Welcome to Library Lions interviews. Raising a Roar for Libraries

Welcome to Library Lions interviews. Raising a Roar for Libraries

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Welcome to Library Lions interviews Raising a Roar for Libraries and for the outstanding Librarians serving Children and Young Adults in Schools and Public Libraries across the U.S. Please Roar today’s guest Kirsten Edwards!

Kirsten works with teens in the King County Library System (Duvall, Carnation & Skykomish branches).




Kirsten’s worked as a librarian for 15 years. In that time she helped found the Printz Award, (having had the honor of being on A.L.A.’s Printz Award founding committee), she’s been active in Washington State Library Assoc. (WLA), and is proud to be co-president of the
Society Gaius Julius Solinus, an ancient library humor society.

She’s particularly proud of the paper she presented, “"Addressing the Balance of Gender Diversity in In-Building Early Juvenile Text-Media-Based Library Presentations" And Kirsten was the first ever Librarian Guest of Honor at a Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention!

The Skinny: How did you become a librarian, Kirsten?
I’m a failed scientist. Seriously, I bombed advanced microbiology (A+ on the class work, D- on the lab work – and it was a pity “D” because the prof felt sorry for me). I took one of those extensive “what should you do with your life” studies at the career center and got a tie for first: scientist & librarian. Since I still own My First Reference Book ™ I figured I’d give librarian a shot. I’ve never looked back. My best friend, Lorraine is the one who lured me over to the Fun Side of The Force in library school and I pursued youth services instead of special librarianship.

Being a public librarian specializing in teens (and earlier in my career, kids and teens) is the bomb: you get all the run-and-find-out reference fun in the small branches, and your customers are so much more lively, enthusiastic and yes, fun than grown ups. Seriously: in what other profession can you team up with a group of teens and build a Read-inator for the library’s entry in the Duvall Days Parade?

I also get to Talk Books with people for a living (in librarian-speak that’s called “readers advisory” which pretty darn blessed. I publish (with the other librarians at KCLS) monthly favorites at my library systems Librarytalk. I’m “Kirsten at Duvall.” Here’s my latest talk

Library Laughs:

One of our library customers recently approached us with a bag full of books to return, and pulled out a small, somewhat elderly board book.

"I need to "fess up," quote she, "I caught my daughter peeling the cover back--almost off. So I got some acid-free glue, glued it back on and let it sit between weights. Here."

I took the book from her and examined it: "Nice work!"

"Well, I just wanted to you to see it, in case you wanted to charge me a fine or something."

"Oh no," I replied. "Normally, we try to discourage patrons from doing home repairs, but this is splendid: very nice indeed!"

She left, and I checked in the book, and what message should, before my wondering eyes, flash upon the screen?



Heh. Small town libraries are the best, and my customers rock.

A Lion’s Pride of Programs:
Shhh! My bosses let me run RPGs (Role Playing Games) for my teen customers as Summer Reading programs. I’ve done ‘Toon at Burien, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld (specifically the Night Guard of Ankh Morpok) at Lake Hills, Star Wars D20 at Skykomish, and, most recently Return To Hogwarts at Carnation.


What makes this last one so cool was that, like most RPGs I’ve run for the library, it was a special kinda one-time event. Even a pretty good moderator can’t really handle (well) more than 15 players at a time, and with teen players, who may need to be brought up to speed on the game system itself, that becomes a hard maximum. That’s a lot of work to put together for just a few kids. I got away with it for three or for summers at Skykomish where the total teen population averages, say 30 by reporting that "1/4 of the towns teens attended..." but eventually The Powers that Be caught on. Last year I was able to run a "return to Hogwarts" RPG using a game my friend (writer, gamer) Steve Jackson had devised for his children. The teens had a blast and really wanted a repeat—but I couldn't justify the time sink for just 12 teens. So one of the girls who played the game (and yes, my gaming programs—video and tabletop—regularly run 50 – 75% female, so the notion that Girls Don't Game is bogus) stepped up and offered to run another "episode." For this young lady, who writes Harry Potter fanfic, gaming is like making the best fan fic ever—and I'm happy to be mentoring a whole new generation of girl gamers.

