Thursday, July 27, 2017

Bother the Librarian!

INGRID THOFT

Let me introduce you to my favorite librarians (after our own Jenn McKinlay, of course), Andrea Gough and Linda Johns.  They are both reader services librarians at The Seattle Public Library, where their jobs involve connecting readers with the right book at the right time.  Doesn't that sound like an amazing job?  They were kind enough to give me the scoop on their days in the stacks.

INGRID: The Seattle Public Library does much more than just provide books to Seattle’s citizens.   Can you tell me a little bit about the library’s patrons and the services they utilize?

The spectacular Central Branch
ANDREA: First, I will just say that I feel lucky to be a librarian in the city of Seattle, where so many people are readers. So we do have a ton of people who use the library to get books (print, digital, audio) and suggestions for what to read next - for themselves, and for their kids. Outside of books and reading, the library is still very much “the people’s university,” a place patrons come to learn new skills or just satisfy their curiosity.

Of course, our computers are still very in demand, by folks who may not have internet access or a computer at home, and we’ve tried to expand that type of service by assembling a collection of WiFi hot spots available for check out. I’m continually amazed at how busy our library branches are - along with the bus, it’s really one of the only spaces left where every part of society mingles. We try to do fun stuff, too - writing classes, bookish happy hours in bars, story times (for children and adults!), occasional concerts, book bingo, and summer learning.


LINDA: I hope people will keep in mind that libraries are the “people’s university.” You can dabble or dive in, keep up on civic discussions through programs, attend an author reading and feel like you’re coming away from it a bit smarter, a bit more enlightened. The same wonder you loved about libraries as a kid still holds true for all ages and stages of your life.
Linda in the stacks


IPT: I always recommend that visitors to the city take time to see the spectacular Central Branch, which was designed by architects Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramus.  What’s it like working in an iconic building?  Are there things you like best?  Least?


LINDA: Going to work in the Central Library in downtown Seattle feels like a privilege - and I truly love it.  It feels a bit like a European museum structure. It’s not for everyone, though, and particularly not for people who haven’t been in a library for years (or decades). Those people tend to cling to nostalgia about libraries, hoping for hushed atmospheres and dark corners. It’s the light that I like best in the Central Library. It’s apparently hard to find bathrooms in our library, though, based on the number of times each day staff get asked!

ANDREA: I love that it brings in people - both tourists and Seattle residents - who haven’t been to a library in years, although Linda’s right that that may clash with their expectations of a library. I love coming to work in this building, in part, because it is a testament to how much the people of Seattle support libraries. The navigation here is tricky, though, which I think can lead to frustration for people who just want to use the resources, not marvel at the architecture.

IPT: What do you wish library patrons knew about librarians?


LINDA: Remember that you can ask a librarian ANYTHING! You can walk into any library, anywhere and ask for a book recommendation, ask for ideas for your book group, or ask how to research a new vacuum cleaner in your budget. When school groups come in, we encourage them to always talk to the librarian. In fact, we often have them shout “Bother the librarian!” in unison. It’s a glorious thing to hear 30 middle-schoolers shout “Bother the librarian,” (although less enchanting when a lone adult does it) and we hope they remember that motto for the rest of their lives. 

ANDREA: Ditto. Also, I always want to know when a patron has read a good book and what they liked about it - come tell me! 
They're well-read and glamorous!

IPT: What would you like to know from readers?

ANDREA: How do you find your books?!? Where are you looking to find new authors and titles to read? Sometimes I feel like I’ve been surrounded by professional readers for so long that I don’t know how other people figure out what to read next.

LINDA: I want to know how readers make their choices, too! And how do they stay on top of things? I’m always mystified and delighted when I go to place a hold on a forthcoming title, feeling like I’ve got insider knowledge from an early review, and then find that 22 readers are already in the hold queue for that book. How did they know? How do you decide what to read when browsing online? Also, if I recommend a book to you, I’d love to hear what you thought. It helps me make a better book match for you in the future.

