Posted in Ask the Librarian

Ask the librarian: Jennie Rothschild

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!
Posted in Ask the Librarian

Ask the librarian: Laura Geiken

Dearborn Public Library

What kind of librarian are you? I am the Teen Librarian for the Library.

How long have you been a librarian? I have officially been a librarian for a little over a year, but I have a worked in public and academic libraries since 2005.

What lead you to wanting to be a librarian? I started out as a page in college and that experience led me to see how important public libraries are to society, especially in lower-income communities. Books and databases are important aspects of libraries, but we also provide computer access, Wi-Fi, a safe (and warm) space, entertainment, free fun and educational programs, storytimes, etc. If you cannot afford books, a computer, preschool for your children, or internet access to apply for a job, you have very limited options. Public libraries allow everyone to access these services that would otherwise be limited to only wealthy populations. As I heard Cory Doctorow say last year, libraries are one of the last places where you don’t have to get out your wallet just to be there.

How do you pick books for your library? I read tons of book reviews from School Library Journal, Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly, etc. I’m more likely to buy books with positive reviews, but that’s not the only thing I keep in mind. I also try to keep up with trends and what my population enjoys. I’ve been asked a lot for horror books in the last year, so I always keep my eye out for new horror or scary titles. Lastly, but most importantly, I want the teen collection to reflect readers and offer them glimpses into other people’s lives (the windows and mirrors concept). When reading reviews, I look for books with diverse characters and storylines. I want to add to our collection stories that have not yet been heard before.

Do you have a favorite author? Impossible question to answer! I am currently obsessed with Angie Thomas and Erika L. Sanchez. I cannot recommend I am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Sanchez enough! I have also had a life-long love affair with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I believe One Hundred Years of Solitude is the perfect novel. Oh, and I am totally suffering from Ferrante Fever. I love the Neapolitan novels by Elena Ferrante. What character development!

How do you decide what book to recommend to a specific kid? My last supervisor was great at reader’s advisory and she would often ask people what was the last book they read that they really enjoyed. I’ve started to do this as well and I find it’s really helpful. Once they think of a book, if I am familiar with the genre, I’ll recommend some new, similar titles they might like. If I’m unsure of the title or genre, I’ll use the Novelist database to find similar books or authors. I also work with some really great children’s librarians, so I rely a lot on my coworkers to suggest titles as well.

Posted in Ask the Librarian

Ask the librarian: Kelly Mueller

What kind of librarian are you? – I’m a Youth Services Librarian.

How long have you been a librarian? – I’ve been a youth services librarian since September 2014. Before that I was an academic librarian, working in a community college. I started that job in September 2013.

What led you to wanting to be a librarian? – I wanted to be a librarian because I liked to read, I liked to find out information, and I liked recommending books to other people. After starting library school, I learned that there is a lot more to it than just that, but I am still enjoying what I do!

How do you pick books for your library? – At my library I, specifically, am in charge of ordering the audiobooks, books in Spanish, and board books, all for youth. Board books are special books for infants and toddlers that are hardier so they can put them in their mouths and turn the pages and they won’t rip or fall apart as easily. So, I read journals such as School Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly to find out about audiobooks and read reviews of them. I also check websites related to what I order that give awards for certain types of books. I also listen to a lot of audiobooks myself, and I am aware of a number of quality narrators out there. I have a handle on what checks out the most at our library. I order diversely so our patrons (people) have a wide range of options. I get suggestions from people at the library. I guess there are a lot of ways that I decide what books or audiobooks are best for my library!

Do you have a favorite author? My favorite author is Chris Crutcher. He writes books for teens. My second favorite author is Will Hobbs. He writes adventure stories for middle grades. And my favorite author when I was a child was Cynthia Rylant, probably because of the Henry & Mudge series and how much I loved dogs.

How do you decide what book to recommend to a specific kid? I ask what grade they’re in, what the last book they read that they liked, and then I have a few options. I have a list of “readalikes” – books in all kinds of categories like animal, funny fantasy, friendship, space-related, etc. – that I can use to recommend from. I can try to think of books that fit off the top of my head that I’ve read or that I know about. I also have a database called Novelist – a tool I can search by the last book they liked and see what comes up as being similar to that.

Posted in Ask the Librarian

Ask the librarian: Amelia

Name of Library Mercer County Library System

What kind of librarian are you? I am an Information Technology Librarian, but before this job I was a Reference Libraian

How long have you been a librarian? 7 years

What lead you to wanting to be a librarian? I didn’t know what I wanted to do after college and my mom suggested becoming a librarian so I looked into it and realized it was the perfect job for me.

How do you pick books for your library?  When I was selecting books for my branch, I looked to see what was popular in the library and what was trending in pop culture. I wanted stuff that I knew would be read, but also things that reflected what was going on in the world so people could also learn something new or find a new author.

Do you have a favorite author?  That’s a hard one, but one author I think is great for all age groups is Neil Gaiman. I enjoy his books and love that he just writes to write and doesn’t focus on an age group. I think adults can enjoy all his books and he’s an author that kids can grow up with and enjoy.

