I can come to your library, book club meeting, or conference to talk about how to help your readers find their next good read. Click here for more information including RA for All's EDI Statement.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

RA for All On Spring Break

I planned to be off all week, but I preloaded Monday and Tuesday.

I will be on and off Twitter, but no blog posts until Monday 4/4.

See you in April

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

What I'm Reading: Horror Column in the April 2022 issue of Library Journal

I have 8 reviews in the April 2022 issue of Library Journal. Below are the titles with my three words and links to my full draft reviews. 

I want to remind everyone that I craft this column very deliberately to suit public library needs. Every single title is a great edition for all library collections. I do not allow myself more than 3 stars out of the 8 titles I review in each column. These are all Becky approved. Now the details.

First the STARS:

And the remaining titles:

Monday, March 28, 2022

PLA 2022: Friday Report

Editor's Note: RA for All is on vacation and there may be typos here. I will fix them later. It was key to get this published though 

Friday began with Amy Schneider, Jeopardy! champion in conversation with a staff member for PLA [who did a fantastic job, by the way]. Amy began talking about her historic run, becoming the most winning woman in the show's history and the first openly transgender contestant to make the Tournament of Champions. 

She was charming. She was honest about how she prepared and spent a few minutes talking about how she stayed in the moment. This was excellent advice for all. She also discussed her own anxiety and how she worked to figure out how to keep it at bay for each 30 minute taping. Her focusing techniques and pre-show playlists helped.

As she began winning, she realized that everyone was coming for her-- and her future house [LOL]. She told them to herself, "I know this is your dream too, but sorry."

She lost only 3 games before her shows would have aired. She was living this double life, going to LA Monday, Tuesday and taping 10 shows in 2 days, then going back to Oakland and working. She was exhausted, but she could not tell anyone. Thank goodness she was working remote so no one realized how much work she was actually missing. And, she was frank, she was not doing a great job at her day job during that time.

Her self awareness and ability to deal with fame was discussed. It was weird knowing one of the best things to ever happen to her, a life changing event, was about to happen in a few weeks but she could not share it with the people in her life. Also, knowing she would soon be recognized on the street-- she is still dealing with that and her comfort there.

But as a trans woman, who didn't transition until adulthood, who spent a life time hiding her true self, hiding something so important was hard. "I hid so much for so long," but in this case she knew it would end. 

Watching herself on TV was hard, she is still getting used to herself, her voice, and her thinning hair. But it was also enlightening because as the run went on, she realized she was the only one who really cared about how sushi looked.

She was asked: What has your viability represented to the trans world? Reply: It is hard for me to see because I am in that world. She has friends at the Trans Lifeline [which she said helped her many times] and they told her that she helped a lot of people. Many were calling because they saw her on TV. But she is mostly proud that her appearance, on a show that skews older, has allowed parents and grandparents to understand trans people and have conversations with the trans people in their own lives. That people so graciously and happily let her into their living rooms day after day and accepted her, even rooted for her, made her proud.

She said she didn't even understand what "trans" was until she was 30. The world has branded us as freaks for so long and here I am, a trans person who is normal and relatable on TV, in your living rooms. 

She did feel a responsibility to the trans community saying, I did not present and idealized version of myself. I did not want to give other trans people who saw me something hard to reach. I am not perfect, but this is me and I am loved and accepted for the woman I am.

In summation-- she was funny and charming and self aware. It was a wonderful way to start the final day.

Next up, Horrible, Evil Library Books: Normalizing Intellectual Freedom Standards in Customer Service.

First, here are the slides and handouts. Please look at them to supplement this recap.

This was a report from 2 librarians from Mid-Continent Library System in Missouri, well one now works in FL, but they developed this program together. It is Intellectual Freedom training for front line staff, all over the state of Missouri, so that they can have conversations with people at the public desks. 
This training is meant to be given to every employee, from the Director to the custodian, so that all library staff can talk about topics like censorship anywhere, from the branch to a family gathering. 
Record scratch in the recap here-- I have some commentary before I get back to the content
Then they said this-- we put Intellectual Freedom in our strategic Plan and performance evaluations. It is a part of our values. And this is where I had trouble continuing to listen. Why? Because this is the library where Intellectual Freedom is so important to them and yet, this happened there just a few weeks ago. Their Director had to resign after a board member claimed that these values were equivalent to "white genocide." Look I know this is not the presenters fault, but all I could think about was that she was purposely not mentioning this HUGE fact.
Obviously, the training isn't working if you trustees aren't getting the message. After the presentation I went up to the front privately and told them I thought this was fascinating, but that they did themselves a disservice by not mentioning this HUGE issue. She walked away in a huff. Look, it is not like I went up to the mic to mention it during Q&A. I waited to share my thoughts.
Back to the recap.
As the slides show, the training has 3 sections: Privacy, Access, Inclusion. The slides are good, but I will tell you that while this training did not embrace the myth of neutrality-- as you look at the situations that they give the groups [and gave us] and the included discussion points that they want you to take away-- it toes the line at times.
I will say when faced with a racist patrons, they do train staff to take it very seriously and chastize the patron, even write up an incident report. 
Seriously look at the handouts because they go through the training very well and if you want to have access to the full training, they will share it with you. 

