It wasn’t a secret, but it wasn’t something that I readily discussed- being on a selection committee through the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) arm of the American Library Association (ALA) for 2017. I sat on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens committee with an amazing group of public, school, and academic librarians from across the country deciding on the best graphic novels. And from that list, selecting the top ten. You can see the final list here, just announced last week as part of the yearly celebration of books at the Youth Media Awards. You’ll notice looking back at 2017 that I rarely shared and definitely didn’t review graphic novels because of this appointment but was immersed in this world (no complaints here!)

The midwinter ALA conference is smaller in comparison to the annual conference but it packs the biggest punch because of the Youth Media Awards. That’s where winners of awards like the Coretta Scott King and Caldecott Medal are announced. Committees hunker down and make those final decisions and in one hour, people across the country stream it and hundreds sit in person to hear them spoken aloud with the gleaming medal proudly shared on a big screen. There is applause and some exclamations, dancing in the aisles and gasps. All drama and and sparkles.

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There’s an added bonus because for some committees naming their top picks, the authors are at the conference to speak about their books and bask in the glory of literature lovers and book pushers after the ceremony itself. I got to listen to some finalists and award winners of the William C. Morris Award and the Nonfiction Award.

It’s an inspiring way to end the conference on the highs of excellence in literature…. on a Monday morning at 8am. I hope it inspires authors to keep writing and contributing to the shaping of young minds and inspires the students who sit in their classrooms and libraries across the country streaming it to one day want to be like them.


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Posted by on February 23, 2018 in Authors, Childrens, Events


Being a librarian

Being a librarian

What does it mean to be a librarian?

I’ve written about why I like the title, what my favorite parts of my job are, and activities that I’m involved in and in the last week, it’s been a perfect blend of all of the reasons that I love what I do.

  • I spent four days at the American Library Association Midwinter conference in Denver, Colorado (more to come on that!)
  • Took a picture with one of my favorite 11th grade students holding the first three volumes of a graphic novel that he loved and that made our Great Graphic Novels for Teens Top 10 list- in part because of his love for it.
  • I finished up the last day of 10th grade visits to the library for stations around social justice topics for their third quarter project.
  • We hosted a librarian from a local private school for an hour to share and talk collaboratively with all of us leaving better off than we were.
  • I spent a teacher’s lunch strategizing a new way to address a class that needs major modifications to be successful and brainstormed an amazing idea to address their curricular needs while saving the sanity of the teacher and making the learning engaging for the students.
  • Advising for our Anime Club every Friday afternoon.
  • Meeting our newly appointed principal for our monthly gathering to advocate for our program.
  • Talking with teachers and students who have big ideas to highlight our student community with positive acts and events hosted in the library.
  • Facilitating a book group of middle and high school librarians who get together over snacks and share their recent reads
  • Starting and continuing to lead several professional development opportunities.
    • And asked to do another in May!
  • I’m reading- flush with spring 2018 (and some summer and fall 2018) advanced reader copies from authors whose amazingness is unrivaled and going through them like a bag of Sour Patch Kids.
  • I’m going in to this coming week’s winter break with a few tea or dinner dates with librarians who make me appreciate the collegiality of our profession and inspire me to be better.

Love2Some of these will get their own posts, but like I said to the teacher today when I was dropping off some books for her to peruse in preparation for our new adventure, “you made my librarian heart full today, thank you!”

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Posted by on February 16, 2018 in Librarian Life


Let me profess my love

Let me profess my love

So far, I have read “The President Has Been Shot!”: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy, Chasing Lincoln’s Killer and now finished the newly published Chasing King’s Killer: The Hunt for Martin Luther King Jr.’s Assassin. Yes, James L. Swanson has written adult novels about similar topics, but as a high school librarian I’m more interested in the young adult novels or adaptations, though have it on my list to read the adult ones. I can only imagine how engaging the adult content is if the young adult content is any indication.


What do I mean? Swanson writes the real life dramas as if they were heart-stopping tragic adventure stories, not real life acts of terror and rampage. In the case of each of his books, the parallel stories of (at least) two men on a collision course with one another is riveting. It’s the engaging prose and pictures. Swanson does not distract readers with footnotes or text boxes, instead it is the essence of wonderful narrative nonfiction because it flows seamlessly, uses the elements of story with command, and connects with readers.


As I finished Chasing King’s Killer, I thought out loud to anyone who would listen how tragic this decade must have seemed and hopeless Americans felt: In the span of a handful of years, there were assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy. Anyone who was standing up for something was torn down by violence. And, like an encyclopedia, I repeated “did you know?” facts to anyone in earshot.

  • Did you know that James Earl Ray was actually a prison escapee when a year later he took Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life?
  • Did you know that Martin Luther King, Jr. was stabbed with a letter opener at a book signing years before his assassination by a mentally unstable woman? He literally could have sneezed and died but in true calm fashion, he asked that the opener not be removed from his chest until he was at the hospital. Good thing because it was a hair away from nicking his aorta.
  • Did you know that James Earl Ray left the country (and went to more than one) before being apprehended?

