was a pretty natural transition to library science. I decided I didn’t necessarily need to be an information creator. I found I preferred pointing people to all that’s available and letting them choose the best source for them. The ideals of librarianship really appealed to me – the importance of trust and fairness in information and bridging the gap between the haves and the have-nots. This is still very much in the back of my mind as I help librarians with collection development.

I once attended one of Library Journal’s Lead the Change workshops, where attendees were asked to rate a list of terms to determine: “What drives you?” I discovered that my personal core values revolve around health, family, freedom, and independence. Professionally, I am driven by curiosity, communication, creativity, and personal growth — not just for myself, but for the greater good. This exercise really stuck with me. It was great to be reminded of why I do what I do. Ultimately, I want to help others. I think that’s a quality I share with most librarians.

I think what I enjoyed most about ALA Annual was the air of curiosity and helpfulness among the conference-goers. In the same way that librarians serve library users, they are eager and happy to help each other. Throughout the programs, roundtables, and exhibits, one could see the unselfish exchange of ideas: showcasing the great things they are doing and teaching others how; talking openly about problems and providing potential solutions. Even though I no longer serve the public directly, I take my role as consultant very seriously as I am supporting fantastic people across the country who have made this their life’s work.

I would love to hear your impressions of ALA, your thoughts on the field of librarianship, and what led you to this profession.

What drives you?




Before joining Brodart in 2016, Stephanie Campbell worked for more than 20 years in public, academic, and special libraries. She is an avid gardener, bicyclist, and kayaker. Click here for more.


Hipster Trends

Spiralizing & Instant Pots

By Fern Hallman, M.Ln., Collection Development Librarian

Focus college students preparing for exams at cafe

Every library has its own system for identifying new titles. Many depend on automated lists from vendors, book review sources, or publisher catalogs. These schemes are necessary and useful, but they don’t always cover every patron demand and interest. As a collection development librarian at Brodart, I am exposed to a huge number of titles from a wide range of publishers every month. This allows me to identify many small but interesting trends in publishing, particularly in adult nonfiction.

I review new titles by publisher, Dewey Decimal number, price, and publication date. I focus on those that I think will be of greatest interest to public libraries. As I’m doing this, a title or two on a new topic by a reliable publisher will catch my eye, and then I notice when other publishers follow suit and jump into the fray. Sometimes I’ll become aware of a hot blog trend on a subject like cooking or craft-related themes and similarly-themed books begin showing up soon after.

I told some librarians about some of these micro-trends at ALA Book--3Midwinter, and they chuckled. One suggested that we call them Hipster Trends. A few recent topics: books about playing the ukulele, making crafts with duct tape, and knitting and crocheting small creatures called amigurumi. There have also been recent spikes in books about such diverse subjects as all things Beauty and the Beast, raising chickens, and meals made in mason jars and coffee mugs.

Maintaining displays of titles about current topics like these can make your library look hip and up-to-date without requiring a big financial investment.

The latest subjects to catch my eye are for the kitchen. In particular, books about spiralizing and instant pots have become very popular. I’ve put together a small list of related titles.


Instant One-Pot Meals: Southern Recipes for the Modern 7-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker

Indian Cooking with Your Instant Pot and Other Multi Function Cookers: 75 Classic, Naturally Gluten-Free Recipes Made Better in Less Time

How to Instant Pot: Mastering the 7 Functions of the One Pot That Will Change the Way You Cook

Dinner in an Instant: 75 Modern Recipes for Your Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, and Instant Pot

The Art of Great Cooking With Your Instant Pot: 80 Inspiring Recipes Made Easier, Faster, Richer and More Nutritious in a Multi-Function Cooker

The Essential Instant Pot Cookbook: Fresh and Foolproof Recipes for the Electric Pressure Cooker

The Big 10 Paleo Spiralizer Cookbook: 10 Vegetables to Noodle, 100 Healthy Spiralizer Recipes, 300 Variations

Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook: Quick & Easy Recipes for Everyday Eating

The Ultimate Instant Pot Pressure Cooker Cookbook: 200 Easy Foolproof Recipes

The I Love My Instant Pot Recipe Book: From Trail Mix Oatmeal to Mongolian Beef BBQ, 175 Easy and Delicious Recipes

Spiralize Everyday: 80 Recipes to Help Replace Your Carbs

Super Spiralized: Fresh & Delicious Ways to Use Your Spiralizer

Instant Pot® Obsession: The Ultimate Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook for Cooking Everything Fast

Spiralizer Skinny

The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook for Your Instant Pot: 80 Easy and Delicious Plant-Based Recipes That You Can Make in Half the Time

Paleo Cooking With Your Instant Pot: 80 Incredible Gluten- and Grain-Free Recipes Made Twice as Delicious in Half the Time

The Spiralizer Cookbook: Delicious, Fresh and Healthy Recipes to Make the Most of Your Spiralizer

Spiralize This!

