Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Stand Alone Debate

How important is it for a book in a series to stand alone? I think this question has different answers depending upon the context. For example, as a member of the YALSA's Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults committee, we hotly debated this topic as a judging criteria. We determined that it is not our place to critique the story of a particular audiobook. We are merely concerned with the production value. Therefore, even if we are lost in terms of storyline, if the production is off the charts outstanding it could still make our list. Since our list is used widely by librarians as a collection development tool, we've decided to make notes in the annotations whenever a title is part of a series.
But this got me thinking about doing in-person reader's advisory. I like to recommend series because I feel like the tween/teen gets more bang for their buck assuming that if they like one book in a series they will have many more to keep them busy and hopefully encourage them to explore other books written by that author. I can't tell you, though, how frustrating it is when I'm recommending a series and the first copy is checked out! As you know, there are some series that you just have to read in order.
If all authors did as excellent a job at recaping previous books as Alexander Gordon Smith does with his Furnace series this wouldn't be an issue. The first chapter of each book is always a thorough, yet surprisingly non-redundant, recap of the previous books. I'm reading this series marathon style - one right after the other - so the previous events are fresh in my mind, but I still value that synopsis. Even though my preference is that teens read these books in order, I would (and do) tell them it's ok to start with book two since book one is always checked out. I know they will go back and read it later...they're that good!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Subwoofers and Storytime

So this summer, baby's on a budget. Well, let's be frank, for the last three years we've been on a tight budget. I've been employed here for almost two years and for two years in a row I was biting my nails and twisting my fingers because it was likely that I would be getting a pink slip if the Mayor had his way. But alas this June, I was saved again by the outcrys of the people and the City Council voting "no" on the Mayor's budget cut proposals. I still don't undertstand where the "found $$" comes from...is it credit? imaginary? hidden treasure? But that is neither here nor there at this point.

The point of that tirade was to explain what the tight budget means for summer reading at my library (sorry got a little caught up).  Every Thursday from June-August for the last few years two groups of preschoolers walk over to the library. In the past they were treated to amazing performers and had a great time, but we just don't have the funds for performers every week. I'm doing my best to be a great "performer" at storytime, and am counting down the weeks until the real performers come. It's not that I don't like doing storytime, girrrlll you know I love it.... it's just I feel bad for these 50 kiddies (plus about 7-10 regulars) who want some clowns 'cause they know it's summer!

So I'm trolling through storytime blogs to see what new and exciting things I can come up with to add some flare. I was on Mel's Desk in preparation for my Messy/Clean storytime this week and saw her great plan and a link to Susan Dailey's page and I was saved! Mel used the book Pete the Cat by Eric Litwin and when I pulled our copy I saw that it came with a free download from Harper Collins.

The download turned out to be Mr. Litwin reading the book and singing the song that the cat sings. I plugged one of our laptops into a speaker with a subwoofer because the head of IT  said it would "blow these little kid's chests open." He was so right! I'm really glad that I decided to use the mp3 file instead of reading it myself, because the story was so much cooler coming from the author. The kids were singing and dancing with the song, their teachers were clapping along to it, and even the staff here in the Children's Room was singing after the storytime finished. Here is my plan, without the parent patter and theme talk I include:

Greeting Songs: I have five different "Hello" songs on my playlist because this allows the kids to get settled in, and helps those already seated to have something to do while we wait for our other friends
Opening Song: "Warm-Up Time" by Georgiana Stewart
Book: Max Cleans Up by Rosemary Wells (this was great because a few kids yelled out Max & Ruby!)
Fingerplay: "Cleaning my Room" by Susan Dailey
Activity: Cleaning Up sorting activity (details on Susan and Mel's pages, great sorting game)
Book: Mrs. McNosh Hangs Up her Wash by Sarah Weeks
Fingerplay: "Washing Clothes" by Susan Dailey
Song Book: Pete the Cat by Eric Litwin (performed during this session by author)
--I planned to do another flannel story, "5 Clean and Squeaky Pigs" from Mel but the kids were getting restless so I transitioned to movement
Prop Song: "Splish Splash" with bean bags
Transition Songs: I played two songs about cleaning up, one from Barney ("Clean Up") and one from Laurie Berkner ("Clean it Up"), while I collected the bean bags and it was great because the kids knew we were almost finished
Closing Rhyme: a modified version of "Teddy Bear Teddy Bear" that I made up to close my storytimes

