The Caldecott Committee – A View from the Inside

By Gwen Vanderhage, MLIS

Me?  On the Caldecott Committee?! What a dream come true! Throughout 2018, I had the honor of serving on the American Library Association’s Caldecott Medal selection committee. While teachers, librarians, aunts, and the pharmacist all have said to me, “I always wanted to do that!” few know very much about the nuts and bolts of how the Caldecott Committee chooses a winner.

hello-lighthouse2

Hello Lighthouse, illustrated and written by Sophie Blackall

Let’s start at the beginning. The Caldecott Award honors the illustrator of the most distinguished American picture book for children of any given year. The winner of the 2019 Caldecott Medal is Hello Lighthouse, which Sophie Blackall both wrote and illustrated. That’s a quick summary of a year-long effort, but there’s much more to tell. What follows is an insider’s perspective on the experience, which for me was nothing short of transformative.

Serving on one of the ALA’s book award committees is usually a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, if even that. “What is it like?” People ask. “I’ll bet you get a lot of books!” To start, yes, I did get a lot of books. By the fall, the busiest time in the publishing year, my doorbell was ringing every single day with deliveries of picture books. The publishers send out what they want the committee to see, which this year was close to 1,000 picture books. It is also up to committee members to be aware of other picture books that are receiving positive reviews, word of mouth recommendations, or books that may not have been sent out by publishers, and then track those down and look at them, too. It is a LOT of books!

How does the committee read and evaluate the books? What are we looking for? Page 12 of the Caldecott Manual (available in its entirety here), lists many criteria and definitions. I don’t have room today for all of those, but will say the illustrator must be an American citizen or resident of the United States and the book must be published by an American publisher. The following are the major criteria, as cited by the manual:

In identifying a “distinguished American picture book for children,” defined as illustration, committee members need to consider:

  • Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed;
  • Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept;
  • Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept;
  • Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures;
  • Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.

With these criteria in mind, the 15 committee members carefully read, re-read, and take notes on the books. During the year, members send around suggestions of titles to examine more closely. The formal suggestion process helps build support for stronger titles and helps members identify strengths and weaknesses in books they liked or did not appreciate as much.

Figuring out how to identify strengths and weakness and articulate them early on is one of the most valuable parts of being part of this kind of group. As readers, we are practiced at talking about language and storytelling.  Learning artistic terms and techniques and expressing how art works in storytelling was a new, challenging skill to develop.  Saying “I like the colors” isn’t enough. Why? How do the colors assist in conveying emotion or telling the story? “I don’t like this style.” Why? What about it is weak to me? To build a strong case for a book I loved, I needed to be able to articulate the way the art affects the reading experience.

In the fall, each committee member nominates seven titles total: three titles in October, two in November, and two titles in December for the ALA Midwinter conference meeting, where these books are discussed and voted upon until a winner emerges. Out in Libraryland this year, people have been asking the question, “Why don’t the Newbery and Caldecott committees release a short list of considered titles, the way the National Book Award or some YALSA prizes do?” While there are a variety of answers to this complicated question, one is because the current process allows each of the 15 committee members to nominate seven books. While some titles could receive multiple nominations from within the committee, it is also possible there could be no crossover and 105 titles could, theoretically, be nominated. That is not a short list!

When I arrived at the Midwinter conference in Seattle, I came ready to discuss, celebrate, defend, and have an open mind about all the titles committee members deemed distinguished this year. There were so many wonderful books! My favorite part of discussion is the moment when someone else’s argument for a book completely wins me over when it had not been one I appreciated before. That is why 15 different people, voices, experiences, and viewpoints come together to evaluate great books, and why we sometimes come to surprising conclusions. Working with this group created a new family; one that has had disagreements, shared appreciation and emotion, and has come together with mutual respect. One of my committee members lamented, “If only every problem in the world could be tackled by sitting down for two solid days of respectful and open communication!”

The committee has the freedom to choose as few or many honor books as it pleases; the criteria for that are not set in stone, though the process is outlined in the manual. Our committee chose four honor books, shown below.

alma2

Alma and How She Got Her Name, illustrated and written by Juana Martinez-Neal

A Big Mooncake

A Big Mooncake for Little Star, illustrated and written by Grace Lin

Rough Patch2

The Rough Patch, illustrated and written by Brian Lies

thank_you_omu.2

Thank you, Omu!, illustrated and written by Oge Mora

The actual discussion details are completely confidential. That is a really hard thing. Of course I, and the other members, would love to tell you all about how we chose our winner and four honor books. We would love to tell you about the books we loved that did not make that list, or the books you loved and whether we discussed them. But we can’t. As individuals, we are now allowed to say, “Oh! I love that book!” about any book we please, as long as we don’t discuss the committee process. Just like me, you are free to continue to champion your favorite books to the readers you see every day. That is the wonderful thing about books, Caldecott medal or no.

lighthouse hatsFinally, “What do you do on announcement day?” Our committee met at 5:50 a.m., to call the winners. We gathered as a big group in a tiny cubicle around one speakerphone. We called Sophie Blackall, traveling in Burma; Juana Martinez Neal, traveling in the Amazon; Grace Lin and Oge Mora, at home; and Brian Lies, who was at the gym and did not get the call. While we would have loved to talk to Brian, reading about his reaction to his surprise honor when he saw it on the live stream with the rest of the world makes for a pretty good story. Then we all trooped together to the announcement ceremony and cheered on the other ALA Youth Media award winners and applauded our wonderful books. One of our members made very silly lighthouse hats, which we wore with glee.

