Category Archives: Uncategorized

A meeting of the library minds

February 11th 2014

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about an email I had sent to my public library administration in December expressing some frustrations over their poor YA collection development. (They didn’t have Cat Winters’ In the Shadow of Blackbirds which I was dying to read, or any Maureen Johnson novel published past 2006, not to mention they were missing several Printz books…) But then I didn’t hear anything back. Nothing. Radio silence. It wasn’t until after I participated in a phone-in town hall meeting with my state senator, and brought up the issues I had with our library, that I got a response. From my state senator. Still, not the library. Well, long story short, my state senator put me in touch with the new library board president and he invited me to meet with him and two other board members to discuss the library and ideas on improving, not just the YA collection, but teen outreach and customer service.

That meeting happened last night at the new library building in town. I was so excited to attend. You’d think I was going on a wine tour in Napa Valley. But, as a YA librarian, being given a chance to talk about the insufficient YA collection and programming is a tremendous opportunity. And the board did not disappoint. They listened to my ideas with open ears. They deferred to my experience and knowledge. The board president apologized to me for not receiving a reply to my 1.5 page email. He was interested in my ideas on how to get teens into the library and he asked me for a specific list of YA titles the library should order for the collection. At one point, I was referred to as a consultant which practically made my head explode. These trustees seem to be very involved and they value community input.

I left the meeting feeling very hopeful about the future of the library and excited about the changes I believe are coming. Just this morning, I sent another email with a recommended list of YA titles and teen programming ideas and I have faith progress will be made. Perhaps, in baby steps, but still progress. Because in Pennsylvania (unlike New Jersey), library funding does not come from taxes unless a special referendum is passed. But county residents won’t pass a referendum for the library unless the library can show how they are an integral part of the community. And unfortunately, they haven’t been able to do that.

I am incredibly grateful that my state senator facilitated this meeting and I’m grateful that the board of trustees were receptive to my ideas. And hopefully some wicked YA books will be gracing the shelves of our public library very soon.

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ARC Winner!

January 26th 2014

Congratulations to Janet Johnson who won the Mistwalker ARC! And thanks to everyone who took the time to comment on the blog. It means the world to me.

 

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Fab website makeover & giveaway

January 20th 2014

I am so excited because my website got a fabulous new makeover! Tasha at My Cute Lobster created the design based off an idea I had. The girl on the homepage is my accidental sleuth. She’s stumbled upon a mystery and is taking notes under the lamplight, with her trusty greyhound protector by her side. I even wrote a piece of flash fiction for the homepage.

With trusty Sergeant by my side, I stand beneath the yellow light and watch. And wait. From my vantage point, I can see shadows moving behind closed curtains. No one’s left the apartment building for hours and my feet throb in these dreadful heels. Perhaps, I shouldn’t have left the sock hop early to tail Mr. Key, especially not during a slow dance with dreamy Bobby Goldman when Buddy Holly was playing. I just keep telling myself that I’m doing this for Edith, my best friend. There will be plenty of school dances to go to once I figure out how Mr. Key is involved. Until then, I stand in the shadows and watch and wait.

In honor of my website’s fabulous new look, I am going to giveaway a fabulous ARC — Mistwalker by Saundra Mitchell — to a random commenter. (I feel like it’s a fitting novel for the mysterious and intriguing atmosphere on my new site.) Please leave your email in the comments section so I can get in touch with the winner.

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How a YA book prompted some social action

January 16th 2014

The following post is the true story of how one YA novel prompted me to unleash my frustrations about my library’s crappy YA collection development to my library administrators, county commissioners and state senator (and surprisingly, only my state senator responded).

