Beverly Cleary: She Inspired Many, But What Were Her Inspirations?

Picture of Beverly Cleary
Source: Christina Kochi Hernandez/Getty Images

By Suzanne W. Hawley, MLS

I sighed sadly when I read of Beverly Cleary’s death on March 25. Those of us who work with children’s books revered her as an iconic figure in our field. She lived a long and full life, but I guess I thought she would always be with us. Still, 104 years isn’t bad!

Cleary often spoke about the original inspiration for her first novel, “Henry Huggins,” which was published in 1950. After college at UC Berkeley, she returned to her childhood home of Oregon to work as a librarian in Yakima. Tired of hearing her young patrons asking for “books about us,” and remembering she had experienced the same frustrations as a youngster, she set to work. To all of our enduring delight, she succeeded in developing the magical recipe for funny, smart stories about engaging characters…just like the kids in her own neighborhood.

Many years ago, I had the pleasure of listening to Cleary at an ALA Conference. She was an absolute delight. She was charming, funny, and perhaps a little shy. She talked about her life and career and included several stories about how her books came to life. Someone asked about the inspiration for “The Mouse and the Motorcycle.”

In the story, when Keith, the young hotel guest, leaves his room, Ralph S. Mouse scurries out from his piney knot, runs up a telephone wire, and jumps on the toy motorcycle that Keith has left behind. Ralph’s joyride ends when he and the motorcycle land in a trash can! Cleary created such a wonderful word picture of this escapade that I still laugh every time I read it.

Mouse and the Motorcycle Cover

So how did she come up with the idea for this book? Here’s the backstory. On one occasion, Cleary and her young son and daughter accompanied her husband on a business trip to England. During the trip, her son became ill and Mr. Cleary went shopping for something to take the boy’s mind off his ailment. A Hot Wheels motorcycle was the perfect answer. Needless to say, the toy was a hit, and her son had endless fun running it up and down the ridged lines on his bedspread: perfect roads for a small motorcycle.

Sometime later, when back at home, Ms. Cleary was working in her garden. She was sitting on the ground in front of a bench planting flowers when she heard scrambling behind her, followed by a loud noise. She looked up to where a large metal can sat at the end of the bench. Upon investigation, Cleary discovered that a mouse had run down the bench behind her, and instead of hopping to the ground, fell into the trash can. Add those two episodes together and voila! You have the ingredients for a delightful and enduring children’s story—at least at the hands of Beverly Cleary.

I told this account many times to groups of kids in my libraries and they reacted as I did: completely enthralled! Thank you, Beverly Cleary, for providing such wonderful stories for so many generations.

In addition to selecting children and young adult materials for library collections, Suzy Hawley spends her days interfering in her children’s lives as much as possible, wheedling her husband into cooking dinner just one more time, and walking on the beach. Click here for more.

What Was Your Most Rewarding Experience as a Librarian?

As librarians, we all know on a base level that we’re making a difference, that our work is important. But too often, we lose sight of the key moments that fill us with joy, each true connection quickly overshadowed by the next project on our list.

Our librarians are excited to share the personal memories they turn to for that extra boost of inspiration.


Julie O’Connor: “Cutting the Ribbon

It’s difficult to pinpoint the most rewarding experience I’ve had as a librarian since my job is to help libraries with their collection development needs on a daily basis. It’s gratifying to help solve collection development conundrums, whether they be large or small. But if pressed, I think back to one of my first experiences as a project librarian. It was 2005 and Camden County, New Jersey, received funding to build a much-needed library. Their excitement was contagious because the residents and leaders had waited so long for this building. I know everyone is over the moon when a new library opens or is renovated, but experiencing that for the first time was something that will always stay with me.

Fern Hallman: “Seeing is Believing

I was doing an ongoing vendor selection project and the librarians in that system were not thrilled that I was selecting their books. The library administrators who had decided to hire Brodart to do it that way held a meeting where the local library staff could ask me questions about my process. One of the librarians said she decided to put all of my recent selections on a book cart to really take a hard look at them and discovered that they were all checked out.

Scott Piepenburg: “Blazing a Trail

My most rewarding experience as a librarian was when I was put in charge of the district automation program for Dallas Independent School District, then the eighth largest school district in the nation. We took 225 schools from only five with any type of automation to full automation in 18 months. This included purchasing and installing computers, creating a district-wide network (none existed at the time), and undertaking a complete retrospective conversion of the shelf lists.

At the time, it was the most extensive automation project in the nation and resulted in the largest school automation project in the United States; we did this while also creating and implementing centralized receiving and cataloging, doing almost 5,000 titles per week. Having no model to follow, as the system administrator, I was quite excited with the project, and pleased how well it turned out.

Stephanie Campbell: “The Stay-Behind

When I was just starting out as a librarian, I worked in older adult outreach services and was charged with creating engaging programs for residents at nursing homes and assisted living apartments. The divergent mental and physical health issues found in institutional settings, coupled with different backgrounds and experiences, make these seniors a particularly challenging group to entertain. Playful activities such as bingo, crafts, and sing-alongs were the most prevalent among the in-house recreational offerings at that time.

I took a more educational approach, with book talks and brief documentaries on particular topics to encourage conversation. Residents often dozed off during my programs. Others left the room when they got bored. Some stayed just to be polite, then thanked me, and bolted out the door the minute it was over. I performed these programs monthly at multiple facilities and it was wonderful when the topic and the audience were a good match. But even if I could reach just one person, it made it all worthwhile.

I remember one female resident in particular who attended every program I did at that nursing home. One day, as she lingered after the presentation, she told me how much she valued my visits and the material I chose to present, because it made her feel like an adult again, not treated as a child. It was both heartbreaking and gratifying to hear that. I ended up personally delivering books to her outside of work for a while. The power of human connection really hit me, and I began to realize how much I could make a difference in someone’s life.