This year, following my service on the Caldecott committee, I will likely scour the internet for fun interviews with the illustrators who have become my favorites. I will look forward to meeting them at the ALA Annual conference, where the medals are given out at a big banquet. I will read fewer, and longer, books. I will be looking back this year, and every year, on this amazing experience and the things I learned from the books I read and the committee members who changed my viewpoint. What a gift!

Gwen Vanderhage - 2.5 x 3

Gwen

After spending many years as a children’s librarian and collection development specialist at Denver Public Library, Gwen joined Brodart to share her passion for children’s literature with as many different libraries as possible. Click here for more.

 

Shreddings of the Heart: Who Was V. C. Andrews?

By Paul Duckworth, MLS

As a young, impressionable librarian, recently graduated with my MLS degree, I went to work in a public library in a medium-sized Midwestern city, where I did the usual reference tasks common in the 1970s. I was fascinated by the rich variety of interests and passions that motivated patrons to not only visit the library but actually come to the desk and ask for help (how often does that happen these days?). Among the subjects and authors that people were looking for, two names often popped up in requests: “Where’s Barbara Cartland?” and “Why aren’t there any V. C. Andrews books on the shelf?”

I gracefully step aside from discussion of Cartland’s bodice rippers and ask you to focus your attention on today’s topic: shreddings of the heart, which is what Andrews penned. Stir together themes of vulnerable children tormented by neglect, rape, incest, greed, death, or betrayal by a family member, sprinkle in ghastly gothic overtones, skillfully fold in some personal tragedy, and top it all off with the workings of a vivid imagination, and it is no wonder that readers of V. C. Andrews’ five-book Dollanganger series identified with the characters and felt as if their hearts had been ripped apart with each new installment.

V._C._Andrews Source Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

Who was this V. C. Andrews who attracted so much interest from readers, especially teenage girls? And whatever became of her? Yes, I know — in simple terms, she died. “What!?” you say, “Dead? But she has a new book coming out this month!” Indeed. That’s part of the story. There is much more to tell, both before and after her passing.

Cleo Virginia Andrews was born on June 6, 1923 to William and Lillian Andrews of Portsmouth, Virginia. After high school, she enrolled in art correspondence courses and then began a successful career as a commercial artist and fashion illustrator. All the while, she felt completely compelled to write, and did so every night after work, at home, where she continued to live with her mother, Lillian, for Cleo’s entire life (for Lillian outlived her).

Silent Pain

Unbeknownst to most people, Virginia was crippled and confined to a wheelchair much of her adult life. Two conflicting stories exist about the cause of her condition. One claims she fell down the stairs at school, which caused back injuries. The other, vouched by relatives, says she suffered from severe rheumatoid arthritis. Family members describe her as being in a full-body cast for a time, and having little or no neck movement. Her editor, Ann Patty, said, “Her spine was fused – it didn’t move. From her butt bone to her head, the spine did not move.” Her cousin describes Andrews as standing up at a high desk and typing out her first few novels. Whatever the cause, Andrews lived her life in great, unremitting pain. She suffered in silence, but the pain poured out through pen and paper. Fans of her fiction can be thankful that her hands and mind did not object to constant use.

Andrews was bored by her artistic daytime job. All her imagination and energy went into writing. Several stories and novels were rejected. Then, a magic moment: her pitch letter to a literary agent resulted in Flowers in The Attic being bought by Pocket Books with a $7,500 advance. Two weeks after its 1979 paperback publication, it was on the bestseller list. And the rest, as they say, is history.

So how did Cleo Virginia Andrews become V. C.? As one story goes, a printer at Pocket Books reversed her name on the cover and shortened it to initials. Another explanation is that the publisher wanted readers to wonder if the author was a man or a woman. Just think—we could be talking about the famous Cleo Virginia Andrews today! A happy accident, or publisher’s strategy, indeed.

Fame and Inspiration

When fame (and fortune) landed in her lap, Andrews avoided publicity. She was quite private and gave few interviews. Indeed, her physical condition was not well known. She kept her focus, day and night, on writing, never caring about health or other matters. According to a relative, Joan Andrews, “She knew she had a lump on her breast, but would not take care of the situation until she finished the current novel she was working on and also the sequel. By then the cancer had begun to spread.” She died of breast cancer on December 19, 1986, just seven years after Flowers’ first publication and is buried in Olive Branch Cemetery, Portsmouth, Virginia. In a rare interview with Contemporary Authors, she said, “There is no beauty without ugliness, and no enjoyment without suffering; we have to have the shade in order to see the light, and that is all I do in a story, put my characters in the shade–and try before the ending, to have them in the sunlight…. My novels are based on dreams, and situations taken from my own life, in which I change the pattern so that what might have happened actually does happen–and therein lies the tale.”

