Sappy Stuff about Libraries

Super librarians in their natural environment
Super librarians in their natural environment

I’ve worked for a public library for the past two years, during which I found a new direction for my career and a passion for both libraries and the business casual sneaker. As I move to my new job at an academic library, I’ve been thinking about what I’m taking with me, besides my sneakers. Last year a friend of a friend looking at a career in libraries emailed me a bunch of questions. These are my answers.


What kind of an educational background do I need to work in libraries?

One of the coolest things about libraries is the fact that everyone’s backgrounds are so unique. I have a theater degree, my branch manager’s degree is in anthropology, and within the other library employees we have social workers, history teachers, ski patrollers, school administrators, parents, biologists, and boring people too. I think the opportunities to succeed will be there no matter what you study; by picking a major you’re not making certain opportunities go away, you’re just picking which opportunities you’ll be more ready to take advantage of.

I get questions at the reference desk from patrons ages 5 to 105 varying in difficulty from 5 to 105 (on a 100 point scale). And let me tell you, having someone come up to the desk and say “hey, I have a question about a really specific topic and I’m asking you instead of Googling it because I know it’s your expertise” is the best feeling. So pursue your own interests. Don’t bother thinking about how it’s going to apply or where you’ll fit in a library. You’ll fit. Just become an expert in what you’re passionate about and I guarantee you will be a resource to the community you serve.

What are some pros/cons about your job?

-Intellectual freedom: Libraries actively broadcast voices that are usually silenced.
-No sales goals, no monthly quotas, no meticulous records of every customer interaction. If you’re helping a patron, you’re golden. I’ve taught old people how to facebook stalk their grandkids (sorry grandkids) and I’ve sat down on the ground in the middle of the stacks and read a book to a kid because they tapped my knee and handed me a book.
-Sometimes I can’t stop smiling while driving to work because I’m so excited to see what new questions people will ask me and what new books I’ll get to give kids.
-Librarians are the weirdest people. I love them all.

-I will never be rich.
-People say “There’s a masters degree? What do you study, the Dewey Decimal System?” all the damn time. The trick is to give them dead shark eye and with no elaboration say “Yes.”

What do you actually do?

I help people with whatever sort of questions they have. Sometimes they need to research appliances or a new diagnosis so I help them sift through online databases to find the articles they need. Sometimes they heard about a book on Good Morning America two weeks ago and don’t remember anything except the color so I track it down for them.

Once school gets out, I mostly help kids. I find them books, try to talk up our programs, help them do research for school or their own projects, and sometimes I just sit and listen and they talk to me. Did you know that people do that? Did you know that if you just sit there with your mouth closed they’ll start spilling all their secrets? Once a kid told me he’s going to be a writer to pay the bills but his real dream is to be an architect.

Why would you recommend your job?

Imagine watching someone devour a book you gave them, or start exclaiming “This is it! This is what I’m looking for!” when you show them a website or database, or hug you because they can finally use the iPad their granddaughter gave them for Christmas. The pay isn’t anything to write home about and even if you’re making huge career advances they’ll be totally invisible to anyone outside the little library bubble, but I swear it will be worth it every single day. Libraries make a difference and when you can put your ideas and skills to use within them, you can make a difference too. Like, the kind of difference your kindergarten teacher told you you could make. Unreal, I know.

Why would you tell people to pursue a different field?

The world where librarians can sit behind desks and shush people has faded and you’ll find yourself directly interacting with the public most of the day. It’s different from most customer service industries because people usually like libraries so you’re already on the same side as the patron, but you’ll still deal with angry patrons every now and then. Personally, I enjoy it because it’s direct service to a vastly diverse range of people and you can almost always help them leave happy. But if customer service is a no for you, public libraries are not the place to look for a career.

What are your worries and concerns about the future of this field?