Suzanne Hawley: “Nothing Beats a ‘Black Tie’ Auction with a Vanna White Lookalike

In order to get my fifth-graders to read more and write about what they read, I decided to hold a dress-up auction near the end of the school year. The kids read like crazy and wrote about what they’d read. The biggest hurdle for me was to read all the letters…there were at least 90 students writing letters most years! I gave them points, which would be used as dollars to bid with. On the day of the “black tie” auction, we gave each student a paper black bow tie with the number of dollars they had earned. We had an auctioneer and a Vanna White lookalike. Everyone—teachers, students, parents, administrators—were dressed to the nines. I used a book called “Celebrity Addresses” and sent letters to everyone in there I thought the kids would like an autograph or trinket from. It was exciting to watch the items roll in. We received, among other things, an autographed picture from Michael Jordan, a pound (!) of Wrigley bubblegum, an FBI cap, many gift certificates, tapes from popular singers, many coupons for restaurants, and so much more.

Parents manned tables where the kids would go with their ties when they won an item. They’d receive their winnings and the parent would subtract the amount it cost from their balance. I held these auctions in three schools for 20 years. Once a community realized how much fun it was, they began contributing items. We even got bicycles and TVs. Fifth grade was the highest grade in all these schools. Teachers from other grades were invited to bring their classes in to watch for half an hour and in the last schools we could stream it on the TV. The end result was a huge increase enthusiasm for reading in every grade. The kids couldn’t wait to get to fifth grade so they could participate in the auction.

Kat Kan: “A Zoom Surprise and a Virtual Hug

There have been so many over the several decades that I’ve worked as a librarian. Here is one of the most recent.

A couple of weeks before this writing, as we were leaving our church after the service, I heard someone shouting, “Mrs. Kan! Mrs. Kan!” I turned, and a tall boy came running down the path from the building. He was one of my former students when I was a school librarian. I hadn’t seen him since May 2019. He was one of the quiet ones, always drawing, borrowing books, not saying much. I always looked out for him, to make sure he was feeling comfortable and that he was always welcome in the library. That Sunday he told me how much he missed me, and the library. Then he proudly told me, “I can drive now!”

He has a younger brother, who was not the best student, but did enjoy coming to the school library and always borrowed books to read for fun. This past Sunday, I spoke to their mother; she’s been attending services at our church for about a month now. She told me that her younger son has connected with some of his classmates and former classmates, and they have their own Zoom book club! She told me “It’s all because of you. You helped them to love reading.” She’s clearly proud of her sons, but gave me credit for them becoming readers. I nearly cried.

I work in a public library now, and my department answers our county’s Citizen Information Line to help people with questions about getting tested for COVID-19, registering for vaccinations, and so on. Here, people must register and make appointments for the free COVID-19 tests at the county’s contracted clinic; the website is clunky and rather difficult for most people to navigate. There is no direct way to contact the clinic or the company that designed the website, so we get those calls. Sometimes callers reach us after trying for hours to find information. When I answer the line, I try to be as helpful and comforting as I can be.

Today, I helped a woman who called our line three times (I helped her twice). I stayed on the line with her as she negotiated the website and finally succeeded in setting up appointments for herself and her husband. At the end of the third call, she said, “I don’t know your name, but if I could, I’d give you the biggest hug! You people (meaning my department) are the only ones giving us good information and help! Thank you, we appreciate you so much!” So, helping connect people to books, and helping people get the information they need to help themselves in this pandemic are two aspects of being a librarian. In both cases, just knowing I helped in any small way makes me feel as though I’m doing my part to help the world be a better place.

Gwen Vanderhage: “Cultural Exchange

One of my most rewarding experiences as a public librarian was helping a population of Eritrean refugees who frequented my branch. The children were voracious readers and consumers of American pop culture. It was fun to help them find books and videos — they always had very specific opinions about what icons they were searching for and authors they were reading, but not always the ones we had on the shelf that day. The parents wanted help navigating and printing forms from government websites and getting matched up with computer tutors. They helped us keep our foreign film collection up to date. These families truly emulated why the library is a hub in every community and we were happy to get to know them each evening.


Everyone needs encouragement. Hopefully our librarians have helped you feel better about your own work on the frontlines. If we’ve inspired you in any way, we encourage you to share your story.

What’s one of your most-affirming experiences as a librarian? Tell us all about it in the comments below.

What’s it Like Being an MSLS Student in 2021? Second Interview with Meghan Herman

Meghan Herman graduated in 2018 from Penn College of Technology with a B.S. degree in Industrial Design. However, being the daughter of a Brodart executive (Gretchen Herman is Brodart’s Vice President of Sales & Product Development), she grew up having a close familiarity with the library industry. It was no great surprise, then, that Meghan decided to pursue her Master of Science in Information and Library Science (MSLS) degree from Clarion University.

Not only is she currently studying diligently to become a librarian, she also works full time in Brodart’s Collection Development department. This is Part 2 of our looks at one person’s MSLS journey. Click HERE for Part 1. Feel free to share your own perspective after reading about Meghan’s experiences.

L2L: Has the pandemic altered your degree program, either in terms of how you’re attending classes and submitting assignments or in terms of the curriculum itself?

MH: Absolutely, there have been many changes that are happening in general for Clarion as well as in my classes. My last semester start time was moved up a week so that our fall break was right before our finals. This changed all the finals to be online only, and everyone that was going home for the fall break had to be moved out of their dorms; finals were taken primarily off-campus. This upcoming semester was shifted back several weeks in order to shorten the time on campus as well as remove our spring break entirely. A lot of individual classes were shifted to online, and the professors did more Zoom classes… having no face-to-face communications at first, and then very limited interactions.

