Ask the librarian: Jennie Rothschild

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My name is Jennie Rothschild and I work for Arlington Public Library ( Arlington is just across the river from Washington, DC.
I have been a librarian for 11.5 years. I’ve been many types of librarian, including a children’s librarian and a branch manager, but right now I am a collection development librarian. That means I work on deciding which books and other materials the library should have. I work with a team of collection development librarians and I mainly focus on books for younger kids (babies through about 2nd grade.)
I’ve always loved reading and books and when I was in high school, I thought I wanted to own my own bookstore. (I worked at a bookstore in high school.) When I got to college, I had work-study (where they give you a job to help you pay for schooling). Most people do work study in the dining hall, but because I had worked at a bookstore, I got to do mine in the library. I loved my job and decided I wanted to keep doing it as my career.
Picking books for the library is really fun. I read many trade journals like Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Horn Book, School Library Journal, and Kirkus, which are magazines full of book reviews. (I also review for a few of them, which is fun.) I read all of the magazines and see what the reviews say about the book–not only if it’s good or not, but also what it’s about. Is it something I think people in my area will want to read? Because I buy for multiple locations, I am able to get most books–the hard part is figuring out how many copies to get! Is a book good, but probably won’t be that popular, so I should only get 1? Or should I get 10 because everyone will want it? I also look at the holds list closely. If I’m unsure how many to buy, I’ll probably only buy 1 or 2, but then I watch the holds list so if I see a lot of people want it, I can quickly get more copies. I also take suggestions! Most libraries have a form that patrons can fill out to ask the library to buy a book. I take patron suggestions very seriously.
I don’t think I can pick just 1 favorite author– I have so many! For children’s books, I really like Grace Lin, Meg Cabot and Jan Thomas.
If you haven’t read any Grace Lin books, I really like them, especially her series that starts with Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. Ann Bausum writes great nonfiction. Some of her books are better known but people don’t always realize that these great books were all written by the same person!
Deciding which book to recommend to a specific kid is really fun and one of my favorite parts of the job. The first thing I do is ask a bunch of questions so I can learn what the person usually likes in a book and what they seem to be in the mood for. With kids, I’m also trying to figure out how hard of a book they’re most comfortable reading. After that, I think through all of the books I’ve read and the books I’ve heard about and haven’t read to see which might be the best match. I like to do this part while walking by the books in the library, because it reminds me of things I may have forgotten. When I start recommending a book, I look to see if the person seems interested or not, which helps me decide other books to recommend. I always recommend a bunch, and I tell people to check out more books than they can read– life’s too short and too full of good books to waste time reading bad books, so if I want to be sure people have extras in the case the book they’re reading isn’t one they like. The best part is when the kid comes back and tells me which books they liked and which ones they didn’t, because then I can get new ideas of what to suggest they read next!

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