Tuesday, April 25, 2017

week 16 : the future of the book

Ursula K. Le Guin makes a good point that there was never a time when everyone read books, and there's no reason to expect everyone to start reading books today. The 'century of the book' understandably came to a close, it seems, as stories and entertainment began to take on new forms in television and movies. I like how Le Guin frames reading and watching TV or movies as both private individual and shared social experiences. With the increased popularity of Netflix and other online streaming sites, television and movies have acquired the potential to become private experiences, more similar to reading than even ten years ago when college students would crowd around one person's TV on Thursday nights at 8PM to watch the newest episode of Grey's Anatomy.

Thinking about the staying power of reading (especially in comparison to television and movies), I've noticed that people still carry a 'moralizing tone' when they talk about the amount of reading that they do (or don't do). Many people seem to feel ashamed for having read less than 'they should,' and, similarly, many people seem to feel ashamed for watching Netflix more than 'they should.' My own experience echoes these common sentiments; I often feel proud of myself for reading (as opposed to watching TV or aimlessly surfing the internet), and surely that feeling is rooted in a lifetime of being taught that reading is 'good' and 'productive.' For better or worse, I suspect that this perceived morality of reading will continue to pull some people towards reading, at least some of the time. I guess there's a lot more to say on this topic, but this was where my mind went!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

week 15 : promoting your fiction collection

1. Clear and readable signs for Readers' advisory services
When you spend twenty hours a week sitting at the reference or circulation desk, it's easy to forget that these service points aren't always clear and visible to patrons. My experience of working in a newly renovated library with minimal signage has provided a constant reminder that many patrons can't distinguish the reference desk from the circulation desk. And how could they, really? There are absolutely no signs indicating the function of these distinct service desks. Saricks' suggestion for clear signs seems like an excellent starting point for promoting a library's fiction collection. A sign reading "Ask here for reading suggestions" or "Not sure what to read?" provides a clear first step in the process of finding a book to read.

2. Book displays
For patrons who prefer to browse independently, permanent or rotating book displays allow librarians a chance to highlight specific titles. Saricks mentions her library's ongoing book display called "Good Books You May Have Missed", which she describes as one of their most successful book displays to date. The patron may have limited time to choose a book, or perhaps they would rather not discuss their reading preferences with a librarian. No matter the case, a book display can provide a less daunting browsing experience for the patron. It's sort of like sandwiches at a deli -- you can build your own from scratch or choose one of their in-house specials.

3. Annotated book lists
Book lists with annotations require time and energy. However, as Saricks points out, it's near impossible to get a sense of a book from just a title; a shorter book list with annotations provides a much richer resource for the patron. Further, locally created book lists can be beneficial for patrons and staff, alike. As I've learned from this class, the practice of writing annotations strengthens the librarian's ability to assess a book based on its content and appeal factors, and these skills are undoubtedly helpful in readers' advisory service.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

LGBTQ+ annotation: The summer we got free

The summer we got free
By Mia McKenzie

Genre: African American fiction; LGBTQ+ fiction
Publication date: 2012
Number of pages: 242 pages
Literary Awards: Lambda Literary Award for LGBT Debut Fiction (2013)


The reader meets Ava Delaney as a thirty year-old married woman, living together with her husband, her parents, and her sister in her parents’ house in Philadelphia. She works at a museum cafeteria during the day, and she’s largely indifferent to her surroundings. One morning, unknown woman shows up unexpectedly at the Delaney house, and her presence mysteriously stirs up a long dormant fire in Ava. Told in chapters alternating between Ava’s childhood in the 1950s and the year of 1976, when their visitor appears, the story unfolds to reveal the Delaney family’s path from once beloved among their neighbors and church community to dramatically ostracized and isolated after a violent and tragic event.