I did want to end with the final LEARN acronym [also spelled out better on slides] 
Listen, Empathize, Advocate, Redirect [I was not a fan of this one, I would rather engage them], Notify [your manager for support and the prepare for further complaints].
They really stressed the "advocate" part. They want staff to tell our values  at  t he front desk. If we had focused on this earlier, we might not be in the trouble we are now. However, I wrote an argument to  this in my notes: the problem is even bigger now because the enemy knows our values and are using them against us.
 The last program I attended might have been one of the best I ever went to at a conference and I want to take my time with it. Beyond Late Fees: Eliminating Access Barriers For All Community Members, presented by Carrie, Valdes, Director of the Grand County Public Library is Moab, UT.
Click here for the slides.  The slides are good, but it was Valdes and her honesty about her journey that were amazing. And I will also say that one of the reasons I loved this program is because Valdes is clearly the same kind of leader I am- someone who asks the big questions and refuses to settle for the "but that's how we have always done it" argument. She is carefully and logically dismantling entire entrenched systems in a very conservative community because she is putting the patron experience first.
Okay, enough preamble. Let's begin. Valdess began by telling her story at Grand County PL.  She explained how entrenched not only fines were, but punitive action against people with overdue books. The country required they be served papers and have to go to court after a time punitive.
She shared a few very key transition points for herself. One was a family who came in for a library card. It was a stepmother and her 2 small kids. Their mother was in jail and had racked up fines. Because of this the kids could not get cards. She really wanted to waive the fines for the kids due to extenuating circumstances, but she was told they have to apply all rules to all people equally or else the exception become the rule.
Then she went to PLA in Philly in 2018 and heard Steve Pemberton's Big Ideas talk. He talked about how the library literally saved his life. He was able to go to the library for hours to escape his problem home, loose himself in books. On school holidays he would go as soon as she finished his chores and spend the entire day there. 
BUT, that night, she tossed and turned because while Pemberton's story inspired her, she realized that at her library, his story would be impossible because of numerous barriers:
  • They had a tight unattended minors policy and he came in alone. HE would have been stopped at the door at her library [Becky note: this is a huge inclusion issue and a very easy policy to nix quickly. At my library we removed this policy a few years ago for this reason.]
  • He spent school holidays at the library. They were closed every school holiday as well [Also something we removed a bunch of years ago. And the staff loved it because we replaced former school holiday closed days with days off they could use anytime instead. The parents could take off on school holidays and the non parents any other day they wanted.]
  • Pemberton got a library card through his school. She could not give a minor a card alone. He would need a state issue ID. Not only that, because of their punitive model for fines, she would also need the signature of a guaranteer. They county required there was someone to vouch for him to get items back "on time and inn perfect condition."
Valdes was turning these disturbing issues in her head as she went to the next day's big ideas where she saw Elizabeth Gilbert. Gilbert asked the group: "What are you willing to give up to  have the life  you  say you want." Which Valdes immediately turning into this question for herself, the Director  of her library: "What are you willing to give up to have the library you keep pretending you want?"

Becky aside: This is the quesstion we should all be asking ourselves. Stop making excuses. Start acting

Back to Valdes.

One more wake up call story. After she went back to work, still turning this big question in her head, there was an incident at the library and the police were called. The young police officer looked so familiar and then after they were done he said, "You people at the new library [it  was a newer building] are so much nicer than the old people. My mom hated the library. She wouldn't give us cards when we were little." And you guessed it, that police officer was  the boy from the story at the start. And she was that mean lady. She was devastated. That was the straw that broke the camel's back and she began acting.

The rest of the program was Valdes going over how they dismantled their barrier, but she was clear, it was a messy process. She did  all of the hard work as the Director. And she was honest, not every staff member came along with her on this journey. There has been turnover. But she  began with identifying the list of the things that the library was willing to give up:
  • Teaching responsibility: our job is not this, our job is to provide access to information. 
  • Protecting "our" collections: this is a Becky mantra as well, the collection belong to the community, why are we protecting their books from them?
  • Preventing Cheaters: who cares if someone worked the system to  get a car they do not deserve? Who is it hurting? Really no one. 
  • Seeking legal or other remedy for fines or unreturned items
  • Easily identifiable revenue systems
Ultimately it came down to Fairness vs Equality. The big questions: is treating everyone exactly the same fair? NO! These are big conversations for small town Utah.

She then went through each thing the library was willing to give-up. The Guiding Principles slide talked about privilege. They heard people say they could not afford to use  the library-- and this was not okay.