Some of my projects had to be shifted and changed to address the new restrictions. I had several assignments in my Marketing class that dealt with creating programs or social events to bring people into the library or interact in some way. As part of those assignments, we had to specify whether we were taking pandemic restrictions into consideration, and, if so, how those restrictions would impact the outcomes of our proposed programs.

L2L: Can you see any indication through your coursework that the field of librarianship may be evolving due to the pandemic?

MH: One of the main changes I’ve been seeing for libraries and my classes is that there is a larger shift to virtual events and creating an online presence or online activities. I feel like libraries are trying to make things work with the pandemic and bring libraries to the patrons. In doing so, I think being able to work with a variety of digital platforms and create digital content might be something that will be incorporated in future courses.

L2L: Have you chosen a specialty yet?

MH: No, because at this point I am too close to the end of my degree (it went by so fast) and I don’t have enough classes left to really commit to a specialty. I already have next semester’s classes picked out and I’m pretty sure I only have one more class that I can choose as an elective and the other three are requirements, two of which will be for my Capstone.

L2L: That said, are you considering a specific area of focus for your career?

Meghan hopes to combine her new skill set with her love of YA literature after graduation.

MH: If I look into anything, there are two areas that I have enjoyed so far in my program, which are collection development and YA literature and programs. I like what I do at Brodart a lot, and I love YA literature and the idea of engaging with YA audiences.

L2L: Are you experiencing more crossover between your studies and your day job?

MH: Yes, I had been experiencing more crossover with my last two classes. It will be interesting to see if my next two classes will have crossover or not.

L2L: Can you elaborate? What aspects of your studies have you encountered at work? Also, what have you learned in the classroom that you found applicable to your work life?

MH: With my collection development class, we talked about libraries rebuilding their collections and how they go about doing that as well as weeding collections. This was one of the first things that I learned at Brodart. The things that I learned in the classroom was more background information and smaller nuggets of information that either reinforced information I learned on the job or information that just gave me a better understanding of the library world. I can’t think of anything specific at the moment, though.

L2L: Finally, what’s been your favorite part of your MSLS journey so far?

MH: The thought of graduating!

Meghan HermanIn the summer of 2019, Meghan decided to pursue her MSLS while starting a new professional job at Brodart. Outside of work and school, Meghan has what she describes as a pretty chill life.

Click here for more.

Remote Work: A Chance for Reinvention

By Stephanie Campbell, MLIS

Before 2020, many of us may have daydreamed about working from home: no alarm clock, no commute, flexible schedule. The reality, however, isn’t always rosy and presents its own challenges. Those of us who were new to remote work (and remote learning) agreed that it was fine (at first) to be house-bound when schools and non-essential businesses closed in mid-March. But then two weeks became two months.

And we wondered, “Where do work and school begin and end?” We struggled with our sense of time and place, sleep and wakefulness routines were thrown out the window, and then there was the “COVID 15” weight gain from those comfy clothes combined with too-easy access to the kitchen.

As an introvert and homebody, I definitely enjoy my solitude, but quickly found that I needed a bit more stimulation and structure….and a decent chair. Though I was quite pleased with all I could accomplish on a 10-year-old laptop with a hotspot for Internet, I was elated when I eventually went back to work on-site.

The COVID-19 pandemic persists, and a return to more lockdown measures may be looming. It helps to be prepared. PC Magazine has lots of great tips on how to work better from home, from getting organized to creating comfortable and functional workspaces and perfecting your videoconferencing presence.

This year, reinvention has been key. We have all had to figure out how we can still do business with as little human contact as possible. In libraries, there are striking similarities to obstacles we have long faced, and worked to overcome as individuals. Libraries constantly battle barriers to access: inclement weather, building issues, and outages to power or telecommunications. In the face of those challenges, we do everything in our power to stay open. When plan A fails, we run through plans B, C, and D before finally making the determination we can’t open the doors of our buildings at all. So it has been this year with the pandemic, and we have been forced to find new ways to adapt and serve our patrons in the absence of in-person visitation.

Before 2020, virtual library resources were more of a companion—an enhancement to what we offered in person. Suddenly, our online presence went from the backup plan to the spotlight and became absolutely essential to maintaining a connection with the community.

Libraries have long championed their abilities to transcend physical walls and this year we have taken that to whole new levels. From virtual storytimes and book clubs to YouTube channels and Instagram accounts, the speed with which libraries adapted to virtual programming is astounding. Most of us saw stay-at-home orders start in March. WebJunction compiled this list of programming activities in April!

And, as usual, librarians were ready to share their social media successes with their colleagues on Public Libraries Online and virtual book club tips on Programming Librarian.

Hopefully you’ve been encouraged as patrons have embraced their online accounts, placed holds, taken advantage of e-books and other e-resources, used curbside pickup, and tried make-and-take craft projects. These are great ways to connect with those who may have difficulty visiting us in person, for any number of non-COVID-19 reasons: mobility issues, lack of transportation, parking woes, conflicting work schedules.

Convenience services such as these will likely be the new normal. Dedicated areas /entrances for specific things such as holds pickup may continue to be a good idea in the post-pandemic world, just to help people navigate their busy lives.

Virtual conferences and professional development have taken the place of far-flung conventions and centralized meetings. We can now connect with our colleagues and vendors in new and exciting ways. Without the travel constraints and caps on attendance, more of us are able to take advantage of more opportunities than before. Even within our organizations, the use of meeting software has become commonplace. And have you noticed, these virtual meetings seem to be much shorter and to-the-point? Look for the silver lining!