Andrew Neiderman

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Source: IMDB

V.C.’s two brothers and her mother took charge of her estate, and along with their publisher, secretly selected an author to continue the ideas and storylines of her books. It seems that a tax case in the early 1990s between the estate and the IRS resulted in the ghostwriter’s name being publicly revealed. Andrew Neiderman has been the voice of V.C. Andrews’ many bestsellers since finishing up her fifth book, Garden of Shadows. His story is fascinating in itself. He was hired by the estate, never met V.C. Andrews, and is a popular fiction writer in his own right, with several novels published. When he began writing as V.C. Andrews, he used two different computers, one for his own work, and one for Andrews’. He has done quite well in imitating her voice, types of characters, and nuances. Contemporary readers maintain the popularity of her novels, with no end in sight. Many seem not to know that Andrews has been gone for more than 30 years.

Continuing a Legacy

Neiderman recently signed another contract with Simon & Schuster for an additional four V.C. Andrews titles, after already having done about twenty. Silhouette Girl was just released on January 2. Beneath the Attic, a prequel to Flowers in the Attic, comes out at the end of August, 2019. For those with a fondness for statistics, her 75+ novels have sold more than 100 million copies in 95 countries and have been translated into 25 languages. Not bad, eh?

 

Paul Duckworth New - 2.5 x 3
Paul

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.

Turn Your Book Club into a Blockbuster

By Stephanie Campbell, MLIS

book club_482961064There can be a lot of pressure on libraries to host book clubs. But many don’t want the hassle of putting one together or the attendant problems that can arise: drama over what books to read; who will facilitate; what to discuss; plus the stress attendees may feel over not liking the book or knowing how to contribute to the conversation.

Here’s my formula for keeping the anxiety-producing aspects of book clubs to a minimum.

In my book club days, I led a group of about 10-15 people through 11 selections per year. Considering how busy many people are over the holidays, I found it more realistic to have a combined November/December meeting. Book Club was held the same day every month — the third Tuesday, for example — so that the meeting could be easily remembered. Attendees were encouraged to drop in (or out) as their schedule and tastes dictated.

I found it best to choose all of the books a year in advance to help everyone be prepared, including myself. This allowed plenty of time to acquire a copy of the book and read it. Members were encouraged to email me their reading suggestions for the coming year. I distilled those into a list of the most accessible titles within my consortium. I only considered titles with 10 copies or more, as I never wanted anyone to feel they needed to buy the books, though many chose to.

At the last meeting of the year, the group chose the January book and voted on the books for the rest of that year. We aspired to include a nice mix of fiction, nonfiction, new, and classic titles, while covering as many genres as possible: historical fiction, dystopian novels, etc. Reviews, awards, and synopses guided our choices. But it certainly wasn’t easy, as we often had upwards of 40 suggestions.

Once we settled on the books, I arranged the sequence with many things in mind: overall demand for a particular title (to make sure we weren’t reading any hard-to-obtain titles at the height of their popularity), length of the book, and more. I found it best to keep things relatively light and frothy in the summer months, with meatier tomes slated for spring and fall.

We met for approximately two hours. Reading Group Guides and the author/publisher websites were favorite sources for questions, but I was blessed with a fantastic group who found plenty to talk about without being prompted. Our icebreaker involved introducing ourselves and stating whether or not we liked the month’s selection. I rarely liked what we read, so that was always a source of levity.

I found the running of a book club to be very rewarding, as it forced me to read outside of my comfort zone. I always got something out of the discussion that I never would have had I merely read the book on my own. And sometimes I even changed my mind about my initial thumbs-down!

Here are some other tips/alternate book club ideas.

Books into Movies

Members read the book, gather to watch the movie adaptation, and compare/contrast the two.

Cookbooks

Pick a cookbook, try recipes, and bring samples to share. If you’re super concerned about food safety, you may want to stick to baked goods.

Genres

Limiting the choices to only mysteries or science fiction can take the stress out of choosing what to read — and the odds of your attendees having a good time are better, since they are reading the types of books they already like. Another idea is to focus on travelogues or biographies, with each attendee choosing whatever title they want and telling the group about what they learned.

Reading Marathons

Not necessarily book clubs, but gatherings for book enthusiasts who love listening to spoken word. Individuals take turns reading from the same book.

Short Reading

Rather than a full-length book, focus on an article, essay, short story, or poem that can be read in less than an hour. Similarly, you could stretch a single book out over several sessions, covering just a chapter at a time. This works well with nonfiction self-help-type topics such as mindfulness.

reading coffee shop_1131016739Silent Book Club

Silent Book Club, also dubbed Introvert Happy Hour, is generally held in bars or restaurants. Individuals briefly share what they are reading, read independently, then perhaps socialize a bit more within a two-hour timeframe. There are opportunities to form new chapters.

This is akin to a book conversation group where attendees all read different books, but gather to talk about them. Many libraries do this either in-house or gather offsite.

Teen (or Children’s) Reads for Adults

An outlet for those who gravitate toward books geared toward younger audiences. This could easily double as an intergenerational program.

Walking Book Clubs

Perfect for people who love to walk and also love to read! Attendees find their own pace and the group naturally breaks into smaller chunks, thereby reducing any stress about group discourse.

Online Book Clubs

These are online groups, such as Goodreads, that follow a blog-like format.

What ideas have worked for you? We would love to hear them!

 

stephaniecampbell

Stephanie

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.

