In it for the kids

This post originally appeared in the Times Union Books Blog

It was evident from the moment our chartered bus from Albany to Rochester dropped us off on the Nazareth College campus that the Rochester Teen Book Festival is in it for the kids. There are signs around the venue’s various classrooms, opening ceremony in the gym, and in informational booklets that priority is given to teens– this means that if there are one hundred seats in a gym, you bet your butt that all one hundred will be given to teens first. Adults are last to be admitted and last to find a seat. And that is how it should be at a teen book festival- the adults (many of which are fellow middle grade and YA book lovers themselves) play second fiddle. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way because seeing the excited faces of the forty-three teens we brought on the cross-state adventure were all that should be needed.

A Saturday event dedicated to readers.

Bring in twenty authors where you have rolled out the red carpet is exactly what should get your blood pumping. As students scattered with their buddies across the campus to see their rock star authors in the flesh, I found myself listening to a graphic novelist who amazed us with some live illustrating, then a professor leading us in a workshop about graphic lettering, followed by the last two sessions with male YA authors that could captivate anyone with their oratory skills in addition to their amazing literary talent. Plus, I managed to squeeze in a visit to the food truck Macarollin’ for some lobster mac and cheese.  Phew!

So when we got back on the bus after my colleague, Kristen Majkut, counted, recounted, and triple-counted as the captain and all-around Wonder Woman of this trip, I settled in with a smile as we learned one of our students won a raffle drawing, another was given the sketches from her visit with the graphic novelist, and the students lovingly petted their new purchases… books. And you think reading is dead? These events serve as constant reminders about the nature of reading for teens. Plus, we have others to remind us too, since we were joined on the bus by YA author Eric Devine. Hours were spent talking about writing, other books, readers, and the target audience: teens.

So, if you’ve never been, mark it on your calendars for May 19, 2018. If you’re a librarian or teacher, bring your teens. If you’re a parent, bring your teen and their friends. If you’re in neither category, donate to the event which each of the twelve years it has been running is a runaway hit with its intended audience. Teens.


Reading weekends

2017-02-02 06.55.11-1Nothing is more pleasurable for a reader than having uninterrupted time on a weekend to sit and read.

Especially when life gets busy and the books begin to pile up, there is an overwhelming urge to slow down, make a pot of tea, and dive in.

I love those kinds of weekends.

I need those kinds of weekend.


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Posted by on May 17, 2017 in Miscellaneous


New bullet for job description

If a high school library doesn’t have a social media presence, it’s like a kiss of death. Not only because it disseminates information to groups of people connected to the library, but because it’s necessary PR.

We use our social media for advertising when we’re closing early or staying open later, when we have authors, activities, and events, we share and re-tweet the happenings of our school and district giving shout-outs and hashtagging  #gofalcons wherever we can, and allowing people to peek behind the curtain when students are there for classes, reading, and what they’re checking out.

In a previous post I talked about respecting student privacy and any amount of social posting we do, does generally conceal student identity unless we have express permission/parental consent. We do a lot of shout-outs to our staff collaborating with us and showcase them and their students, plus we program like crazy! So that all makes it to our accounts: Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.


We use Instagram most heavily because of the ease of posting to the two other platforms from it. And who doesn’t love a good filter. We gain followers steadily and tend to have the most student followers on Instagram and Twitter and the most community partners and parents on Twitter and Facebook. We’ve done giveaways to increase our following and continue to showcase our students in their activities. Here are some of our recommendations for a robust social media presence:

  • Showcase and shout out staff, students, volunteers, employees, and community partners as much as possible
  • Find innovative ways to gain new followers and advertise your social media platforms in multiple ways
  • Re-tweet successes from your building and district
  • Use the re-post app on Instagram to highlight what others have shared, whether it was a new book by an author you had visit your school or a teacher’s post
  • Share relevant articles and information that represent you (in our case anything bookish because we’re the library after all)

Start small and don’t feel overwhelmed. If that means putting a calendar reminder on your phone to post every so often, then so be it. And use others’ content to begin if necessary, but always be careful; read the information completely before re-tweeting, sharing, or re-posting.

And last, be comfortable and fluid with your platforms. Someone not familiar with Twitter should not begin using it without creeping first. Likewise, what was popular two years ago, may not be any more or with your community, so don’t feel that you must persevere with a platform that is all but defunct just because it’s what you had before. Times, they are a changin’ and so must we

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Posted by on May 11, 2017 in Miscellaneous


Creative expression

I would love to pretend that I drew this: 2017-02-03 15.58.25

I would love to say I wrote this:


Or sang like this:

But I do not have a cultivated talent for any of them. What I can do is take artful images of books,

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use my words not to write poetry but reflections recognizing the power of books and libraries here and here,


and instead of singing, I can booktalk the hell out of a young adult novel:

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Posted by on May 4, 2017 in Miscellaneous


Want to plan a party? Hire a librarian!