IPT: How do you figure out what to read next and what to recommend to us next?




LINDA: We look to trade reviews (Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Library Journal) for forthcoming titles and to keep up on the pre-publication buzz.  We also pay attention to Library Reads where librarians across the U.S. vote for their favorite new books each month. I feel super lucky to work in a reading culture where there are daily conversations with colleagues about what we’re reading and loving. I’m always eyeing Andrea’s book stacks for my next reads, too.
ANDREA: I’m pretty active on Goodreads, where I keep track of what I’ve read and also get to see what other people I know are reading. I also love NPR’s book coverage, especially their end-of-year Book Concierge; it’s a great discovery tool! I feel lucky to have a community of readers, too, friends, family, colleagues, and even strangers.

IPT: Last question:  Name a book you love recommending to patrons.

ANDREA: Just one?! I frequently recommend the Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling) series, beginning with The Cuckoo’s Calling. I feel like the books in that series fire on all cylinders: twisty plots, well-written, and I find the main characters Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott to be so interesting I just want to spend more time with them.


IPT: I love that series!  Great pick!


Andrea with one of her picks.
ANDREA:  In a very different direction, I love suggesting Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead by Sara Gran. That book and its sequel take a very specific kind of reader, one who is open to weirdness, unconventional methods of detection, and a sometimes unlikable character - but when I find those readers, I get so excited!

LINDA: The Ellie Rush series (starts with Murder on Bamboo Lane) by Naomi Hirahara stars a young L.A. bike cop whose connections to the rich ethnic neighborhoods of Los Angeles and aspirations to be a homicide detective combine into terrific character-driven mysteries. I’m always looking for younger sleuths and it’s a pleasure to recommend this series. 


Thank you so much Andrea and Linda, and now, it's time to "Bother the Librarian!"  They'll be checking in all day to answer your questions!


81 comments:

  1. Wow . . . your library sounds fantastic. Thank you for all you do for those of us who love our libraries . . . .

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  2. Sadly, I don't really utilize the public library all that much. I generally buy my books.

    Growing up I went to the public library and the school library much more frequently. We even had "The Bookmobile", a big truck that came to the various neighborhoods where we could pick up books to read instead of going to the library itself. That's where I got introduced to The Three Investigators books.

    Nowadays, author signings and used book sales are the only time I really get myself to the local branch.

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    1. I'm afraid I'm with Jay. I haven't been to our local library in years, not really since I could afford to buy most any book I wanted. It's about instant gratification for me. And e Books. I pre-order everything by my favorite authors, and depend way to much on the NYT book review for something or someone new. You've convinced me that I should go to the library and see what is going on in your world, Linda and Andrea, and welcome to JRW.

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    2. Jay, we're big bookstore/bookseller supporters, too! (Yep, including online booksellers). We're all part of creating a literary landscape. I also think that not everyone needs the library at every moment of their lives, and I just hope that people remember we're there when they do need us, like when you were growing up. I'm glad you have fond memories of the bookmobile and public and school libraries. And I'm glad that your local library has author signings and books sales that are interesting to you now!

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    3. Ann, I totally understand the instant gratification element! There's a service triangle, where the three sides are Fast, Good, and Cheap, and you can only ever have two. In general libraries are good and cheap, but not fast! (A quick search reveals that's called The Designers Holy Triangle, butI learned about it from an episode of The L Word, which is a dvd you can probably check out from the library ;)). I'm glad that we've convinced you to make a visit and see what's new!

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    4. See! I've already learned something new! I didn't realize that triangle had a name!

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  3. I love this post! Thanks to Ingrid, and to Andrea and Linda for visiting. Questions, yes! I'm on the Friends' board at the Key West library and was also very active at the library in Madison CT. We always get comments about libraries becoming obsolete. (Ha!) What are you noticing as far as trends in library usage, and whether the way people are using libraries is changing?

    And for author types, is there a good way to bring our books to your (librarians in general) attention in hopes that you'll purchase?

