A Sampling of Sweet Links: July 2013

Screen Shot 2013-07-26 at 11.09.49 AMWhew! July was fabulous month in the online worlds of young adult & children’s literature and librarianship!  There have been so many great conversations flowing through cyberspace and so I’ve gathered together some of my recent favorite links.   I discovered many of these links through the awesome people I follow on Twitter and other brilliant bloggers’ regular link round-ups.  Since I appreciate other bloggers’ similar features so much, I’m going to make an effort to start regularly sharing my personal content curation as well.  To see more of my favorite sites and articles, check out my Diigo account.

Here are some of the posts, articles, and links that I found most interesting and enlightening over the past couple weeks:

Diversity, Multiculturalism, and Equity Issues in YA & Kid Lit

As my earlier post kicking off my Multicultural Middle School feature indicates, I make a concentrated effort to seek out resources about multiculturalism, diversity, and equity in education and young adult & children’s literature.  I find a lot of wonderful book reviews, analysis, and discussion through a combination of general YA/kid lit blogs (maintained by librarians, authors, etc.) and blogs/websites focused specifically on multicultural and diverse YA/kid lit and on multiculturalism and equity in education.

Lee and Low Books, a independent publisher focused on diversity, maintains a blog and they wrote a fascinating article about the recently released statistics about the continued lack of racial and ethnic diversity in children’s books. Check it out here–they’ve pulled together comments from a great variety of children’s literature professionals!

If you haven’t been checking out the excellent Disability in Kid Lit blog, click over there right away!  They’ve gathered articles and columns from a huge range of individuals invested children’s and young adult literature and each piece addresses an aspect of disability in kid lit.  Additionally, over at YALSA’s The Hub, the newest edition of the “Box Outside The Box” series focuses on “Different Operating Systems,” collecting a wonderful list of titles featuring characters on the autism spectrum.

Additionally there continues to be consistent and thoughtful conversations about gender and YA lit across the web. Over at Thought Catalog, there was a fascinating article about the ways that young adult lit challenges and pushes gender norms while YALSA’s The Hub had a great short essay about feminism and YA romance.

Reading, Reading, Reading

Some people might say that the internet is damaging reading somehow but I would definitely disagree (for many reasons which deserve a separate post!).  The web especially is fantastic source to find and follow the most up to date research, practical tips, and ongoing conversations about reading.  Here are a few recent posts about reading (specifically children’s and teen’s reading) that caught my eye this past month.

On the New York Times Motherlode blog, Stephanie V. W. Lucianovic wrote a refreshingly honest column entitled: “I’m Tired of Reading Out Loud To My Son, Okay?” This column then prompted a great response post by Julie Danielson over at Kirkus.  It’s wonderful to see this kind of respectful and practical conversation about children and reading!

Meanwhile, over at the fabulous Nerdy Book Club, the equally fabulous Donalyn Miller wrote about value of being a bookish fangirl and the challenge of sharing and encouraging such enthusiasm for books in children and teens.  I just love this post; Donalyn Miller asks such valuable questions that push us to rethink how we as educators approach the teaching of reading, language arts, and literature.  As she writes, “How would children see reading differently if we taught language arts as an art appreciation class?”

Hot Topics in YA Lit and Youth Services

Young adult literature and controversy appear to be forever bound together; young adult literature has, since its earliest beginnings, pushed the envelope through its content, its audience, and, frankly, its mere existence.

Earlier last month, awesome librarian and blogger Kelly Jensen wrote a great post over at BookRiot, “What Are Grown-Ups Afraid of in YA Books?”  It’s a short and excellent piece discussing the fear, distain, and disgust many adults express towards young adult literature; she touches on both historical examples and recent events (such as yet another attempt to ban Laurie Halse Anderson’s brilliant Speak).  The comments section quickly evolved into an intense (and increasingly rude) discussion and the article was featured over at the Huffington Post as well.  Kelly has pulled together her thoughts about the article and the reactions it has sparked–along with links to several response posts–over at Stacked.  If you work with teens and/or care about YA lit even slightly, you should head over and read both the original article and her round-up of responses.  Liz Burns also posted a response to the article and its resulting controversy–be sure to check that out as well!  This conversation might seem repetitive but it’s one that we must keep having.  As Kelly writes at the conclusion of the original BookRiot piece, the young adult books causing controversy among adults exist for a reason.  The issues or content included in books like Speak (which deals with sexual assault) might be frightening or unsettling for adults but there are teenage readers who absolutely need those books.  They need to know that they are not alone in their experiences and their feelings.  They need that reminder and acknowledgement that the world is not always kind, fair, or safe–and that there can be survival, growth, healing, and help.