Storyline - character-driven
Characters - complex, well-developed
Writing style - descriptive, lush
Tone - haunting, stirring, amusing, sensuous
Pace - leisurely


What Night Brings (2003)
by Carla Trujillo
“Marci Cruz wants God to do two things: change her into a boy, and get rid of her father. What Night Brings is the unforgettable story of Marci's struggle to find and maintain her identity against all odds - a perilous home life, an incomprehensible Church, and a largely indifferent world.” (Goodreads)

I’ve Got a Time Bomb (2014)
by Sybil Lamb
“On her way home from a gay wedding, Sybil’s eponymous protagonist is ambushed, beaten, and left for dead on the train tracks. Days later, Sybil awakens in a hospital and finds her skull has been reconstructed, but it quickly becomes clear that her version of “normal” and “reality” may have been permanently altered. When she falls in love with a very beautiful, but very married, actress, Sybil does what comes naturally: she presents the object of her affection with a homemade explosive device, and then abruptly leaves town.
I’ve Got A Time Bomb chronicles her surrealistic journey living among the loners, losers, and leave-behinds in the dark corners of Amerika.” (Goodreads)

Yabo (2014)
by Alexis De Veaux

“See YABO... like a Mingus composition: Pentecostal, blues-inflected, full of wit and that deep literacy of the black diaspora. The present, the past, the uncertain future collapse upon themselves in this narrative of place/s. Our dead move with us: behind us, above us, confronting us--in Manhattan; Asheville (N.C.); Buffalo, NY; Jamaica; the hold of a funky slave ship; crossing and bending lines between genders, sexualities, longing and geographies. Time is a river endlessly coursing, shallow in many places, deep for long miles, and, finally, deadly as the hurricane that engulfs and destroys the slave vessel, 'Henrietta Marie.' YABO calls our ghosts back and holds us accountable for memory."(Cheryl Clarke)

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

week 14 prompt: LGBTQ+ and African American fiction shelving

I would choose to keep LGBTQ+ and African American fiction physically integrated into the larger fiction section rather than separating them into their own sections. As Erin mentioned in her prompt, complete separation prevents patrons from stumbling upon an author or a work that they may not have sought out on their own. In other words, the segregation of sub-genres like LGBTQ+ and African American fiction ensures that these books will only be noticed by patrons who are already determined to seek them out. 

LGBTQ+ and African American fiction titles should be visible and accessible for all patrons. However, the separation of sub-genres into physical sections prevents patrons from browsing anonymously. Perhaps especially for younger patrons (or patrons of any age who do not publicly identify as LGBTQ+) seeking resources and literature on LGBTQ+ topics, anonymity is crucial. 

One drawback in the decision to keep these sub-genres in the general fiction section is the possibility that these titles will be smothered by the overwhelming and disproportionate number of fiction works created by and for white heterosexual men. With that concern in mind, I would work to promote these smaller sub-genre collections through a variety of passive readers' advisory strategies: printed and online booklists for each sub-genre, rotating displays featuring new titles in LGBTQ+ and African American fiction, and stickers or markers on the bindings of these titles to increase their visibility for the browsing patron.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

young adult annotation: Inside out & back again

Inside out & back again
By Thanhha Lai

Genre: Historical fiction, Young adult fiction, Novel in verse
Publication date: 2011
Number of pages: 262


Ten year-old Hà has grown up in Saigon with the Vietnam War as a persistent reality of daily life.  Hà’s father disappeared on a navy mission when she was a baby, soldiers patrol the neighborhood nightly, and her mother rarely smiles anymore. And despite these and other traumas, wartime Saigon is the setting of Hà’s vibrant life, her home. In the months leading up to the fall of Saigon in 1975, friends and neighbors slowly begin to flee their homes. Along with her mother and three older brothers, Hà packs her bag and says goodbye to her house, her papaya tree, and her sense of belonging. They spend weeks at sea on an overcrowded ship before they reach Guam and then, later, America. At the mercy of a sponsor, Hà’s family is resettled in Alabama, where they must each start over again, in school, in language, in creating a home. “No one would believe me,” she writes, “but at times / I would choose / wartime in Saigon / over / peacetime in Alabama.”


The storyline is driven by the characters and notable moments of Hà’s experiences during this momentous year of her life. The characters are relatable and poignantly portrayed. The book is written sparsely in verse, and, despite the relatively few words, Lai’s style is lush, rich and candid. Perhaps it’s Lai’s economy of words that contributes to Hà’s effortlessly piercing and insightful observations about her surroundings. The pace is leisurely, and each day’s entry begs to be re-read.