I've got another round of preschool storytime at the homeless shelter preschool tomorrow, so I hope it goes as well as today's did! And for the record I will be using a subwoofer from now on during storytime.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Tales from a First Timer

Both Kirby and Lalitha have written amazing blog posts summarizing their experience at ALA 2011 in New Orleans.  I heartily second their emotions and advice, and as I attended most of the same functions they did I don’t have much new content to contribute.  That being said, I thought I would still post about my experience from the perspective of a first time conference attendee.

I have participated in past ALA’s on a superficial level – mostly just perusing the exhibit halls although at Midwinter 2011 in San Diego I was asked to bring a group of teenagers from my In BeT(w)een Book Club to participate in the Best Fiction for Young Adults session.  It was amazing for my teens to be able to provide feedback on the dozens of books they read in front of an audience of nearly 100 librarians, publishing reps, teachers, and other teens.  Afterwards, I took them through the exhibit hall and literally had to kick them out when the lights shut off.  They were gobsmacked at the number of ARCs they received and the positive attention they were getting from the publishing reps who really wanted to know what the teens thought of their books.

Having recently been appointed to the YALSA Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults committee, I am know committed to attending Annual and Midwinter for the next two years. NOLA 2011 was my first experience as a fully registered participant.

-        Meeting so many amazing, friendly, normal, abnormal, down-to-earth, talented authors. Many of whom have been highlighted in Kirby’s earlier blog posts.  I was standing in line waiting for Brian Selznick to sign my copy of Wonder Struck and eavesdropping on the 10-year-old boy standing behind me who was FREAKING OUT and literally pacing back and forth with excitement.  He was the physical embodiment of how I was feeling on the inside.

-        Networking with my amazing librarian peers. At the Library Journal Movers & Shakers award reception I had the honor of meeting about 80 fellow award recipients. It was so motivational chatting with people who are still enthusiastic and passionate about their profession and the potential that they see for positive change. I felt this way over and over again at many of the events, receptions, and shuttle rides. I value the opportunity to put names to faces that I’ve gotten to know online, meet new colleagues who I look forward to working with remotely in the future, and reconnecting with local colleagues that I only get to see once or twice a year.

-        ARCs and Vendors.  I was thrilled to get so many ARCs not only because I want to read them but also because my teens froth at the mouth for them.  I also really enjoyed wandering up and down the aisles and talking to vendors (like Goosebottom Books) that I’d never heard of and getting to talk to an actual person (instead of a machine) from vendors I use on a regular basis. I was also smart enough to think ahead and bring an empty duffle bag folded in the bottom of my checked bag so that I didn’t have to pay to ship home any ARCs. Even exercising constraint in the exhibit hall, I still came home with over 40 lbs of books.  Luckily. Continental Airlines allows you to check two bags under 50 lbs for free.  I’ll definitely remember that when I book my ticket for Dallas!

-        Being overcommitted with meetings and events. I’m thrilled to be a part of the YALSA Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults Committee and the YALSA Mentoring Task Force, and to have received the Library Journal Movers & Shakers award and wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything. However, between my required meetings, events sponsored by publishers that I work closely with, and receptions I wanted to attend in order to meet my favorite authors I really didn’t leave myself any time for sightseeing and escaping the French Quarter.  I also didn’t have much time to attend any of the conference workshops or film screenings, many of which sounded very interesting.

-        The weather!! This was obviously beyond my control and that of the people of New Orleans, but 85 degree weather with 90% humidity and I just don’t get along well.