Meanwhile, there was a lovely post over at The Hub addressing the all to common disdain expressed by many towards young adult literature and providing a succinct response to such detractors.

Finally, in a moment of shameless self promotion, I’m thrilled that my first post on YALSA’s The Hub went up yesterday.  If you’re interested in adult dystopian fiction with high appeal for teens, please go check it out!  I’m incredibly excited to be joining the amazing team of bloggers over at The Hub and contributing to the web presence of one of my favorite and most valued professional organizations, YALSA.

Meanwhile, happy August!  I’ll be posting a few more reviews of my recent reading over the next week.

A Successful Sophomore Trip To ALA Annual 2013


Welcome to ALA Annual 2013!

Wow! It’s been just about a week since my thrilling and somewhat overwhelming weekend attending ALA Annual 2013.  So, after spending the last few days sleeping late, reading, and watching British suspense series on Netflix & CrashCourse episodes on YouTube, I feel recovered enough to write up my reflections from the conference.  I went the route of a full, reflective recap of my conference experience–feel free to skip around and just read sections about particular sessions.

Although this was my second time attending ALA Annual, I still felt like a complete newbie–especially since this was my first time attending as a full time,  working librarian.  The fact that I returned from a week-long trip chaperoning 15 fifteen year old girls on an exchange trip to London, England only about 4 days before leaving for ALA also contributed to my slight sense of panic.  However, thanks to social media (like Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook), I was able to pull together more tips about ALA and connect with several grad school friends (and my wonderful high school librarian and mentor) before leaving very early on Friday morning.

And while my delayed flight (and the resulting crazy rush to get on a train, to my hotel, and then to the conference center) made the beginning of my conference experience a bit stressful, everything went beautifully afterwards.

Friday: Practical Tips for Real World School Libraries 

I began ALA Annual at a AASL preconference “Real World, Real Tools” run by three very awesome school librarians: Laura Pearle, Wendy Stephens and Deb Logan.  And while I arrived to this session about an hour late (darn you, United!), I was still able to get a great deal out of it.  Broken down into different sections such as ‘Real World Staffing,’ ‘Real World Administration,’and ‘Real World Technology,’ the session focused on practical tips, resources, and solutions to everyday issues related to school librarianship.  There were so many great, useful tips shared and discussed but I wanted to share a few of my overall take-aways, which can definitely extend beyond school libraries:

  • Document everything!  Track what you do, how you do it, and how your students/patrons responded.
  • Learn how to communicate with non-librarians, especially administrators.  We don’t necessarily speak the same language so librarians need to figure out how to talk to administrators in their language–without using librarian jargon!
  • When approaching administrators with issues or problems, remember to keep people (not things) as the focus and bring potential solutions with you.
  • Be kind to yourself!  Give yourself a break. Take time to relax.  Also, remember that conflict is not always about you; other people bring motivations or issues to the table that might be completely unrelated to you.

After my preconference, I headed up to the area outside the exhibit hall to meet up with some grad school friends (who all have jobs in our preferred areas of library work! Woohoo!).  I did venture into the exhibit hall during its insane, grand opening rush and spent about 20 minutes wandering around the corner containing most of the children’s and young adult publishers.  There I learned that, once again, some people seem to lack manners AND it’s great to actually engage with publishing representatives. The booths where I was able to talk briefly with a representative were some of my most successful in term of ARC acquisition AND learning about upcoming titles new to me.

Saturday: Embracing Leadership Potential, Using ARCs Ethically, Building Info Lit Bridges, Laughing With Graphic Novelists, & Making New Connections

I got up very early on Saturday and headed in on the shuttle to catch Making Your Presence Know–Moving “Outwards” run by Hilda K. Weisburg.  This particular session was very thought-provoking and focused on developing leadership skills.  Some standout pieces of the session included a large section on good leadership qualities and another on emotional intelligence (EI or EQ).  There was a lot of great ideas and research-based tips in this session but one that stood out to me was this statement: Everyone is a leader but not everyone chooses to be a leader.  It’s a powerful reminder that we all have the potential to be leaders in our libraries–and communities–but that potential will be worthless if we don’t think of ourselves as leaders, no matter our title or experience level.  