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    1. Hi Lucy, So fantastic that you're a Friends' board member! I can't imagine our libraries without the tireless and generous support of the Friends of the Library.

      Regarding how authors can get librarians' attention --
      At Seattle Public, our selection librarians purchase books based on trade reviews (Library Journal, Booklist, PW), and also pay close attention to patrons' request for purchase. Authors and publishers can also fill out an online form requesting that a library purchase specific titles. (Ours is here: http://www.spl.org/library-collection/suggestions-for-purchase/purchasing-guidelines-for-authors-and-publishers.)
      If the book is already in a library's collection, you could contact the editors at the library's blog and volunteer to do a guest blog post (we asked Ingrid to be a guest blogger for us: https://shelftalkblog.wordpress.com/2015/06/16/nightstand-reads-seattle-mystery-novelist-ingrid-thoft-shares-some-favorites/). Ingrid has also taught classes for us as part of our Seattle Writes program. A nearby library system had a program called "The Author Next Door," and it would just be an hour or so chat with an author about her work, the publishing world, the writing process. Anything an author does with a library increases our love for you, and brings your name and your titles to the forefront of our minds when we're recommending books and building book lists.

      To get beyond a single library, a few ideas:
      Most library catalogs are "social" now, meaning that several library systems will use the same basic catalog, and then it's customized for each location, AND, most importantly, library patrons can add supplemental content for books and videos. So, if you make a book list or tag a book or add a book trailer to your own library catalog, it will show up in several libraries. If you rate or review a friends' book in your own library catalog, it will show up in library catalogs across the country. For instance, if I review a book for Seattle Public, that same review will show up in Boston, San Francisco, and hundreds of other cities.

      I'm not sure if I am explaining this very well. Here's a blog post I wrote for children's authors about how this works: http://www.fromthemixedupfiles.com/2016/04/putting-book-trailers-fresh-places/.

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    2. Hi Lucy - thank you for being so involved with your local libraries! We get that "obsolete" comment a lot, too. We feel as in-demand as ever, though, both in terms of space and services. Our branches are often full to the gills with people, so I think one evolving use is that libraries are increasingly being viewed as community space instead of only as quiet study space. The way patrons use our collections is also slowly changing: our print book circulation has gone down a bit in the last five years, but our ebook circulation has gone up, and DVDs are a continual juggernaut. So, people are still looking to the library for books and entertainment. I think there is a digital equity role that the library plays, which you see in the free access to computers and other efforts (at Seattle, we’ve been piloting a program where we check out Wifi hotspots).

      Since I’m an adult librarian I tend to focus on the services we offer to adults, but I think a primary pillar of the library is our services for children. Our children’s books are continually in demand, as are our storytimes, and the early literacy expertise of our children’s librarians.

      I could talk about this forever! I’ll conclude with some outside verification. In June the Pew Research Center put out some interesting survey findings, in which 53% of millennials said they had used a public library or bookmobile in the past 12 months, which I think surprised a lot of people since everyone likes to talk about how libraries were replaced by the internet. Other generations came in at 35-45%. Here’s a link to the Pew report: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/06/21/millennials-are-the-most-likely-generation-of-americans-to-use-public-libraries/


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    3. David here - a fortunate colleague of L & A's (Terrific interview, guys!) In addition to the traditional trades, tere's a really interesting new startup in the works - IndiePicks Magazine - that I gather will be librarian reviewed independent Not sure the timeline, but you can sign up at their website to be notified when it starts publication. If it goes well, I imagine this will be a very interesting new source of info for libraries. Check 'em out on Twitter https://twitter.com/indiepicksmag

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  4. The library in my small town is the center of it. They have something for everyone from story time for really young ones to Grandparents Day for young and old. I have so many books on my library list that I hope to live long enough to read them.

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    1. Ha!! You will, Gram! Reading keeps you young!

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    2. Gram, this makes me really happy!