Trends in Readers’ Advisory Services

By Gwen Vanderhage

library conversation_1231292743Readers’ advisory — the art of recommending the right book to the right patron — is arguably one of the most important parts of a public librarian’s job. In an age when libraries are using their time and space for makerspaces, information literacy, gaming, job skills training, and computer use, the books still claim the largest share of real estate. Reading is not dead. Readers are still hungry to talk about books they love and seek help to find the next great thing. (See my colleague Paul Duckworth’s piece on reading here.)

Many libraries have experimented with and embraced readers’ advisory on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Instagram. Over the last few years, librarians have jumped on hashtags like #fridayreads or #tuesdaytitles to offer custom recommendations in a new way. Setting up an hour a week with a few librarians to dish out customized reading suggestions has been one popular idea. Some large metropolitan library systems have enjoyed enduring success using an attractive, short form questionnaire to email customized reading lists. Seattle Public Library’s “Your Next 5 Books” and Multnomah County’s “My Librarian” advertise these services and even provide links to the lists in Bibliocommons.

tattoo_1132435790A few intrepid libraries have taken a unique approach: Tattoo readers’ advisory. Multnomah County (Oregon), Denver Public (Colorado), and Durango Public (Colorado) libraries are among those that have pioneered this type of program. The libraries invite patrons to send in photos of their tattoos and the stories behind them; librarians then recommend titles that match the sentiment or “personality” of the tattoo. At first, these campaigns were largely conducted via social media, but Durango and Denver have since hosted live events where librarians and patrons can meet face-to-face to share their tattoos, stories, and recommendations. Denver has had so much success with this program that it recently hosted a fundraising evening featuring local tattoo artists who performed their art on patrons in the library.

During their last round of strategic planning, the Whatcom County Library System (WCLS), outside of Bellingham, Washington, chose to build a culture of reading in each location. To this end, all staff, not just librarians, were encouraged and trained in the art of “Reading Conversations.” Staff members have meaningful conversations with patrons about books while shelving in the stacks and working at the desk. Several WCLS librarians have a bookselling background and taught staff the quick method of “hand-selling,” which is used in the retail setting.

Hand-selling involves getting to the kernel of a recommendation. How do you compellingly describe a book in just three sentences? It takes practice! How do you avoid putting undue pressure on your patron to accept your recommendation, while giving them confidence to trust you? Give them three great titles and walk away. You want to understand the appeal factors in a plot, look for clues in the way publishers market and design a book, listen for cues in what patrons are really saying when they talk about books, and get comfortable talking about books you have not had a chance to read, yourself.readers_ advisory _1096210103

Whatcom County staff were encouraged to read broadly and try new genres. Internally, they were given a year-long game to lead the way, make it fun, and stretch their wings. Not all staff were naturals or comfortable with the idea of talking about books with strangers. Over the last two years, however, the culture inside the libraries has changed noticeably. Librarian Mary Kinser said:

“There’s a renewed energy and excitement around reading that is infectious – I hear it when I’m in the branches as a patron and I hear from staff all the time how much they enjoy the freedom we’ve granted them in spending time with patrons. I love being a fly on the wall and hearing staff talking about books, which we did not hear before Reading Conversations started. And the takeaway in all that conversation is more picks that we can share with patrons, of course.”

Excitement around books and reading—that’s what we’re all about!

For more Information:

“Inked RA: Libraries recommend books based on patron tattoos” (American Libraries March, 2018)

“Notes from the Field: Reading Conversations with Mary Kinser” (Booklist Online, February 9, 2017)

Gwen Vanderhage - 2.5 x 3

Gwen

After spending many years as a children’s librarian and collection development specialist at Denver Public Library, Gwen joined Brodart to share her passion for children’s literature with as many different libraries as possible. Click here for more.

“Librariana”

By Fern Hallman, M.Ln.

The very first time I attended an ALA conference was in Philadelphia in 1982. I was a newly minted librarian and could hardly believe the entire city was filled with librarians. I didn’t know which way to turn! I randomly attended the most fascinating presentation I had ever seen, a show-and-tell session about librariana: collectible items related to libraries and librarians. Until that day I had no idea that there were people with collections of library overdue notices on postcards.

If I had been a true collector, I would have saved my program from the conference, which would tell us who had been speaking. However, using my magical librarian skills, I have determined that the speaker was probably Norman Stevens, author of the sadly out-of-print Guide to Collecting Librariana. Maybe you have a copy in your collection.

I thought I’d delve deeper into librariana to see what I could find.

Although The Library History Buff is a little dated, it’s a pretty comprehensive site for library collectibles. Turns out there are more souvenir library spoons and china than you might expect.

One of the most obvious collectibles is library cards. Apparently you can go into some libraries and they will just give you one (un-activated), especially if you are on vacation and ask very nicely. Some people who have moved around a lot have pretty extensive collections from everywhere they have lived. Here’s an interesting article on the subject (you may have to scroll down to see the content).

It seems that there are also Lego librarians. I had no idea about this! Who wouldn’t want to collect them? But why do they all have “Shhh!” mugs? I myself am a somewhat noisy librarian.

The idea is taken even further here, with entire library scenarios made from Legos. If that wasn’t enough, there’s even a stop-action Lego library movie.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Circulation & Reference: “There are 30 holds for Fifty Shades of Grey. Shall I add your name to the list?”

Have you ever heard of librarian action figures? Irresistible! I could imagine playing with one as a kid.