Honestly I’m not worried. Besides the sexy librarian fetish (seriously, total strangers bring it up and it’s very uncomfortable), that’s the other obnoxious thing people say to me all the time: “That’s not a long-term career. What are you going to do when libraries die? Where will you work when everything is e-books? Didn’t you know the internet is taking over the world and nobody reads and the apocalypse is upon us?”

But the role of libraries has always changed with the times, and fortunately tax payers and government officials are usually able to see this. As more of a social service than anything else, it’s true that we do less handing out of books than we used to, but libraries aren’t going away and neither is learning. We will always have an integral role in creating opportunities for education, building community partnerships, and providing a safe place for people to find the resources they need. The library world is full of visionary people who see the changes in modern life as an opportunity for libraries to fill new gaps, and I’m confident we’ll always find ways to innovate and improve. It’s a wonderful place to be.

Are you amazing?


(Okay, I added that last one. It felt like a nice conclusion.)

Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson


I’m using this book to check off the Fantasy space on my book bingo.

Nimona, determined to be a villain and armed with the power to shapeshift, apprentices herself to Ballister Blackheart. But she quickly proves she’s more villainous than her teacher, and everyone is left with difficult questions of right and wrong, innocence and guilt, villainy and heroism.

Nimona (HarperCollins, 2015) is the second graphic novel by illustrator and author Noelle Stevenson. Her first, Lumberjanes (BOOM!box, 2015, co-written with Grace Ellis), took the comic world by storm. It consistently sold out on every issue as a serialized comic and the collection won both a Goodreads Choice Award and an Eisner Award, the biggest of big deals. Nimona is just as clever, just as witty, just as grand in scope. In fact, her voice seemed more developed in this one as each character took on their own personality just through the dialog, something I think is too often ignored in graphic novels.

I think the dedication made this book for me. It’s written “For all the monster girls.” Since much of the story line hangs around Ballister’s moral quandaries, I think I could have missed the loving and sympathetic treatment of the real bad guy if I hadn’t read that dedication. But because I knew that was the intention, it sang to me of something I had forgotten about the anger that comes from feeling like you don’t belong.

And the best part is, I’m not the only one who saw this. I sent it home from my library with a 12 year old I knew felt that same rage at somehow not fitting in, and she brought it back with the highest praise. Give this graphic novel to any and every tween. They need a bad guy like Nimona.

Little Robot, by Ben Hatke

Little Robot, by Ben Hatke
Little Robot, by Ben Hatke

I’m using this book to check off the Graphic Novel space on my book bingo.

Ben Hatke’s new graphic novel Little Robot (First Second, 2015) is the innocent story of a girl who fixes things and her friendship with one of the fixed. After she accidentally powers up a baby robot lost off the back of a truck (botling? botito? robette?) the two of them strike up a tenuous partnership threatened by their differences and by giant robots who go CHOMP.

Like Hatke’s previous books (Zita the Spacegirl series, Julia’s House for Lost Creatures), this is the place to look for imaginative characters, creative visual storytelling, and casual diversity. It’s full of beautiful two page spreads and of course robots upon robots. Although it’s definitely a graphic novel, Little Robot often reads like a picture book. This would be a great book for early readers who can’t quite make out every word on the page but want the satisfaction of reading by themselves. In fact, all of the robots’ dialog is just machine noises. And isn’t that a fun thing for young readers, to get to decide what the words are? Overall I’m giving this three stars, and I’m eagerly awaiting Hatke’s 2016 graphic novel.

2016 Book Bingo

2016 challenge

Happy New Year everyone!

Have you already set a reading goal of some sort for 2016? Unfortunately, I have a confession. Last year despite my goal on Goodreads to finish 75 books, I only read 48. This year I’m shooting a little lower: I resolve to read 50 books and to complete this book bingo while doing it.

Over the year I will work steadily on this bingo (thank you Barnes & Noble) and every time I finish one of the squares, I’m going to post a review here. I’m counting on you to hold me to it.

And hey, if you haven’t already set a goal, maybe this will work for you too? Or pick one row, or even one category on here. Let me know which ones you pick and we can cheer each other on. Expand your horizons with me!

