Sunday, May 17, 2015

Which library? Rot & Ruin graphic novel

Last month, the trade paperback of the first graphic novel of the Rot & Ruin series by Jonathan Maberry came out.  I read and enjoyed this story from between books 2 and 3, but was faced with a very tough question: Where on Earth do I put this?

While I do love graphic novels, and they are great for people who don't have much time to read (library directors, high school students) or for reluctant readers, there is an issue that rears its ugly head over them: they have pictures.  Yeah, obvious, I know.  But that fact raises two problems: they are discounted as not being literary enough (baloney; see also my discussion of Maus) or parents debate whether children should have access to them.  To read about violence and other questionable topics is one thing.  To have them visually portrayed is another.

I have installed the complete novel series of Rot & Ruin at both of my libraries.  The question I faced was whether I could put it in the school library, or if it should just go into the public library.  People would get access to it somewhere.  But, where?

There's not a terrible amount of blood or gore, especially considering that it's a zombie novel.  But it is a zombie novel, and what's at stake in the plot is creepy and unnerving.  Would it be appropriate for the school setting?  It's for teens, like its parent novel series, but I do have students that start reading it in sixth grade.

After some ruminating, I decided to loan it to a particular freshman.  He's a great patron, and I knew he'd give me honest answers on whether it was okay to have in school.  Toward the end of last school year, he'd been asking if we could carry A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin; he was reading the first one at the time.  I said no, that it wasn't appropriate for school, and that I like my job.  When I saw him in the fall, he had finished A Game of Thrones, and honestly told me that he now understood why I couldn't have it in the school library.

So, I handed it to him one morning, explained that I wasn't sure which library to put it in, and told him to read it and let me know what he thought.  He loves the series, and was thrilled to have the opportunity.  When I saw him at lunchtime, he was partway through and gushing about how great it was.

Last Wednesday, he returned it, and I asked him about it.  He gushed more about it, and told me how a friend was interested in it, too.  Not too keen on the art style, but he loved the story.

"Do you think I can put it in this library, or is it a bit too mature?" I asked.  He thought about it, then said that he thought it okay.  Not much violence or gore.

"Would you let your little brother read it?" I asked.  His little brother is in fifth grade.

"He's not like other fifth graders," he replied.

I laughed.  "True," I agreed.  "But do you think it would be okay for fifth graders to read it?"

"No, Miss (Librarian), but I think sixth graders could handle it," my student determined.

And thus, I have taken his advice and added it to the school collection.

It's a good idea to find outside sources when considering collection development.  Get the opinions of your most fervent patrons.  I know you consider what they like and what gets the most checkouts, but don't be afraid to hand them something new, or even an advanced reading copy, and find out what they think.  It's worthwhile.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Saturday is Independent Bookstore Day!

This Saturday, May 2, 2015, is being celebrated across the nation as Independent Bookstore Day!

Four hundred bookstores are getting ready to rock your world with author visits/signings, giveaways, and more.  Go to for more information or to find a participating indie store near you.

Indie bookstores are worth supporting!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Yay for YA: Curses and Smoke

What's this?  Two book reviews within a month?

Let me tell you about Curses and Smoke, by Vicky Alvear Shecter!  (I previously reviewed another of her books, Cleopatra's Moon, in 2011.)

Checkouts: 2
Typical reader: Teens interested in historical fiction and/or Pompeii
Source: The author generously donated this and another of her books to the school library!

Synopsis: Lucia is the daughter of the owner of a gladiatorial school, and is being sold off in marriage to an old man to better her father's status.  Tag is a medical slave owned by her father, and dreams of becoming a gladiator and winning his freedom.  These two childhood friends reconnect and plan to escape Pompeii and Lucia's father, while strange things are happening in nature on the slopes of Mt. Vesuvius ...

My Goodreads rating: 4 stars

First of all, I would like to thank the author very much for contacting me and offering to donate this and Hades Speaks! to one of my libraries.  I hope I'm not too far behind in writing this honest review.

This is a wonderfully researched novel set at the time of the unexpected, catastrophic eruption in AD 79 that destroyed, yet preserved, the ancient Roman city of Pompeii.  I enjoyed the look into the customs and culture of this ancient civilization, as shown through the novel.  The extensive author's note at the end delighted me.  Curses and Smoke taught me a lot about Pompeii, Mt. Vesuvius, and some aspects of ancient Roman life.  As with Cleopatra's Moon, Ms. Shecter has worked magic with what resources were available.