Action Figure
Some librarians just really like to shop. There is a small industry that caters to this group, including a company called Out of Print. You may have seen them at library conferences, with their fun assortment of date due card socks, book cart shirts, and library stamp boxers.

Socks

If your tastes run a little fancier, you might find something you like at the Library of Congress gift shop. If you are shopping for me, I really love these dishes: (Hint, hint.)

Dishes

Or perhaps this snow globe:

Snow Globe

It’s always enlightening to examine a subject through the mirror of the past. Looking at vintage library-related images and collectibles, we can get a glimpse into how libraries were seen by their patrons, and how libraries attempted to convey their raison d’être to the public. To close, here’s a collection of fascinating vintage librariana on Pinterest.

 

fern

Fern

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.

 

Natural Disasters—What’s Your Plan?

By Stephanie Campbell, MLISBe Prepared_323156054

Nobody likes thinking about it, but no matter what part of the country you live in, disasters can strike at any moment. While it’s impossible to avoid natural catastrophes completely—even manmade ones—we can be prepared for them with policies, procedures, and supplies.

Disasters take many forms. From fire (wildfires, volcanos, lightning strikes, HVAC and electrical system failures) to water (hurricanes, floods, sprinkler system glitches and roof leaks) to debris (earthquakes, mudslides, fallen trees, broken windows, building collapses), preparedness is the key to dealing with crises as they happen and in their aftermath. Here are some key strategies to help you face whatever fate throws at your library.

Do you have evacuation procedures in place? Do you practice them? Coordinate with your local fire department to schedule fire drills and fire extinguisher training. Schedule annual courses in certification for first responder, CPR, and AED. Check in with the central station of your security system to ensure they have up-to-date contacts and backups for both emergencies and disruptions such as outages.

Fallen Tree_710909917Make sure building systems are inspected and maintained: heating, cooling, and electrical equipment both inside and outside your building. Report overhanging and dead trees or power lines that threaten your building, check chimney flashing, gutters and downspouts. Identify roof areas prone to ice dams, particularly those adjacent to sidewalks and doorways.

Pennsylvania and much of the Mid-Atlantic had record rainfall this summer. Many public schools were forced to delay opening due to mold problems. Even though no flooding had occurred in some places, high humidity alone was enough to damage classroom furniture and materials and jeopardize the health of students and employees.

Staff should constantly monitor their work environment and report active and potential infrastructure problems. Be diligent in checking basements, stairwells, and little used corners and rooms. Make note of soot surrounding duct vents, cracks in walls, bubbling paint, and stained ceiling tiles.

Internet and/or short-term power outages can be overcome with backup circulation systems, emergency lights, and more, but it’s in everyone’s best interest to have policies that state under what conditions you will remain open, and for how long. Set minimum and maximum temperatures under which your building will remain open or close its doors. Rooms without natural light should be evacuated during power failures.

Traditionally, libraries aspire to be open at all costs. But I see this trend changing. I remember working in near darkness, with no heat, electricity, telephone, or running water. I also remember enduring major capital projects (lighting replacements and roofing installations) with deafening noise and dust showering down. These are at best, uncomfortable, and at worst, unsafe environments for staff and patrons alike.

Similarly, there is little reward in staying open too long during winter storms that make travel dangerous. Libraries in cities and walkable neighborhoods are sometimes tempted to remain open too long. While school district closings can be used as a guide, a better indicator of storm severity is retail and/or public transportation. It’s generally better to close completely than to work around blocked entrances, ladders and scaffolds, and snowy or icy conditions that make it difficult to keep up with salting sidewalks and plowing parking lots.

emergency kit_101441059For those times when the power goes out, or you find areas of your building damaged, make sure you have emergency kits set up in strategic places: flashlights, plastic sheeting to quickly protect shelving, disposable gloves, dust masks, goggles, garbage bags, and paper towels for preliminary cleanups. If possible, obtain fans and dehumidifiers, or know where to get them if needed. Familiarize yourself with local industrial cleanup services.

These may seem like onerous responsibilities, especially in light of all we’re asked to do as librarians. But we’re in a public service industry, and the safety of our patrons and staff is paramount!

Feel free to share your words to the wise regarding emergency preparedness. Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst!

 

Here are some additional resources to help your library prepare for a natural disaster:

Library Disaster Preparedness & Response

Library of Congress Emergency Management

 

stephaniecampbell

Stephanie

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.

Reading to Babies – It’s Easier than You Think!

By Gwen Vanderhage, MLIS

Mother Reading to Baby_1070336402When you suggest that it’s never too early to start reading to children, parents of newborn bundles of joy may look at you with shock-widened eyes (though that might just be due to lack of sleep). “Owen can’t see the pictures yet.” “Riley won’t understand what I’m reading, can’t I just sing?” “Ava can’t sit up or hold a book yet.”

Pediatricians and educators stress that you can read absolutely anything to an infant; what matters is that they hear language and inflection, and that adults are interacting with them using language. While it’s true that you really can read anything to a baby, once they are beginning to grab the book and really engage, it’s time to trade out the morning newspaper and your Dickens novel for age-appropriate material.

Here are the kinds of books I recommend parents and librarians share with babies and toddlers.