She had a county fee ordinance and there is a slide about  their old fee structure. Valdes made the goal of having the register say "$0" when she balanced it each night. She systematically attacked her fee and over time removed them from the list. Now note, she has to pass the county auditor. Here ish how she did them:
  • ILL fee for return postage: she sought a 1 year grant to cover postage. That removed it from the list for a year. The next year, she didn't put it back on the budget. Auditor only looks back 1 year, so..... you guessed it, they didn't ask where it went. [This is a total Becky move. I have done things exactly like this as well.]
  • They charge $1 for a card, to cover the plastic card. The state required everyone go to a standard barcode numbering system for cards. So they gave her library 10,000 cards to get started replacing. Because everyone HAD to get a new card, she argued for removing the $1 fee from the county ordinance list since they had 10,000. And you guessed it, she never put the fee back.
  • Fine free was a process. She started with just kids and slowly expanded it to all. This is a common practice. She also told the group -- you all went fine free for COVID, you know you can do it. 
  • The tough one-- seeking legal remedy. This was a bad practice. They would file charges when someone had too many books overdue. She told a  story which I will very quickly summarize: a home school mom who had too many books still out  was also a lawyer. Usually because got a court order and admitted they had the books or lost them and the court made them pay a fine. But this lady, asked for a bench trial. She claimed she returned the books and the library never checked them in and lost them [it was a bit more complicated but that's the main point] and after the trial, the judge said the library could not prove control of the books from the moment they were checked in until they would have been shelved. After this experience, Valdes did a cost benefit analysis-- interview police and country lawyer, etc,,, and she argued that the tax payers were better served if when things went long overdue they simply replaced the titles that they still wanted in the collection and deleted the others. Later she went into a longer discussion of how they handle this process in the catalog, with reports and card stops. When someone comes in to restart their card, they remove the hold.
Re this last bullet she said, and I bold: Fine free is fine but replacement costs have the same negative impact. The consequences of letting go-- one of our books is out in the community. That's it. Let it go. Later someone asked about people taking advantage and so far only one person has been suspended for doing it 3 times.

They also moved  to a giving a card without proof  of residency model [Becky: we did this at the library I worked at back int eh early 2000s. Our card was for 1 month and then the proof of  residency is if we mailed them a card and they got it. Once they got it in mail it was a full service card. We also went to every school and gave each kid a card because if in that school, they had already proved residency and parents could use it as well. Many of our residents were not legal citizens and even though we were very clear that we did not care, they were  still nervous. This was  they got access too.]

Valdes' card was for only 1 year. She simply asked people the vague question: Do you live here? If they said yes, sh gave them a card that was valid for 1 year, with a 5 book limit at a time. Could be renewed for free annually.

Big question: If someone wants to use your library, why would you tell them no! Becky: this question I love. This question I live as a member of the Universal Services committee for my system. We are using this model of chipping away. In IL our committee has helped to get a free card for every kid in an unnerved library area  who is also on free lunch a library card. We are about to get this for every single person under 18 and the next stop is every single person. So anyone reading this who thinks this can't happen. You are wrong. Yes, I am IL, but she is super rural Utah-- 2 hours to a Walmart rural [her words].

She made these changes by staying just under the radar and putting the patron first. Her next steps are their checkout limits which are only 10 at a time. Becky comment: I took out 20 picture books at a time minimum. And institutional Barries like Dewey. 

And finally she said that she realizes that she has to be willing to accept the risk. She warns her #2  every time she is going to try a new thing that she better be ready to be the Director if Valdes gets fired. 

Valdes told many more stories to support her work. She was a wonderful speaker and an inspiration of a woman. I have been in her position and pushed back not he rules [as a supervisor] and was called out by the administration. When chastised, I told them, "okay, so fire me." They never did because I was right and was putting the patrons first. Yes it is a privilege to be this bold, and risk your job, but look, why are you doing this public library work. It is not for the paycheck because there are a million other jobs right now. Make a decision for yourself. Are you going to uphold systemic oppression or fight it. Clearly, I have made my choice, and also clearly, I am not alone.

I went to Kal Penn after this program for the closing session, and he was very good ass well, but Valdes' presentation was the one that will stay with me as the capping moment of my conference. I literally will never forget her. After the program, she was mobbed with people talking to her. I found her staff, who were sitting in the front to support her,  and told them how inspiring they were and what a wonderful, clear, and replicable approach Values provided. I gave them my card and said I was interested in talking to her more after conference. I really am. I am going to hook her up with my book editor at ALA Editions. This is a model that can finally allow the average, conservative, tiny library to stop hiding behind barriers and finally live up to the true inclusive mission of the public library.

Friday, March 25, 2022

PLA 2022: Thursday Report

Thursday began with the Big Ideas with Brittany K. Barnett. Click here to read about Ms. Barnett and her upcoming book.  Her overall theme in one sentence...Representation Matters. But here are a few things from her powerful talk that I wanted to share with you:

  • As a poor rural, black girl in TX with a mom addicted to crack, who ultimately ended up incarcerated for a time, books were her escape.
  • Time spent in the library, how many books she could read in a week, these were things she could control, in a life where very little was under her control.
  • Her mother may have an addiction but her love for her daughters was huge.
  • She shared her journey to becoming a lawyer. It was a powerful story about her own mentor as well.
  • She became a corporate lawyer because she had an accounting degree and, well quite frankly, that's the type of attorney Clare Huxtable was on the Cosby Show. 
  • As she learned about the unfair sentencing for crack vs powder cocaine, she began writing to prisoners who were serving life sentences for first time drug offenses. She was a corporate attorney by day and helping "justice impacted people." in free time.
  • This term-- justice impacted people stuck with me. Not "formerly incarcerated."
  • She talked at length and with a compelling storytelling style about her work over the years to get justice impacted people out of jail and into jobs. "There is noting more urgent than freedom," she said
  • The freedom journey does not end when they step out of jail. Barnett has also worked to get them jobs, to start their own businesses, to start to live a meaningful life. 
  • There is painful trauma in her story-- she acknowledged that-- but she is also fueled by love, hope, and joy.
  • This work transformed her idea of what freedom means. They freed me too, she said. 
  • She wrote this book for all of the little, southern, black girls so that they could see what they can be.
  • She ended by talking about the power of Judge Jackson and watching her confirmation hearings and how she is making history and will change the world-- with tears overtaking her, rightfully so.
After that powerful moment, I had to go to Prepare Your Library For Today's Censorship Battles:

I was so worked up [in a bad way] that I was writing notes in anger, Tweeting in anger, and texting people in anger. I knew it wouldn't be good, but it was so much worse.

First, please read my Tweet threads here and here. BOTH. It got split up because I was so upset. But I will not repeat the things I wrote there in this blog post. 

To add to those angry Tweets and set the stage, they framed the program with 3 questions. I recount those here and add my commentary:
  • Question 1-- What has changed?
  • They began by explaining how much more organized today's book banners are. They are organized groups who harness social media, have slick handouts, and are trying to get government officials on their sides.
  • Big difference here is also that they are trying to get Boards to ignore their policies in order to remove books.
  • Live streaming Board meetings not only allows them to be performative, they want to transform selves into stars as well. The whole "cult of personality" thing [although they were not smart enough to use this phrase]
  • They then moved on to Question 2-- What does this mean for Libraries and Library Workers?
  • This is where I started to get angry. They just kept listing all of the incidents that are happening. Why are we wasting time at conference recapping the news about censorship. Why are they wasting our time when Kelly Jensen is doing this work for us on Book Riot, and doing it better. Kelly is both reporting AND giving everyone concrete policies and examples to help us all act.
  • Where is our ALA driven action? It is absent. No worse, non-existent.
  • They talk about how facing a challenge is isolating. I disagree completely. Getting people worried about getting a challenge and telling them it will isolate them is WRONG and leads people to make bad choices. Rather, we should be sharing how a challenge can be a chance for you to gather support, get the whole community behind you, and get crowdsourced help and support. Here's one of the major problems with the official ALA response right here. ALA should be embracing those with a challenge and helping others who want to help to act. Instead Kelly Jensen, a former librarian is doing that at a for profit company. Why is she better at it than our membership organization that is supposed to support us? She is better because she puts action first.
  • They are also scaring people by explaining how there were 6 instances were criminal charges were filed. 6! Think about how few that is. But they use the words "criminal charges" to scare people. And then later they told us, "All of the charges were dropped for being unfounded." ARRRGGGGHHH. This is not helping. We should be lifting up, encouraging this good work, not bringing people down and making them an anxious mess. We are right here. And right will win out over time, but it will take a lot longer if we pander to our enemies. And that reminds me....why don't we call them enemies. They are the enemy. If we changed our terminology, we would foster more action. You fight an enemy. You do not appease them.
  • Question 3: What Are Best Practices and Strategies to Respond? And here is where it went down the toilet fast.
  • They spent 2/3 of the talk scaring the audience, telling everyone that the other side is organized, infiltrating government, and using social media and slick marketing to spread their message. So what's our response? Very weak-- 
    • Have conversations
    • Build relationships with key decision makers
    • Deflect?!?!?!-- this one made steam come out of my ears. They told people that when you get a challenge don't draw attention to the specific materials, rather have a way to push out messages of all of the great things you do that do not have to do with materials. How you help the community. WTF?!?!
  • This is the problem. We are being told to meekly deflect and not meet our accusers head on. This measured approach will never work. We are against a well organized enemy who will stop at nothing for attention. They told us this. The time for advocacy and community building is over. We need to get mad and rally the troops-- both other libraries and those in our community who are appalled. And there are more that are appalled than with the banners. They just are afraid to speak up. Many are waiting for the library to help them find their voice. We are failing everyone: ourselves, our patrons, and our futures.
  • ALA needs to be there to help rally the troops. Sure they need to always be doing the foundational work, but we also need a guerrilla arm for the action. Conference is the time to call to action, not boring recaps. Again, Book Riot is offering those already. Don't duplicate the work. We have limited  resources. Our libraries need ACTION. We are missing our chance.
  • They did have one good point, one I make in the Twitter feeds linked above and one I make everywhere I go. They are disappointed in Boards, particularly school boards for ignoring their own policies. As I tweeted "Everyone listen. Board members by law cannot remove a book. Your job is the building, the budget, the policies, and hiring and firing director. That is it! The professional staff handles challenges. You don’t get a say on day to day operations. Period. Stop giving in to them."
  • Support the freedom to read, they tell us at the end. What about the myth of neutrality that they prop up. Oh, not a word about that. Fighting that myth would save us and allow us to directly challenge our adversaries, who use our internal battle around this myth, to hit us where we can't respond.
  • And then, after I did the angry Tweets about this program, and knowing stories about the moderator before this began, I had this reply to my Tweets [keeping anonymous as possible per request]:
    • "One of those folks is my former director and I… also have feelings about them participating in this session. For a lot of reasons. šŸ˜"
    • "The time they told me that yes, literal n*zis could use our programming space for meetings because the Girl Scouts were also allowed to springs to mind."
    • "There was such a record scratch in my head when it was said and basically couched in “I’m on the IFC so of course it’s right.”
Of course neutrality didn't come up. The people on the panel are literally the problem, encapsulated on one stage.