It all started when I wanted to read In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters, a critically-acclaimed YA novel that is nominated for a Morris Award, and unsurprisingly, my poorly-funded county library system did not have the book. Now, you might be asking yourself, why is this a problem? Can’t you just get the book from interlibrary loan? Or buy it? Sure. But if I bought every book my library doesn’t have, I’d be broke. Also, my county library has an asinine policy of not ILL’ing (yes, I use that as a verb) books published within the year and ITSOB was published in April 2013. So not only does my library not have this Booklist starred-review book, and probably isn’t going to buy it anytime soon since it is January 2014 already, but they won’t necessary get it for me because it’s not a year old! Can you feel my frustration bubbling because even as I type this, I’m getting angry. (Long story short, they did ILL it for me and I read it and loved it.)

I started to think if my county library (which consists of 2 branches) doesn’t have In the Shadow of Blackbirds, what other awesome YA novels are they missing? Because every time I check the shelves (which is once a week), I am sorely disappointed at my options. So one day, I spent a good hour on their catalog checking to see if they at least had the Printz winners and honors books. And the results were disappointing.

The county library has 2 copies of the 2013 Printz winner In Darkness by Nick Lake, but is missing 2 of the 4 honors books for the same year. The county does not own the 2012 Printz winner, Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley, at all and has only 1 of the 4 honors books. For 2011, the county has the Printz winner but we’re missing 3 of the 4 honor books. For 2010, the county has have the Printz winner but we’re missing 2 of the 4 honors books.
And it only gets worse from there. The county library doesn’t have any of Maureen Johnson’s newest books. I mean none. The last MJ book they bought was from 2006! No Suite Scarlett. No Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes. No The Name of the Star. The library doesn’t have anything by Holly Black past White Cat! And we’re still missing the second novel in Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Boys. And don’t even get me started on authors such as Rainbow Rowell and Andrew Smith.
In a furor, I wrote an email to library administration detailing these egregious offenses. I know money is tight, but how is the money being spent? How are books being identified for the YA collection? Is whoever doing the ordering knowledgeable in YA collection development? I wasn’t just spouting off a bunch of complaints, I also volunteered my help.
I have a master’s degree in library science. Before having my sons, I worked for two years as a YA librarian in a NJ public library. Unlike Pennsylvania (apparently), NJ requires librarians to have a master’s degree. NJ libraries also get their funding through a large local tax base, which isn’t true for PA. My county library system gets its funding from the state who slashed the library budget by $20 million during the last few years. And, a few years ago, a proposition for additional tax money to go directly to our library was voted down by residents. So there’s that, too.
My county library is trying to do the best with the financial resources its got, which isn’t much. I’ve learned that only one person does the book ordering for our county system. One woman who orders children’s, teen and adult fiction for a county servicing 40K people. How can she be expected to know what to order? But that’s a problem in itself. If you’re on a tight budget, you should be doing the best with the funding available and that means prioritizing.
Just last week, I received a phone call from my state senator’s office wanting to know if I’d like to participate in a live town-hall meeting on the phone. Would I? I stayed on the line and volunteered to ask a question. I chose to address the issue of my county library’s poor funding and inadequate resources. To my relief, the state senator seemed interested. Later that afternoon, an aide from her office called me to discuss the issue further. For all I know the woman was humoring me, but for those 20 minutes, she listened and responded to my concerns and it felt good, cathartic even. Maybe what I said will make a difference when the senator votes, maybe not.
As it turns out, I am not the only frustrated county resident. Some of my friends are willing to purchase non-resident library cards in neighboring states so they can use their libraries. Interestingly, it was this notion that surprised the senator’s aide. That people would be willing to pay for services in another state. Why not pay for those services here in our county?But that’s up to voters and last time, county voters didn’t want to pay more money for the library. Even if that money equated to $35 per household per year.
Some of those same friends wrote to the senator and got phone calls as well. I can only hope when the library funding is discussed in budget hearings, my state senator voices support. Because as much as I love buying books to support my fellow authors, I’m also a librarian who believes in checking out books to support the library. And that’s the point. I’m for my library. I’m critical because I care. I will always support my library even when I may be frustrated with the lack of selection. (I donate what I can from my SLJ books, but I can’t do this alone). I want it to be the best library it can be and that won’t happen without adequate funding.
Are you in a town, county, state without adequate library funding and support? What do you do to help your library? What can you suggest?
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