Saturday, August 31, 2013

So Many Books, So Little Time (to Shelve Them All)

The books arrived last Monday, but first a little perspective on where Square 1 was for me in all this:

Librarian's desk and empty bookshelves

Empty Shelves

If you stare through the display racks, you can see some stray books floating around back on the shelves – a couple of classroom sets (including The Incredible Journey and A Wrinkle in Time), but mostly 25 year old "issues" books.

Boxes of books lined up in the gym
The books all came into the gym, which is why my arms look so much buffer than they did a week ago. For the most part, fiction and non-fiction were in separate boxes, but those boxes were all jumbled together. So the engineering staff and a couple guys from climate control helped me move them all downstairs and get them (mostly) separated into fiction and non-fiction at least.

Book stacksWhere they ended up stacked up all over the place. Most were labeled in a general way: 811, Dre-Dru, enough to let us sort them into fic/non-fic without too much hassle.

And during breaks, I got to hash out the leftovers from the school building's previous tenants. The issues books have been escorted to the trash, especially after cracking one open and finding that it still dated from the days of "having a single mother turns you into a druggie."

I get by with a little help from my friends
I also shamelessly begged help from friends so we could sort the non-fiction boxes down into 100s/200s/etc. Priority for me ended up being the science books, especially the 500s, simply because I (rightly) suspected that they would need the most work & weeding and I wanted to get after them early. According to our collection, alas, Pluto is still a planet and the internet does not exist. Weeding these fully is going to be difficult. I was once advised to draw the line at anything that predates the internet, but that would leave hardly any books in some subject areas. These and issues books are probably going to be where I spend any money I get. The astronomy section is particularly bad. I also discovered my least favorite Dewey number: 595.4 - spiders.

By now, the 500s have overflown the space that was designated as theirs by the previous tenants. For better or worse, I suspect we will not have enough space for all the books we received. The good news is that this encourages me to be more aggressive with my weeding where I can be, to be more generous with teachers' "Ooooh, can I have this for my classroom?" requests, and to allow kids to take more books home with them for longer. I can also probably bring some books over to the other campus. The bad news? Some things that deserve shelf time may not get it.

 Things I Have Learned Include: the last person to have this collection liked fairy tales about as much as I did; petition for volunteers/minions early and often; do not order your books backwards (whoops); talk to other librarians - they will want to help you (to the tune of "here's how you can get $10,000 worth of stuff"). Talk and blog and share and tell everyone you know because people will just give you stuff - lots of stuff - because they want the next generation of readers to have access to the books they loved and learn to love them too. Library school students will volunteer for letters of rec. If you say "I want to do program X," people will say "oh my god, that sounds great, let me give you the number of my friend at the Program X Foundation." Basically, never shut up about your library. Of course, for most library people, that's not a struggle.

Starting to shelve books

Books on the shelves with display racks

The displays with the 398s behind them.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Staff In-Service, Day Five


Or, rather, we will have books. Amid all the getting to know you exercises and school tours and distribution of classroom materials (dry erase markers and construction paper!), I have received news that we will be receiving around 15,000 books. I actually staggered when my wonderful Director of Curriculum (Ms. Monique Bell) told me the news.

I have no idea when they get here. I have no idea how they were cataloged. I have no idea if I'm receiving 15,000 copies of To Kill a Mockingbird. I really don't care (okay, I don't want 15,000 copies of a single title) because WE HAVE BOOKS! I am going to have an actual library that we can actually use!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Staff In-Service, Day One

Or, the matter of starting a school library from the ground up.

I am finally, delightfully, and gainfully employed in my career of choice: librarianship. (Technically, library specialist, as I have no MLIS.) Beginning with this post, I intend to blog about the challenges and successes of starting a school library from the ground up.

Just as a point of reference, here are some things that might be good for you to know:

- I have very little formal library education, amounting to a single children's literature class in college and a CE course in "Managing the One-Person Library" through Simmons

- However, I have worked as a page at the Oshkosh Public Library in two different departments (Reference & Adult Services - which included Teen - and Tech)

- I have my eye on library school, yes I do.

- My time will be split between two campuses.

- My budget is $0.

In short: At under age 30, I am going to run 2 libraries without an MLIS degree, with substantially less than 5 years of experience and no money at all.