One last comment here. This program was so very disappointing in light of Luvvie's talk the day before. Please read my recapBut she was pleading with us to engage with our fears and actively challenge our unjust systems. And yet, here was an official ALA program that asks us to cower, hide, and try to deflect. It was upsetting on every possible level.


On to the next program: Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Anti-Racism in a Sundown Town. This one was fascinating. Here is the description:
Based on research done by library staff, Glendale became the first city in California to pass a Sundown Town proclamation, acknowledging and apologizing for its history of racist treatment of Black people. Glendale Library, Arts & Culture (GLAC) was a leader in the City's effort to build a collective understanding of historic and present-day systemic racism, through partnerships, events and exhibits. GLAC is working towards becoming an antiracist organization internally as well.
And here are the links to their slides and handouts [side note, ALA ppl in program above ddid not post slides. smh]:
The all white panel was very clear, this is the story of the beginning of anti-racist work. Glendale had a reputation for being racist. The black community is small. And in the summer of 2020 the community decided to do work to dig into their racist history. Because, they said, when black people say your town is racist and tell each other to stay away, trust them. They are definitely right. Don't deny it, dig into why that perception is there.

They did and went out to try to gather evidence of the town's sundown practices. Maybe not ordinances but the official things that were done to keep out black people. The library was part of the process of the town officially trying to prove their racism and bring the receipts.

They searched the archives for the town. First thing they noticed was the erasure of the black experience. Nothing in official archives was about black organization or experiences. NOTHING. So next they used every racist terms they could think of, they even looked up historical racists terms, the more awful the better the results. It was emotionally upsetting work, but it brought results. 

Please look at the slides I linked above  because they had examples from the archives. One example, was from the Glendale Reality Board, a flyer to promote a new housing development which promised "permanent race restrictions." And this was a tame example.

The library took on this research role and became the place to help prove that Glendale was a sundown town that actively worked to keep black people out. Their work was there to prove this as fact and allow more people to come to terms with the racism and listen.

But the research was the first step. With this work the town passed a "Sundown Town Resolution" that acknowledges their racist past, apologizes for it, and pledges for an anti-racist future. This gave everyone accountability that they have to keep going, keep their work moving forward. It is a promise we have to keep, said the presenter. But also, she said, we continue to work to be an anti-racist community. This is not an end action, this is a beginning.

Note: Glendale was the first city in CA and only the third in the country to pass a sundown town resolution. And they hope you might explore this for your community as well. It is a place where the library can easily take the lead.

The second part of the presentation was about the website they created to tell the racist story of their community-- The Glendale Reckoning. The slides talk about what they were trying to do and here is the direct link. Quick note, they used the same 3-D web technology that realtors use to show houses online and they worked on it all from home during quarrantine. The contact info for the woman who presented on it is on the slides. Take some time to look at it.

The third part was the Adult Services librarian who talked about the programming they did, especially a public art component and working with the high schools. Again the slides  have a lot. But they built their library programming off of the final "episode" on the website--"Be the Change." That was her job to help be the change and bring the anti-racist work to the community. She talked  bout converation series and programs [again, slides] that they have started. And it is not just black racism. They also have a large Armenian population. I also liked that  they hosted "parent corners" on how to speak to  your  kids about racism.

They were very clear, this is all a beginning. "We Are a Work in Progress" statement slide is also below and a great way to wrap up the program but keep the conversation going. I would love to see them again in 2 years in Columbus at PLA 2024.

The slides and handout go into much more detail and provide links to much of these notes. Please explore them as well.

And finally, I ended the day here:

Heading to PLA 2022 in Portland? Join us for the “Your Evening is Booked!” author panel.

Date: Thursday, March 24, 2022
Time: 5:005-6:00pm
Location: Conference Center Rooms D137-D140

Therese Anne Fowler, It All Comes Down to This (Macmillan)
Kate Quinn, Diamond Eyes (HarperCollins)
LaToya Watkins, Perish: A Novel (Penguin Random House)
And joining us via Zoom:
Stewart O’Nan, Ocean State (Ingram/Grove Atlantic)
Vauhini Vara, The Immortal King Rao (Norton)

This was a wonderful return to the LibraryReads branded live events. It was a chance for those of us assembled to meet the authors and hear about their books. Some were there in person and some were virtual. But, right before the event, I was texting with Executive Director of Library Readers, Rebecca Vnuk, who was there virtually, and she said they are committed to making these panels hybrid going forward. They are looking into to hiring people to record them at every conference where they will happen and then allow people to watch them after. 

I was very excited to hear this and told her I would pass it on.