How do you decide what book to recommend to a specific kid?  When I was working at a smaller branch I knew a lot of the kids, so I had an idea of what they liked to read or something that interested them so I could make suggestions.  If I don’t know the kid, I want to know what they like to do, is there a sport they like to play or a video game they love. Then I find out how they feel about reading, I’m not going to recommend a big book to a kid who feels like reading is a chore, but there might be a great comic or graphic novel series they will love. There have been times when I’ve been happy to find them a magazine to flip through and see them reading an article that may be two pages long. It’s all about finding something that grabs their attention and pulls at them. Reading is reading no matter what the material. So sometimes I realize they would benefit from an audiobook over a paperback.

Posted in Ask the Librarian

Ask the Librarian: Amanda Liebl


Amanda LName of Library & Website:   Boca Raton Public Library

What kind of librarian are you? My title is “Youth Programs Director”. I run the Youth Services Department of our libraries.

How long have you been a librarian?  I have worked at our library since January 2015.

What led you to you wanting to be a librarian?  Our library is run by our city of Boca Raton. I had been working for the City of Boca Raton since 2004 running the Camp Programs. It came time for change and I had the opportunity to come work at the library. I have always loved children and I felt like coming to the library would be a great fit for me. What a special feeling to know that you are working in a field and a place where you are helping to make memories for children every day. You are growing their ability to read and growing their interests in all sorts of things. You are a part something important in our community.

How do you pick books for your library? I do not have the special job of choosing the books for our library but I do work closely with the person who does. My staff and I are able to communicate with that person and offer suggestions, as well as make requests. We are also lucky to work closely with children, tweens and teens every day, which allows us to learn what’s popular among them. We can share those popular topics and books with the staff that orders the books. We all work together to grow the best youth collection we can.

Do you have a favorite author?  I’m sure most librarians feel this is a hard question! 🙂 I enjoy authors who write in clever and funny ways for children. For me this includes Mo Wilems, Bob Shea, BJ Novak and David Horvath.

How do you decide what book to recommend to a specific kid? The first thing to do is learn from them about the other books they have really enjoyed. It’s important to know their interests, reading level and age. I love to take time with them to really explore and try a few different selections. If we are really stuck, I find the website to be very helpful.

Posted in Ask the Librarian

Ask the librarian: Kay Cuthrell


Name of Library : McIntyre Elementary School, Southfield Public Schools

What kind of librarian are you?
I am a Library Media Specialist

How long have you been a librarian?
I worked as an Intern at the Southfield Public Library in 1987 while I was going to Library School. I worked full-time from 1990-2000. I’ve worked for Southfield Public Schools as a Media Specialist since 2000.
What lead you to wanting to be a librarian?
I wanted to be a teacher and work with kids. I also LOVE reading and books, so becoming a Librarian was the combination of those two loves.
How do you pick books for your library?
I read book reviews, but I also pay attention to what the students at my school are interested in reading since I know that they’ll read more if they enjoy what they are reading.
Do you have a favorite author?
My Mom is a voratious reader and took us to the public library every week when I was growing up. I found the stash of Mom’s books, in the attic, when I was a teenager and read every one of them. My favorite, to this day, is The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Our school library was even decorated as The Secret Garden for a time. My favorite contemporary author is Patricia Polacco. I can identify with many of the topics in her books. I also love that she grew up here in Michigan and has also returned to live on the west side of the state.

How do you decide what book to recommend to a specific kid?
The key is to find out what the student is actually looking to read. Students often don’t know how to explain what they want. Usually, after asking leading questions and browsing the library shelves with them, the student usually walks away with what they want (or they know what to look for at the public library if we don’t have it at school).

Posted in Ask the Librarian

Ask the librarian: Erin Durrett

Name of Library Flint Public Library,

What kind of librarian are you? I am a Digital Learning Librarian. That’s a fancy way of saying that I teach technology skills to library patrons, like how to set up a Facebook account, check out an e-book, use Microsoft Office, etc. People have different levels of skills with technology and computers, and a big part of my job is teaching them so that they feel more independent and confident using technology. I also have the privilege of holding Minecraft programs for kids and using our 3D printer for library programs.

How long have you been a librarian? I have been a Librarian for about 5 years, but have been working in libraries for about 10 years.

What lead you to wanting to be a librarian? Working in a library was my very first job in high school. I was a Page, or Shelver, and checked in and shelved library materials. That is the best way to learn the library’s collection. When I was finishing my Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology, my professor asked that we prepare an interview of someone who is doing a job or preparing for a job that we were interested in. I Interviewed my friend Anne, who at the time was getting her Masters Degree in Library Science. After graduation, I started working in another library, and the rest is history!

How do you pick books for your library? I feel very lucky to purchase graphic novels. To me, it’s one of the most fun collections to purchase. I choose some bestselling titles. Barnes & Noble has a really fantastic graphic novel blog and they post the best releases for each month. I also look at reviews in School Library Journal and Booklist, and get recommendations from library staff and patrons.

Do you have a favorite author? I have several. What comes to mind first is the YA Author, Maggie Steifvater. She has the most beautiful writing style and her magical realism seems so plausible, you don’t consider what she does as fantasy. She is a master of blending real life with the supernatural. For graphic novels, I’m a big fan of Raina Telgemeier, especially her latest book, Ghosts.

How do you decide what book to recommend to a specific kid? I ask what books they have already read that they liked. I also ask about favorite topics or genres and if they would like to read more of those types of books. It’s good to have eclectic reading taste as a librarian, so you can recommend something from every genre. I try to read over 200 books and graphic novels a year (and keep track on Goodreads), to keep up with what’s new and catch up on titles I’ve missed.