-        Not trying any of the restaurants I so diligently researched ahead of time. I did a lot of online research prior to leaving for NOLA and because of my over commitments and a general lack of motivation to wander around exploring (due to the weather) I missed out on some of the restaurants that I really wanted to try – many of which I saw through the window of my taxi as I drove to the airport – were literally around the block from my hotel. 

-        Despite every “What to know before you go” blog post I read regarding Annual, I still made the mistake of not bringing the right shoes.  Part of the reason is that I wanted to maintain my sense of adorable style J and not give in to the sensible shoe stereotype that plagues librarians.  The other part was that I have a lot of foot issues (super high arches and a broken left toe) that have made finding comfortable shoes nearly impossible. The pair of sandals that I wear to work on a daily basis got nearly ruined the first night we were in the French Quarter when we got caught in a deluge and they stretched out two sizes.  It’s one thing to be on your feet for 9 hours a day and walk the length of my library 30 times; it’s quite another to walk with intention and have to be on the other side of New Orleans in 30 minutes walking on dirty concrete in the rain. So it is now my mission to find the perfect pair of shoes for walking long distances with intention that can look cute with dresses, and provide enough support without having to be broken in.  If you have recommendations please advise!

-        The reason I’m not posting any adorable pictures is that I wasn’t able to take any. I have an iPhone 3G and every time I open my camera application it freezes my phone and I have to restart it.  I received many a dirty look from publishing reps and librarians alike as I struggled to make my camera work in order to take a picture at a book signing. 

-        Sacrifice cute for comfort when it comes to shoes
-        Make time for sightseeing and just hanging out
-        Exercise self-control in the exhibit hall
-        Consult with my GIS (Geographic Information Systems) librarian colleague to create a map of the restaurants I want to eat at in relation to my hotel. Bring a point and shoot camera or upgrade your phone


Monday, July 4, 2011

Can't forget Carrie Ryan!

Carrie Ryan was at one of the ALA publisher parties and although I don't have an ARC from Ryan to review, I still wanted to give her a little love on the blog. I've read the first in her series The Forest of Hands and Teeth, and although I am not a zombie girl I liked it. I found the main character Mary extremely frustrating at times, so much so that I wanted to jump into the book and have a pep talk with her, and I saw that as great writing by Ryan. Carrie Ryan does skype sessions for free, so if you are interested in having her at your library virtually, contact her!

with the California crew

Friday, July 1, 2011

ALA 2011 Wrap-Up

Last weekend's sojourn in the Big Easy taught me some valuable lessons regarding professional development and networking among librarians. I generally consider myself to be pretty shy, and when it comes to putting myself out there, and networking with new colleagues, I freeze up. Sure, I interact with many of these folks on Twitter (which has proven to be an amazing place to commiserate with colleagues on all things Library/Publishing/whatever), but talking to them in person? Uh uh. However, I've learned that if you hang out too long on the sidelines, you're not getting the most out of your conference experience. And, you're certainly not growing professionally. So, here's what I did this weekend, to overcome my shyness. If it worked for me, it can totally work for you, too!

