Librarians Make Great “Jeopardy!” Contestants

By Richard Hallman, M.Ln.

Now in its 35th season, the popular game show “Jeopardy!” definitely has an appeal that some other game shows — Wheel of Fortune, for instance — don’t. That’s because it’s all about knowing stuff: Shakespeare, science, sports, American history, potpourri, and lots more.

If you’re a librarian, especially a reference librarian, you may have heard someone say, “I bet you’re good at ‘Jeopardy!’” once or twice in your career. The two librarians at my house stopped watching “Jeopardy!” a while back because it’s hard to eat dinner while screaming answers in the form of a question at the TV. The only way we could win would be as a team. I’d handle categories like World Leaders, while Fern would cover Show Tunes. We would just punt on Sports.

Many librarians love “Jeopardy!”, and since it’s on five nights a week, there have beenContestants No Numbers with Frame quite a few librarian contestants over the years. In 2017, American Libraries estimated around 150 had been on the show since 2005. The magazine interviewed 11 of them, including one with whom my sister went to high school.

The American Libraries article said that since 2005 there had been 30 librarian champions, and that librarian contestants had won close to a million dollars on the show. That was before the “Giant Killer,” Emma Boettcher, took down James Holzhauer back in June. She performed her heroic deed just as Holzhauer was about to eclipse Ken Jennings’ record winnings of a little over $2.5 million. So hopefully, Jennings sent her a nice thank you card, or maybe just a check. Librarians are so helpful!

Boettcher is a user experience librarian, a job title that I’m pretty sure didn’t exist back when I was in library school. She majored in English as an undergraduate, so Shakespeare and other categories like Literature and Theater were right up her alley. Oh, and also she wrote a paper about “Jeopardy!” while in grad school, “using text mining to find out whether the readability of the show’s questions could predict their difficulty levels.” Duh!

Is it hard to get on the show? Boettcher first tried out when she was still in high school but didn’t get chosen. Nevertheless, she persisted, and it finally paid off, to the tune of just under $100,000 this year. She’ll be on a “special “Tournament of Champions” show in the first half of November along with Holzhauer and some other smarties so stay tuned.

 

Jeopardy with Text

Would you like to be a “Jeopardy!” contestant? Start here by registering, then use the online materials, including practice tests, along with your own smarts and study up.

May the best librarian crush!

 

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 Ever Happened to Virginia Woolf?

By Paul Duckworth, MLS

Virginia_Woolf_Illustration

“Lies will flow from my lips, but there may perhaps be some truth mixed up with them; it is for you to seek out this truth and to decide whether any part of it is worth keeping.”

—Virginia Woolf, “A Room of One’s Own”

 

I’m a bit embarrassed, but I need to admit up front that I’ve never read anything by Virginia Woolf. Why embarrassing, you ask? First, because I’m writing this article about her. Second, because I was an English major in college and she was a prominent literary figure in the Bloomsbury set—as well as an atheist, feminist, and pacifist. One would think she would be a legitimate part of an English major’s education. What happened that kept me from getting acquainted with her? Maybe I skipped a course on early twentieth century writers, or perhaps my college didn’t give sufficient attention to female authors. Now, let’s look at the fact that most colleges in that time period, the early 1970s, failed to highlight most women authors. No, let’s not—that’s an entirely different article. Whatever the cause of my lack of familiarity with Woolf, I regret that I did not come to know her in my education. Thankfully, I discovered her through my career as a public librarian.

Right now, you may have thoughts and questions bubbling up in your mind.

“When did she live?”

shutterstock_705620560“She killed herself, right?”

“Bloomsbury set? That’s old-fashioned women’s underwear, isn’t it?”

“She lived in a lighthouse, didn’t she?””

“I heard she was anti-Semitic.”

“She was a lesbian.”

“Wait—don’t tell me. Wasn’t she in that film “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

“Someone told me that her first name was not Virginia. Is that true?”

Or perhaps even: “Why is this guy writing an article about her?”

Whoa! Stop right there, please. All will be revealed. Be patient and I will correct some misconceptions and tell you, if not everything, then at least a lot of interesting things about Virginia Woolf.