For the most part, I enjoyed the story.  There were times when I felt that it had too many similarities to James Cameron's Titanic, particularly in some ways the couples' escapes were thwarted.  The situations both dragged on.  Overall, though, it was a pretty good plot, with well-developed characters.

I didn't entirely hate the love polygon.  Yes, it was a polygon, not a triangle; there were a lot of relationships intertwined.  There were a few pleasant twists, however, and for those, I could accept the relationship intrigues at work.

Overall, this was an enjoyable novel.  I would recommend it to teens, or middle school students looking for a book for their historical fiction book report assignment.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

It's Elementary: Bamboozled on Beaver Island

Wow, I haven't written a book review since Banned Books Week, back in September.  Color me sheepish - especially since I'd promised a few authors reviews of their books.

It's spring break around here this week, so I'm only working one of my jobs this week.  (Still 40 hours over five days, but I get to sleep in most days and leave early a couple times.)  And I am actually making good on promises.

Today, let me tell you about the first book in the Holly Wild series by Michigan author Lori Taylor.

Checkouts: Just talked a student into it last week!
Typical reader: Michigan middle elementary children
Source: The author, at the Outback Art Fair last summer

Synopsis: Holly Wild wants to do something heroic.  Will she have the opportunity to do so with her friends on a trip to Beaver Island?

My Goodreads rating: 5 stars

This is an illustrated novel in the vein of the ever-popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Dork Diaries, but significantly less "woe am I" than your average contemporary kids' fiction diary.  Sure, Holly is not necessarily popular, but she doesn't wallow in it.  This is a strong female character, with a healthy interest in adventure and science!  Holly likes squishy, icky, gross things, and can use the scientific method to figure things out.  Rejoice.

I am not big on mysteries, and I will say that I winced when I realized that there was a mystery to solve.  However, this won me over with how fun and adventurous the escapades of Holly, her grandmother, and her friends Sierra and Tierra (twins, obviously) are.  It also encourages the reader to get out and explore the natural world.

This is the first book in a series of at least three novels, all set in Michigan.  It's perfect for children in second through fourth grades.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

What They Don't Teach You in Library School: Tax Forms

As anyone who has gone through a master's program in library (and information) science knows, the degree focuses a lot on theory rather than practicum.  Don't get me wrong, an MLS or MLIS is highly valuable, especially if you're in cataloging/technical services.  Or, if you're unfamiliar with services and reading materials for a particular age group, I definitely recommend taking a course for that age.  The syllabus for a class on children's or young adult literature will be a treasure trove of modern and classic books.

For everything else, there are real-life experiences.

You'll never have a class on how the IRS provides the general public with free tax forms at libraries, for example.  Or all the problems that come with it.

Every year, starting in January (and somewhat in December, for the over-zealous taxpayers), you'll get questions about where the tax forms are, and why aren't they in yet.  This will be in person and over the phone.  And you'll just have to be sympathetic with vague answers for a while, because the IRS will never keep you informed as to when they're sending out the forms you requested back in July.

If it's like last year, you might hear eventually, either from the IRS or on a library list-serv, that tax forms are delayed because of massive changes to the tax laws.  And then you'll be waiting into February, with patrons and non-patrons alike breathing down the back of your neck on a daily basis, wondering if they'll get tax forms in time to file.

Or you could have a disaster like this year.  The Internal Revenue Service's budget got cut.  So what did the IRS cut out of its budget?  Nearly all those tax forms people are waiting for.  Brilliant.

You'll get the 1040, the 1040A, and the 1040EZ, as well as Publication 17 (the tax guide) and the reproducible package, if you ordered it.

You won't get any of the instruction booklets for the 1040 forms.  You won't get any of the supplemental forms, not even the 8965, for Health Care Exemptions.

You are going to either have to help people find the forms they want online and print them off, or help them make copies once the reproducible sheets arrive.  And that, of course, will cost them money, because most libraries do charge for printing.  No one is going to be happy about the idea of printing off the more than 100-page document for 1040 (regular) instructions.

Prepare for complaints, as you've never had before.

Which brings me to my anecdote on the subject.  (Swearing ahead.)

Last week, none of the tax forms were in yet, though we had heard that the Michigan forms would be on their way be February 6, and the 1040A and 1040EZ should be shipping soon.  I was considering putting up a sign stating this.

A man I hadn't seen before came in.  (You get a lot of unfamiliar faces at tax time.)  He asked for tax forms, grumbling about needing the form for the stupid Obamacare stuff.

I explained that the forms weren't in yet.  A bit of conversation occurred, about when they would be in.

