Back in September, School Library Journal ran an article suggesting to new school media specialists/school librarians what they can do to get their career off to a good start. The recommendations were really pretty good and several I couldn’t write better myself. There were just a couple with which I didn’t agree, but my experience is different for the person who wrote that is. We have to find what works best for us and for our school.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece which appeared as part of the Women Doing Literary Things series and in doing so, I took a rare opportunity to look at my profession from a feminist perspective. I realized that one reason librarians are seen as a dying profession rather than as a profession vital to every citizen in the 21st century is because we’re a majority female profession. We’re seen as quiet, mousey ladies who refuse to give up books, never go out into the world and who think a mouse is a critter that lives in the stacks. Nothing could be further from the truth! Librarians are all about 21st century literacy skills!!

I often read advice that says the librarian should be on every school committee, stock every oddity that anyone in the school may or may not need at sometime and I think in getting caught up in being everyone’s everything at school so that we seem relevant, librarians lose focus and dilute our purpose. I’ve been asked for everything from Christmas wrapping paper to paper  plates.  I don’t have most of  those things. I do have a Masters degree, hours upon hours of professional development training and the mission to prepare students for the 21st century. I’m a teacher!

I’ve been thinking about the advice I’d give to new librarians. I’ve been working on ideas and I’ve decided to put pen to paper before I forget all my wonderful advice. The advice I have comes from stuff I’ve experienced over my short career in the school media center/library and most I’ve learned the hard way. I’ll print this list and put it where I can read it, I mean please don’t think I’ve mastered all this or feel that I am the model librarian. I am a work in progress. I would hope my colleagues could say that I am so much better at being a media specialist than I used to be. In fact, I think the key to my advice is to know that there is always more to do, more to know, more to experience as a librarian. It’s a career that compels you to keep learning!

  •  It’s your job that keeps getting in the way of you doing your job. All those little interruptions, the people asking questions, the phone calls and seemingly requests for you to perform a clerical duty? That’s your job! I learned this while working on my Masters and it has stuck with me.
  • Read materials that your patrons read. If you’re a teen librarian, then read teen books. Corollary: Know what online tools and sites your patrons/students use and advance your skills.
  •  Routinely evaluate your services. Have students and staff evaluate your performances, use data to evaluate your effectiveness and share the results.
  • Keep learning. Keep learning new online tools, master new technologies, read articles from a variety of disciplines and attend conferences. Sticking to the library journals, information technology blogs and education literature won’t help you when students are researching the effects of human interaction in Yellowstone.
  • Join professional associations, including listservs. Listservs are easy ways to exchange information and build professional learning communities; however they should be used wisely. As a school media specialist, you should know how to research to find data comparing Nooks and Kindles. If you want to know what to name your teen book group, or what they might want to read, then ask your teens! (pet peeve, sorry!)
  • There is often little to no training when you begin working in a school district so get to know librarians in you district and know who can help you with policies and procedures. Network locally!
  • Know that you’re the most important resource in you media center. This doesn’t mean you have to know everything, but you should know where to find solutions.
  • Respect your patrons. They’re not always going to look like you, read what you read or listen to your advice, but they’re who we serve in the library. For some, this may be their only spot of comfort so accept them, help them and friend them! Get to know what your regulars like and share new items with them. Embrace diversity and prepare your students for with whole wide world!

The links really are interesting and I hope you click them all. But, if you only click one, go for the last one!


subtitle: Only Diversity

Depending on your perspective, my spring break was a bit glum. I chose to put a spin on things by rejoicing in the fact that I spent more days at the gym than at the hospital. I had a few sleep tests which indicated I have sleep apnea. Admitting something so personal on a blog is not something I ever do, but I will if it can help someone else. I was talking with my daughter last night about apnea when she brought up a memory in which someone, a young person who she knows, probably has it, too. Have you ever heard someone snoring and they suddenly stop, kinda like they’ve stopped breathing? Well, they have stopped breathing! While most of the people with apnea are overweight, thin people can have it too. It sounds benign, doesn’t it? Well, while untreated it pretty much affects every system in your body because you don’t fall into deep stages of sleep and you don’t get enough oxygen while sleeping. A few years ago, a young football player died in his sleep because he stopped breathing. The treatment is that bulky machine that Mike wears on Mike and Molly and the cure is either to get your tonsils removed or to lose weight. My tonsils are already gone, so… The technician I spoke with mentioned that a loss of only 20 lbs could make a difference. Only!! only ! So much easier said than done!