I could go on. But it’s the presentation of the information in a balanced way that makes readers appreciate Swanson’s skill. You forget the history you know in order to be swept away by Swanson’s captivating storytelling.

Swanson is a much-recommended author in my high school library because of it’s content equal to it’s beauty. I hope to get a few minutes to meet him in less than a week at the American Library Association’s Midwinter conference where he’ll be on stage with a panel of authors celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. But I’ll have to get back my already lent copy of the most recent book from the people I’ve shared it with because he’s one author I’d love a John Hancock from.

He’s unforgettable and makes his stories this way as well. Post-It count: high.

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Posted by on February 2, 2018 in Adult, Authors, Nonfiction, Young Adult


Brothers Heath

Brothers Heath

This post was originally published on the Times Union Books Blog

This past October Chip and Dan Heath, brothers and co-authors published their fourth book called The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact. It was a book that had a powerful impact on me like Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle (2015) did when I read it over a year ago. These kinds social psychology books shed light on everyday topics and encourage conversation around why people do the things they do, but provide examples and context for understanding it on a deeper level and making changes or becoming more aware. Both of the books are regular references in conversation for me. And with The Power of Moments, there was a relatable opportunity to use the book in my work as well as personal life. (You can see my post about that here).

Then I went on a binge; I downloaded through the public library or borrowed the print copies of their other three: Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work (2013), Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard (2010) and Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (2006). And again, I was either ferociously highlighting on my eReader or Post-iting the print book when a concept or example struck a chord. There was full engagement with each of them.

Why are the books important? First and foremost, there is a relaxed humor that shows the personality of the brothers. Every now and then you get a taste of it and smile. Second, the books are well-organized. Each has a formula that makes them accessible to every reader. There’s the identified issue that they’re discussing, a quick acronym or mnemonic device to remember the steps, then subsequent chapters that dive into the steps individually. Within the chapters are subchapters that highlight tangible examples. Think businesses like Southwest or the military. Usually it’s followed by a clinic or “what should you do?” that you can investigate (or skip) to apply your newfound knowledge. And then the ever-present summary of the main points. Like I said: well-organized and comforting when moving from book to book. Third, the examples are succinct and useful. Nary is there a long-winded bad example. They’re inspiring which is why the books have received awards from business and leadership fields. Fourth, there is plenty of backmatter like additional reading material and their website with one-page cheat sheets of the concepts, podcasts, and “how to” manuals: they’re not hiding their genius but spreading it around.

What did I learn from Moments? That any moment can use one to all four of the concepts of EPICness, so think 1) elevation, 2) insight, 3) pride, and 4) connection. What did I learn from Switch? That self-control is an exhaustible resource and that if you 1) direct the rider, 2) motivate the elephant, and 3) shape the path you can work toward change. What did I learn from Decisive? To WRAP: 1) widen your options, 2) reality-test your assumptions, 3) attain distance before deciding, and 4) prepare to be wrong. And, what did I learn from Stick? Achieve SUCCESs for ideas by 1) keeping it simple, 2) unexpected, 3) concrete, 4) credible, 5) emotional, 6) through stories and again, keep it 7) simple.
Whether you pick up one of the books or all four like I did in a two-week span, you won’t regret the added insight you’ll gain, especially if you’re a fan of social psychology. Have I steered you wrong yet? Right now, the only question you should be asking is which one you’ll start with. And if you’re thinking that, you might want to pick up Decisive first.

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Posted by on January 27, 2018 in Adult, Authors, Blogging, Nonfiction


Find a moment

Find a #moment (1)

A while ago I wrote about Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation that I marked up and continue to think about and reference in conversation almost daily. The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath will be another book that I continue to think about and reference in conversation. Published in October 2017, this is the latest collaboration between the brothers and their other book topics include decision-making, ideas, and changes. The Power of Moments deals with memorable moments in our lives.

PowerofMomentsAs I started to shape what I wanted to share in this post, I also remembered that a fellow New York State librarian, Sue Kowalski, often uses the hashtag #momentsthatmatter when she posts to Instagram, usually when sharing pictures of her mother, but friends and family. She knows the value of a moment. I wonder if she could have contributed to the book? In essence, the Heath brothers set out to demonstrate to readers how experiences in our lives have an “extraordinary impact” and drill down to the four elements of powerful moments: Elevation, Insight, Pride, and Connection. They reluctantly share the acronym to easily remember it as EPIC.

They walk through the four elements and hone in on succinct examples and scientific research about how moments can be orchestrated (but recognize they’re hard work to create) and when they occur naturally. I can share that I used about two pads of Post-its as I read the book feverishly taking notes. Especially for educators, there is commentary on how we can create moments that matter using the four elements in schools.

In addition, anyone who wants to think deeper about their own lives can use the book as a tool too: a) creating milestones (using the Couch to 5K example), b) that purpose trumps passion in work, c) that courage is contagious, d) that transitions are natural moment-makers, e) that employees strongly agree that “full appreciation of work done” is the best gift they can receive from bosses, f) that variety truly is the spice of life. And I could go on, but I’m putting it to others to read the book. Read deeply and openly.