Reaching Readers:
Mostly, as a teen services librarian, I booktalk. I do it in the library (where we call it "readers advisory", at the schools, at the grocery store ("Hey—you're the library lady") anywhere anyone (teen or parent) is willing to "talk book." While the presentations at the schools are a form of storytelling—meaning I block out my actions and gestures, write a starting script, plot interactive group reads—the one-on-one deals usually start with "tell me what kind of stories you like" whether it's in book form or T.V.

I'm all about the story me, and I have to admit that in my secret of hearts I know Books are Best, and there's something on the printed page for everyone ("Every reader his book. Every book its reader" –Ranganathan) I know that for some people, different media reach people differently. One of the great things about the explosion of manga and graphic novels in the U.S. is the way this format reaches people who prefer video as their story-delivery-media. They're turning out to be a fantastic gate-way drug into serious book reading--!

Readers Roar:
So, one of the middle school teens who comes to Pizza and Pages decided that once a month wasn't enough and decided to form her own book club. She sent me an e-mail over Christmas to let me know how her project was going. My favorite excerpt:

"This Monday I just had my second meeting! We were reading "The Kin: Suth's Story" by Peter Dickinson, and we went out into my back yard and built a fort. Two more people have joined! "
--Alison G. grade 7

Book Brag: What are the Top Three with your Teens right now?
~Well, there's The Hunger Games which would be topping the NYT best seller list if they hadn't in a fit of awesome lameness, decided to exile teen and children's lit from their lists. Take American Idol cross it with Survivor and make it to the death. Then tell it from the point of view of two teenager who are having to fake being in love with each other (except that he's probably really gone on her and trying to survive it) so that they can work the ratings—and survive the Hunger Games. Well, until the very end, when they're going to have to try to kill each other. Only one contestant can make it out of the Games alive, after all...

~Bride of the Water God is a Korean graphic novel – a "manwa"—which is spreading steadily among my local teen readers by word of mouth. The art is stunning and the beauty-and-the-beast storyline is very appealing. The heroine has been thrust into an alien world of gods and demi-gods as the bride of a petulant, little-boy water god. She was sacrificed to bring the rain, and save her village. By night she's visited by a handsome and enigmatic young man who is slowly winning her heart as a fellow "slave" captured by the capricious deity. Unbeknownst to her, he's actually her husband: he's trapped as a child by day.

~Another book with a long wait list is The Maze Runner in which Thomas wakes up in an elevator with no memory of anything but his name. The elevator rises, the doors open, and he finds himself in "the glade" where a group of similarly amnesiac boys. They tell him that the glade is surrounded by a high walls and a maze. By day, they send out Runners to chart the maze. By night they must be safely back in the glade before the doors shut off the maze or be destroyed by terrifying monsters, and shifting walls that re-create a new maze pattern every day. Thomas is intriguing, the mystery of the maze is intriguing, and even when you think you know what's going on, it turns out you don't.

Author! Author!
Add a mix of teenagers who are primed by their own interests and experiences to share what the author does and loves. In my “best author visit ever” this was me bringing Charles De Lint to the High School honors students/art students.

Charles De Lint

The honors students were readers and thinkers—a chance to hear one of the great modern American illustrators talk was a rare treat. The art students were getting what for many of these small town kids was the first chance to meet and hear from someone who’d done what they were (maybe) only dreaming of. I think school librarians and school teachers have a better chance of getting the author and audience to meet each other halfway than does the public librarian.
But every so often we have the opportunity to bring interested teens and relevant creators (authors, artists, musicians) together; and when we do, it’s magic.

Library Lion’s Roar: Any last words Kirsten?
I'm really proud of the way I piloted using VPN technology and our staff laptops for small scale but powerful outreach. One librarian + one laptop + a box full of handouts, targeted media and library cards = nanoBranch of the King County Library System. I did a dry run at a small literary science fiction and fantasy convention (Foolscap) then after about a year and a half of "proving" the technique and working through the bureaucracy, I got to use it the way I really wanted to: taking the library to the high school lunch room.

