A night at the library: 5 things


Last night, my colleague and I hosted 92 high school students for our third annual library lock-in that we’ve re-branded Falcon Library After Dark. Our activities included pizza, three movie screens, computers, tabletop games, video games, double Dutch, corn hole, Legos, and an all-night activity if they chose to undertake it– a BINGO-like challenge that got them talking, investigating, and thinking. This was followed by a short dance party before running our nonfiction gauntlet and collecting their Blow Pop.

Students get to hang out and be themselves with their friends and make new friends. They enjoy the camaraderie and excitement and an opportunity to relax for an evening before heading into the weekend at home. And it got me thinking- what would I do if I were in the library all night? Here are five things:

  1. Sit down and just be. Our library is nothing if not active. If we have to close for a period or after school, which doesn’t happen often, it’s nearly impossible for anyone– students and staff alike– to believe it as they rattle the doors and stare in. Therefore, sitting down and just being in the library is a luxury. While most library’s aren’t shush zones, there is something beautiful about a silent library… sometimes.
  2. Make myself a cup of tea. I joke that I’d be opening up Pandora’s box if I started drinking tea at work because I drink enough outside of work, but on the rare days where I need to warm up, there is a stash in the office.
  3. Wander the shelves. I take pride in our collection. I turned into a nonfiction reader about a decade ago and haven’t looked back. I often read nonfiction during my lunch. I’m also just as obsessed with graphic novels and fiction, so no matter where you are in the library, there’s something fantastic to read at your fingertips. It would be lovely just to feel with my fingertips and scan with my eyes.
  4. Ignore my desk. Wouldn’t it be tempting if I were locked in the library all night to sit down and work? Of course, but this is not that kind of fantasy.
  5. Read. What did you think number five would be? After wandering the shelves, it would be nearly impossible not to have pulled some off the shelves and snuggle in for the rest of the night to read– in the comfy chairs, at the table, in between the stacks.

What would you do if you were in a library all night?

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Posted by on December 1, 2018 in Events, Librarian Life, Miscellaneous


Sandwiches! Stick a fork in it


This post was first published on the Times Union Books Blog

When I say sandwich, which one do you think of first?

2018-05-05 08.02.35On May 20, 2018, my family and I embarked on a journey of epic proportions inspired by the Alison Deering book illustrated by Bob Lentz called Sandwiches!: More Than You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Making and Eating America’s Favorite Food. The book landed in our high school library and over my own lunch I began reading, giggling, and nerding-out over the hundreds of factoids about famous sandwiches and the hypnotizing illustrations that accompanied them.

Soon after drooling over the entire book, I started to talk about the useful (and humorously useless) information shared but also in how neatly the information was presented. On the left, a graphic of the complete sandwich with a brief introduction surrounded by dates, biographies, and scientific notes related to the sandwich. And on the right, a manual for putting together the sandwich with additional information if you wanted to make certain items from scratch or if you wanted to level it up with additional items.

I brought it home to share with my elementary-aged sons who also began pouring over the spreads and thus was born the quest to make EVERY sandwich in the book- all 52 of them. It’s November 26, 2018 and last night we noshed on the last one which couldn’t have been eaten any time before as it’s The Gobbler- the quintessential post-Thanksgiving sandwich where all of the dishes end up in one pile between two slices of bread. We actually also kicked it off in style too as I was hosting a longtime friend who appreciates a good meal so we started the journey with the hummus sandwich, chips, and a beer for the adults.

On my personal blog, I have shared three posts, Sandwiches! Part I, Sandwiches! Part II, and Sandwiches! Part III about the food adventures along the way. Let it be known that this is the final installment: Sandwiches! Part IV where I highlight the final few not because we did them in order per se and they were at the end or that they were the “hardest” to make, but simply that’s how we crossed them off our list of breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert sandwiches. The last few included the Banh Mi, the Po’ Boy, and the Italian Beef among others but not before trying out one that is the author’s own non-traditional favorite without a real name.

Few books have had an impact like this one has on trial and error, experimentation, and conversation. I have friends and family who have kept tabs as I’ve posted pictures on Instagram using the hashtag #makingallthesandwiches or made one for them. But the most fun was in what my kids thought and what ended up being their favorite even as we tried things like the spaghetti sandwich and the mac and cheese sandwich. Again, not that these are new sandwiches (as my husband lamented plenty of times), they just remind you of regional items, cultural elements, and history. He’s had a long history with sandwiches, but who hasn’t? Our small, old kitchen was put to the test along with our stomachs, but it’s been one heck of a seven-month journey.

What are your favorite classics or do you have one that’s all your own that you want to share? Maybe if Alison Deering hears about it, she’ll put it in her next book.