First of all, as some of you are presuming, she is, in fact, deceased. She was born in London, England, in 1882, to a wealthy intellectual family. Woolf died in 1941 in the depths of the River Ouse, near her home in Sussex. Suffering from yet another lengthy period of debilitating depression, she had waded into the river, her pockets filled with heavy stones so that she would sink and drown. She had tried to take her own life, unsuccessfully, a few times earlier in her life, but this attempt proved successful.

An odd word to use in describing suicide: successful. Was her life successful, or was it her death that succeeded? What makes a life a success? By the standards of her time, she was wildly successful in that she married well, was exceedingly well-read and educated, and was a published author of fiction, nonfiction, essays, plays, and short stories. In addition, she was the central figure in a prominent artistic and literary group called The Bloomsbury Group. Money was always easily available to her, and so her life wasn’t burdened by the manual labor that most women endured in England in this time period.

shutterstock_1216099198Nothing stood in her way to work creatively regarding her thoughts, opinions, insights, writings, and associations with people. Nothing except her psyche. Her failing was not one of those usual ones of ability, time, or space, but rather was hidden in the inner reaches of her highly intelligent mind. She inherited a family curse—mental health issues that many of her relatives experienced. Hers was a fragile mind, prone to exhaustion and depression and shaken by the family dynamics of her early years, including being sexually molested by her two older half brothers, Gerald and George. All contributed significantly to what is clear today—she dealt with bipolar illness. She was vivid in her descriptions of how it manifested itself at times. One example is Woolf’s reflection on her mental state after completing her first novel “The Voyage Out.” “I married, and then my brains went up in a shower of fireworks. As an experience, madness is terrific… and not to be sniffed at, and in its lava I still find most of the things I write about. It shoots out of one, everything shaped, final, not in mere driblets as sanity does.”

Well, what about Woolf’s family? They were prominent and quite successful in turn-of-the-century London. Her father, Leslie Stephen, was a writer, historian, and biographer. He was the son-in-law, through his first marriage, of the novelist William Makepeace Thackeray. Julia Margaret Cameron, her cousin, was a well-known photographer. Her brother, Adrian Stephen, was a pioneering psychoanalyst and well-known pacifist. Her half-brother Gerald Duckworth (no relation to the author of this article) founded the publishing company Gerald Duckworth and Company. Her sister, Vanessa Bell, was a painter and interior designer. Chevalier Pierre Ambrose Antoine de L’Etang, her great-great grandfather, was from the French nobility and served first as a page to Marie Antoinette and later as stable master of the royal stables at Versailles. Her husband, Leonard Woolf, was a political theorist, author, and publisher. He founded Hogarth Press, which consisted of a small hand-operated printing press located in his and Virginia’s home, Hogarth House, at 34 Paradise Road in London.

shutterstock_1145084495And so, what about Virginia herself?

  • No, she did not live in a lighthouse. She did, however, write the novel “To the Lighthouse,” published in 1927.
  • The question of anti-Semitism is a bit complicated. Her husband, Leonard, was Jewish. It’s clear, though, in some of her writings, that she described Jewish people in critical and negative ways. Here’s a line from a letter she wrote in 1930: “How I hated marrying a Jew — how I hated their nasal voices and their oriental jewelry, and their noses and their wattles — what a snob I was: for they have immense vitality, and I think I like that quality best of all.”
  • Whether or not she was a lesbian might be debatable, but it is a fact that she had a long physical and emotional relationship with Vita Sackville-West, which began after Virginia married Leonard Woolf. Leonard knew of their affair and approved of it, because he wanted his wife, who was often gloomy and depressed, to have some happiness.
  • Her first name was Adeline, the name of her mother’s deceased sister. Virginia’s family never called her Adeline, due to their painful association with the name.
  • She did not, obviously, play any part in the 1966 Mike Nichols film, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”, which was adapted from the 1962 Edward Albee play. So, where does the title come from, you ask? George and Martha, played onscreen by Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, sing the lyrics “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” to the tune of “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” Interesting enough, in an interview with him published in The Paris Review, Albee stated “‘Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ means ‘Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf…who’s afraid of living without false illusions?” (See here for additional clarification)
  • In addition to her novels, she is also known for her essays, including “A Room of One’s Own,” in which she stated, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”

So, what are the takeaways here?