I and one of my branch managers (Lead library assistant Ronni Brown) had a library card drive / nanoBranch for two days during all three lunch periods at Cedarcrest High School. It was a smash hit—we're invited back this fall. I've attached a photo of Ronni signing up one of the high school students for a library card. We checked in books for teens, checked out books, I brought the current Evergreen Award nominees, answered reference questions, and placed holds, too.

Thank you, Kirsten for the terrific interview!

~Blog readers. Do you Love Libraries? Give a Roar in “Comments” below.

~Note to Librarians: If you’re a Youth Librarian working in a school or public library we’d love to hear about you and your library. Contact Janet at janetleecarey@hotmail.com for an interview slot.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Welcome Elizabeth Bird NYPL

Welcome to Library Lions interviews Raising a Roar for Libraries and for the outstanding Librarians serving Children and Young Adults in Schools and Public Libraries across the U.S. Please Roar today’s guest, Elizabeth Bird!

Elizabeth is the children’s librarian at New York Public Library, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building! Here are the famed Library Lions of NYPL!

Elizabeth has been a children’s librarian since 2004. Her famed blog A Fuse #8 Production is hosted by School Library Journal. She served on the 2007 Newbery committee, and writes reviews for Kirkus, School Library Journal, TimeOut Kids New York, and sometimes the New York Times. Librarian by day, writer by night, Elizabeth has sold two picture books to Greenwillow, a non-fiction adult book about the true stories behind your favorite children’s books which she is writing with two other bloggers to Candlewick, and an informational title for librarians with ALA Editions. Elizabeth was on the November 2009 cover of School Library Journal, as well,there was an article about her in Forbes Magazine in February of 2010. We are honored to interview her today for Library Lions!

The Skinny:
Elizabeth says, “I work in the best children’s room in New York City.” But she didn’t always feel that way. “I fought tooth and nail against ever becoming a librarian. I’m serious. When I was a kid I was the kind of child that would create cataloging systems for the family’s VHS tapes. I alphabetized the family’s books by author. I even tried to create subject headings for my National Geographic Magazines, long before I knew what a subject heading was. In college, I rebelled. I got a major in Fine Arts with a concentration in Photography (though I also majored in English, so clearly I was hedging my bets). Finally, after years (one year) of realizing that I didn’t want to do anything with photography that would actually pay me, I threw in the towel and went to library school. Which, obviously, I adored.”

In terms of my work, I really love getting my books into the hands of readers. So much so that I’ll spend hours making sure that we have the maximum amount of books on our shelves, just in case there’s a reader about with a penchant for the additional works of Kenneth Grahame and such.

Readers Roar:
Here’s one of the children from a bookgroup I run. She was featured in a YouTube video my library put out thanking the people of New York for helping us overcome our recent budget cuts.

As she says, “Thanks for saving the bookgroup.” – Annie, 2nd grade. Ain’t she a cutie?

Library Laughs: What’s your favorite funny library story, Elizabeth?
Ever? Oh, this one’s good. It’s a true story and it happened to a friend of my husband’s. It’s not a public library story, but I think folks can appreciate it anyway.I went to a small liberal arts college in Indiana, and typically when winter break rolled around some kids would go home and some would stay at school. Two girls were working the circulation desk of the college library when my husband’s friend noticed them. Thinks he: “Aha! I have a chance with these girls!” and he proceeds to make himself obnoxiously present for days at a time. They just want to get some work or studying done, and there he is. Wanting to chat.

In the course of one of his chats, he mentions oh-so-casually that he’s staying off-campus and if they ever want to visit he never locks the door. They pay attention to this fact, because by this point revenge is at the forefront of their minds. So one day they determine when he will be out and they go to him home with a big box of tattletape. Those of you who have worked in technical services will remember that tattletape is the long, think, and sticky metal strip that folks put in books so that they’ll set off the library’s alarm. And in my library they had those bars you had to push through to exit the building. So in the event that a person had not properly checked out a book, an alarm would sound and the bar would stop the person from leaving.You probably see where this is going.