After a quick dash through the exhibit hall to pick up an ARC or two (and get a fresh copy of Emily M. Danforth’s brilliant debut The Miseducation of Cameron Post signed), I headed over the the awesome All About ARCs: The Ins and Outs of Requesting, Using, and Abusing Advanced Readers Copies, run by great librarians Elizabeth Burns, Kelly Jensen, and Kristi Chadwick along with publishing house reps Jen Childs (Random House) and Victoria Stapleton (Little, Brown).  As a new librarian, my first experience with ARCs was the exhibit hall at my first ALA conference in New Orleans two years ago and while it was exciting, it was not very informative professionally.  I’ve learned more about ARCs since and become a fairly regular user of NetGalley but this session was incredibly helpful in clarifying the real purpose of ARCs–their production and use from a publisher’s perspective and their proper use as a professional tool for librarians and educators.   The session included a presentation of the results from a large online survey the librarians ran earlier this year; to see graphs and read summaries of these results, check out this great post by Kelly Jensen at Stacked.  The biggest takeaway was simply that ARCs are 1.) NOT books (i.e. they are not the finished, published books) and 2.) meant to be used as professional tools (for collection development, review writing, recommendations, etc.).  I was also excited to learn further about title discovery resources such as NetGalley, Edelweiss, Penguin First To Read, and Library Reads; it was especially helpful to learn the kind of information publishers are looking for in your profiles or requests on these tools.  As someone who sometimes gets behind on writing up reviews but uses ARCs to inform collection development and title recommending, it was so encouraging to hear that simply writing out a comment describing my professional use of the print or digital galley was as useful and legitimate in the publishers’ eyes as a review.  This session was a great example of publishers and librarians working together to maintain ethical and productive practices surrounding a shared goal: getting great books into the hands of readers.

Afterwards I wandered back to the exhibit hall where I met up with my high school librarian  and mentor Courtney Lewis (AKA The Sassy Librarian).  Together we attended a great ACRL session, Crossing The K-20 Continuum: Are Librarians Bridging Information Literacy and 21st Century Skills?.  As a librarian working with high school students, this session was incredibly interesting and provided some great, concrete ideas & resources.   The panelists Ken Burhanna (Kent State) and Tasha Bergson-Michelson (Search Educator at Google) made fascinating presentations focused on the realities of modern information literacy education–and on the gaps between the skills students acquire in high school and the tasks asked of them at the college level.  Ken Burhanna’s entertainingly titled presentation “Battling the Unready: Zombies, Einstein, & Librarians” can be found here on Slideshare; he made excellent points about the need for strong collaboration and communication between youth services & high school librarians and academic librarians and provided examples of information literacy transition programs currently in use around the country.  Tasha Bergson-Michelson shared great information about Google Search Education (which I was woefully ignorant of!) and one statement  stood out to me especially: “we talk to students about advanced search but we forget that they don’t really know the basics.”  It reminded me that in my quest to redesign our 7th grade library/research skills intro unit (hopefully into a game-based/gamified unit), the biggest skills to emphasize are the development of solid search terms, the analysis of a URL, and other basic transferable skills.

I closed up my day at McCormick Place by attending the packed Krosoczka, Telgemeier, and TenNapel: Graphic Novels Your Kids Love By Names You Can’t Pronounce.    Moderated by the hilarious Jon Scieszcha, graphic novelists Jarret Krosoczka, Raina Telgemeier, and Doug TenNapel bantered, teased, and earnestly discussed their individual work processes, their feelings about the frequent challenges to graphic novels as a legitimate form of reading material, and their favorite graphic novels at the moment.  It was an entertaining and encouraging panel by author-artists who truly love their craft–and their young audience.  Since I’m working to bulk up our graphic novel collection, I gained some new title suggestions AND great ideas to draw on when asked to explain why graphic novels are important for our students’ reading lives.

