Book on the Go

What does one do after getting their advanced reader copies?

If that one is me, it’s bring the book to work and take photos around the library. Because why not?

But first, some morning coffee.

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Obviously my ARC would use a literary mug.

Now off to work!

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You may be the guest of honor, but you still have to work, ARC. And watch out for the monster door.

LOOK! THERE YOU ARE ON THE SHELF! YOU LOOK WONDERFUL!

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So perfect! So great on the shelf! (Like the bookends my teen club made? Each is based on a different book – that’s “The Book Thief”.)

But let’s be honest, when you’re actually checked in, you’ll be on the front of every display.

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Librarian bias.

Can’t wait to see you as a real, hardcover, beautiful book, ARC!

Banned Books Week, 2014 Edition

I think one of my favorite displays to make each year for my library is the banned books week one. I have a new theme each time, and love showing people how crazy some of the bans are (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has been banned simply because it was thought of as nonsense. Really.). So, one year was focused on classics, one on kids books, one of feeling bad for the characters (please don’t ban me, I love you). Here’s my theme for this year:

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And here are my bookmarks:

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Excited to hear the reaction this year!

(If you’re a librarian or teacher and interested in using my flyers/bookmarks from this year or the previous ones, please email me! I’ll be happy to send them along.)

Color My Shelf – Part 2

Here are the results of my highly unscientific study hinted at in my previous post.

I decided to test out two things in my study: how fast multicultural books go that have said ethnic characters on the cover (face covers), and how fast multicultural books go that have no hinting at all about their ethnicity on the cover (non-face covers). The books pulled were random, I just wanted books that weren’t extremely popular at my library (such as Clockwork Prince). I had no preference to titles nor nationalities, though I did want a range of genres (fantasy, contemporary, etc.) and nationalities. Unfortunately, nationalities were hard to find. (Note: I KNOW there are a lot more than these titles, these were the ones that were in stock. As mentioned, this was not very scientific.)

First, the face books:

  • Battle Royale by Koushun Takami (Japanese)
  • Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick (Cambodian)
  • My Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula J. Freedman (Jewish/Indian)
  • Liar by Justine Larbalestier (Black)
  • Sold by Patricia McCormick (Nepali)
  • Spirit’s Princess (Princesses of Myth) by Esther Friesner (Japanese)
  • Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood by Abby McDonald (Mixed race, black/white)
  • Transcendence by C.J. Omololu (Black)
  • Joseph by Shelia P. Moses (Black)
  • Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst (Honestly, I’m not sure, but the cover is beautiful.)

Now the non-face books:

  • The Vow by Jessica Martinez (Jordonian)
  • Death Dickinson and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia by Jenny Torres Sanchez (Hispanic)
  • Good Enough by Paula Yoo (Korean)
  • The Living by Matt De La Peña (Hispanic)
  • He Said, She Said by Kwame Alexander (Black)

Before I discuss what happened, here’s some information about my branch library. It’s located by a university, and also surrounded by both richer and poorer developments. According to SimplyMap, and the 2010 census, the area is 39.25% Hispanic, 6.49% Asian, .53% American Indian, 12.43% Black, 69.77% White, and 6.79% other. I realize this does not add up to 100% – a large portion of our population marked two or more races on the census. Also, the general population does not reflect the library’s population, but you get it.

Anyway. The face books (of which there were more) were placed on the top of the display, with the non-face books placed below them. This was due to my theory: non-face books would check out first, so I gave priority to the others. This is what I’ve seen in the past, at least, when placing these books out on display. Once they were out, I patiently waited.

To my surprise (and delight) in the first day, the following titles were checked out: Never Fall Down and Sold. Two face books taken by two different patrons! As books were checked out, they were not replaced, I just waited for the display to empty.

The following day, the first of the non-face covers was checked out: Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia. That same day, Liar and My Basmati Bat Mitzvah also went. Again, more face covers!

By the end of the three days, there were three titles remaining in each category: Battle Royale, Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood, and Spirity Chosen from the face books, and The Vow, The Living, and Good Enough from the non-face covers. Yes, three and three, but still, the face covers were going faster.

I had the display up for a week, and by the last day the only titles remaining were Battle Royale and The Living. By the end of that day, The Living found a home. This surprised me quite a bit, because I thought both books would have gone much sooner. Sadly, I shelved Battle Royale and analyzed what happened.

Books were checked out. Books were wanted, and liked. My initial thoughts, due to previous experiences, that these face books wouldn’t go was disproved. Whatever the reason, they were wanted, and I was really pleased about that. And the fact that they went faster than the non-face covers was extremely interesting.

Clearly there is a demand for these books, if even in the smallest sense. They are checked out, they are looked at (and, as it seems, patrons seem to prefer people on their covers)!

As a follow-up, I looked back at some of the titles we weeded and found something incredibly telling – the majority of the multicultural ones were historical. Sure those books are great, too, but it seems like the majority of the popular books are contemporary or fantasy or dystopian or science fiction. Readers want multicultural characters of today. They want them in books they can relate to, not older tales. Again, not a scientific observation, but still one that’s worth mentioning.