The Adobe Spark adventure


Technology is a double-edged sword in that it is not the fix for everything, but it is useful for many of our activities in school. Namely the presentation. I try to think back to how I was when I was in high school and presenting in my classes, but I can’t remember. I know now, I enjoy presenting to others. I’m specifically indulgent when it comes to my presentation slides as I’ve shared before. But in the past? I haven’t the foggiest.

A 9th grade English teacher wanted to add some technology into some of her units this year especially because she isn’t completely comfortable either. We chatted and settled on a group project where they present their poem to the class and discuss some of the elements of the poem and central idea. I shared Adobe Spark with her and said it would be a great visual addition to use the Spark web page design to lay out the poem and build in a reflective piece asking them why their group chose specific photos and videos to highlight the text by using the breadth of beautiful stock images (or their own if they chose to import). I created an example based on my favorite poet, Pablo Neruda, and she was sold.

Body of a Woman

Then it worked out spectacularly that I would be observed teaching this lesson and the stars aligned. Students took to the site and dove right into work. All four sections of her class were like this and I was astounded by their willingness. The ease was because of their ability to use their GSuite login to create the account (and some were guided to use Canva also using their GSuite login) to add extra pizzazz. The only drawbacks were that as a group project, they could not share and/or edit together. While all had input on it’s creation, it was only under one student’s account. But what it did have was the ability to share to Google Classroom (in addition to a few social media options, embed code, or a link) making it easy for classroom teachers.

Their feedback reflected its ease. Many students liked using something different, but just as many unfortunately said they would have liked to use the ol’ standby Google Slides, which as a librarian is a bit disappointing because of the domination of Google products in education and students’ forthrightness but unwillingness to think about the adventure of something new. Through observation though, I know that they enjoyed the adventure in the moment, but when all was said and done, they would rather use a trusty tool. I get it, people like what is comfortable.

The results were phenomenal as were their reflections about the process as a whole, and the teacher was satisfied. I’d call this successful too. In part because as a librarian I’m always sharpening my skills by taking courses like Polly Farrington’s Cool Tools for School (which is where I learned about Spark a few years back). And I had an impact on a teacher whose professional goal was to incorporate more meaningful technology in the classroom.

A win on all fronts.

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Posted by on November 17, 2018 in Librarian Life, Poetry



What’s left of me after reading We Are All That’s Left


How do I begin this post? Do I start by profiling and detailing my love for Carrie Arcos’ We Are All That’s Left and go from there? Or do I start by sharing a bit about the students that I work with every day and then talk about her book? Or third, start with a chapter of my husband’s story and then talk about her book? Better yet, let’s talk about all three.

Years ago I ran a “Warring Worlds” book club at our high school library that was in direct response to having read a senior’s common app essay about escaping the war in Bosnia when she was a child and I was stopped in my tracks thinking that my husband, an Army veteran who spent time in Bosnia with the 10th Mountain Division could have been close by. It dawned on me how interconnected we all are. And even though some of our students had been born in the United States, we were sill embroiled in a war in Iraq and Afghanistan at the time, so everyone experienced war, just in different ways.

Every day I get to listen to our refugee students whose experiences are so different from my own. They know what it is like to be in fear for their life, they know what hatred looks like, they know how important education is when it’s often denied to them in their native land before coming to the United States.

2018-11-09 18.41.04So when I began reading Arcos’ book and the first flashback chapter told from Zara’s mom, Nadja’s point of view in 1992 in Visegrad I knew there was something special. It took a little bit to build as there was an uncertainty between the dysfunction of Zara and Nadja’s mother-daughter relationship, but it ballooned once readers began to connect Nadja’s war-torn young adulthood and Zara’s discovery of Nadja’s hardships as Nadja lays comatose after a bomb detonates at the farmers market they were visiting. Zara is wounded and suffering from post-traumatic stress while again, her mother is hospitalized unable to communicate. It becomes less about the present day and more about Nadja’s survival against the atrocities of war while trying to hold on while the trauma of murder and rape burns through their family, neighborhood, and country.

Arcos eloquently details these dark times that keep from being morose because we know that Nadja survived and has a family, though her daughter is now just coming to realize what her mother experienced. It’s a powerful emotional tool to foil Zara’s life and Nadja’s and set against the backdrop of the Bosnian War delights me in that this event is rarely detailed in young adult literature. While it was neither here nor there that Arcos was not born or raised in Bosnia, her extensive research demonstrates command of the events and a powerful need to share it with others by connecting the generations. It’s masterful. And reminiscent of other titles like Erika L. Sanchez’s I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter and any of Ruta Sepetys’ historical fiction that shed light on imperfect times in our past. And heartbreaking the way Ashley Hope Perez’s Out of Darkness was. It belongs on the shelf with these pillars of historical fiction because of it’s profile of the darkness (and light) of humanity when all light seems to have been lost.