Only. Our world can be only.

I was reading a very interesting interview with Holly Black over on Diversity in YA in which she discusses why the cast of characters in her book is so diverse. Her world is diverse! It’s difficult, if not impossible, to write (or teach) what we don’t know. We may want more authors to have diversity in their books, but they can’t/won’t if their worlds are not diverse. And if editors and publishers enclose themselves in all White worlds, they will not understand the necessity for books by and for people of color either.  I wonder how someone’s world cannot be diverse, but I know this is still the reality for many people. I remember my first year in college realizing that there were Black people who lived in all Black worlds from their school to their home, family, and neighborhood. It surprised me that Blacks would have such a dominant presence anywhere in the US because  that wasn’t the case in my world. Students are still able to grow up in worlds that are all Black or all White.

I usually shy away from saying I work for diversity because diversity is about more than color and ethnicity. I find myself challenged in this regard when I read Let’s Get Beyond Tolerance, Diversity In YA and Reading in Color, especially Reading in Color. I enjoy being on this journey with Ari as she expands her concepts, as she grows! I do say that I work to promote literacy for teens of color. As we reach for the mouse or keyboard, for a book or ereader, as we increase the amount of information we take in about the world around us how can our world not become more diverse? How can we not begin, not only to see but to interact with people who have different beliefs or colors? To me, if we’re not growing in our understanding, tolerance, acceptance and inclusion of people of different colors, religions, sizes, sexual preference or income strata then how literate are we? No matter how well we can surf the net or how high our reading level I think we’re illiterate if we only see the world through mirror images. And, books are the safest way to do that!

A new resource to explore and become more diverse is the American Legacy Blog. I’ve added the blog to my Diigo account which I’m in the process of building so that it will have a plethora of resources that address literacy for teens of color.

Finally, new releases for April 

21: The Story of Roberto Clemente by Wilfred Santiago; Fantagraphic Books, 4 April graphic novel

Carmen by Walter Dean Myers; Egmont Books, April

You don’t have a cluby Sarah Cortez; Arte Publico; April

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor; Penguin Books, 14 April

The break up Diarieby NiNi Simone and Kelli London; Dafina, April

Boyfriends and girlfriends by Alex Sanchez; Simon and Schuster, April 2011

Bird in a box by Andrea Davis Pickney; Hatchette Group, April

Now is the time for running by Michael Williams,Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, April

Huntress by Malinda Lo; Little, Brown, April

This thing called the future by J. L. Powers; Cinco Punto Press; April

Enjoy your week!

Help Darfur LIbraries

I received the following information via email. I’m looking forward to this publication and am excited to know that I can be such a visible part of this project, and so can you!

The authors of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective AgencyThe Princess Diaries, the mega-bestsellers Goosebumps(350 million+ sold) and The Baby-sitters Club (175 million+ sold), the Newbery medal-winning Dicey’s Song andOut of The Dust, and the National Book Award-winning them are all supporting our efforts to bring libraries to Darfuri refugee camps!  They have joined forces, together with many other best-sellers, to contribute stories and poems to our new book, What You Wish For: A Book For Darfur!

I am thrilled to share with you the exciting news about the book, and hope you will help us today in a very specific way to make it a huge success.  You can be a part of this book — your name printed inside (see details below or go to  Working with the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, we will be using 100% of our proceeds to fund libraries for the 250,000 Darfuris living in refugee camps in eastern Chad.  As you know, we have been working for years to bring libraries to the camps, and, with this tremendous support on top of our previous efforts, it will finally happen!

What You Wish For: A Book For Darfur features stories and poems about wishes by some of the top talent writing for children and young adults: Alexander McCall Smith, Meg Cabot, R.L. Stine, Ann M. Martin, Cynthia Voigt, Karen Hesse, Joyce Carol Oates, Cornelia Funke, Nikki Giovanni, John Green, Nate Powell, Gary Soto, Jeanne DuPrau, Francisco X. Stork, Marilyn Nelson, Naomi Shihab Nye, Sofia Quintero, and Jane Yolen.  All have contributed their writing for free to support this cause.  Advocate, actress, and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow has written a moving Foreword based on her 13 visits to Darfur and Chad, and we are honored to include a statement by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres.