  1. Would Woolf perhaps still be living and writing if she had had access to Symbyax, Prozac, or Risperdal? Slim chance, as she would be 137 years old.
  2. Could she have benefited from talk therapy or positive psychology? While beneficial for many people, these approaches could not be a remedy for the severe bipolar symptoms from which Woolf suffered.
  3. Should she be ignored, not given a spotlight, since, like so many prejudiced people, she seemed to have harbored anti-Semitic views? Good question, but it begs similarly revisionist appraisals of any number of past luminaries, including Theodore Roosevelt for his joy in slaughtering wild animals, Melvil Dewey for his lascivious behavior with women, and Frederic Remington for his anti-Semitism and racist views of Native Americans.
  4. Should she have left her husband for Vita Sackville-West or worked for a closer connection with Leonard? Hmmm, sounds like magical thinking to me. What knowledge does one have of the ways of the heart and the pathways of individuation? Besides, by most accounts, Virginia and her husband were close.
  5. Are her contributions of little value, given her personal life and death? Seriously!? How many other giants of literature could be similarly dismissed, given this manner of thinking?
  6. Was Woolf a complicated enigma who offers little of value to modern readers? I wonder if this question might be more than a wee bit judgmental. Let’s dissect this thread and examine the facts.
    1. One should resist the temptation to judge historical authors on the basis of current standards and mores
    2. Her impact on her contemporaries was significant
    3. She helped lay the groundwork for future feminists

Woolf was a professional reviewer, innovative essayist, novelist, publisher, biographer, and political organizer in the socialist and women’s movements. She seems to have known or met nearly everyone of importance in her day, including Sigmund Freud, with whom she and Leonard had tea shortly after Freud escaped Nazi Vienna for London. She spoke out against war and violence. Professor Jean Mills, author of “Virginia Woolf, Jane Ellen Harrison, and the Spirit of Modernist Classicism,” said: “Woolf’s comment ‘thinking is my fighting’ was an aphorism that we can usefully claim for ourselves today. Her essay ‘Three Guineas’ has been read as her attempt to grapple with the root causes of violence and war, and she articulates several conceptions of peace throughout her literary output.”

shutterstock_575109037Woolf was not hesitant to break the mold of cultural expectations for proper women’s behavior. In “10 Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About Virginia Woolf,” the British literary biographer Lyndall Gordon wrote, “In the 19th century nice women were quiet. Virginia Woolf said that she and her sister were taught the ‘tea-table’ manner. This was designed to keep polite, self-effacing conversation flowing. The most vital fact in her life was the contrast between this stifling of utterance, this concealment in ‘shadow’ and the ground shaking under her like an earthquake when she brought out her full-throated ‘Outsider’ voice, protesting against military or domestic violence in favour of nurture, listening and sympathy, values which the civilized of both sexes already share. The voice of her Outsider prepares the way for the present voice of the #MeToo generation.”

In the midst of Woolf’s articulate contributions to literary, cultural, political, and social circles, there was an intermittent and turbulent wrestling with an unknown force within her psyche. She was unable to elude it. In a suicide note she left to her husband, Leonard Woolf, she wrote, “I feel certain that I am going mad again. I feel we can’t go through another of these terrible times. And I shan’t recover this time. I begin to hear voices and I can’t concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do.”

If a person were to take away only one reason to celebrate Woolf, it would be my assertion that she was not just an important author, but a feminist icon. How so? She gave two lectures at the University of Cambridge’s women’s colleges in 1928 and developed them into the famous essay “A Room of One’s Own,” which was published the following year. As Wikipedia states, it was “an important feminist text… noted in its argument for both a literal and figurative space for women writers within a literary tradition dominated by men.” Her voice, along with those of other women writers before and after, has helped to open up publishing to women. And, it has helped put more women’s book on our library shelves and important voices in the spotlight.

 

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

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.

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.

 

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.

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.

Spanish-Language Collection Development: What to Keep in Mind When Selecting


Hablas Espanol_331952135

By Jessica L. Blaker, Spanish Services, Collection Development & Acquisitions

The demand for Spanish materials in public libraries has increased dramatically over the past few years, and librarians have accepted the challenge to find the right titles for their library’s demographic.

Often, libraries do not have in-house staff with enough experience or language skills to make the best decisions. When you don’t speak the language and reviews are nonexistent, how do you know what to buy? Simply filling your shelves with Spanish language titles does not guarantee success, and it doesn’t mean your materials will appeal to patrons or circulate.