But wait....there's one more thing to recap. Yesterday also had Robin and I had a lunch and dinner meeting with two different people/groups where we discussed possible projects in the future [and ate well]. No details yet, but there will definitely be more ways to access our Actively Anti-Racist Service to Leisure Readers coming to you soon.

Back tomorrow-- Saturday with my final recap.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

PLA 2022: Wednesday Report

Wednesday at PLA was the first full day of the conference and I did something at every session. This post is a recap of the main points and resources from what I learned today.

The opening session was Luvvie Ajayi Jones, Professional Troublemaker. Ms Jones gave a talk that reminded the group assembled that the things we all must do are way more important than our fears. Here are a few of the things she said--paraphrased-- that I want to share:

  • Professional troublemakers disrupt. They don't take it and they challenge people to do better.
  • We hear the word trouble and we think it is bad, but we live in a world that is deeply unjust and trouble is required to challenge unjust systems.
  • How are we operating in a world where telling the truth is extraordinary?
  • Fear often keeps us from doing the things we should be doing. But what are you actually afraid of? What is the apocalyptic situation? What is actually at stake? And can you deal with that worst case scenario?
  • Understand the power you bring when you walk in a room.
  • When you speak up, when you ask questions to challenge:
    • Do I mean it?
    • Can I defend it? 
    • Can I say it thoughtfully?
    • Will my silence convict me?
Anyone who follows my blog or the training programs I give can clearly see that Luvvie was articulating how I function in the library world. I challenge every one and every thing. I speak up at meetings, I call people out even when they are above me. I do not keep my mouth shut. And I make people uncomfortable. 

I mean it, I defend it, and I choose my words VERY carefully. 

And there are many people who don't like me. They all respect me, some only spitefully, but they do not like me. And now I understand why. I make them uncomfortable because I do what they are too afraid to do. 

I know Luvvie inspired many there to start acting, but for me, she helped me to understand why I am often left out on a limb alone. 

Next I went to "Queering the Library," presented by Teresa Miller, Librarian I [she/her/hers] and Rebecca Oxley, Librarian III (she/they). This was a program about how the Prince George's County Library in Maryland created an LGBTQ+ work team to make sure that PRIDE was a 365 day thing at the library because "queer people are queer all year long." Also they found that in neighboring DC and Baltimore, the gay pride events were open to families but not geared toward families, so they filled many gaps by centering rainbow families. 

They talked about a lot more as well, and you can see it all on their excellent slides which you can access here

Their focus was very practical, which I appreciated. For example, they approached this work by aligning it with their establish strategic goals and values. They also has a few ironclad points for when there was pushback:
  • LGBTQ+ people are part of every service area
  • LGBTQ+ content is not inherently "adult" or sexual [This got applause]. 
  • Positive representation improves mental health and reduces bullying and hate
  • Queer families exist-- the kids need to see themselves and other kids need to see it.
Again, the slides have all of the links to the wonderful things they did. I am not going to repeat it all. You can click through. But I will add one last thing. During the questions and answer section, someone asked the presenters how they handled making sure the straight people were comfortable with all of this and they said...."We didn't have time to worry about how the straight people felt. They weren't important here."

Next, I went to a real life, old fashioned Book Buzz where the publishers were up on the stage and not Zooming from their living rooms. It was so wonderful to be back in a room listening to them book talk the upcoming titles to all of us, in the same room.

I sat back and enjoyed the show knowing that Booklist would come thought with the slides, slides that contain the appeal of these titles and, in many cases, readalikes. And of course, right after the event, this email came:

Booklist's Book Buzz

Whether you weren't able to make #PLA2022 or you got a chance to see the live event, we have all the important information from our Book Buzz!

PowerPoint Slides

Title List

We'd like to once again thank our panelists:

Annie Mazes, Senior Manager, Adult Library Marketing, Workman Publishing

Virginia Stanley, Director of Library Marketing, HarperCollins Publishers

Amanda Crimarco, Library Marketing Manager, Macmillan Library Marketing

Melissa Nicholas, Director, Account Marketing, Hachette Book Group

Margaret Coffee, Director of Sales-Schools, Libraries, and Independent Bookstores, Sourcebooks

And finally, I ended my day with a program I had high hopes for, and it exceeded it-- Removing Bias and Barriers From Your Cataloging, a case study from  the River Forest [IL] Public Library by Megan O'Keefe.

First, here are her excellent handouts and slides:

This project was based on the fact that there is bias and flaws in common cataloging approaches specifically toward marginalized communities. 

In this case she explained how the 900s are supposed to represent "history" but if you go to the Dewey area for American history, for example, you would never see books on slavery. Why? Because slavery is considered a social science. So "American History" in the DDC version of the world is devoid of slavery. Yeah, this is clearly not okay.

She then explained in plain, how-to language, how she, and it was mostly just she, went through the 300s [but you want to especially focus on 305, 306, and the 320s] doing a digital audit first, pulled the titles to consider moving, along the way weeding those that are outdated and offensive, and reclassifies those that needed it.