All that the book is missing right now is you.  We will be printing the names of up to 1,000 supporters in the book, and I hope you will strongly consider being one of them and helping to tell as many people as possible about this opportunity.  By donating $20 at, you can get your name or your child’s included (a great gift for young fans of these authors).  If you are concerned about privacy, but want to support the cause, we can print your last initial instead of your last name, S. instead of Smith.  We need to receive your names by April 30 in order to make our publisher’s deadline.

If you know anyone who loves to read, is a fan of one of our authors, or is an activist concerned about the refugees, please share this news.  Just direct them to — email it, tweet it, put it on your Facebook page (UNHCR just added it to theirs at  With your help, we can assemble the 1,000 supporters and not only fund this important aid for the refugees, but also show everyone who picks up the book just how strongly people still care about Darfur.  It has been eight years, but the refugees are still in the camps and still need books for their education and mental health.  This is an easy way to help, with the rare opportunity to be part of a book by such phenomenal authors.

When you visit, you will notice that our website has changed significantly.  We are making changes in order to best feature the book and publicity and events connected with it.  As we get closer to the publication date, I will be sharing news about events you can attend and where you can possibly meet some of our authors.

What You Wish For: A Book For Darfur will be released in September by Penguin’s imprint G.P. Putnam’s Sons.  You can already pre-order online (see, and one socially-conscious bookseller, BetterWorldBooks (, has pledged to donate 100% of its net profits from the book’s sales, increasing how much we earn for the refugees.

MG Book Reviews

Somewhere on a blog I was readin, an author recently posed a question which essentially asked when are MG authors going to start respecting their readers. I’m wondering if the problem is the authors or the editors. I find that in MG books, characters and situations are poorly developed, situations don’t see real and inconsistencies abound! While this isn’t always the case, I’ve found these problems in the books I’m reviewing today. 

book review: Bird in a Box by Andrea Davis Pinkney; illustrated by Sean Qualls

Little Brown Books for Children April, 2011
Bird in a Box is a story set in 1936 During the Great Depression. Otis, Hibernia and Willie each tell their stories in alternating chapters. Hibernia likes singing just as her mother did. Her mother followed her passion and left Hernia and her father years ago. Willie and Otis meet in an orphanage where they quickly become friends. Each child has a past to which they cling and each looks forward to Joe Louis winning his next fight. Louis provides an interesting backdrop to the story but his importance never fully comes to light. The story has an energy and an excitement that doesn’t take the time to develop either details or characters. Why is this young middle class girl whose father has a car going out to pick up rations with her wagon in all kinds of weather and was she really pressing her own hair? I even found myself at one point wondering what was motivating me to continue reading.  As you can see from the reviews I’m listing below as well as those that are all over the Internet, Bird is getting a lot of good reviews. If you, dear reader, decide to read this book that I think is mediocre at best, please come back and let me know what you think!
additional reviews:
review copy received from author

book review:  Teenie

Teenie is the story of a high school freshman who is trying to find her fashion sense, get good grades and develop her relationships with others. While her closest (only?) friend Cherise is hooking up the strange older men at night, Cherise is trying to learn how to talk to boys on the Internet in clunky, long hand conversations. Teenie lives with both of her parents while her twin brothers are off to college. From her parents, she has developed an appreciation for other cultures and she wants to travel to Spain to study.

I liked that Teenie was a smart girl who had an academic purpose. I want to say I liked the tone of the the book; I liked the wholesomeness of it but there was a touch of locker room that was way out of place. I didn’t understand why Teenie and Cherise were friends and Cherise herself even stated this in the book! I didn’t know enough about Cherise to understand why Teenie felt a loyalty to her and I didn’t know the character’s history to help me figure this out. I have a hard time feeling sorry for stupid characters and Teenie was stupid. She lacked street smarts and didn’t have sense enough to rely on people around her. She seemed way too immature to be ready for a trip overseas. I do have to remind myself that characters are not perfect, they won’t be if they’re fully developed. The trick is for the character to be developed in ways that readers are able to empathize with them and to want the best for them.