Technology is great, when it works. This year has revealed the skills gap and infrastructure gap. What is meant to be the great equalizer has divided the haves from the have-nots, whether it be know-how, hardware, or bandwidth.

Nine months into the pandemic, we are all struggling. Any semblance of normalcy is gone, and this has wreaked havoc on all aspects of life. Fear, depression, and isolation are running rampant. And the catastrophic effects on the economy, small business, and jobs will be with us long after the darkest days are in the rearview mirror. Not to mention the loss of loved ones to the virus.

However, libraries are uniquely positioned to come out of this stronger, and with a lasting reach, as we have historically been there for individuals in crisis. As Fred Rogers was quoted as saying, in times of disaster, “look for the helpers.” Libraries help.

For further reading: Libraries and the Coronavirus

Stephanie Campbell has 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 Old Favorites in a Changing World

By Fern Hallman, M.Ln.

Who doesn’t love Judy Blume? In this 50th anniversary year of “Are You There, God? It’s me, Margaret.” the beloved author was apparently living her best life in Key West before the pandemic, tap dancing in bars and pedaling her bike to the bookstore that she operates. And how about since COVID? “The New York Times” has put together a clever piece that reimagines the works of famous authors during the lockdown. This one could be Blume’s new pandemic-related title.

Source: “The New York Times”

It’s said, right here in “The New York Times,” that Judy Blume knows all your secrets. She certainly knew mine, especially my personal conflicts concerning religion. I was confused about what I learned at the super-religious Jewish Day School I attended and more confused when my mom took us to McDonald’s for super un-kosher cheeseburgers and milkshakes on the way to Brownies at the First Presbyterian Church. But even weirder, how did Blume know about my mother’s inability to choose furniture for the living room? And how could she so aptly describe the overwhelming combination of embarrassment, apprehension, and excitement girls experienced when we were shown “the movie” about becoming a woman?

Rereading ”Are You There, God?” all these years later, I give it five stars for nostalgia, and two to three stars for relevance. But what do I know? Turns out there may be a movie adaptation on the way, produced by nostalgic director James Brooks.

By the time my niece and cousin were young teens, waiting to wear a bra or worrying if the straps were showing was no longer a thing. The books that spoke to them at that age were more in the realm of “The Hunger Games” and “Harry Potter.” Today’s teens are more likely to relate to grittier books, such as “The Hate U Give,” by Angie Thomas. This book tells the story of a girl who sees her best friend being shot and killed by police. It doesn’t reflect my experience, but it’s relatable for many who are experiencing this kind of thing now.

Many recent YA titles attempt to address the spectrum of modern teenage issues such as mental health, body issues, racial disparity, sexuality, and the immigrant experience. There have been many attempts to ban titles that portray realistic issues such as drug use, profanity, and rape. Judy Blume’s “Forever” was questioned for mentioning masturbation and birth control. Despite the concern they may cause, these books are critical to helping teens see themselves through fiction and make sense of difficult experiences.

In this day and age of “cancel culture,” some books and series that were once beloved are being examined in a new way.  A few years ago, after long and agonizing debate, the American Library Association changed the name of a prestigious award due to new thinking about beloved author Laura Ingalls Wilder. And one of my favorite authors, Sherman Alexie, is no longer considered a role model by many.

There have been several recent nonfiction books that examine our relationship with and nostalgia for certain well-known books and authors. These books (and hundreds of articles) illuminate the idea that context is important, and that values and our feelings about issues evolve over time. Seemingly innocuous Junie B. Jones has been challenged for encouraging disrespectful behavior, poor grammar, and the inclusion of a same-sex couple. Was she a nightmare child or a feminist icon? Dr. Seuss was probably insensitive to other races and cultures. Does that make some of the most popular children’s books in history inappropriate? Was Huckleberry Finn a racist, or was the author one?  These are all good questions. Does exposure to stereotypes in literature perpetuate prejudice? Many say that’s true, and others say it’s just political correctness. Here’s a list of titles from New York Public Library that addresses adult books critical of children’s favorites.

OK class, here are your assignments:

Reread your old favorites in a new light and decide for yourself whether they still speak to you. Maybe reading them again will reveal new aspects that you didn’t notice before.

When recommending books to patrons, it’s still OK to suggest oldies that stand the test of time and deal with universal themes. The books that were most important to you years ago remain valuable and relatable for current and future generations, but they will likely be interpreted and enjoyed in ways that never occurred to you.

Finally, a good librarian remains a great resource who can steer readers to past, present, and future books that will make them think, laugh, or cry. Maybe all three.

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.

Origami How-To: 3 Videos to Get Started

By Kat Kan, MLS

Many people are going stir-crazy these days, so I thought now was a good time to share a few of my origami videos. Feel free to share these tutorials far and wide—and don’t forget to try some origami, yourself!

I have been folding origami since I was like eight years old. I started with origami paper, and when we moved back from Japan to the United States, I actually started using notebook paper from school. You can easily adapt notebook paper, wrapping paper, and others to make origami paper squares, even if you don’t have any at home.

No scissors? No problem! Just fold a piece of paper back and forth along the same edge until the paper weakens. Then, carefully tear in a straight line (It’s easier than it sounds!).

In the first video, I’ll show you how to build three things out of the same piece of paper: a house, a piano, and a fox. Let’s get started.


The traditional paper crane is called the orizuru. This was the very first thing I ever folded. I’m amazed that I did it! But I loved it so much that, of all the different origami that my grandmother taught me, this is still my favorite one. We’ll also be making a flapping bird toy.

In Japan, in the Shinto religion, each time you fold a paper crane, you’re praying. The idea is that if you can succeed in folding 1,000 cranes, your prayer will come true. I also share the true story of a little girl named Sadako Sasaki and the legacy she inspired. Do you have your paper ready?