The handouts go over the details of what Dewey numbers she assigned and how she decided that. And again, she used her best judgment to make these titles fit. She used cataloging principles to ground her but she did not allow the systemic oppression inherent in DDC to drive her decision making. She used her desire to remove as much bias as she could in her slice of the library world.

I was transfixed by how obvious and easy she made it all seem. She was living what I always say-- you can't dismantle systemic racism by making excuses on how hard it will be, you just have to start doing it. She started with 2 sections 300s and 900s and made real and meaningful change that tries to rectify some systemic marginalization.

A couple of pieces of advice she gave-- begin with the lowest level of authority you need to begin the process. In general she suggested this for any change and I agree.

She also encouraged everyone in the room to use all of her ideas, her handouts, her processes, and make them better, improve them, and let her know so she can do better too.

And finally, and this I think was the perfect cap to my day as it harkened back to Luvvie, she reminded everyone that if they were waiting for all of the Dewey Decimal Classification System to be changed before they could begin fixing the problems, well you would be waiting a long time. But if all you need is permission to start making changes, changes, as Luvvie said, that will challenge our unjust systems, well O'Keefe proclaimed to the room, "Permission Granted!"

This is something Robin and I say all of the time-- Just start acting. Stop making excuses for why you can't. With cataloging, the excuse is always that if you don't follow the rules perfectly, libraries will no longer be standard and research will be impossible. But I am done with this argument. The harm we are doing by upholding unjust systems is too great. It is way greater than the chaos some "rogue" cataloging will cause. 

As you can see, yesterday was a good day of learning. I got appropriately fired up. And I am starting to find my people who are done standing-by. We are coming for you status quo library people. I think there are enough of us now that you cannot stop the progress we are bringing right at you, head on. 

Back at it today. I have fewer sessions but more meetings. Look for today's report to post tomorrow morning. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

PLA 2022: Pre-conference Tuesday Report

Yesterday afternoon Robin Bradford, Alene Moroni, Alma Katsu [pre-recorded] and I presented a three hour pre-conference "Actively Anti-Racist Service to Leisure Readers."

Click here to go to the full PLA site

Only those who paid for the pre-conference are supposed to have access to the slides and handouts, but you know what, that is not inclusive. So below, I have our slides and the video interview I did with Alma Katsu:

And here is a short recap [w/ pictures] of how the day went and what each of us presented on for a little bit of context.

This was the first time Robin and I have done this program in person together, after many months of doing it virtually. And Alene is an old friend who we were so glad could join us and enhance our existing program.

The three of us before presenting. 

Robin began with her talk about ActivelyAnti-Racist Collection Development and I followed, as per our usual program on this topic, with my Actively Anti-Racist RA Service talk. After a short break, Alene provided actual examples of how she provides Actively Anti-Racist service at her library.

Robin presenting and Alene looking on

Our audience 

We then took 45 minutes of questions before allowing author Alma Katsu to have the final word, speaking about her new novel, The Fervor, writing from her Japanese-American perspective for the first time, and the rise of hate in our country [Katsu worked in American intelligence for many years]. 

Alma Katsu and Becky conversing on the big screen

We then ended the day by giving away 5 copies of Katsu's ARC courtesy of Putnam.

Katsu's novel on the podium.

Today, the conference proper begins and I will be back to report on what I learned tomorrow, but I hope what I have given you today can help some of you learn from afar.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

PLA Galley Guide As a Resource Near or Far And Becky's PLA Schedule

Back to in person conferencing this week with the return of PLA Annual. Click here for the conference website. I will say I am very excited to get back to conferencing, but let's see how I feel on Friday.

Today I have a couple of notes for all readers of this blog, whether you are coming to the conference in person, doing it virtually, or staying home.

First is the Library Journal Galley Guide made specifically for this conferencea list of all of the ARCs that attendees can get in the exhibit hall along with scheduled author appearances. You will notice the Galley Guide is smaller than usual because everyone is bringing fewer titles and hosting fewer authors. This is the cautious first steps back into what our new normal will look like.

But it is important to remember that the LJ Galley Guide for any conference is not just for the people who are at the conference. Why? Click here to read my explanation from a previous round of Galley Guides. This post his about how and why Galley Guides are an excellent RA and Collection Development resource.

And again, click here for the current Galley Guide.

Second, on to more pressing matters....me. No seriously. Many of you have asked about my schedule, both to meet up with me in person and the blogging schedule. So here are those details.

This post is prescheduled to go live at 7am central time on Tuesday 3/22, but I finished writing it Monday, 3/21 in the afternoon, before I got on my 8:20pm plane to Portland. Why I am telling you this, because of two things.

  1. I will be doing this same thing every day for the rest of the week. In the evenings, after each day at PLA, I will write up notes about the programs I attended that day. Also anything else interesting I saw or think is worthy to share. Those posts will go up the next day. So, on Wednesday here on the blog, you will be reading about what I did Tuesday, and on Thursday, what I did Wednesday, and so on. That means there will be a a blog post that goes live at 7am Saturday, to report on Friday's happening, as well. Please note that change to the normal blogging schedule.
  2. I am setting these posts to go live at 7am central because that is my home time zone, but please remember, that will be 5am pacific, where my body will actually be. This means, while the posts will go up at their normal time, I will not be posting them to Twitter before 10am central time. Also this does not mean I was up at all hours hustling for all of you. I am setting these all before I go to bed the night before. Or at least, that is the plan; who knows what will actually happen. 