  • Books with photographs of people — especially babies — and animals
  • Interactive books like touch and feel, lift the flap, slide and pull, and follow the line
  • Books with basic concepts and vocabulary: ABCs, 123s, emotions, opposites, things around the house, etc.
  • Nursery rhyme and song books
  • Books with very, very short stories
  • Books you love

That all sounds easy enough, and maybe you are comfortable sharing those suggestions with parents. But the idea of hosting a storytime for the littlest patrons may sound more daunting. “How will the babies sit still for storytime?” “If the babies aren’t interacting, won’t the parents judge me?” “What will I do to engage babies for half an hour?!”

Have no fear! The babies won’t judge any of us and neither will those tired, grateful parents. If your library does not host a baby storytime, how might you start one?

My very first foray into storytime was for toddler storytime offered at a children’s book shop where I worked. We read board books out loud, the babies crawled around, and the parents bought board books to take home (hopefully the copies their little ones had sampled and found delicious). This was an entirely new concept for me; I hadn’t encountered baby and toddler storytimes in my local library or in my graduate program. But here was this completely game store owner reading and singing in front of 30+ parents and babies twice a week in her magical (albeit cramped) shop. One day she was out sick, and it became my turn. That’s when I came to appreciate how much we learn by example and that reading to a large group of babies is really no big deal.

Here are the basics I learned. Pick one of each of these three types of books:

  1. Start with a very familiar book like Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr. or Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton. If you luck out, many parents will know these books and chant along with you. Now you are more comfortable.
  2. You can just talk your way through a book of shapes or colors, while encouraging babies to touch and feel. Talk and point, while describing the pictures. “What is the doggie doing? What color is his ball?” Books must be short and don’t need a plot. In fact, sometimes it’s better if they are not “stories.”
  3. Sing the nursery rhymes! Song books capture babies’ attention and the parents often know the songs so they’ll help you by singing along. Even if you can’t carry a tune in a bucket, parents will keep coming back and they won’t report you to local authorities.

Reading to Babies_341582651Once I was in the children’s library and performing regular baby storytimes, I expanded on that three-book format to include fingerplay rhymes, bounces, songs, puppets, instruments, and even a circle march for early walkers. The key is to alternate activities. Begin with the same song each week. Read the longest book first. Follow it with a fingerplay repeated twice and then a lap bounce. Read another book. Do some egg shaker rhymes and songs. Read another book. Rhyme. Sing. Done! Truthfully, it’s too much to expect a baby or toddler storytime to last more than 20 minutes. The attention span just isn’t there, even with songs.

Many days, the babies call the shots. Your storytime may dissolve into a happy session of crawling and singing. That’s okay! One of the main purposes of library storytime is to model reading, singing, talking, and playing to caregivers. Even a mom with a third child or a seasoned grandparent will find something new to take away from your time together and try at home. Baby storytime gives parents a break from being alone with their little ones. Friendships form, learning happens, literacy begins, and hopefully they check out books. One library where I worked provided 30 copies of each board book so parents could read along with the librarian or at their own pace. It was lovely.

Your youngest patrons can be an enthusiastic, appreciative audience, and they’re waiting for you to take the plunge! Consider giving baby storytime a try at your public library. If you already provide baby storytimes, what wisdom can you share with the rest of us?

Here are some additional resources:

  • Mother Goose on the Loose, by Betsy Diamant-Cohen (there are a few books in the series)
  • Reading to Babies, Toddlers, and Twos, by Susan Straub and K.J. Dell’Antonia
  • The Jbrary channel on YouTube has a wealth of videos demonstrating songs, rhymes, and fingerplays you can use in your own storytime.

Librarians Are Magic!

By Fern Hallman, M.Ln.Librarian can do it all_129009653 [Converted]

Every librarian I know has had this conversation. You meet someone, they ask you what you do, and then they say it: “I love books.” Yes, I love them too, but there is a lot more to being a librarian.

Many people do not realize that librarians are expected to go far beyond minding the library — and always have been. Back in the day, they even delivered books on horseback!

Thinking about the various duties librarians are asked to perform every day makes me ponder about how being a librarian has evolved over the years. Or has it? Maybe the central role of the librarian has remained the same, but the specific tasks have morphed over time to reflect outward changes in our world.

Here are some of my varied and treasured experiences as a librarian.

I have been lucky to have jobs where I have participated in creating new libraries. Imagine a blueprint for a new library building, and then figuring out what is needed to fill it up. It’s like a giant jigsaw puzzle, and librarians get the chance to determine what’s needed and wanted in their communities. Many librarians choose individual titles very meticulously, but it’s a whole different game to assemble an entire library at once.

One of my favorite “special skills” is the librarian’s ability to make sense out of bits and pieces of information. I’m a librarian who knows something about just about everything, and I know how to get up to speed on any topic in a hurry. In my initial interview for a job at a public library I found myself saying many things: “I love books,” “I know the difference between a stock and a bond,” “I speak four languages” (not fluently), “I can knit a boyfriend or a pet using scraps of yarn” (please refer to one my all-time favorite books: Knit Your Own Boyfriend: Easy-to-Follow Patterns for 13 Men, by Carol Meldrum), and most importantly, “I love stress!”