I spent the evening socializing with some great librarians, first at the Independent School Section of AASL Social  and later at The 8th ALA Annual Newbie/Veteran Librarian Tweet-Up and (briefly) the Librarian Wardrobe After Party.  And it was especially entertaining to see that the latter party became so crowded that there was a line down the block for entry;  I wonder if the bar owners were surprised that the librarians overflowed their space!

Sunday: YA Lit Love All Day Long

 Even my sleepiness couldn’t stop me from getting down to the conference bright and early on Sunday morning to attend the YALSA Young Adult Authors Coffee Klatch.   I thoroughly enjoy this event;  it’s such a treat to meet a bunch of great YA lit authors and I really like that it’s usually a mix of well-known or recently award winning authors AND brand-new writers with their first or second books coming out in the fall.  I got to hear from some great authors (including several graphic novelists this year) and jotted down several new names and titles to put on my radar.  I followed this delightful kick-off to the day with a dash over to the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association President’s program, presented jointly with the GLBT round table.  The program was a very thought-provoking panel of writers (including Malinda Lo!) who all spoke about the challenges involved in creating a strong range of representation of APA LGBTQ in contemporary literature.  It was an interesting panel presented by passionate and thoughtful authors and I’m so glad to have found it on the Annual Scheduler–and in the labyrinthine conference center  I slipped out a few minutes early to get back to the exhibit hall and get in line to meet Malinda Lo during her signing.

I spent the rest of Sunday afternoon in the exhibit hall.  It was only time I waited in any substantial lines for ARCs or some specific author signings.  I felt really good about this choice–and about my use of the exhibit hall’s offerings over the weekend as a whole.  Since I attended the conference with two years at my current job under my belt, I had a much clearer picture of my students’ reading interests and needs;  I was selective in picking up ARCs that had real potential with my population and I was able to engage with publishers’ representatives in a real and substantial way.  I was very excited to get to meet a few of my favorite authors and gained some signed books and ARCS to use as give away prizes during Teen Read Week and other events this fall.  I’m also excited to share all my ARCs with my Student Library Advisory Board in September as we (finally) get their book review blog kicked off.  

Monday: Tumblarians & YALSA Rockstars

For my final day at the conference, I planned a morning and early afternoon packed with exciting sessions–and happily they all turned out to be worth the price of getting up early enough to mail out a massive box of ARCs & books before heading down  to the conference center.   I was lucky  to grab a seat at the crowded Tumblarian 101: Tumblr for Libraries and Librarians session, run by Rachel Fershleiser (of Tumblr itself), Molly McArdle, Erin Shea, & Kate Tkacik. This was a fun and practical session that offered great tips.  For example, the panel shared which tags are best to use on Tumblr when talking about library work and life (#tumblarians, #librarians,#libraries,#lit,#education,#tech) and how to utilize Tumblr’s features to create an effective and exciting personal and/or library web presence.  For a great summary of these tips, check out the Tumblarian 101: A Starter Kit pulled together by Molly McArdle; this post also includes a link to the recent LJ article about Tumblr & to the powerpoint used in the session.  This session was a great, energizing way to start the day!

I stayed in the same room to attend an equally exciting session right afterwards: New Adult Fiction: What Is It And Is It Really Happening?, run by Elizabeth Burns, Kelly Jensen, and Sophie Brookover.  Now both Liz Burns and my friend & mentor Courtney Lewis have written up great recaps of this fabulous session so I won’t try; you should just go read both of those posts!  However, I will note that this session was particularly interesting–and it definitely fit into the “Conversation Starter” category wonderfully.  The panelists offered smart, witty, and open-minded opinions (and questions) about this nebulous new fiction category that currently consists of contemporary romance featuring characters in the 18-24 age group.  The session led to great discussions of contemporary romance (and how it is frequently looked down upon by the general public), the recent uptick in self-publishing, and the wider concept of ‘coming of age’ stories.   To check out their wonderful resource collection for this session, simply go to this post on their shared blog.  My thoughts on New Adult as a truly effective category of fiction are still a bit unformed but I agree that the recent trends and conversation surrounding this topic indicate that there is an audience seeking fiction that speaks to their age, experiences, and desires.  So let’s keep the conversation going!  It’s definitely got me thinking about crossover titles and coming of age titles–as well as the larger topic of self-published ebooks.