So posts about PLA Wed-Saturday mornings. And then, silence. I get home on the red-eye early Saturday morning and do a 36 hour turn around to do a road trip for spring break. We are taking our son to look at colleges. I know, very glamorous.

I will be on Twitter that week of 3/28 though, because there will be a lot of down time for me, as our son has classes to attend, student bands to play with [he is applying to college for music], and hanging out with current students. And I will be reading. A LOT. 

But I won't be blogging. Spring break is always a week off from blogging for me, even if I don't go anywhere.

So enjoy the PLA coverage, comments, and resources here on the blog [and Twitter] this week, but after that I will see you in April.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Readers’ Advisory + Reader Engagement = Reader Services for Our Times via Library Journal and NoveList

I am getting ready for PLA [leaving later today], and I will have a detailed post about that including my blogging schedule tomorrow, but today, I wanted to send you to a recent article in Library Journal by some of my colleagues at NoveList entitled, "Readers’ Advisory + Reader Engagement = Reader Services for Our Times.

It is behind a paywall, but you get a few articles for free a month, If your library subscribes to LJ [which it probably does], you can set up digital access as well. Today might be a good chance to look into that.

Please read this article because it outlines the 21st century mission of RA Service that I teach. In fact, I have given a talk about this topic with one of the authors here, Autumn Friedli [link to our slides here]. 

This is a great explanation of how you create service to leisure readers that is about conversations, not transaction. 

This article is so important that I will be linking it to my 10 Rules. It outlines the HOW and WHY behind our service to readers through the library.

Finally, if you really cannot read this in any way, let me know and I will send it to you as a PDF. It really is that foundational. 

Friday, March 18, 2022

What I'm Reading: Wasps in the Ice Cream by Tim McGregor

I have 1 review in the March 15th issue of Booklist and it was an unequivocal star. As usual, this post has my draft review and more appeal information to help you handsell this to readers.

by Tim McGregor
Apr. 2022. Silver Shamrock, paper, $14.99  (9781951043537)
First published March 15, 2022 (Booklist).

In the summer of 1987, Mark worked at the local ice cream stand, where the product was subpar and a wasp nest ominously hung outside the window. It is the summer he fell in love with the middle Farrow sister, a Horror reading witch, a complex and beguiling girl whose family are the town pariahs. And, it is also the summer when a very real ghost began haunting him for the rest of his life. Looking back as an adult, Mark is able to own his mistakes, as he spins a vivid tale of the shattered innocence that defines him as an adult. Filled with evocative and captivating scenes, strong female characters, and an engaging narration, readers will become engrossed immediately, while the threat and fear at the heart of this story, satisfyingly, sneaks up on them. The provocative title, paired with the equally intriguing chapter titles, allows the tension and pacing to steadily increase until that titular nest and all of the consequences from a lifetime of choices come violently crashing down upon Mark and the reader. This spectacular example of coming of age Horror, the best since Janz's Children of the Dark and Kiste’s The Rust Maidens, and reminiscent of McCammon’s Boy’s Life, will delight and chill this subgenre’s numerous fans.
YA Statement: With its 1980s nostalgia, vivid cast of realistically depicted teenaged characters, touchingly awkward descriptions of first love, and a chillingly realistic haunting, this novel will attract a swarm of teen readers.
Further Appeal: McGregor is a name to watch. I gave his historical Horror novel from 2021-- Hearts Strange and Dreadful-- a star in Library Journal.

Here are some more of my notes from when I read this novel which go into more detail about the appeal:
  • This is a novel of expertly described individual scenes that capture bring a teen in 1987, the places and people, the tedium and excitement, first love etc….. And they all flow smoothly. You don’t appreciate how great and descriptive these scenes are because you are engaged in the story, and yet, after, many have come back to me vividly! 
  • The overall tone is in equal measures innocent and threatening-- at the same time. 
  • Strong female characters overall. I especially appreciated the step-mom. She is a whole person. As a secondary character of some importance, this is key. Even the popular girl character has depth.
  • The TWIST!!!! With only 30ish pages to go. Jarring in a good way. You are feeling it all build up and know it is all going somewhere not great, but you are enjoying the ride so much that when the TWIST comes—- WHAM. And looking back, author tries to prepare you, but he still gets you and it is gut wrenching.
Three Words That Describe This Book: engaging narration, compelling, innocent and threatening at the same time

Readalikes: Regular readers of the Horror blog know I feel very strongly about the Janz and Kiste titles in the review above. They are both in my Top 20 of the 2010s list. And Boy's Life is a classic

The Kiste recommendation is important here because the way she writes young women as strong, powerful, and independent actors, McGregor captures that as well, but without sacrificing his teenage boy pov.

This novel also reminded me of Hannah Tinti's novels as well. She is a favorite author for me, and while she does not write Horror, her novels are very uneasy and creepy, with a perspective that is slightly askew from reality. Click here and here for reviews of her two novels.