Often a library patron knows a little bit about a book, like the name of the dog in the story, and the color of the book jacket, and a good librarian (or a team) can figure out what it is. The patron remembers there was something about red hair, puffy sleeves, and the depths of despair. OK, maybe that one’s too easy. The New York Public library recently held an event called Title Quest 2018. A group of NYPL staff members gathered to try to identify books that patrons remembered. Using bits and pieces of information, they were able to solve nearly 50 mysteries and reunite hopeful readers with their long lost books.

Another magical thing librarians do is change with the times. When I was in library school, we learned about online searching using an acoustic coupler that made weird noises when you stuck your (landline) phone into it. Needless to say, everything has changed since then. But being exposed to those early database searches still comes in handy: I can do more with Google than the average citizen, and I can help you determine Computer Class_395916058what web sites are more reliable than others. Librarians across the country have played an indispensable role in teaching their users how to use computers and evaluate the information they find.

Many librarians coordinate magical programs such as storytelling for children, literacy skills, and book talks for adults. Many librarians have come up with unique programs for lending things other than books. They do all this while also unjamming copiers, keeping track of whose turn it is to use the computers, handing out bathroom keys, and so much more. They often also interact with patrons who have mental health issues and assist non-English-speaking patrons.

Every librarian has a story about what they can’t do. Here’s mine: I was working as a news librarian at an Atlanta TV network that shall remain nameless. One morning I got a call asking if we had any video or photographs of the “vast right wing conspiracy.” Despite my prodigious magical powers I had to say no that time. I was also obliged to explain to more than one library patron that while you can easily research federal, state, and local laws, there is no list of things that aren’t illegal.

Public libraries are a great asset to society, but today’s librarians are sometimes expected to take on responsibilities that they never expected. For example, the idea that anyone can come in and stay as long as they like is an ongoing challenge. Also, when I got my first job at a public library, I was shocked and dismayed to learn that I had to teach THOUSANDS of people how to use microfilm each and every day.

Today’s nationwide opioid epidemic has led to a program that supplies public libraries with Narcan to reverse overdoses. I find this to be kind of heroic and also terrifying at the same time. Librarians are responsible for providing books and information, presenting all kinds of programs and entertainment, promoting technological literacy… and literally saving lives?

Speaking of going beyond the call of duty, here’s a librarian’s take on the issue of boundaries.

In summary, most librarians will do their best to help patrons in any way they can. It’s what we do. More than that, it’s our calling and our passion. But don’t ask your librarian to braid your hair (unless you are under the age of five, in which case, maybe they will).

Further reading

For more on the magic we librarians create, here’s an interesting article on the role of librarians.

 

fern

Fern

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.

What Ever Happened to…?

By Paul Duckworth, MLS

Xerox Machine

Chester Carlson invented the photocopier in 1938, but the now ubiquitous magic machine didn’t appear in commercial usage until 1959. The first one in the spotlight was the hefty Xerox 914, weighing in at a whopping 650 pounds. It wasn’t long before college students and librarians were “Xeroxing” magazine articles and catalog cards galore, in addition to using the trademarked name as an adjective and a verb.

If you’re old enough, you may recall the Xerox Corporation joining the ranks of Kleenex, Frigidaire, Clorox, and others in endless attempts to get people to stop misusing its name. Today, we “photocopy” everything under the sun using countless brands of equipment. The Xerox Corporation is still in business, and they still make Xerox machines. However, like so many longtime names in American business, they were absorbed into a new enterprise (now called Fuji Xerox).

Microfilm ReaderMicroFilm Reader_1048960790

Bulky and cavernous, these hulks — with names like Kodagraph — started taking up space in libraries during the 1930s. Early models demanded darkened rooms and considerable floor space, although new technology helped squeeze down their size in the 1960s. By the 90s, however, microfilm readers began their decline into obsolescence, a casualty of the mad rush towards digitization. Most medium to large libraries still have one or more devices tucked away for reading microfilm or microfiche on demand, but many staff are understandably unfamiliar with how to use them.

old librarian_2167390Hair in Buns, Shushing, Sensible Shoes: The Image of the Mean Spinster

How did we come to collectively use this image to represent a librarian? In the mid-to-late-19th century, single women started working outside the home in much greater numbers. With many professions still forbidden to women, that of librarian was one of several careers that became known as a “woman’s profession.”

Cornell University librarian Michael Engle, in his fascinating paper “Remythologizing Work: The Role of Archetypal Images in the Humanization of Librarianship,” discusses how the single female librarian was seen as a “good mother,” someone who would educate children and provide morally good literature for the poor and uneducated masses. As Engle relates, the shadow side of this “Good Mother” is “The Crone.” The negative image of the librarian came to gradually replace that of the saint who helps others. Armed with a scowl, shushing library patrons, hair in a bun, feet outfitted in sensible shoes, this mean character lurks even today in the imagination of some people, not to mention living on as a convenient cliché in advertisements. Some of us librarians might admit that, in our early days, we may have put our own fingers to lips to tone down excessive noise within our hallowed halls. I am not confessing.

Card Catalogs

Starting with the Library of Congress’ catalog card service in 1911, libraries began subscribing to this service and filing these cards in the multi-drawered furniture we all remember fondly. Later, OCLC offered its own card service to libraries. Surprisingly, this service continued being offered to customers well into the 21st century. Its termination on October 1, 2015, marked an official close to the card catalog, though they had vanished from most libraries long before that.