And I made the mistake of saying that many of the forms wouldn't be sent this year, and that people would have to print them off.  I was about to suggest that he contact his legislators, when he reacted.

He didn't just get angry.

"FUCK OBAMA!" he roared, and tore out the door, attempting to slam it behind him.  Thankfully, a wide-eyed young man was right behind him, and he caught the door and eased it shut.  I think the windows above the door might have shattered otherwise.

My coworker in the billing office stared at the man as he stormed out the doors of the city hall building, then looked back at me.  I shrugged helplessly.

The janitor also raced up, mop in hand.  Bless his heart, I think he would have walloped the guy if he'd given me any additional grief about the tax forms.

"So, uh, do you have any tax forms?" the young man asked, after he'd quietly closed the door.

"Ask him," I said with a little laugh, pointing out the door.

I quickly put together a sign about how tax forms were coming soon, and complaints could be directed to our Congressman and Senators (with their phone numbers).

I also wrote to them via their web sites myself, urging them to get the IRS to send libraries before one of us poor librarians gets hurt.  Because seriously, if someone in my nice little town can get that worked up over tax forms, what's going to happen in a big city?

Sunday, December 28, 2014


I may have gotten distracted this holiday season.

Say hello to the newest member of the family, Kalikimaka.  Her name means "Christmas" in Hawaiian.  She also goes by Kallie, for short.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

What has the Moonlit Librarian been up to?

The other night, I went to a Chinese buffet with some friends.  The fortune cookie I received at the end of the meal read, "Give yourself a day off - at least give yourself a relaxing evening."

Even the fortune cookies know that I need a vacation.

I do tend to drop off the blogging map around November anyway, because of National Novel Writing Month.  I participated again this year, and made it to 50,000 words again.  Maybe I'll do something with my writing this time.  It needs to be finished and edited (possibly entirely rewritten, as it may do better in first-person narrative instead of third-person limited), but I'm keeping my hands off it for now because I'm not feeling much love for it at the moment.

And the calendar year is the end of my fiscal year.

I feel like my previous director position had training wheels on it.  Despite serving a smaller population, it had a larger budget because it actually has a millage to support it.  It was also its own entity.  My current library is a city library (though it also serves a township), and falls under the city budget.  Most of my budget is decided by the whims of the city council, and also, my money doesn't roll over to the next fiscal year.  Spend it or lose it.

I found myself with more money than expected at the end of November.  Oops.  So I had to carefully figure out how to spend it, while knowing that it was probably too late to make an order with our main vendor.  We do most of our ordering through Baker & Taylor, but they have a tendency to take their sweet time sending books to libraries.  For example, Tom Clancy's Full Force and Effect was released December 2.  It came in the mail to the library a couple days ago.  So I didn't want to order from them, because the merchandise might not arrive until after the end of the year, and thus not be part of this fiscal year.

On the bright side, this meant ordering from some small vendors I like, and also buying some local authors' books at my favorite book store.

I've also been very busy with programming at both libraries.  First, I introduced a story time for all ages at the public library.  It's been well-attended, mostly by children between the ages of 2 and 6 years, and their moms.  However, my generic story time has apparently not been good enough for mothers with babies; they have started demanding a baby story time.  I initially tried pointing out that the larger libraries that are only five miles away to the east and west offer them.  "That's too far."  Seriously?

So, I have to create baby story times.  This has had me in a panic, and even given me honest-to-goodness nightmares.  I like to say that I enjoy children as long as they're potty-trained and literate.  But also, in doing research into baby programming and early literacy, I've discovered just how important not only reading to infants but also talking, singing, and playing is to their future literacy.  I feel like I need an early childhood development degree to do this!  No pressure or anything, to create quality programming.

Something that I can be proud of myself for, at least, is how I've stepped up my teaching at the school library.  There are a couple of classes that I've started focusing on, for two reasons.  One, they are at a good age to learn how to use a library and develop lifelong skills in navigating a library and performing research.  Two, these classes drive me insane and tend to leave the library looking as though a tornado struck.  If you teach them, you can direct them toward correct behavior.

I found a Dewey Decimal Bingo game online, and adapted it to an appropriate reading level.  Made it a bit more generic (590 for wild animals, rather than 599.774 for foxes, for example), and included pictures of books actually in the library.  I've been playing it with these classes for the past two weeks, and they love it.  I'm also seeing them check out books from the subject areas highlighted in the game.  It's awesome.

I do intend to use the next two, slower weeks to catch up on some reviews.  My partner will be out of town, and I do have the days of the actual holidays off.  Maybe I can actually heed the fortune cookie and relax.