So what does this mean for my library? The other books are still more popular, as our checkouts show, but clearly there’s a demand for these. I’ll definitely be displaying more of them each week. I’d like to do this experiment again in the future and see if the findings change. I’d like to get more titles similar to these, too, because clearly they’re appreciated. And I’d like to thank the authors for writing these characters that my patrons  want to read.

Color My Shelf

Recently, there was a hastag on Twitter (#colormyshelf) discussing multicultural books, and, more so, the lack of representation of multicultural characters in novels. Leading characters. Leading characters on covers. People mentioned their favorite books with ethnic characters, and asked for more – many, many more – to be published.

As someone who’s about to have a multi-ethnic child, of course I’m in support of more people represented in literature (specifically YA, as that’s what I write and read). Working at a library, I see how few there are in comparison to those with, as my co-worker and I call them – pretty blonde white girl covers. (And I’m in no way dissing those pretty blonde white girl covers – I really like quite a bit of those books!)

Though we don’t control what books we get at the library (a person at the main branch handles collection development), my co-worker and I do control, in a way, what stays and what leaves. Our shelves are only so large, so once a year we have to weed out titles that don’t circulate. (These books that are weeded are then usually sold, with the money going towards library development, such as programming.) Weeding is not easy. We have very strict guidelines, and don’t take the task lightly. But, because we get so many new books as they’re released, it has to be done, otherwise we’d have no place for patrons to walk.

Since I’ve weeded these books (for the purpose of this post, “these books” refers just to YA, though I do weed all sections), I see what goes and what doesn’t. Sometimes it’s not surprising in the least (Hunger Games has a HUGE circulation; Twilight is only weeded when it’s too beat up to circulate anymore). Sometimes it is (those Lauren Conrad books are incredibly popular; mermaids are still adored). But here’s a sad fact – a lot of the books people are pushing to be published are not being checked out. There’s clearly a demand, and I KNOW we put them on display and promote them, but they’re not checked out nearly as much. Which is sad!

So therein lies a problem – yes, readers want these books, but are they buying them? Are they, in the library’s case, checking them out?

Obviously I can’t know sales details, and my library is only one small branch within the entire country, but I was curious about those questions. Really curious. So I decided to do a very low-key, very basic and unscientific, study.

I made a display of books featuring leading protagonists of color and saw how long it took for them to be check out.

Was it interesting? Yes. Were the results surprising. Yes! Interested in how it turned out? Stay tuned – I’ll post the results tomorrow!

Waiting Period

Hello!

As you might have noticed, I’ve been M.I.A. for a bit. It’s not because of some amazing news, or I’ve been hiding from the world or anything, I’ve just been…

  1. Experiencing pregnancy brain. I didn’t believe in this at first, figuring it was simply another pregnancy myth, but oh my. The other day, I literally said to a co-worker: “hey, can you get me…the…the um…the thing to put the books on so I can roll them around.” “A book cart?” “YES! THAT!” It was then that I became a believer.
  2. Preparing for said baby. I’ve been reading the books (they’re terrifying) and setting up the nursery with S (it’s adorable). You hear that babies need a lot of stuff, but it’s not until you see your house lined with Graco and Fisher Price boxes that you realize it’s all incredibly true. I also find myself using the word “snugapuppy” a lot. (It’s a baby swing. With a puppy on it. It’s adorable.) (Also, magically I can remember the non-word “snugapuppy” and not “book cart.”)
  3. Writing. Yes, despite the memory issues, I’m still trying to write. In fact, I want to get everything done prior to baby’s arrival. So right now a manuscript is with my beta readers (one my agent has already thankfully approved of, only now with many, many edits), and I’m writing away at another one. It’s weird and fun balancing three projects (TNWSY as well, of course), but they’re vastly different, so it’s easy separating them in my mind. And for the first time, I made a very detailed outline for a story so I can follow it when my mind does, eventually, go blank.
  4. Reading. Not just baby books! I’ve read 10 books so far this year. Some highlights… Drama High by Michael Sokolove was a fantastic non-fiction account of a high school drama department. Touching and lovely (and as someone who was part of a high school drama department, I was deeply invested). The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick was a fun, deep read that I checked out for my library’s book club. Admittedly, I saw the movie first (which I loved), but that didn’t spoil the book at all – they’re both different and lovely enough to stand on their own. September Girls by Bennett Madison. I’m usually not big on mermaid books, but this one blew me away. The writing was lyrical, the voice authentic and unforgiving. I was absorbed.
  5. Sleeping. Or attempting to sleep (it’s become quite hard). I plan my days around sleeping sometimes.

That is to say, not much is going on, but at the same time, so much is going on. My life is on the brink of changing in various ways, and I’m just about to take everything in. I’m just waiting…waiting excitedly. And, yet, also enjoying the wait.