“Trash Origami” is a really fun book with a lot of different kinds of ideas. We’re going to look at how to make two things from this book: a Jumping Frog and the Crown & Towers Game. That way once you’ve made your frog and your crowns, you can play a fun game with them.


Videos originally posted by Northwest Regional Library System, Florida.

If you’re looking for a graphic novel guru, you’re looking for Kat Kan. Kat looks like the stereotypical librarian with glasses and a bun, until you see the hair sticks and notice her earrings may be tiny books, TARDISes from Doctor Who, or LEGO Batgirls. Click here for more.

National Hispanic Heritage Month

By Nerissa Moran, Spanish Language Selector

I identify as Anglo-American, but have always enjoyed working with Spanish-speaking librarians. I’ve always been fascinated by celebrations of Hispanic Heritage Month at the public libraries where I’ve helped with collection development, searching out titles appropriate for their patrons—especially at the annual book fairs in Spain, Mexico, and Argentina.

Hispanic Heritage Month is a celebration of people living in the U.S. whose ancestry can be traced back to Spain, Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean.

The observation began in Sept 1968 when Congress authorized President Lyndon Johnson to proclaim National Hispanic Heritage Week, an observance that included the dates of Sept 15 and 16 (the anniversaries of independence for several Latin American countries). In 1988, Congress expanded the observance to a month-long (Sept. 15-Oct. 15) celebration. The year 2020 marks the 52nd anniversary of this recognition of Hispanic culture and traditions, innovations, achievements, leaders, and artists.

As the World Public Library says, “National Hispanic Heritage Month is the period from September 15 to October 15 in the United States when people recognize the contributions of Hispanic and Latino American to the United State and celebrate the group’s heritage and culture.” Read more about it on the official site.

Celebrations can look different in diverse parts of the country, from Miami and New York—which have large Cuban-American and Puerto Rican populations—to Fresno or San Jose in California and Maricopa County in Arizona—home to many first-, second-, and third-generation Mexican-Americans.

On the west coast, where I’ve spent most of my time, San Francisco Public Library introduced VIVA! last year, a city-wide celebration of Latino/Hispanic cultures. Celebrations took place in all 28 branches, with papel picado (paper streamers), flores de papel (paper flowers), and ofrendas (altars) setting the scene for more than 100 events with music, food, film, dance, crafts, and author talks representing Latino Hispanic cultures.

The highlights for me were story book readings and Mexican mask-making. Children’s author Mitali Perkins read “Between Us and Abuela” with the kids at Bernal Branch. West Portal Branch hosted children’s author Aida Salazar (“The Moon Within”). Skeleton craft was demonstrated for Dia de los Muertos. And the mask-making workshops, which the library did in conjunction with the Mexican Museum, were a hit at various branches.

Many librarians find it important to participate in this celebration because it helps them reach more people in their communities. According to the Pew Research Center, almost a fifth of the total U.S. population is Hispanic—over 57 million people—and they are the second-fastest growing racial or ethnic group behind Asians. The Hispanic/Latino population was once concentrated most heavily in certain regions, like the Southwest, or certain cities, like Miami, San Francisco, and New York. Now, however, this population is distributed throughout the U.S.  Besides reaching more people with library events and bringing more people into the library environment, this kind of outreach helps people cultivate an understanding of and appreciation for each other’s cultures.

This year, with Covid-19 infiltrating our communities, we probably won’t have many opportunities to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month via displays and in-person gatherings. There is still a great selection of books available, though. San Francisco, for example, has curbside pickup at the Excelsior and main branches, where you can check out books by wonderful YA authors like Newberry Award-winner Matt de la Pena. Other Hispanic American authors of note include Sandra Cisneros, Stephanie Diaz, Pam Muñoz Ryan, Margarita Engle, Kiera Cass, and Benjamin Alire Saenz, among others.

LA Public’s Central Library will host a live stream of Peruvian music this year on Sept 17 at 4 p.m. PT, featuring songs and rhythms from Inca, Criollo, and Afro-Peruvian extraction on ethnic woodwinds, strings, and percussion instruments. The downside is that there are no gatherings inside the library.  The upside is that public libraries are still making celebrations like this one available to all!

My most fervent hope for the moment is that we can resume in-person programs inside libraries soon, to experience Hispanic Heritage Month and Day of the Dead celebrations. I look forward to the return of not just the displays and social functions on special occasions, but also the myriad interpersonal exchanges associated with library services that are so important for adults and children alike. How are you celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month this year?

Nerissa’s passion for all things literary was evident from a young age, when she corralled a younger brother to play Horton in her “production” of Horton Hatches an Egg. Nerissa now enjoys the privilege of working remotely and starting each day practicing yoga on the deck at home in the redwoods. Read more here.

Beloved Comics Characters: Looking Back at 60 Years of Reading Comics

By Kat Kan, MLS

Recently, a friend on Facebook challenged me to post images of 10 comics characters that had an impact on me. Since I started reading comics with newspaper comic strips when I was in Kindergarten, I realized that I have been reading comics, in one form or another, for 60 years. I used that Facebook challenge to think back over the decades.

I remember watching lots of cartoons on television when I was between four and five years old: mostly Popeye, Mighty Mouse, Yogi Bear, and all the various Hanna-Barbera cartoons that were on back then. We had just moved to San Francisco from Hawaii in 1959. The newspaper’s comics page had strips like Peanuts, Blondie, Little Orphan Annie, and Steve Canyon, but I paid more attention to the humorous strips. I thought I was pretty grown up while “reading” the newspaper every day, although I always went straight to the “funnies.”