I know I’m up past my bedtime when a main street close to home has switched over to blinking yellow lights for nighttime drivers. But it was well worth it. Our high school library hosted it’s first-ever library lock-in. Hosted by the library’s Book Lovers Club run by my colleague and co-librarian, this was a dream realized after many years of seeing public libraries advertise their own lock-ins. Each will be different, each will have different hours, each will attract different audiences, but this one was pure library fun for our students with a mix of freshman through seniors run until 10pm.

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There was pizza, table games, cornhole, double-dutch, movies, a pinata, impromptu dance parties, computers, and conversation. What we really needed was some air conditioning, but instead we suffered through the extreme heat with as much ice cold water as possible and the support of administrators, hall monitors, and the two of us.

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We could hear the excitement, laughter, and singing throughout the night interspersed with exclamations of this being the best night of their life, or at least their high school career. It probably wasn’t the cute glass lemonade and iced tea serving dispensers or the strategic timing of the activities that the students’ remember, but that’s what librarians do best. We plan parties, oh sorry, programs. We plan programs.

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Coming off of our end to National Library Month with our second READ day during the school day before launching into the lock-in, the substitute teacher that helped us keep the pretzels full and the drinks ready shared that we should plan parties for her personally, which got me thinking that that’s absolutely what we are along with the myriad of other hats we wear.

But it’s programs like these, with a lot of student participation and planning that showcase the community within the school or at least within the library. Will this be our first and our last? Not by a long shot. There’s already a list started for what we can improve, change, add, alter, adapt, and include for our next one coming fall 2017!


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Posted by on April 29, 2017 in Miscellaneous



I needed to tell this story similar to the last prompt but representative of this week’s prompt as part of the #edublogsclub weekly inspiration. This isn’t about student problem or project-based instruction rather than problem-based work that I recently completed with the help of colleagues and happens a few times a year. But this one affected me more.

Our library stores copies of old yearbooks. And because our school dates back to 1868, needless to say there’s some history. Our yearbook collection begins in 1918 and while many don’t come looking for ones that old, they are still looked through. Yet recently, we’ve been getting requests for pictures of alumni from the 1960’s. Can you guess why? Many of our students went off to war. Some never graduated. Some graduated, left for war, and never returned. And projects taken over by citizens to be sure they are properly memorialized means having to track down their high school yearbooks for a picture. Some do not have pictures next to their names on memorial walls because there wasn’t one and they want to be sure they are properly memorialized.

That means that when we’re contacted, the wheels begin turning. We had two high schools, so look through the yearbooks for an indication, if not contact our registrar to see if there is a file in our basement of past graduates and attendees. If they didn’t attend here or briefly, is there any information about where they left to or came from. Is it at our city hall if they went to a school which is now defunct? And so begins the circle, because to simply reply: “they did not graduate from here” or “they did graduate from here but aren’t in the yearbook, sorry” do not cut it. Not for this lady. I want to empower them with as many leads or as much information as possible. And that truly is problem-based and feels more like a quest than anything else.

We want our students not give ask yes or no questions and we want them to not give yes or no answers back, but to explore. And each time we field a call or email, we are leading by example.

And what was the resolution to this request? Our veteran who died in the second-worst helicopter accident in Vietnam. We have yearbook photos from another school district in his freshman and sophomore classes, but no transcript indicating that he actually graduated from our school, though we do know he attended for a brief time. It is fascinating to read about his story, see a picture of a fifteen year old boy, and know the sacrifices that he made. 

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Posted by on April 29, 2017 in Miscellaneous


I trust you

There is no sweeter three words that those three words said to a librarian– this is when you know you’ve hooked another reader, not that they weren’t a reader before, but because you finally understood what they liked and scored big on the last few recommendations that ultimately led to I trust you.

This student was a reader and clearly always has been and a few months back came into the library looking for a book for class. We didn’t have that book and we began talking about getting it from the public library. This led to a brief conversation in which I had to reach out to her branch librarian, but that she could check back. In the meantime, could I recommend something else? She seemed easygoing enough and decided to let me recommend something else. Usually this is also successful because I have earned the trust of the teachers in recommending substitutes for highly-sought books or books to adjust for a reading level in the past.

I started with my usual questions about books she read recently that she liked and who she was as a person to get to know her a bit better before we set her up with something she seemed happy to check out. Then, I saw her a few days later and before a “hello, how are you?” came out, she began to discuss the recent recommendation I had given her and how excited she was to continue reading it. She said she needed something else. She preferred to stick to series books (because who doesn’t love to get hooked on a group of books where you can live in a world for just a little bit longer?) and preferably a series where all the books have been published so she doesn’t have to wait. I lobbed a fast one. I told her I was sharing a series that wasn’t her “usual” but believe me, it was worthwhile.

And that’s when it happened. She finished the series within a week and a half and came in two days before our spring break for another recommendation. My usual line is “what are you in the mood for?” and that’s when she said “it doesn’t matter, whatever. I trust you.”

*heart melts into a puddle on the floor*



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Posted by on April 19, 2017 in edublogsclub, Librarian Life