I want to “turn up the volume” on moments in my life. There are already elements that I’ve used without understanding the reasons that the book lays bare. And, it’s also why apps are revolutionizing moments– they are creating moments in our lives when we didn’t know there were milestones to celebrate (think: You’ve walked 10,000 steps today! Or, congratulations, you’ve sampled 100 beers from 13 different states!)

If you haven’t read the book, read it. I’d love to form a book group about the topics Chip and Dan Heath present. I know librarians who create these moments for students every day (ahem, Stacey Rattner) and sparkling personalities that savor human interaction (ahem, Sue Kowalski) and apps that helped me run a 15K (ahem, Runkeeper), so let’s work toward creating more of these moments.

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Posted by on January 19, 2018 in Adult, Authors, Nonfiction, Research


My cup runneth over (feeling the pride)

Filling my cup

Three times a year, I spend the day outside of the library doing a non-librarian task that is meaningful to me personally and to our school’s community. I’m the faculty adviser for the school’s blood drives.

2016-10-20 09.46.32As a large city school district, we have the ability to host three drives a year: October, January, and May and collect about 100 units per drive which is amazingly powerful. A smattering of staff, but the majority of these units are donated by upperclassmen looking to help our community.

In my eight years of overseeing the drives, I have never had to ask students to step up to be the student volunteers nor have we ever had a lack of enthusiasm from staff and administration in supporting the drives. Everyone rallies to help whether it’s the PE department giving up their space for the day, teachers giving during prep time, and the students overcoming their fear of needles or first time jitters. No matter what happens, I always finish the day down a pint of blood but feeling full of Falcon pride.

These are the moments that reinvigorate me. There are days I feel like I’m only fixing printer issues or checking passes. Then there are days that I’m riding high on research questions and inquiry. Then there are the blood drives. What do other educators do outside of their regular duties that make them feel as fulfilled as what they do each day?

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This year’s three senior student volunteers and me (second from right). Photo courtesy of Jake Planck, communications for our district. 

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Posted by on January 13, 2018 in Events, Librarian Life, Miscellaneous


I Maya want more from Samira Ahmed


Coming off of reading American Panda at the end of 2017, I stayed up past my bedtime to finish the last chapters of Love, Hate, and Other Filters which I consider its sister book or really: if you like this, you’ll love this. They feature female main characters struggling with the traditional beliefs of their parents’ non-native backgrounds and the fast-moving changes that they believe raising their child in America is causing. You can see my homage to American Panda here, but now I’m going to gush about Love, Hate, and Other Filters. Bonus points that I discovered through some Twitter conversation that Samira Ahmed and Gloria Chao are friends and neighbors!

LoveHateOtherFiltersOf course again, there are wonderfully realized secondary characters to talk about including the two boys in Maya’s life: the “good on paper” older Indian college student, Kareem, and the white all-American classmate that she’s been pining away for, Phil. There’s Maya’s best friend, Violet, Maya’s dentist parents, and Hina, the coolest aunt ever who has deigned to swim against the current and be an Indian American woman who has forged a career in graphic design but has not married and has never had children. But, I digress and focus on the most memorable character, the main character Maya who is in her senior year and feeling the pressure from family to go to one college and study a certain thing rather than attend another college in another state and pursue her passion of film-making. Understandably, her parents moved to the United States for more opportunities for her, but they still have traditional values and want to keep Maya safe. So whether it’s her post-graduation plans or her love life, Maya is confused and needing to work through her doubts but empower her needs and wants. Her complexity of feelings and emotions are what drive readers to follow Maya on her journey.

That journey, especially as it relates to her parental problems is by far one of the most realistic portrayals featured in the memorable quote:

“The best way to get out of this conversation is to keep my mouth shut. I totally know this, yet apparently I prefer to bang my head against the wall over and over because I think arguing can change my mother’s mind. Note to self: It can’t. It never has.”

Yeah, I remember those teenage thoughts. I know my own kids who are not yet teenagers likely think this. Every teenager thinks this and yet, the arguing still happens because everyone involved in stubborn.

And while there are any number of scenes from the book that are memorable for their romance, their realism, their beauty, I think the scene that portrays a dark reality of hatred toward Muslims is the most memorable scene. I will not go into details because readers must experience it for themselves (actually several different times throughout the story), but Ahmed builds a secondary story from intermittent italicized pages that collide with Maya’s story in a powerfully contemporary way.

Ultimately, I dislike insta-romances and while Ahmed has a saccharine romance unfolding, it was not so unbelievable. Rather, it provided a juxtaposition to the harsher elements of tradition and Islamaphobia that Maya experiences. There’s commentary on fashion, school, friendship– literally everything that exists in a teenage world. It has a calming effect but serves as a lesson and discussion for any book club wanting to dive in.

And it is so worthy of being a book club book. It hits shelves on January 16th and when American Panda arrives on shelves on February 6th, book them close together, like an awesome book pairing of peanut butter and jelly, chocolate and more chocolate, or milk and cookies (or in Maya’s case- chocolate cake).