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  5. I grew up in our tiny local library, and checked out as many books as I could carry every time I went in the door. These days Amazon the Anti-Christ has taken over my reading, really need to correct this.

    Confession is good for the soul, right? When I was maybe in the third grade I checked out a book from the school library, RUN AWAY HOME. I still have it. When my teacher asked me about it, I swore I'd returned it. But I didn't, not ever. I hid it in an attic closet, and when my parents moved, they found it, packed it up with my other childhood treasures and sent it to me, never suspecting. I figure the fine is now up to $169,000,421, enough to build a whole new school library when I am caught.

    Mea culpa

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    1. Oh, Ann, you are so brave. When I was a kid I had several beloved books I checked out of the library all the time. Over many months of saving my allowance, I was able to buy my own copies of all but one. I never had the guts to just keep that one, and pay the fine for replacement. Now, of course, it's long out of print, and the occasional rare book searches I've run for it never turn anything up. Cherish your clandestine prize.

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    2. Ann, that's fantastic that you still have the book! Your school might get a kick out of getting the book back -- what a great story for social media AND what great story potential for the kids to imagine what the books been doing, where it's gone. A book was recently returned to one of our branches at Seattle Public Library -- 42 years after the due date! We were delighted and posted it on Instagram. Talk about story -- it was OZMA OF OZ. I am cracking up over your book title!

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  6. The Seattle library is so amazing! I visited when I was there… Gorgeous!
    And here's my secret: back in the days before Google (can you imagine?) as an investigative reporter I often needed the help of a librarian. And--When I was working late in Boston, and the libraries here were closed, I would often call a west coast librarian---because there it was three hours earlier! I bet I called Seattle, at some point... so thank you!
    Thanks for all the inside scoop! And it makes a difference, right? When readers take out authors books? You know what books are being read, and keep track of it? Can you tell us how that works?

    Thank you! And thank you for being here today!

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    1. Ah, I wish either Andrea or I had been on the reference desk and spotted you when you came by Seattle Public! (We'd have swooned and maybe have been a bit embarrassing.)
      And YES, we closely track circulation and # of check outs. We call it "weeding" when we go through and discard books that haven't been circulating. Shelf space is always an issue in libraries, and some smaller libraries are likely to discard books that have not been checked out in a year; I've even heard some branches can't keep things longer than six months without a check out. On the flip side of things, something with a super high number of check outs will be in poor condition, and will have to be discarded for that reason. However, we'll look at the number of checkouts and the pattern of check outs and see that it's a high-demand book, or it has lasting significance, or local ties, or whatever makes it a valuable part of the collection, and we'll do our best to repurchase it.

      We look at circulation and holds to see what's in demand. But we'll also ALWAYS evaluate an individual book based on its place in the community. We'll also look at high-demand reports to see what readers might be yearning to read next; this is a great opportunity to create a book list or a blog post along the lines of "What to read while you wait for Hank Phillippi Ryan's newest book ..." The librarians responsible for purchasing (selection librarians) look at high demand reports at least once a week to make sure that we have enough copies to keep a ratio of one book for every five holds. That's what our ratio is right now, which is really terrific.

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    2. Oh, thank you for the incredibly valuable info!

      And--aw. Thank you. I'd adore to come visit. Maybe Ingrid and I can be there together! Love to see you..xoox

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  7. Wow. What a wonderful job! I use our local library a lot, and love that I can put a hold on a book from the comfort of my desk. Librarians are the best for inviting me to speak all over the region - I particularly love talking to library mystery book clubs. Also interested in Hank's question. My son in Maryland tells me he checks out my books regularly, even though he's read them all, to keep them in circulation. Is that true? Thanks!

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    1. What a good son, Edith! I'm curious about the answer to this question to!

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    2. Hi Edith! It's a great day when your library holds come in, isn't it? Also, thanks for making those direct connections with readers and libraries by talking with mystery book clubs.