Where do old catalogs go to die? Many of them have found new purpose with these uses: sewing and craft supplies, wine storage, coffee tables, shoe holders, displays for postcards in antique shops, etc. Perhaps the most famous example of re-purposing appeared in the TV series The Big Bang Theory, where a card catalog starred as part of Sheldon’s living room decor. And what about those millions of rag content cards with summaries, height in centimeters, pagination, and tracings? At least one resourceful librarian took a heavy box of them home when his library’s card catalog was put to rest. He used them for note-taking and grocery lists. How do I know this? As with the aforementioned shushing, I am not confessing.

But wait, I have declared an end to the catalog too quickly! For libraries that continue to make use of the system today, Brodart makes handsome, well-constructed card catalogs.

24301650_120185669969Library Paste

This sticky paste, generally known in the industry as starch glue, was made of water and flour. Eons ago, many of us used it in our professional endeavors as an all-purpose glue. For the sake of professional accuracy, I must add that as children, a few of us might also have eaten it. You guessed it: I am not confessing to this, either. Production of starch glues was tied to supplies from extensive cassava plantations in Indonesia. When they fell under Japanese control during the Second World War, the industry turned to other types of glues. Here’s a paper on the history of wood adhesives that reveals even more (PDF).

I was not able to discover when use of library paste ceased but can confidently say that when sensible and progressive library staff learned about the virtues of the new PVA glues, they embraced the technological advancement and firmly stuck to it. Besides offering better adhesive qualities, this glue is apparently not palatable.

Library CatsCat on Books_609107240

What ever happened to those lovely felines that used to live in libraries? Many of their kind remain to prowl the stacks and fend off mice. Library cats are still in residence in libraries nationwide, although their numbers are decreasing, perhaps due to a combination of ADA, allergies, and the protests of ailurophobes. My cat still rules over my personal library, though he prefers watching television and sleeping in front of my computer keyboard.

16mm Film Projectors

Can anyone over the age of 40 ever forget the sound of the trusty workhorse Bell & Howell 16mm film projector? For a bit of auditory nostalgia, listen to this YouTube clip. At one time, it was important for AV staff in libraries to know how to use the three types of machines: Manual Threading, Self-Threading, and Slot-Loading.

The introduction of VHS tapes for commercial and educational use in the 1980s led to the demise of film projectors in most libraries. For a brief period, VHS struggled against a competing format, Beta, but soon won supremacy. We all know what eventually happened to VHS. Though gone from libraries, VHS today lives on in basements, attics, and garage sales. Here’s an article on old film projectors to take you farther down memory lane.

CDs_786220756CD-ROM Databases

In the early days of digital information use in libraries, the Internet did not exist for us. Vendors supplied libraries with CD-ROM discs, which looked like today’s music CDs and DVDs. Who of a certain age does not remember InfoTrac, which first infiltrated academic libraries in 1985, and soon followed across all types of libraries? Once Internet access became stable, CD-ROM use soon shriveled and shrank. EdTech has a nice online retrospective on CD-ROM databases.

Melvil Dewey

Born Melville Louis Kossuth Dewey in 1851 in rural Adams Center, New York, Dewey is known for his wide-ranging interests in education, winter sports, spelling reform, and — of course — libraries. His eponymous classification system still thrives, despite long-term competition from the Library of Congress classification system and recent library developments that use a bookstore style to group books by BISAC headings.

As an aside, Dewey would not have survived the current #MeToo movement, for another of his avid interests was female anatomy. Wayne Wiegand, whose biography Irrepressible Reformer: A Biography of Melvil Dewey is considered the most historically complete and revealing, describes his behavior using the phrase “a persistent inability to control himself around women.” Dewey was an interesting, if somewhat controversial character, and it would be fun to write much more about the co-founder of the American Library Association and inventor of the Dewey Decimal System. But to return to the focus of this article, Dewey died of a stroke in Florida, in 1931, at the age of 80.

This forward-thinking quote from Dewey still rings true today:

“A library’s function is to give the public in the quickest and cheapest way: information, inspiration, and recreation. If a better way than the book can be found, we should use it.”

Henriette Avram

If you are like most librarians, you’re asking, “Who was she?” Avram, without a doubt, was one of the most influential figures ever to shape libraries, although few recognize her name. Avram was born in New York in 1919. She was not a librarian by training. Rather, she was a computer programmer who worked for the National Security Agency and, later, the Library of Congress. It was there, at the institution she referred to as “the Great Library,” that she was asked to develop an automated cataloging format. Through her genius, in 1968, the MARC record was born. Avram died in Florida in 2006.

City Directories

Valuable for genealogists, and perhaps most repeatedly used by skip-tracers, investigators, and voyeurs, the contents of the local city directory were among the most requested items of the library-based telephone reference service. So much so that some libraries developed policies as to how much — or little — service they would provide to callers. Strict policies were also developed to safeguard the books from developing legs and walking out the door.

Fold3, Ancestry, and other genealogy databases offer rich historical collections of U.S. city directories, as does the Internet Archive. The obituary of the city directory hasn’t been located, but a plethora of contemporary electronic databases offer much information, usually for a fee. Nothing satisfies the curious more, though, than leafing through the fascinating historical information within the hardbound covers of city directories. The story of how that information was gathered is for another day!

Paul Duckworth New - 2.5 x 3
Paul

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.