Watch me learn on the fly!

What I'm reading today: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. Dragon/human politics and political intrigue set in a medieval-ish world with a musical backdrop. Going to try to get this one on my shelves.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Summer Reading: A List

My summer reading list has been a mix of new, newish, and old. I can't imagine that Captain Underpants and Diary of a Wimpy Kid require any more reviews than they've already had (but they were on my reading list, compiled with the help of a second grader). I've been trying to work on bringing myself current with lit for younger kids – you may have noticed that I heavily favored mythology/fairytale-based YA lit. So the idea is to (at least occasionally) break out of that mold.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

The intertwined stories of a spy and an Air Transport Auxiliary service member who become friends. After parachuting into France, Verity is caught by the local Gestapo and must bargain for her life. This is her story, and the story of her friendship with the pilot who brought her to France.

So very, very, very good and I am afraid to say more than that. Read this book.

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

The story of an orphaned boy looking for a home in the racially divided town of Two Mills, Pennsylvania. I wanted to make a point of including this book on this list because I never read it when I was younger, because everyone knew that it was a sports book because it was by Jerry Spinelli who wrote books about sports, which were for boys. But it's also about home and family and reading and race and How Legends Are Born. It is, in short, worth recommending to just about everyone, regardless of whether or not it is "their kind" of book.

Katya's World by Jonathan Howard

Katya was raised on the Earth colony of Russalka, a distant, storm-tossed waterworld. People live deep beneath the ocean's stormy waves and live off the ocean's resources. Katya is much more interested in her first submarine voyage as a member of the crew. It's supposed to be a routine run until their boat is commandeered to transport a political prisoner.

Political intrigue and a strong female lead? Yes please! Both sides are cast in shades of grey. There is no unnecessary love triangle and there's enough action to satisfy just about anyone. Highly recommended.

The Tail of Emily Windsnap by Liz Kessler

I wanted to like this book. Kessler builds an interesting world in which Emily, who has never been allowed in the water, is finally allowed to take swimming lessons ... and discovers that she's a mermaid. She goes looking for her father and in the process discovers a whole world beneath the sea. Told from a first person perspective, Kessler has the voice of a twelve-year-old down perfectly. Unfortunately, that's where the book loses me. I wish I could enjoy that tone or at least ignore it, but I just can't get into this book.

Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson

This book is fighting tooth and nail to be my favorite book of the summer. Instead of diving back into Euro-centric stories, Wilson deftly weaves together Arabic mythology (djinn! Empty Quarter! 1001 Nights!), modern technology, and the events of the Arab Spring into this absolutely brilliant tale. When Alif, a young Arab hacker, falls in love with Intisar, he wants to believe that their relationship has a future. But she is promised to another. As a keepsake, though, she sends him a book: The Thousand and One Days. And Alif's world shifts. When he finds himself pursued by the shah's security forces, Alif seeks allies who may not be quite human. The magic in this book is sneaky. Alif might just be going crazy or becoming dehydrated. Or maybe djinn still walk the world.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Lucero-Elisa, a princess, has been chosen by god to perform a task. When she was born, a Godstone was implanted in her navel, signifying her selection by a higher power. When she is married off, it is because her husband, Alejandro de Vega, needs her to be a savior. His country is in turmoil and war looms on the horizon. Elisa is not sure she's ready to save anyone – but she may not get a choice.

This is not a perfect book. There's some sort of almost romance and the book equivalent of a training montage (Elisa goes into it fat and comes out fit and ready to defend her country). But the politics and the young princess finding her feet and the religious schisms are all fascinatingly believable. It's a strong debut novel and I'm looking forward to picking up The Crown of Embers, next in the series. Two notes: the main character is pretty clearly Hispanic (but in a very nonchalant way) and the religion in question seems to be an alternate universe take on Christianity. The former is great; the latter may be problematic for some readers.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Book Review: Croak by Gina Damico

"Lex wondered, for a fleeting moment, what her principal's head might look like if it were stabbed atop a giant wooden spear."