      Yes, your son is making a difference! Books that are circulating -- being checked out regularly -- have the greatest chance of staying in the collection (as long as a burrito wasn't dropped on the pages or the book was dumped in the bathtub). If there's anything I missed in talking about "weeding" and circulation in Hank's question, perhaps Andrea can chime in!

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    3. I think you covered all the bases, Linda! Most public libraries are "popular" libraries, so we keep on our shelves the fiction that is in demand in some way (there are different criteria for nonfiction). That also makes it savvy for you to connect with mystery book clubs, since some folks there will buy your book but others may check it out from the library!

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  8. I spent so many happy hours in the library as a kid, and always checked out the maximum number of books. My whole family read, so I was guided to be a reader from the start, but what do you do to encourage young readers? And what do you do to encourage young parents to bring their children in the first place?

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    1. I love your reference to "the maximum number of books" because it takes me back to my childhood when yes, they only allowed us to check out so many at a time. My childhood experience was just like that!

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    2. Gigi and Susan, I was also the kid who checked out the maximum number of books - my hometown library (Boise) had shopping baskets that I would fill to the brim :)

      So much of what we do is geared towards young readers and young patrons. Summer Reading is a big one, where kids of all ages can earn prizes and certificates for reading over the summer. (Seattle does a slightly different Summer of Learning, but I think nothing beats Summer Reading to incentivize reading). Our storytimes are so much fun, and we get caregivers and children to those but also toddler daycares (below Ingrid mentions firefighter storytime, which is an eternal hit!). And then we have fun non-reading programs designed just to get kids and families in the library - building simple robots, little concerts, short theatre shows.

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    3. Children's librarians everywhere do a tremendous job working with schools to connect with young readers. So sometimes the connection with the library is instigated by the child, and that brings parents back into the library world. We often hear from parents of young kids that they'd taken a bit of a break from using the library, but were back when they had kids. And then as kids get older, there are things like book trivia programs (ours is called Global Reading Challenge) that inspire and build confidence in reading and build the foundation for being a lifetime library user.

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  9. When we were last in Seattle the central library was a special trip, just to see the building. Going up up up and then taking a picture looking down at the escalators... From the outside... From the inside. What a great place to get to work. Are the private spaces where librarians get to hang out and recharge as spectacular as the public ones?

    I get my recommendations for what to read from reviews and from friends. Certain friends. Not certain other friends. You get to learn who likes the kinds of books you like. (Same with movies.)

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    1. What? You were here? In OUR LIBRARY??? (It's hard not to gush around all these authors we love. My apologies.)

      The working space for staff at Seattle Public's Central Library is, um ... not the same as the open public spaces. *Some* staff have incredible windows, but most of the staff work in a traditional cubbyland. I will say, though, that our Level 11 staff break room is quite nice.

      I'm with you in getting recommendations from certain friends. I like hearing what certain other friends are reading, too, so I can recommend books to readers without having actually read them ...

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  10. Linda and Andrea will be joining us once they get into work here on the west coast! I have a question for you, ladies: I've heard the Story Hour with a Firefighter is extremely popular, particularly with the parents! ;) Fact or fiction?

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    1. Ingrid!! Are you here right this second? Because there's a Firefighter Storytime happening right now at Seattle Public Library's Central Library!!! It's always so fun. The excitement of seeing a firetruck just can't be matched; nor can the mood booster of an adult seeing how excited toddlers and preschoolers are at firefighter storytime be matched. I think I should go down there now ...

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    2. I'm not, but I heard it from a reliable mutual friend that many of the parents are fans of Firefighter Story Time because the readers tend to be fit, aesthetically pleasing firefighters! Whatever gets you in the door!

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    3. Fit and pleasing...and in uniform!

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  11. I spent a lot of time in the library in college (English major, of course). Something I noticed when I was touring colleges with The Girl is that libraries have noise levels per floor, varying from very collaborative and normal volume to absolute silence for those to crave it. Does your library offer similar "zones" and do patrons like it?