Book Review – George, by Alex Gino

George, by Alex Gino
George, by Alex Gino

George is a transgender fourth grader. She knows she’s really a girl, even though the people around her call her a boy. When she auditions to play the lead role in her class play Charlotte’s Web, her teacher suggests she play Wilbur instead. “You did a good job,” she says, “but I can’t cast you as Charlotte. I have too many girls who want the part.” Luckily, George’s best friend Kelly is a quick thinker so together they come up with a plan.

I have so many thoughts and feelings about this book, all positive, so brace yourself for a long review. There is so much to like about George I don’t even know where to start.

George already knows she’s a girl at the beginning of the book, so it’s not really a journey of self discovery. Instead, it’s about her ever-changing relationships with the people around her as she decides whether or not to come out to them, and her joy whenever she does. No one is perfect, and we see this with each successive person she trusts, but we also see them all working to support her in their own ways. On a side note, although it showed people like her mom trying to understand what George was saying, it never made their struggles more important than her story, which is huge.

Besides the obvious focus on transgender issues, the book also brought up a few interesting discussion points about safety, particularly for queer youth in general. It talked about staying away from people and situations where being out would be unsafe. More importantly, Gino shows George noticing a Safe Space for LGBT Youth poster on her principal’s wall early in the book and then (wonder of wonders!) the principal comes through by showing support for George.

I do have to say the beginning was a little rocky because Gino had so much information they needed to get across. However, it ended up being a good thing because it gave the reader and the author the same vocabulary. By the time the first few chapters were over, I can’t remember a single time the story had to stop so something could be explained. The information was all front-loaded so the story could move naturally.

By the end of the book, I was utterly absorbed. I couldn’t spare a thought for the mechanics of the writing because I was too invested in the story. George’s joy at the end is absolutely contagious. I was grinning like a fool for the last four chapters. It wasn’t a magical, too-happy ending where everything resolves perfectly, but it was uplifting and hopeful, and that’s exactly what I love seeing in books for queer youth.

As far as the ideal reading age goes, I have conflicted feelings. While I don’t think there’s any content in the book too mature for a fourth grader, I wouldn’t pitch it to every fourth grader. There are too many kids who have only ever heard the word transgender in a tone of scorn, and I would worry their questions stemming from this book would go to people who can’t answer them. To be clear, I also wouldn’t steer any kids away from it. Any kid who stumbles onto this book would surely finish it with a broader understanding of LGBT issues and a warm fuzzy feeling. I don’t know what the answer is here. Is this the first thing to give a kid with no previous knowledge on this topic? Maybe. Do you give this to kids after they’ve asked you what transgender means? Maybe. I just don’t know.

Regardless, George is sweet through and through. There’s a lot of worthwhile stuff here that we should see more often in books. We get to watch George come out to the people closest to her and it’s a display of strength and vulnerability anyone can learn from. Also, how great that there’s multiple examples for kids to see how to be supportive when someone comes out to you!

Lessons learned in this book:
-You can be brave by yourself…(George)
-…but it’s okay to ask other people to help you be brave. (Kelly)
-People’s actions can be different than what’s in their heart. Maybe they don’t mean to hurt you. (Rick)
-It’s okay to do a little research when something scares you. (Mom)
-You’ll be surprised who your best support is. (Scott)

Read this book. Every adult out there, please read this book. It’s poignant and joyful and honest and respectful of the intense inner world we sometimes forget kids have. Read it.

Liz’s 2015 Best Books List


Hello readers,

Way back in the spring my aunt asked me if I had any book recommendations to share with my little cousins. Luckily, I get to be surrounded by great books every day at my job, so I definitely have a few ideas. I put together a list of my favorite books from the last five years, sorted by intended readers’ ages and summarized in one sentence. Picking my favorites ended up being a lot of fun, so I think I’m going to do a new list at the beginning of every summer. And by all the saints was it difficult to keep these lists under control, even with only five years of books!