1. Don't be afraid to say hi.

Don't be afraid to say hello to fellow librarians, publishers, authors and, well, basically anyone at the ALA conference. Seriously. Now, you might be thinking, "Gosh, I don't want to look like a dork, or appear all fangirl/boy around these people." Well, don't. When I arrived in NOLA, the first event on my agenda was a party thrown by Little, Brown Young Readers, celebrating the upcoming release of Laini Taylor's DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE. These types of events are consummate opportunities to make new friends, share your appreciation about an author's work, and just generally have a good time. At Kirby, Kiesha, and Joanna's urging, I mustered up the courage to go up to librarians/bloggers, Kelly Jensen , Angie Manfredi, and Abby Johnson, and personally introduce myself. I had been following their blogs and Twitter feeds for a while, applying many of their suggested library practices and book recommendations in my own work. Imagine my relief when they all turned out to be super-friendly (I mean, why wouldn't they be?). I'd like to think they also appreciated knowing the positive impacts of their blogging/tweeting. Throughout the weekend, I also introduced myself to people whose names I heard via the YALSA grapevine, and whose work (whether it was through committees or articles written in VOYA, SLJ, etc.) I admired. You never know if you'll be serving on a committee with any of these folks (chances are, you will), so it's always good to make friends (because making friends is fun!).
At the LBYR party, as well as other receptions I attended this weekend, I made a point of going up to various authors (because chatting with an author in the crowded, noisy exhibits hall can be a flustering experience) to relate personal anecdotes ("My teens/children loved your book, because...") and share my admiration of their work. I kept it all brief, but to the point. Simon & Schuster's dinner for debut authors was a lovely opportunity to network with a writer from California--we are now in contact via Twitter, and it's my hope that she'll come speak at my library in the near future.

2. Check entitled attitudes at the door.

Often some of us attend ALA assuming we're going to pick up a ton of free books, swag, whatever. Some of us do not realize that there are limited quantities of these items available, and that publishers have spent exorbitant amounts of $$ producing and carting these items to the conference. That being said, it's a bit uncouth to go into a booth and start grabbing ARCS willy-nilly (especially multiple quantities) with little regard for your fellow librarians/bloggers, as well as the publishers themselves. Here are some tips that will hopefully keep you in the good graces of the exhibitors as well as fellow conference goers:
  • Unless there are piles and piles of ARCs (grab only 1, please!), do not assume the display ARCs are yours for the taking, even if there are 2-3 copies. If you are interested in a particular title, politely ask the publisher/rep if there are extra copies. Usually, they will take your business card (have plenty handy, you'll need them) and promise to send one to you later. In my experience, most publishers (especially LBYR) have been really great about this.
  • If there are lines for book signings, giveaways, whatever, do not, under any circumstances, CUT IN LINE. The librarians/bloggers will practically flay you (and you'll probably deserve it). Be polite.
  • For goodness sakes, DON'T STEAL! At Penguin, three boxes of Ally Condie's CROSSED disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Seriously. It is no wonder that Penguin was extremely strict about releasing their ARCs at given times during the conference--with this type of behavior, who could blame them? At Random House, the display ARC of David Levithan's EVERY YOU EVERY ME disappeared before the designated giveaway time--incredibly frustrating for anyone who wanted to peruse RH's only copy of the book. The poor RH rep apologized to me profusely, but all I could think was, bad karma on the person who did that. If this keeps happening, I swear, publishers will put the kibosh on bringing free stuff to ALA. Don't ruin it for the rest of us, yo'!

3. Don't forget to say THANK YOU!

Don't forget to thank the publishers, authors, and all the people who make your ALA conference worthwhile--a verbal thank you during/after the event, or even a nice email is great. Whenever I am invited to receptions/events, I always remember to send a handwritten thank you note (because I'm a ridiculous stationery addict) to the organizer. An incredible amount of work goes into planning these kinds of events, and such a little thing like a thank you note goes a long way.

4. Don't hoard - share your knowledge!

I really don't think of myself as a mentor, but this weekend, my friend Joanna kept telling me how impressed she was with my ability to "fearlessly" approach people and talk to them. Um, Joanna is pretty fearless herself, so her comment meant quite a lot to me. But, seriously, I wasn't always like this. I had great friends that I met through Quick Picks, who showed me the ropes and introduced me to several wonderful people, for which I am beyond grateful. Now I feel like it's my turn. At my alumni reception, I met a woman who wanted to know how she could get more involved with committee work--I shared my experiences with her, and gave her some suggestions for how she could increase her involvement and visibility in associations like YALSA and ALSC. Remember, we were all newbies once upon a time.

That's all I have for now, but stay tuned for an ALA '11 ARC haul post from me, as well as a few reviews.