Zoodles Spiralizer Cookbook: A Vegetable Noodle and Pasta Cookbook

Spiralize and Thrive: 100 Vibrant Vegetable-Based Recipes for Starters, Salads, Soups, Suppers, and More

Titles are available to Brodart customers for ordering on Bibz, under Featured Titles – Hot Topics.

Stay tuned for more “hipster trends” in the coming weeks. In the meantime, let me know your thoughts and what emerging subjects your patrons are asking about.




Fern has worked for Brodart as a Collection Development Librarian since 1990. She also did a stint as a reference librarian in the CNN newsroom and is married to a newspaper librarian. Click here for more.

LGBT: More Than a Book Category

By Mollie Pharo, MLS

Diversity. Inclusion. Tolerance. 66416967 - illustration of a long shadow lgbt gay pride flag with a bookAs librarians, we have reached the consensus that these are worthwhile and important ideals. We have also agreed to ensure that libraries uphold them, so that collections support and reflect the broad spectrum of patrons who use them. But it’s valuable to remember what the availability of LGBT(QAI+) titles can mean to individual patrons on a deeply personal level.

I am one of those patrons. I’ve seen both sides of this issue: as a library selector and as a patron who has read many such titles and found them to be moving, inspiring, and important to me in my life.

As I began to plan this article, I reflected on the ways my family and I have turned to LGBT titles over the years. My wife Nancy and I are a lesbian couple who have been together nearly 30 years and raised two children. We’ve benefited from both fiction and nonfiction books for children, young adults, and adults.

We grew up and raised our children during a historical period when we benefited greatly from changes happening in the writing and publishing of books for an LGBT audience. Literature of the 18th and 19th centuries, and much of the 20th century, included few titles with overt gay themes or characters. Often books that touched on such themes or characters did so in coded, sub-textual ways. It wasn’t until the 1950s and 1960s that sodomy laws and book content started to change. From the 1970s to the present, we’ve seen an increase in mainstream acceptance of LGBT people and, most recently, the legalization of gay marriage. This has coincided with waves of feminism, as well as a rise in acceptance and promotion of multiculturalism and diversity.

Nancy and I first got together in 1986, and at that time we found very few titles with LGBT characters or themes at our public library. Bookstores were our go-to places, especially independent women’s and LGBT bookstores. Jane Rule, Katherine Forrest, and Armistead Maupin were some of our favorite authors.

Our parenting journey led us to appreciate the practical Nolo Press legal guides we found at the library, current versions of which are Making It Legal and A Legal Guide for Gay and Lesbian Couples. We also read books about options for becoming parents, looked up studies and journal articles about children raised by gay and lesbian parents, and, of course, consulted general guides on having a baby and rearing children.

One of the ways our family benefited from raising our children when we did was by having access to more books with representations of LGBTQAI+ families and diverse characters than had been available even a few years earlier. Children who are gay/lesbian or who come from families with gay or lesbian parents benefit greatly from seeing their situations represented in fiction and nonfiction. In short, it validates them. That’s what inclusion is all about —not reaching quotas, but helping people to feel like they belong. We had our children in 1991 and 1995. Heather has Two Mommies was published in 1989, and Daddy’s Roommate in 1991. The 1990s also marked the emergence of more YA novels exploring LGBTQAI+ issues and characters. More recently, both children’s books and picture books contain more LGBTQAI+ characters and themes, although these are still rarer than they are in YA or adult titles.

Nancy and I have been pleased to see the recent upsurge in books by and about transgender and queer people and issues as well. According to a 2015 NPR story, hundreds of children’s books featuring transgender characters have been published since 2000. What’s more, most fiction genres — along with comics and graphic novels — now include titles that feature LGBTQAI+ characters and themes. And, as always, there are still pulp fiction and erotica titles, though not so much in public libraries and mainstream bookstores.

I’ve seen and lived this issue from both sides. If you have thoughts to share, from any perspective, please include them in the Comments section. I’d love to hear from you!



October is LGBT History Month, and Brodart’s Bibz Featured Lists – Hot Topics – LGBT History Month, is a great place to start. Bibz Featured Lists – Hot Topics also sometimes includes other lists of interest. Another place to check in Bibz is in the Awards lists – ALA section. Included here are the Over the Rainbow Project Book List 2017, Rainbow Project Book List 2017, Stonewall – Barbara Gettings Lit Award Winner/Honors 2017, Stonewall – Israel Fishman NF Award Winner/Honors 2017, and Stonewall – Morgan/Romans Youth Award Winners/Honors 2017.

Wikipedia has helpful articles on “Gay Literature,” “Lesbian Literature,” and a “List of LGBT Writers.”

I also recommend checking out the Lambda Literary website. The Lambda Literary Awards (the ‘Lammys’) “identify and celebrate the best lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender books of the year and affirm that LGBTQ stories are part of the literature of the world.”



Mollie unofficially retired at the end of November 2012, which has given her time to enjoy reading more books — mostly mysteries. She has worked as a part-time remote selector for Brodart since 2013. Click here for more.