So I advise young adults and adults to savor this gem of historical fiction that brings the present and past together with heart and tenacity among the darkness.

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Posted by on November 9, 2018 in Authors, Fiction, Young Adult


Can it be “see ya later” not goodbye?


I had been lucky to attend conferences around launch time for Jason Reynolds’ previous Track books so I never had to wait like the rest of the world to read them when they were published. So when I was in a bookstore this weekend (who knew?!) I couldn’t pass up purchasing Lu, the fourth and final book in his middle grade Track series. And of course because it was chilly and rainy today, I thought what better time than right now to devour it? 

Then I regretted it. Why? Because it’s the last one.

2018-10-28 19.22.48What was I thinking? Plenty of us avid readers have felt sadness in the last book of a beloved series and this one was no different. Reynolds is the GOAT, period. Whoever designed the covers needs a raise. Reynolds’ ability to create deep characters with authentic middle grade voices has been spotlighted in this series and shines again with Lu, another track star under Coach’s tutelage who is helping his father right his wrongs while hopefully looking toward a future with a baby sister when his mother should have never even been able to have him. Rich with inspiration and motivation, it’s the power of our human experience through Lu whose Albinism hasn’t changed his perspective much, in fact his newest job as big brother has allowed him to grow as he passes through the awkwardness of youth.

This book is all that’s right with middle grade literature and the superstar that is Jason Reynolds. I’ve already placed an order for an additional four for our high school library because I will push the complete series like candy on Halloween (away from me and out into the world to be enjoyed by others) so it won’t be goodbye, rather “see ya later”.

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Posted by on October 28, 2018 in Authors, Cover Love, Fiction, Middle grade


Who said they don’t read?


I was filled with so much love this afternoon that the only thing I managed was a quick Canva post on our library’s social media and two Blow Pops or else I would explode glitter, confetti, rainbows, and hearts.

Our school library is a busy place with a minimum of sixty students per period and considerably more during lunch shifts. The design of our library includes a circulation desk that sits toward the center but doubles as an information hub where both our library assistant and one librarian sit. So I usually spend my day staring out at all of the students in our library and fielding questions and problem-solving while trying to get a bit of work done if not teaching and planning with teachers. This means while I’m on the desk, I tend to overhear things and see plenty of things but it gives us plenty of face-time with students.

I looked up when I heard a girl’s voice that was a little louder than the others. I watched a moment and realized that she was reading aloud to a friend sitting across the table. I waited a moment. I called out and asked if she was reading the book I thought she was reading. She said yes. She continued reading out loud to her friend. Then she continued to read aloud for the next 15 minutes.

Not knowing what to do with my bursting librarian heart, I posted this

2018-10-19 11.26.49

to our social media and then went to our backroom where we keep a stash of Blow Pops as thank yous to students. I walked over and shared them and showed them what I had just posted. They giggled and continued as I went back to my work before the bell rang.

There are moments in librarianship where you know exactly why you’re doing what you do. And this was one of those moments.

Who said teenagers don’t read?



Movie time


The last movie I saw in the theater was The Lego Batman movie with my two elementary-aged kids. Movies I watch tend to be what’s available on Netflix in 30-45 minute intervals while I work out in the morning, but they usually even play second fiddle to series and documentaries. Plus, when I start something, I need to finish the season before moving on to anything else so it took me a few months to finally watch To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before.

And it was like savoring the first few bites of ice cream on a hot summer day, the last nibbles of a decadent dessert, or the buzzy feeling of leaving a friend after some serious bonding. That’s to say, it was heavenly. I think the feeling of finishing the movie will be a feeling I remember. And then when I decide to watch it again… very soon. And it seems like there are millions of people that agree.

I’ll share that the Jenny Han books were lovely, but I wasn’t over-the-moon about them in part because of the focus on the sisters’ relationships that I had no context for as the oldest with two younger brothers. I read them, appreciated them, share them with students. I certainly follow Jenny Han on Instagram with her posts in dresses from places near and far.

If you haven’t, queue it up. Don’t multi-task. Get a cold or hot beverage, snuggle up alone or with someone, indulge in your favorite treat. And savor the romantic comedy whose genius lineup, witty banter, stunning backdrop, and romantic overtones is pitch-perfect.

Now that I’m thinking about it… I think I’ll queue it up again for tomorrow morning because the memories are just too sweet. And I’ll finish by re-creating the Twitter meme sensation it’s caused with my own:

To all the boys that visit bookstores and libraries: I see you.

Love, Alicia