PopeyePopeye was one of my favorite cartoons. I could sing along with his “I’m Popeye the Sailor Man” theme song, and I decided to eat lots of spinach in the hope I could grow to be as strong as he was (as I’m sure a lot of other kids did, too). Bugs Bunny was another favorite character, and my mother could get us kids to eat whole carrots as a treat. She let us strut around the house saying “What’s up, Doc?” while eating carrots like they were candy. Hmm, my Japanese mother was pretty smart, using cartoon characters to “trick” us into eating healthy…

When my Air Force Sergeant dad was transferred to Japan in late summer 1961, I was ready to start first grade. He and my mother started taking us kids with them to the Base Exchange (BX) every Saturday—think of it as WalMart or Target for military families. The BX had a magazine rack, and the bottom rack was filled with “funny books,” otherwise known as comic books. Until then I really had no idea that such things existed. My parents allowed us to choose one comic book each week (they had to approve our choice), which we three kids had to share. As the oldest, and the one who was actually reading, I tended to choose the comics. Over the course of every week, I’d read and reread the books until they fell apart.

Little LuluSome of my early favorites include Little Lulu, Nancy and Sluggo, Casper the Friendly Ghost, Baby Huey, Dennis the Menace (yes, there were comic books, not just the newspaper comic strips), and Richie Rich. Of these titles, my absolute favorite is Little Lulu. She was such a sassy girl, easily able to handle all the boys, especially Tubby. I loved that she wore dresses, but that it didn’t stop her from doing all kinds of fun, physical things. She also believed that she and other girls were just as good as boys, and she acted on that. Decades later, Dark Horse Comics published collections of John Stanley’s Little Lulu comics, and my younger son, then about eight years old, would sit in a chair in my study and read them, giggling most of the time. One day he looked up and told me, “This comic is for girls.” I asked him, “You’re reading the book, do you like it?” “Yeah.” “So, if you like the comic, that means it’s not only for girls, right?” He thought for a moment, then said, “Yes!” And now, present day, Drawn & Quarterly is doing its own reprinting of Little Lulu comics. That girl has had lasting power… and I love it!

When I was in third grade, we Air Force families were moved from the Washington Heights housing in central Tokyo (near Ueno Park) out to newly built housing (called Kanto Mura) nearly an hour away from the city. The housing was set up in quadrangles of four-unit buildings. We had new neighbors, and all of us kids played with each other and went to each other’s homes all the time. The moms all helped each other keep track of us. Our house became the place where a bunch of the boys would come with their stacks of comics; I was the only girl in the group. We’d sit on the living room floor in kind of a circle, put all the comics in the middle, and just read one comic book after another. My parents still only let me buy the funny comics, but some of the boys brought really cool superhero comics. That was my introduction to Batman, The Phantom, Superman, and The Spirit. I really liked those heroes. I loved the adventures, and they just seemed to go better with the books I was reading: mythology, adventures, and mysteries.

Green LanternIn 1964 we moved back to the U.S., and within a few months my parents decided to buy a house. It was just a couple of blocks from a drugstore that had a comic book rack. By this time, I was getting a weekly allowance of a whopping 25 cents! I used part of that allowance once a month or so to buy comics. But now, with my own money, I was buying superhero and adventure comics. I really loved The Green Lantern then; Hal Jordan was my favorite superhero. I think I liked that he was pretty much a regular guy who got his powers from his ring, which in turn was powered by the lantern. It seemed to be more straight science fiction, which I was reading in books.

I also bought Tarzan comics (published by Gold Key). I was already reading the novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs, borrowed from my local public library. Back then, starting at age 10, I didn’t have to have a parent with me to go to the library and check out books. I read a lot, close to a book a day. When my mother ordered me to go outside, I’d often take a book or some comics and sit outside on the front steps from the sidewalk up to our lawn and read, until she’d order me to either pull weeds or go ride my bike.

By 1967 I would also pick up random comics that tied in to shows I watched on television: The Green Hornet, Star Trek, The Rat Patrol…I reread those comics a lot. I would also borrow comics from our neighbors. I remember reading a big stack of Metal Men comics and some Batman Family comics. I loved Batgirl on the Batman TV show, but the Batgirl in the comics wasn’t like Yvonne Craig’s portrayal, so I didn’t seek out Batman comics on the store racks. I had a nice little stack of comics that I kept reading. I also bought the occasional issue of “Mad,” especially if the issue included a parody of a TV show or movie I liked. In addition, I bought a number of mass market paperback collections of Peanuts comics, which I also read to pieces—literally.

My dad had been deployed to Vietnam the summer of 1967. When he returned home in 1968, he had orders to move across the country to Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins, Georgia. As an enlisted man, he didn’t have a generous weight allowance for household goods to be shipped to his new assignment, so he ordered us kids to get rid of a lot of our stuff, especially books and comics. I snuck a few of them into one of my boxes, but I had to give up most of them.

For a couple of years, I just kept rereading those few comics I saved, especially Star Trek and Green Hornet, since I no longer had easy access to stores. We spent one year in Georgia, before my dad was reassigned to Hawaii. While we lived in Kailua that first year there, I found a stack of Classics Illustrated comics at a neighborhood garage sale and bought them. I read lots of classic literature already, but the comics were so much fun! When we finally got base housing at Hickam Air Force Base, where my dad was assigned, I started high school and met a girl who loved science fiction and comics as much as I did. Ruth introduced me to Marvel Comics. In the mid-1960s I had watched the Spider-Man and Fantastic Four cartoons on TV, but I was a DC superhero comics fan. I spent a lot of time at Ruth’s house, where we would read through her X-Men comics.