I finished the morning by attending Maintaining Teen E-Collections,  arranged by Linda Braun and set up as a series of roundtable discussions with several experts on different topics related to teen e-collections.  Attendees were able to spend about 8 minutes (or longer if they choose) at each table, moving between conversations as they wish.  It was wonderful to participate in such a variety of conversations about this valuable and varied topic and I gained some great ideas and resources to use as our library continues to look into expanding our e-collections.

After a lunch break, I finished my time at ALA Annual by attending the YALSA President’s Program & Membership Meeting.  I put this event on my schedule originally because Courtney Lewis was one of  this year’s winners for Excellence in Library Service for Young Adults and I wanted to see her poster session 🙂  However, the program turned out to be even more meaningful to me personally.  Although I’ve been a member of YALSA (as well as ALA & AASL) since I began my graduate program a few years, I’ve never attended a membership meeting.  While I’ve used and promoted YALSA’s wonderful resources on a weekly basis, I’ve been shy about becoming more actively involved.  I’ve assumed that my youth and inexperience barred me from taking a more active role in the association but attending the membership meeting reminded me that there is only one thing preventing me from giving back to a community that has already given me so much: my own fears of rejection or inadequacy.    So this session proved the ideal way to conclude the conference:  it pulled together all the picture book takeaways from the weekend and clarified them for me.

Closing Thoughts: Librarians Thrive When We Work Together! 


image by savit keawtavee from http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

Even when we are the only librarians at our schools or we feel like the embattled minority in our library, our professional life cannot be a solitary one.   No matter our differences of workplace, position, or focus, we hold certain goals and values in common and we will have to collaborate in order for those goals to be accomplished.  I think this is especially true among librarians working in the varied areas of youth services.  Whether we work at an independent, urban school or a rural public library, we are all serving children and teens;  we are all passionate youth advocates.

Personally, I’m hoping to use the next year to find multiple ways to become more involved in YALSA and to find or create a group  of librarians serving teens in the DC Metro area.  I would really like to connect with other librarians (from public libraries, public schools, charter schools, independent schools, etc.) serving youth in our area.  If you have any suggestions or you are such a librarian, comment here or connect with me on Twitter or Tumblr!

I look forward to continue reading the many great recaps of ALA 2013–and to keep the conversations going in the community, including all our members (especially those who weren’t able to join us at ALA this year!).

The Club Connection: Bringing The Library TO Students!

This post represents a category of content that has been fairly rare on my blog so far: writing about library programming.   I have yet to blog much about library programming, lesson development, or other library activities for several reasons.  Mostly, as a young rookie librarian, I find the amazing, creative programming blogged about by my more experienced peers a bit intimidating. However, I hope the use this summer to change this pattern!  Especially since I believe that offering a break down of my tentative programming will encourage other newbie librarians.  After all, one of the biggest lessons I learned during the last few years as first a library intern and now a full-time librarian is the value of accepting and embracing failure–especially the failure of new activities or programs.  A program or a lesson won’t always work the way you hoped–or work at all.  But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t valuable.

Today, however, I’d like to share a couple of library activities I developed this past year that were actually successful.  These two particular activities were especially successful in connecting specific groups of students with the library and reminding them how the library can be a source for information & support outside their academic needs.  It’s not a particularly new idea but I want to write about the great value in using pre-existing teen groups (such as school clubs) to connect young adults with the libraries in their lives.

My collaborations with student groups this past year represent two different methods for the creation of such events: the ‘active search & approach by librarian’ method and the ‘eager seizure of an unexpected opportunity’ method.  The first collaboration came about when I initiated contact with a student leader of a club and made a direct proposal. After spending the last week of June 2012 attending a wonderful conference of multicultural education–The Georgetown Day School’s Equity Collaborative, I began the school year  determined to find new ways within my particular sphere of influence to make our school a more explicitly supportive, inclusive, and safe environment.  One fairly simple act was to quietly reach out to our Queer-Straight Alliance and offer to share some LGBTQ-specific resources available in our library.    Initially my offer was, in fact, too quiet and it was lost in the bustle of the new school year.  However, I tried again in the spring and was able to make a connection.  Through quick conversations with our QSA’s president, it was decided that I would come and visit their next meeting to share a list of resources relevant and interesting to LGBTQ youth.  I spent just over a week pulling together a resource list that included a diverse group of YA fiction featuring young, LGBTQ protagonists, a few key nonfiction titles, and a couple of good websites.  I also put together a quick Power Point presentation that allowed me to give an overview of the list’s contents.  My goals were: to show them rich diversity of currently available fiction and nonfiction for & about LBGTQ youth, to explain explicitly where they could find these resources and get good information, and to demonstrate that their library is safe place where they have adult allies.