I so wanted her to turn to her brothers for help! I wanted Teenie to learn to trust them and I wanted to really see how close Teenie’s family was. She learned she could trust each of her parents, why not her brothers?

As they say, ‘the devil is in the details’ and these details can make a mediocre story just that much better. Teenie is not an awful book. 7 & 8th grade girls will be drawn to this book and many will enjoy it. While Teenie is a ‘good’ girl, she speaks in a language and lives a life to which many girls can relate. While she’s over her head with the boys, her real issues are with school, meeting her parents expectations and maintaining friendships. It’s a worthwhile add to the media center and I eagerly look forward to another Christopher Grant book.

additional reviews
reviewed library book

A Day Made For

Good morning! If you’re doing the ReadAThon this morning, I hope you have a wonderful, reading filled day! Here in the heartland, we have that slow, gentle rain that could last all day and it seems to fit my need for a slow, gentle day. I’m looking forward to my hour on the treadmill so that I can finish The Other Wes Moore and I have a review of Bird in a Box to finish and post as well.

Yesterday, one of the tasks I worked on was processing new books. I love working with new books, I just wish it didn’t take so long. As part of this process, I place genre tags on the spine labels of my books. I don’t shelve my books by genre, I still place fiction alphabetically by the author’s last name, but I think these tags help patrons find books they might enjoy. Or do they? I’ve been pondering the use of these tags.

Can’t you usually tell the genre from the cover and title?

There’s such a fine line between adventure, sci fi and fantasy! And, why isn’t there a label for futuristic? Or funny?

Should books labeled ‘espanol’ also be labeled ‘Latino’?

It’s African American AND romance. Which label does it get? Or do I put both labels on the spine and cover the title?

Do patrons even look at these labels?

14 April is a day made for supporting teen literature. One way to do this is to Rock the Drop! From Readergirlz:

Readergirlz andFigment are going to ROCK THE DROP in honor of Support Teen Lit Day a week from today: Thursday, April 14th.  Here’s how you can get involved:

Snag the banner at right, created by David Ostow and add it to your website, and link it back to this post on  the Readergirlz website.

Print a copy of the bookplate and insert it into a book (or 10!) that you’ll drop on April 14th. Drop a book in a public spot (park bench, bus seat, restaurant counter?) and you’re done. Lucky finders will see that the book is part of ROCK THE DROP!
Whatever you find your day is made for, I hope you enjoy it!









Great news for those of you in the Chicago area! On Tuesday 10 May, Cindy Pon, Nnedi Okorafor, Malinda Lo and Claudia Martinez will be at Barbara’s Bookstore on the University of Illinois Chicago Campus. Unfortunately, it’s a bit too far for me on a work day, but save that date if it’s close to you!

April is School Library Month. I hope to delight you with the presence of some incredible school librarians. If you know a school librarian who ought to be featured, please list them in the comments on this post. List the librarian’s first name and last initial, the city or school district  in which they work and why they are so outstanding, how they’ve touch you or how they go above and beyond to serve others. For every librarian listed, I’ll be donating two books to the Teen Book Drop. I’ll also follow up on the mentions and feature some of the librarians in interviews here on CrazyQuilts. Let’s create our own story now through April, 2011.

These dates are highlighted by the ALA

For persons of color interested in becoming a librarian, check out the Associations of Research Librarians’ Initiative to  Create a Diverse Workforce.

I thought I was doing a good job yesterday in posting books that help us remember. Well, I thought that until I read ALAN’s post of books that are flying under the radar along with indepth interviews. Clearly my effort was adequate at best.

Now, I’d love to find the rewind button on my calendar and replay this past week. On second thought, I think I’d prefer to hit fast forward and get this year over with. It’s hard to believe it’s April already.  Or that it’s only April. I do have spring flowers pushing through the ground and the high winds are preparing the way for warming weather. There was a line in a poem I learned in my French class that translates to say “In springtime, it all returns through hope”.

Happy Spring!

Happy Poetry Month!