Library Patrons_160679732Know Your Patron Base

One of the keys to selecting Spanish materials for your library is knowing your population’s country of origin. The Spanish dialect in which a book is written can have a big impact on how readable or useful it will be in your community. For instance, the Spanish spoken in Spain is much different than the Spanish spoken in Latin America. A picture book or board book that contains words and expressions colloquial to Spain, for example, may look odd to Mexican readers, and therefore be less appealing.

While it is important to be mindful of regionalism, it’s a mistake to take this too far and totally exclude authors and publishers from Spain (assuming your patrons hail from countries other than Spain). Doing so could cause you to miss out on a big chunk of what’s out there.

Thinking that Mexicans or Salvadorans would not want to read materials from Spanish authors is akin to me saying that, because I am an American, I won’t ready Harry Potter, since the author of that series is from the UK. Spanish authors such as Carlos Ruiz Zafon, who enjoys universal readership, could get lost in the shuffle. That would shortchange your community.

Brodart’s Spanish materials experts vet as many titles as possible — particularly children’s titles — reviewing them for dialect and quality. We also note author country of origin on adult titles to aid in selection. These are the factors that will be important to your Spanish-speaking patrons.

English Language Titles in Spanish

Many Spanish translations of popular English language titles are published in Spain. For example, “Miedo: Trump en La Casa Blanca (Fear: Trump in the White House),” by Bob Woodward, is being released in December by Roca Editorial. This is likely to be one of the biggest books of the year. But a library that excludes publishers from Spain would never see that title in its library collection. Other examples of popular and must-have titles coming out of Spain include “El cuento de criada (The Handmaid’s Tale)” by Margaret Atwood and “La forma del agua (The Shape of Water)” by Guillermo del Toro.

Appropriateness for American Libraries

We Americans tend to be more prudish than much of the rest of the world when it comes to sex and nudity. An example of this is a book from Spanish Publishers called “El pañal de Bumba.” This is a board book about a little boy who has lost his diaper. Right or wrong, the illustrations in this book, while perfectly acceptable in Europe, would be challenged in the US. The title does not meet American standards for board books, due to depictions of nudity (albeit childish nudity).

In this case, it would be understandable to exclude the title due to the illustrations. This is why book-in-hand reviews are imperative.

Here’s another point you may not have considered: juvenile titles from Spain are often printed in cursive font. This may not sound like a big deal, but many schools across the US are no longer teaching children cursive. Conversely, cursive writing (la caligrafia) is still widely taught in Central and South America. Thus, while a book’s subject matter may be deemed appropriate for American children, and while Spanish-speaking children who have learned to read in another country might have no trouble with it, it would be unintelligible to English-speaking American children learning Spanish. Titles printed in cursive are not of interest to many public libraries.

What Is Popular among Spanish Speakers?Hispanic Couple Reading_253450447

Like their English-speaking counterparts, Hispanic patrons read a balanced mix of both fiction and nonfiction.

In nonfiction, the most popular Dewey categories are the 100s, 200s, 300s, and 600s. The general trend in Hispanic nonfiction is toward self-improvement books. Leylha Ahuile, writing in Publishers Weekly, points out that there is a high demand for self-improvement literature in the Spanish-­language book market in the US, including books on “finance, health, marriage, parenting, acquiring or improving skills, entrepreneurship, leadership, and spirituality.” The same holds true for English speakers: these topics are universal and tend to be among the most in-demand and highest-circulating items in libraries today.

Graphic Novels

Most Spanish-language graphic novels tend to come from Mexico and Spain. Spanish Publishers has recently picked up the wildly popular “Lumberjanes (Lenadoras)” in Spanish for the YA market. Interestingly enough, there are a number of current widely popular graphic novels that poke fun at the US President and our current state of affairs. These titles are mostly from Mexico.

Hello Hola_1020911380Háblanos! (Talk to Us!)

Overcoming language barriers and reaching underserved populations is one of the most rewarding experiences for librarians. We would love to hear your stories and welcome your questions and concerns about Spanish-language collection development. Leave a comment to share!

For further reading:

Library Journal’s Collection Development feature on Selecting Spanish

RUSA’s Guidelines for Library Services to Spanish-Speaking Library Users

 

Jessica Blaker

Jessica

Jessica Blaker has been a Spanish cataloger and a customer account manager at Brodart. She came back to Spanish as a collection development paraprofessional, which she loves due to the variety and the opportunity to work with customers. Click here for more.