I’m posting them individually by category, so if you don’t want to scroll through all of them just click on the one you’re interested in. Also, I know I have missed some really good books in these lists. The only items on here are books I’ve actually read and even then I really cut down the list, so you’ll notice some striking gaps. If you have recommendations for me, leave it in a comment or get at me on twitter and I’ll try to get it read before next year’s list. Links are below to each individual post.

(At the bottom you’ll see the key I’m going to use for all these lists.)

Elementary Readers

Middle School Readers

High School Readers

Graphic Novels (all ages)







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2015 Best Books – Elementary

The Princess in Black, Shannon Hale.
The Princess in Black, Shannon Hale.

Here are my picks for the best elementary level books of the last five years.







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Early Elementary (K-2) – Beginning readers.

These kids are heavily reliant on pictures to tell the story, and although they can read anywhere from key words to full sentences they need pictures to follow the story. Answering questions about what just happened and what might happen next really helps these readers’ comprehension. They are probably excited to read on their own but it’s still a challenge.

The Princess in Black. (featured image) Shannon Hale. 2014.

Princesses aren’t supposed to wear black, but they also aren’t supposed to fight dragons during tea time.


Mercy Watson series. Kate DiCamillo. 2006 (Book 6 released 2010).

Mercy Watson is a talented problem solver, a loyal family member…and a hungry pig.


Fly Guy series. Ted Arnold. 2006 (Book 15 released 2014).

Can a fly really be a pet? Buzz is determined to prove it can by winning the Amazing Pet Show.


Elephant and Piggie series. Mo Willems. 2007 (Book 23 to be released 2015).

Piggie is crazily optimistic and Elephant is overly cautious, but together they’re the perfect team.


Late Elementary (3-5) – Partner readers.

Although their ability to read is growing, they still need you to ask them questions about their books in order to comprehend subplots or larger themes. They will begin to distinguish character’s choices as part of a character and not just part of the story, which is important to future reading abilities. Some illustrations will help reluctant readers stay invested in the story. Books for this age group should stay fairly short to mid length so they can feel like they’re making progress in it.

Cody and the Fountain of Happiness. Tricia Springstub, Eliza Wheeler. 2015.

Cody’s summer is full of ups (the fountain of happiness) and downs (the dreaded whim-whams.)


Flora and Ulysses. Kate DiCamillo. 2013.

When Flora performs CPR on Ulysses the squirrel, he comes back to life with superpowers.


I’ve Lost My Hippopotamus! Jack Prelutsky. 2012.

A collection of poetry in the footsteps of Shel Silverstein, with new jokes for a new generation.


Spirit Animals Series. Various Authors. 2013.

Four kids summon Great Beasts instead of regular spirit animals and must work together with the mystic Greencloaks to defeat a great evil.


Wonderstruck. Brian Selznick. 2011.

The stories of two deaf kids weave together through time and across cities into modern day NY.


Fortunately, the Milk… Neil Gaiman. 2013.

Dad has a perfectly good reason why it took him so long to get milk from the corner store.


Janitors series. Tyler Whitesides. 2011.

When Spencer can suddenly see monsters at every turn, he learns what janitors really do.


The Candy Shop War. Brandon Mull. Book 2 released 2012.

Could candy that gives the eater magical abilities possibly have a downside?


My Sister the Vampire. Sienna Mercer. Book 16 released 2014.

Olivia is surprised to find Ivy, an identical twin, in her new hometown. Well, not exactly identical.


Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians series. Brandon Sanderson. Book 5 expected 2016.

Breaker-of-stuff Alcatraz Smedry must face a cabal of librarians bent on hiding the truth.


Wonder. R.J. Palacio. 2013.

August wants a normal 5th grade year, but that’s unlikely considering his 27 past surgeries.


Beast Quest. Adam Blade. Book 82 released 2014.

Tom is sent on a quest to save his town, but it turns out his isn’t the only city that needs saving.








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