Fast-forward to the mid-1970s. I was attending University of Hawaii and living at home, while working part-time at the local WaldenBooks. The store carried trade paperback collections of Heavy Metal comics translated from the French: I remember “Lone Sloan: Delirius.” And Simon & Schuster published trade paperback collections of Marvel Comics in “Origins of Marvel Comics,” “Bring On the Bad Guys,” “The Superhero Women,” and others. I found the trade paperback of “God Loves, Man Kills”—a classic X-Men story—and lots more. I went on a buying and reading spree. “Elfquest” by Wendy and Richard Pini came out in trade paperbacks in the late 1970s, along with comic book adaptations of Robert Asprin’s “Myth Adventures” fantasy novels, and I bought and read all of those.

MaiI focused my buying and reading on the trade collections of comics, because I bought them from bookstores. By this time, most supermarkets and drugstores carried very little in the way of magazines or comics. They had done away with the spinner racks, and just displayed a few magazines and maybe some Archie comics digests at the checkout counters. WaldenBooks didn’t carry them, but Honolulu Bookstore carried English translations of Japanese comics, starting in the mid-1980s. When we lived in Japan, I used to “read” the comics in my mother’s Japanese magazines, so when I saw some manga, I picked them up. One of my earliest purchases was “Mai, the Psychic Girl” by Kazuya Koda and Ryoichi Ikegami.

Ronin RabbitI also finally ventured into a couple of specialty comics shops. From that time, I started buying comics issues of some Marvel and DC series, then branched out to Eclipse Comics, Valiant, and several other publishers. Fantagraphics had been publishing “Usagi Yojimbo” comics, and I bought the trade paperback collections. I have kept up with “Usagi Yojimbo” through several decades now; Stan Sakai combines Japanese history, folklore, and cultural traditions to tell compelling stories featuring his ronin rabbit. As a mixed Japanese-White person (in Hawaii we’re called Hapa), I really appreciate seeing my Japanese culture represented in comics. I also bought the original black and white “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” trades.

These days, I enjoy manga for the time the creators take to tell the stories, and for telling stories in many different genres—from crime drama to fantasy, to wacky humor, to serious science fiction, to historical fiction, to stories focusing on food, to creepy horror. I like the black and white art, which helps me read horror. I don’t like full-color gore that so many American horror comics depict. I also get a kick out of the fact that several publishers are reprinting or publishing new comics featuring some of the comics characters I read when I was young. And I love seeing prose writers getting into comics: people like Joe Hill, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Roxane Gay, and others. I jumped up and down in my chair and screamed with joy at my computer screen when I saw that Jerry Craft’s graphic novel “The New Kid” had won the 2020 Newbery Award.

I read comics for all different age levels now, including mainstream superhero and independent comics, in almost every genre. I have supported Kickstarter and Patreon projects for a lot of new comics creators. I’m now 65 years old, and I love comics even more than I did at five. I don’t plan to stop reading comics until I can’t read any more at all. I love the incredible diversity of creators, styles, and genres that people can read. They exist in print and online. Some are available for free. Many libraries carry at least a few graphic novels that people can borrow. And I really love that my work at Brodart focuses on helping librarians find good graphic novels for their collections.

I never would have believed, even when I was in library school, that I could use my love for comics in my job. It’s been an amazing journey, and I’ll continue on it as long as I can.

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Katharine

If you’re looking for a graphic novel guru, you’re looking for Kat Kan. Kat looks like the stereotypical librarian with glasses and a bun, until you see the hair sticks and notice her earrings may be tiny books, TARDISes from Doctor Who, or LEGO Batgirls. Click here for more.

 

A One and a Two and…The Census and You: Why the Census Matters to Libraries

By Richard Hallman, M.Ln.

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Planning for the 2020 Census has been going on for years, but you could say that our latest national headcount officially began on January 21, 2020. That’s when Lizzie Chimiugak Nenguryarr became the first person counted for the 2020 census. Nenguryarr, 90, lives in Toksook Bay, Alaska. She’s a member of the Nunakauyarmiut Tribe and speaks a language called Yup’ik. The Census counted about 600 folks that day based on the 2010 Census. You’ll have to wait a little longer for an exact count.

For the rest of us, the Census begins in earnest in March. In mid-March, about 95% of U.S. homes will receive a letter from the Census Bureau. The letter will encourage most shutterstock_1552032581recipients to fill out the Census online. In some areas where Internet access is known to be less ubiquitous, recipients will still be encouraged to respond online but will also receive a paper questionnaire. They also have the option to answer Census questions over the phone. Occasional reminders will be mailed several times through the end of April. Eventually, doors will be knocked on to get as many responses as possible.

There are lots of good reasons for libraries and librarians to be involved with the Census and the ALA has done a good job of explaining them. But briefly, libraries can offer Internet access, help diverse groups find useful information about the Census in the appropriate languages, and help to make sure that respondents don’t get scammed.

According to the New York Times, you can fill out the Census online in five Asian languages, and there are guides to the Census in about two dozen Asian languages. Paper forms will only be available in two languages, however: English and Spanish.

Of course, bad people will try to use the Census to get useful info for a variety of illegal activities, so make sure your patrons know the Census doesn’t ask for Medicare card numbers, full Social Security numbers, or bank or credit card account numbers. You can also assure your patrons that the Census doesn’t ask any questions about citizenship. Read more here.

shutterstock_237968428OK, so are there any other reasons why libraries and librarians should be good helpers and citizens when it comes to the Census? Well, yes, there are more than a billion additional reasons—and all of them are green. It’s estimated that’s how much federal money will be doled out to states for libraries, based on Census findings: $1 billion.

That’s still a fraction of all the federal money that will be divvied up over time based on the Census count for all sorts of things.