For her first 14 years of life, Lex was a good student. Model, even. But in the last two years, she's turned vicious and angry – and even she doesn't know why. Fed up with her behavior, her parents send to live with her uncle in upstate New York for the summer, hoping that work on Uncle Mort's farm will help her settle down. But "Uncle Mort's farm" isn't a farm at all. He's a Grim Reaper and he thinks Lex has the potential to join the business.

Lex quickly settles into the work – except when she encounters a murder victim. Then the guilty start to inexplicably die and Lex becomes obsessed with finding out why. But if she succeeds in catching the killer, will she stop them or join in?

My thoughts: I love the premise of this book and as a first published novel, Damico has made a solid start. Some of the characters fell a little flat for me – I was expecting to see Lex grow more than she did over the course of this novel, but with more to come, perhaps Damico has chosen to space out the character development a little more. I love the town, the system, the work that the Grims do, but Damico makes occasional aside commentary on Teenagers As A Whole that I suspect would have irritated me at 17. That said, there's plenty of sarcasm and funny moments in the book. Anyone who's ever been inexplicably furious with the world will relate to Lex and I do like that she doesn't magically "outgrow" adolescence in the space of 3 months, which seems to be a trend these days. It's fast-paced, full of puns, and it doesn't sanitize growing up.

Readalikes: Scorch is the next in the series. The internet recommends Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, a series about a college dropout who finds he has necromantic powers. Elsewhere by Zevin features a protagonist in the afterlife, fighting to mature in a world that causes you to age backwards. Mort by Terry Pratchett is a hilarious book about Death taking an apprentice.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Shortie Review: Darkside by Tom Becker

Cover of Darkside by Tom Becker
Hey, do you remember when I said I was going to "get back to you" about Darkside, which the internet recommended to me as a readalike for Death Watch?


Well I did. Darkside is a much faster read with a lot more action, but features the same "a town with secrets" feel to it that Death Watch had. When Jonathan Starling starts seeing strange people following him around London, he mostly can't figure out why – aside from a long truancy record and an ill father, he's not particularly remarkable. But when he starts digging, he uncovers mentions of the "Darkside," a city-within-the-city of London and the apparent source of his problems. Soon he's in way over his head and he'll be lucky if he can even survive...

Everything in this book is shades of grey. The "good guys" are only mostly good and the "bad guys" aren't always wholly evil. Several of the plot points are left open, but as the series is five books long, that's unsurprising. As a whole, the story meshes teen detective with urban fantasy surprisingly well. Lifeblood is the next in the series.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Book Review: Half Upon a Time by James Riley

"Once upon a time, Jack wouldn’t have been caught dead in a princess rescue."
Jack has no particular interest in what he’s “supposed” to do – go on adventures, rescue princesses, and perhaps become a hero. But when May, a “punk princess” literally drops into his life the two set off on a quest to discover her past and save May’s grandmother.

My thoughts: This book takes the neat and tidy notions of “once upon a time” and “happily ever after” and plays with them. It also manages to bundle most of the big fairy tales into a single story – Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, and Jack and the Beanstalk are all here.  The story moves quickly from place to place with plenty of action along the way. The next in the series is Twice Upon a Time.

Readalikes: Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett should be fun for those who like the humor in this story. The graphic novel series Fables by Bill Willingham also brings together a wide range of folk and fairy tales – all the characters instead are hiding in New York City. Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde follows the ‘normal kid drops into a fairy tale’ theme – but this time deliberately, as part of a virtual reality game; when the game malfunctions, the only way out is to win.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Book Review: Death Watch by Ari Berk

Cover of Death Watch by Ari Berk

First line: “He should have gone home. It was after eleven, so he’d have been home already.”

About: When Silas Umber’s father Amos doesn’t come home one night, Silas refuses to accept that he’s gone. But without money, he and his mother must abandon their home in Saltsbridge and return to Lichport, the town where Silas was born and where Amos worked. As he roams the town, he slowly uncovers the truth about his father’s work: his father was an Undertaker, responsible for tending to the dead. Now the townsfolk call on Silas to take up his father’s mantle and Silas must navigate between his new duties, the dangers of Lichport, and his search for his father.

My Thoughts: Death Watch is heavily invested in the folklore that surrounds death, but unlike most “gothic” novels, the dead aren’t horrifying, nor are they sexy vampires. The pacing is slow and the town itself is developed as a character. Because of the way that Berk follows multiple different story threads, though, the book doesn’t drag and Berk is a sufficiently deft storyteller that the different elements don’t become confusing.