The land I lost (1982)
Huynh, Quang Nhuong
“A collection of personal reminiscences of the author's youth in a hamlet on the central highlands of Vietnam.” (NoveList)

Out of the dust (1997)
Hesse, Karen
“In a series of poems, fourteen-year-old Billie Jo relates the hardships of living on her family's wheat farm in Oklahoma during the dust bowl years of the Depression.” (NoveList)

90 Miles to Havana (2010)
Flores-Galbis, Enrique
“When Julian's parents send him and his two brothers to Miami to escape from the Cuban revolution, the boys are thrust into a new world where bullies run rampant and it is not always clear how best to protect themselves.” (NoveList)

Brown girl dreaming (2014)
Woodson, Jacqueline
“In vivid poems that reflect the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, an award-winning author shares what it was like to grow up in the 1960s and 1970s in both the North and the South.” (NoveList)

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

week 13 : young adult, new adult, graphic novels

Speaking as a reader who has only relatively recently delved into the YA and graphic novel 'genres', I have identified with both sides of this debate about the place of YA, NA, and graphic novels in the domain of Literature. As a college student and in the years afterward, I thought that I should be reading Important Books. I tried reading a number of American classics with the assumption that if I had half a brain, then I would enjoy them immensely. But I didn't really enjoy them; I suffered through them, hoping that they'd get better or that I'd get better at "getting" them. At that time, I remember feeling like I had to push myself to grow into 'adult' literature and out of less 'legitimate' literature (as if our reading preferences should follow a prescribed, linear trajectory). 

I had never sought out readers' advisory, formally or informally, and I didn't talk about reading much with friends or family. I didn't know what others actually enjoyed or why. In more recent years, I've found myself surrounded --thank heavens-- by friends and peers who tend to unapologetically read exactly what they please. When a friend raves about the latest YA or graphic novel that they've read, I am reminded once again that these genres can be just as powerful, provocative, and relevant as any other genre. 

I'm grateful to friends for normalizing and promoting YA and graphic novels for me. Librarians have many opportunities to do this same work with patrons. I was struck by the image that Erin posted in this week's blog post; I wonder how much sooner I would have picked up a YA novel if I had seen such a sign on the shelves at age 20. I imagine that librarians can integrate YA, NA, and graphic novels into book displays along with other popular fiction in such a way that the patron may not immediately notice distinctions between genres. 

The integration of these genres can also happen as a part of active readers' advisory strategies. A librarian may choose to recommend a YA or graphic novel to a patron based on their interests, even if they haven't specifically requested a novel of that type. A recommendation of this sort may require a bit of finesse; it's possible that a patron could feel belittled or misunderstood if the librarian doesn't provide some context for suggesting a type of book that is commonly disparaged.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

nonfiction readers' advisory

The Readers' Advisory Matrix for Future Sex by Emily Witt

1. Where is the book on the narrative continuum?
Highly narrative

2. What is the subject of the book?
On the state of sex and erotic possibilities -- including polyamory, kink, group sex and orgasmic meditation -- in 21st century America.

3. What type of book is it?
Somewhere between memoir and investigative journalism

4. Articulate appeal:

What is the pacing of the book?
Much like an extended feature story in a newspaper, this book reads quickly but takes its time in moving the reader through richly detailed descriptions of people, places, situations.

Describe the characters of the book.
Witt introduces the reader to quite a few fascinating characters. Some characters, like the polyamorous triad in San Francisco, are the subject of an entire chapter, while others receive a few paragraphs of attention. Framed as a sort of memoir of self-discovery, Witt is the thread between the varied contexts of the book.

How does the story feel?
wry, detached, yet relatable at moments

What is the intent of the author?
To explore current expressions of "free love" and sexual freedom, told from the context of her own experience as a curious outsider to these communities and practices.

What is the focus of the story?
Witt focuses on a handful of communities and practices that reside somewhere along the fringe of the dominant heteronormative sexual culture in America. She explores polyamory, kink, internet porn, live webcams, group sex and orgasmic meditation through a combination of observation, interview, and personal experience.

Does the language matter?
Yes! Despite her own hesitance in many of the settings, Witt's rich descriptions of characters and settings bring the book to life.

Is the setting important and well-described?
Yes and yes.

Are there details, and if so, what?
Lots of details, ranging from physical descriptions of people and places to historical context of practices and communities.

Are there sufficient charts and other graphics? N/A

Does the book stress moments of learning, understanding, or experience?
Though the book does provide some in-depth demonstrations of firsthand experience, there was surprisingly little emphasis on learning or understanding from these experiences.

5. Why would a reader enjoy this book?
Memorable characters, vivid settings, richly detailed