So whether you’re urban or rural, rich or poor, new to this country or descended from Pilgrims, the Census is very important. And when the counting is finally complete, there will be data, data, data. Many people, businesses, and organizations will use this information to make all sorts of decisions, from where to build or expand schools, to where the next shiny new grocery store will pop out of the ground.

Are you ready for the Census?

Additional resources:

U.S. Census Bureau Survey Participant Help Page

American Library Association Census Home Page

ALA Libraries’ Guide to the Census

 

Richard Hallman, M.Ln.

Richard

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’s it Like Being an MSLS Student in 2020? Interview with Meghan Herman

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Meghan Herman graduated in 2019 from Penn College of Technology with a B.S. degree in Industrial Design. However, being the daughter of a Brodart executive (Gretchen Herman is Brodart’s Vice President of Product Development), she grew up having a close familiarity with the library industry. It was no great surprise, then, that Meghan recently decided to pursue her Master of Science in Information and Library Science (MSLS) degree from Clarion University.

Not only is she currently studying diligently to become a librarian, she also works full time in Brodart’s Collection Development department. Talk about getting a crash course in libraries from two different angles at once!

What follows is a look at one person’s MSLS journey, which will be an ongoing feature in Librarian to Librarian. Please share your own perspective as you read about Meghan’s experiences.

 

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L2L: What made you want to become a librarian?

MH: I’ve always been interested in books, so that was a strong driver for me. I graduated with an undergraduate degree in Industrial Design, but by my senior year, I had decided it wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life. Also, after I graduated, there weren’t many available positions in the field. I knew I wanted to pursue a master’s degree, but the Industrial Design programs are mostly in New York City or California, where I didn’t want to be. Then I discovered an MSLS program at Clarion that doesn’t require an undergraduate degree in Library Science. I did a lot of research, talked to people, and thought about it for almost four months. Then I made the decision to pursue my MSLS and become a librarian.

L2L: What courses have you taken so far?

I completed an introduction to librarianship and a class on databases. I’m currently taking courses on developing library collections and Information sources and services.

 L2L: Have you chosen an area of concentration in your studies?

MH: We do have areas of concentration, but I have not picked one yet. I might stick with collection development or get more into the information science aspect.

L2L: What appeals to you about collection development?

MH: Well, I enjoy building lists. It’s my current position (at Brodart). The data portion of collection development is fascinating to me. When creating lists one of the important factors we consider is demand. But aside from bestsellers and popular authors and subjects, we need also to account for important books that may not show up in a demand search. For example, technical-oriented books that have lower Dewey Decimal numbers aren’t usually in high demand, but they can be very important for a library’s collection.

 L2L: Do they teach you how to “shush” unruly patrons in the library?

MH: (Laughing) I’m not there yet. That’s a more advanced course.

shutterstock_667206523L2L: Do you have any perspective on how MSLS curricula have changed over the past few decades?

MH: Well one thing I’ve discovered is that some librarians who got their degrees years ago are surprised to find that an entire course of study can be online these days. That can be a challenging aspect, because all of the interaction is spread throughout the day, as people post their comments to lectures and discussions according to their different schedules. This can make the discussions less spontaneous and I have to monitor those posts and experience the class through my phone, which is different.

As for the curriculum itself, I feel like electronic sources have become more important.

L2L: How about issues like gender and inclusiveness?

MH: One thing I can say is that our professors ask us what we prefer to be called—not only name or nickname, but also our preferred pronouns. I’m finding the industry to be very open. As long as you can do the work, people will accept you, no matter who you are.

L2L: What is it like working in a libraries services company while studying to become a librarian?

MH: It’s very interesting to see the same challenges from two different angles. One of our homework assignments was to pick a Dewey range, choose titles in that range, and fill categories for a collection. Essentially, we picked a specific range and were assigned a budget and a specific library to select for. I do that at work as well, but there I have access to a number of automated processes. The tricky part for me is to complete the homework assignment while knowing that I have more powerful tools to use at work that make the task much easier!

shutterstock_704005726About 50% of the students already work in the library industry—like me—but some do not. So the teachers have to tailor instruction based on how much each student already knows. At the beginning of my study, I was brand new, but since then, not only have I been studying library science, but I’ve also been working every day in the industry. Some students worked in libraries, found out they really enjoyed it, and then decided to get formal degrees. Other people worked in different industries but volunteered at libraries and, as a result, decided to switch careers.

 L2L: What do you enjoy most about MSLS studies?

MH: Probably the IS aspect — especially building technical information into databases.

L2L: Is it what you expected?

MH: Yes and no. It’s a lot more writing, but I should have expected that! There are a lot of research papers on various library systems. One assignment was to choose a well-known librarian and explore that person’s professional life. I picked Judith F. Krug, who fought hard for intellectual freedom in libraries. She surprised me somewhat, because while Krug looks the part of a typical librarian — quiet, reserved older woman—her appearance belied her significance in the library world. She was an outspoken champion for incorporating books in library collections that had formerly been regarded as taboo. She focused mostly on subjects like information about STDs—nothing erotic—but which had formerly been flagged as sexual and bad. She helped to change people’s thinking so that libraries now regard those topics as important medical texts, to be included on library shelves.

I’ve also written research papers on professional specialization within the library. The professor wanted us to explore more in an area that interested us, and I used this paper to examine different options before landing on academic librarianship. This career path, while interesting, is hard to get into starting out—so it will be interesting if I ever pursue it later on in life. The last paper I’ll mention focused on the impact of eBooks and eReaders on the library, both positively and negatively.

 

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Meghan HermanIn the summer of 2019, Meghan decided to pursue her MSLS while starting a new professional job at Brodart. Outside of work and school, Meghan has what she describes as a pretty chill life.

Click here for more.