    Mary/Liz

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    1. That's a great question! At our Central Library, which has 9 public floors (+2 staff floors), we do try to maintain noise zones. So levels 1 and 3 are general noise, where you could meet with a small group or talk on your cell phone at a normal pitch. Level 5 and 10 are maintained by staff as a quiet floor. There are no guidelines for levels 7-9, but they tend to be quieter. Anyway, we're able to have those zones because the downtown library is multi-level. As far as I know our neighborhood branches don't try anything similar, especially since many are one level and open concept. We do have study rooms people can use, if they want to be enclosed and quieter, or if they want to work with a group.

      I think patrons appreciate the zones. We're at a moment where some patrons want the classic quiet library, and some want a collaborative community space, so it's hard to meet everyone's preference - I think the zones are an effort to do so.

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    2. I think the zones are great. You can always find a quiet spot at the Central Branch, but there's also a sense of community on the noisier floors. It's a nice balance.

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    3. A few of our branch libraries have rooms designated as quiet rooms. I see that in other libraries quite a lot, too. A nice glassed-in area that is deemed a cell-phone and conversation-free zone. It's nice. And I love the college model, with space to collaborate and then 24-hour quiet spaces. College libraries are doing a super job staying aligned with the way their students study and work.

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  12. What a wonderful post to wake up to today. Thanks to all of you! I started my working life as a children's librarian in Brooklyn Public Library, a large system separate from New York Public. I loved the work in Brooklyn's very diverse communities ( Yes, the origin of my mystery series) Sadly, after 2 children I faced up to the fact that I was paying more for child care than I was making.No exaggeration. I moved sideways into business research but always missed the public library work. I am always reflexively connecting people with books.I do use the library system heavily, both to try out new books/writers I may not feel the need to own-we are running out of shelf space - and to use the Brooklyn history department collection for research. I have never been able to crack the code to getting any attention for myself as a writer of Brooklyn-set books - there are drawbacks to living where there are lots of writers!- but I did a program at the Brooklyn history collection for the last book, which has some scenes in a historic branch library, and will do one for the almost-out book, Brooklyn Wars.I gave the Brooklyn Collection a shoutout in the acknowledgments of that one. (Sorry I am going on and on. Today's post went right to my life)

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    1. Don't apologize, Triss! I love hearing the role that libraries have played in readers' lives over the years!

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    2. Triss, I love that you still reflexively connect people with books - once a librarian, always a librarian! I'm glad to hear of your use of the history collection for research, and of the shoutout in the acknowledgments. I always read an author's acknowledgments, and feel warm when I see a library or librarian mentioned.

      I like your note that you use the library to try out new books/writers. I have a small book purchasing budget and finite bookshelves, so I do the same.

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  13. What a nice way to begin my morning. My first library job was with the Seattle Public Library system, at the Columbia Branch back in 1972ish. I fondly remember the University Branch's Children's room circa 1950 when my mom made sure we were weekly visitors. We were one of the first families to go to the brand new Northeast Branch, all new books! it was like being given the key to a chocolate factory.

    My questions: back then we tried to tailor our book purchasing to match a branch usage.. i.e more books tailored for aging population in areas with a lot of senior citizens. Is that practice now obsolete? What is Seattle Public's policy on fines, now that a few systems are eliminating fines? Finally and sadly, back then there was still a glass ceiling when it came to director positions. Is this still true in the profession today. Thanks for answering.

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    1. Hi Coralee, it's WONDERFUL to hear about your library life. I love all of those libraries. I wish we'd overlapped at SPL.

      Yes, collections are still tailored to location. There are the official collections housed in specific locations (such as the Maritime Collection in Ballard; the LGBTQIA collection at Capitol Hill), language collections to meet community needs, and things are continually refined through a centralized selection office. In addition, when monthly collection refurbishment projects are underway, there's opportunity for all librarians to ask for specific titles for their location. On the flip side of this, some of our collections are now "floating"; we started with DVDs last year. The floating collection doesn't have a permanent home; you might check a DVD out at one branch, and return it to another. Rather than the expense of moving that DVD back to its original branch, it just gets reshelved where it was returned. Much more efficient in terms of staffing, resources and the environment. Other library systems have had floating collections for years, and we were just waiting to have all the kinks worked out before implementing it.