That night the two girls placed the tattletape in all the guy’s clothes. And I don’t mean in a rush job either. I mean in the cuffs of his shirt. The inseam of his pants. The inside of his hems. By the time they were done, most of his clothes had tattletape in them. Then the fun began. The first time he visited them in the library, nothing happened. They had missed that batch of clothes. He was probably pretty flattered by how closely they watched him leave too. The second time he visited, however, off went the alarm. He studiously emptied out his bag entirely for the miscreant book, only to find nothing there. So they let him out. Then it happened a second time. Then a third. Every time this guy came in the library he was setting off the alarm.

Eventually, he couldn’t take it anymore. So one day, after the alarm went off, he began to try to figure out what the rogue element was. He tried walking through without his bag. Off goes the alarm. He removes his shirt. Off goes the alarm. Before the girls knew it, the guy was performing an elaborate striptease right in front of them, desperately trying to get rid of whatever clothing it was. At long last he stood there in only his underwear . . . . and made it through.

By that point they just had to tell him, and they did. A prankster himself, he was thrilled at the explanation. I suppose that at some point he worried that he had magnetic blood. Now every time I go through a security gate in a library, or even a store, I think about that story. Whatever you do kids, don’t make the employees angry with you. Their revenge could be epic.

A Lion’s Pride of Programs:
My favorite program is one that was started by Rebecca Schosha and Sarah Couri at my previous library, and that I’ve picked up. The Children’s Literary Salon is a monthly series of talks with people in the children’s literature field on a variety of topics. We’ve had everything from New York Times reviewers of children’s literature to playwrights who have adapted children’s books to the stage to female graphic novelists to scholars. Every month it’s different, and every month it’s interesting. It’s just for adults too, so anyone with a love of children’s literature can attend and hear a variety of folks speak about the field. It’s unique and a lot of fun.

Reaching Readers:
I thought I'd show you some readers circa 1913?

We see a lot of kids on a daily basis, partly because we have so many tourists. But on a local level a lot of classes and teachers like to bring their kids to the library for programs and tours. Since we have so many authors in the area, it’s fun to bring in kids to see a special author or illustrator talk on a program. We also give tours of the building and tell folks about all the stuff the library provides. As for myself, I do the toddler and preschool storytelling programs, which are a lot of fun.

Book Brag: What books are flying off your shelves this year and why?
Movies always make certain books hot, so right now I’m seeing all my Ramona books checked out. They usually go during the summer months because of reading lists, but not ALL of them! So thank you Ramona & Beezus! Also, I still can’t seem to keep Diary of a Wimpy Kid on the shelf. We just bought about ten new copies of the books, and they disappeared entirely after two days. Amazing!

In terms of books that haven’t been turned into movies, I’m seeing a lot of love for Meg Cabot’s Allie Finkle series, Elizabeth Cody Kimmel’s Suddenly Supernatural books, and John Flanagan’s Ranger’s Apprentice titles.

Author! Author! Describe the perfect author visit from a librarian’s point of view.Oo.
Excellent question. The perfect author visit comes when an author wants to visit my library, free of charge, and we happen to have a Saturday open for them. If they’re an illustrator then they do lots of great drawings on our sketchpad both for and with the kids. If they’re an author, then they know how to make the kids laugh. And no matter how you slice it, the best visits are from folks that are former teachers. The kinds of people who know how to command a room full of antsy kids. That’s the definition of my perfect visit, anyway.

Library Lion’s Roar
Keep an eye peeled for Elizabeth’s picture book Giant Dance Party, due out on store shelves Fall 2011!

Find out more about NYPL on their blog or here on facebook

Thank you, Elizabeth for your terrific interview!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Love Libraries? Give a Roar in “Comments” below.

Note to Librarians: If you’re a Youth Librarian working in a school or public library we’d love to hear about you and your library. Contact Janet at janetleecarey@hotmail.com for an interview slot.