Highlights:  Dark, rich, slow

Readalikes: Mistle Child, the second book of the trilogy. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. The internet recommends Darkside by Tom Becker but you can’t have it because I now have it reserved. (I’ll get back to you all on that one.)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A Year in (Selected) Books

Well now. Two years of persistent neglect have left me to chastize myself and make a valiant attempt to revive this blog.

I have, in this time, undergone several Big Events including, but not limited to, writing a thesis, graduating from college with my Comparative Literature degree, moving from Big City (Philly) to small hometown to Medium City with partner (with no job and limited funds), and finding a job in the Medium City. I have laughed, cried, cooked, read, traveled, and even won some hard-fought battles along the way. I have learned that "being an independent adult" is more restrictive than I had imagined.

I have taken up a 5-year journal and have even managed to stick with it for a couple months. I find that a couple sentences a day with a specific question for each day keep my mind from falling into a rut.

In addition to that journal, I've read a number of books that I quite enjoyed. (I also settled in with old favorites on occasion.) My most-enjoyed books/series of this year are as follows:

Percy Jackson & the Olympians (series) by Rick Riordan: The ancient Greek gods are real and active! Earned my love for offering an updated take on old myths (the gods live on the 600th floor of the Empire State Building) – and not glossing over the less pleasant bits. And Riordan has done his homework, doing a good job of sticking to the pre-existing mythology.

The Heroes of Olympus (unfinished series) by Rick Riordan: The Greek kids meet the Roman kids as part of an unwitting – and unwilling – exchange program of sorts. This continuation of Percy Jackson & the Olympians delves into the differences between Greek and Roman mythology, leaving the gods with splitting headaches.

Ghostwritten by David Mitchell: Intertwining stories for the win! Unquestionably, the best part of this is looking for the way all the characters' lives touch each other. Occasionally it's confusing, but I was never bored reading it.

Stormdancer (Lotus War series) by Jay Kristoff: Japanese steampunk with a strong female main character and mythological creatures and evil corporations and basically all the things I like best in the world wrapped into one beautiful package of a book. I'm looking forward to the next installment of this series.

Mothership (Ever-Expanding Universe) by Martin Leicht & Isla Neal: Another first-in-series, this one is teen pregnancy in space and all awkward, complicated, messy problems attached to it. With science fiction and aliens and invaders of the aforementioned mothership! It's fun and more importantly, it's not reductive.

The Alloy of Law (a Mistborn novel) by Brandon Sanderson: Set a long time after the original Mistborn novels (so I'm told), I enjoyed this. If you haven't read the original Mistborn series, don't let that stop you! I haven't read it either, but I followed what was going on just fine. My mind wasn't blown, but it was a fun ride and good enough that I'm going to have to check out the series from my local library.

A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan: Ooooh, futuristic fairytale remake! This is the story of what happens when Sleeping-Beauty-in-the-Future wakes up. The world has changed, her parents have died, she's now the heiress to their business empire, and someone is trying to kill her. The novel attempts explores the difficulties of being dropped into a world one ought to know – but doesn't – as Rose deals both with her past and her future.

What I've Recommended:

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selzwick: I love recommending this book now for the same reasons I loved recommending it when it was first published. It is fantastic for kids who aren't "big readers" but feel left behind by their classes and classmates. It's thick enough to look impressive and easy enough (and illustrated enough) to be accessible to kids who struggle with or don't like reading. At the same time, it's a good enough read that older kids will like it too.

Pride of Baghdad by Brian Vaughn & Niko Henrichon: Recommended to a co-worker for her kids. They were assigned non-fiction reading and this graphic novel is a) a great introduction to the medium, b) based on a non-fiction story, c) a great parable for war on a larger scale, and d) contains lions. (Apparently lions are a Thing for her daughter.)

Circle of Magic by Tamora Pierce: Recommended to the above-mentioned co-worker for her daughters. I think the series is more likely to be parent-approved than her world of Tortall and there are girl characters and boy characters and they manage to interact without ~*~cooties~*~ OR ~*~kissing~*~ which I find to be a refreshing change.