Now, as I stated at the beginning, this simple activity is neither revolutionary nor extraordinary.  However, I am very proud of it because it accomplished a rare feat:  I actually achieved all my initial goals and it will likely be a repeatable activity! Students who attended checked some books out right away and some came back & asked for more later.  The president of the club requested a digital copy of the resource list to share with club members unable to attend the meeting and the group’s faculty advisor was enthusiastic about the idea of repeating this event early next fall.

Here are my presentation and resource list, both of which I plan to update slightly over the summer 🙂

The second collaboration with a student group came about through pure chance and, even more excitingly, a direct approach from a student.  This year my newborn Student Library Advisory Board (SLAB, as its members like to call the group) and I planned & ran two very fun movie nights in the library.  Our second movie night was a Valentine’s Day theme and had around 25 students in attendance–which is awesome, especially considering the relatively small size of our school, the many other options for Friday night activities, and the geographic spread of our student body.  Afterwards, a student that attended this movie night emailed me, saying how much she enjoyed the event and that she was interested in doing a movie night event for a student group she had recently helped begin on campus. She asked if I could give her some tips about setting up such an event.  I happily responded, offering to help her plan the event.  The group is focused on spreading awareness about various issues related to adolescent health and the members wanted to do a movie night as a fun way to begin a discussion about adolescent mental health issues.

I was thrilled to be asked and so we worked together to plan a small Friday evening event during which we would show the recent film adaption of Ned Vizzini’s It’s Kind of A Funny Story.  Both the student leader and I connected with a member of our school’s awesome counseling department and she agreed to open the event with a informational discussion about adolescent mental health and mental illness.  Meanwhile, I, of course, offered to create a resource list of websites (based on suggested from our wonderful counselor) and fiction dealing with adolescent mental health issues.  To create this list, I made use of one of the best resources out there: other librarians!  I sent out a request for fiction titles related to adolescent mental health to the yalsa_bk listserv.  In response I received an amazing wealth of titles! So again, thank you to the wonderful subscribers of the yalsa_bk listserv!  The event went wonderfully–the opening discussion was really informative,  the movie touching and funny, and the resource list well received–with a digital copy requested to be emailed out to friends 🙂

Here is the resource list I created with the help of our wonderful counseling department and the awesome subscribers of the yalsa_bk listserv.

I somewhat stumbled into this method of library outreach over the past year but I’m very excited about these small successes since they were fairly simple to implement but powerful in their impact.  As a result, I’ve created relationships with more students and I’ve found ways to share the library’s resources in targeted doses to interested audiences.  I’m hoping to continue this type of outreach next year by repeating events like the QSA resource share and by seeking out other student groups who might be open to collaboration.

How have you used pre-existing student/youth organizations or clubs to connect teens to YOUR library?  I’d love to hear more ideas in the comments!

Welcome to My New Home!

welcome blog post collageWelcome to the new home of Fresh From The Stacks, the blog of a serious book addict and rookie middle & high school librarian with a baking problem!  My name is Kelly Dickinson.  I am a librarian at an independent all-girls school in the Washington DC Metro area; I work in the middle and upper school library with 7-12 grade students.  I started blogging back in the summer of 2010 right after graduating from college and before beginning my master degree in Library and Information Science.  I write about a variety of topics related to youth services, education, young adult & children’s literature, the library life–and occasionally, my baking adventures.   Primarily, I post my reviews of middle grade and young adult literature and reflections on programming ideas I test out on my unsuspecting students 🙂

To read my past entries, check out my former blog.  You can also find me on Goodreads, Twitter, and Diigo.   My general online pseudonym is onesmartcupcake–acknowledging my continued obsession with those particularly trendy baked goods: cupcakes.   Although I’d like to claim that I loved cupcakes long before they were cool 😉  I hope you’ll come back and check out the blog as it grows (and as I jump back into a regular posting schedule of some kind!).  Friendly comments are always welcome!