      Regarding fines -- yes, SPL still has fines. This is a discussion that comes up internally several times a year. We have a program called "Fresh Start" for youth to have their overdue fines erased.

      I hope you are doing well.

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    2. Coralee, your question about whether there's still a glass ceiling for library directors is a good one. Anecdotally, three out four of Seattle Public Library's most recent directors have been women.

      But of course I researched it. The American Library Association (ALA) has data from a 1999 study (so old, but credible) about the gender and salary of library directors. They break it down by type of library, public vs. academic, but in the combined statistics 61% of library directors were women and 39% were men. Interestingly, though, they conclude that "Though most library directors are women, the percentage of directors who are men exceeds the percentage of librarians who are men. Also, men's salaries tend to be higher than women's, even for the same position." The AFL-CIO Department for Professional Employees put out a 2011 Facts & Figures document for library works which has similar data.
      Here's the link to the 1999 study:
      http://www.ala.org/tools/research/librarystaffstats/diversity/libdirectors
      AFL-CIO Facts & Figures: http://tinyurl.com/y8usjtuf

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  14. Love our Seattle librarians! And that Central branch building is gorgeous inside and out. Thanks for the insider's view!

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  15. What a great post this morning!! Thanks, Ingrid. And thanks, Linda and Andrea for being here. The library is stunning. How have I been to Seattle so many times and not seen it? Next trip, I'm coming to visit you.

    I have to admit, sadly, that for someone who grew up in libraries--and was volunteering in a branch library when I wrote my first novel--I don't use my local library much. It's quite grand, very quiet, and just not very...welcoming. I have fantasies about going and writing in the library, but there doesn't seem to be a comfortable place to work.

    However, the library in the next suburb is fabulous, buzzing and full of energy and people working and learning and doing all sorts of things. And there are friendly librarians, interesting programs, a coffee shop (Yay!) and some quiet and comfortable places to use a laptop. So for me, I guess it's all about atmosphere.

    As for where I find new books, if I only read what's suggested here on Jungle Red, it would keep me busy for the rest of my life! Add all the writer friends on Facebook, book store newsletters (especially The Poisoned Pen) and the paths my own interests naturally take me, and there are too many books!!!

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    1. The SPL has a small café and a gift shop, Debs. It has all kinds of cool book-related gifts. When you visit, I bet we could score a behind-the-scenes tour of the space; I've done it, and it's amazing.

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    2. Each library definitely has its own vibe; I'm glad you found one nearby that has an atmosphere that works for your writing. I know not everyone has more than one local library, but if you do then I definitely encourage "shopping around" for one you like. Mary/Liz above mentioned noise zones in libraries, and sometimes I feel like a whole branch can be a zone. In Seattle, the University Branch is hushed, while the Northgate branch two miles away is buzzing.

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  16. PS I have my British Library reader's card!!! I'm quite proud of it, because you have to apply. And I LOVE the British Library--it's gorgeous and busy and friendly, and I could happily live in the coffee shop with my laptop--if I could ever get a table...

    Only thing is, I've never quite figured out what to research with my card...

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    1. I feel confident something will come up... :) In the meantime, what a cool thing to have!

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  17. I LOVE libraries!!! My mom didn't start driving until I was in fourth grade, and when I was a young child we lived on the outskirts of the city where I grew up, so Dad took us to the library on Wednesday afternoons, his only time off from work except for Sunday. I still remember the day Dad took me there to get my library card. Only the people here at JRW and others addicted to reading can understand that it was (and still is) one of the highlights of my life. I eventually started going to the bookmobile, which came to our neighborhood on Thursday afternoon. In the beginning our mom came with us(we had to cross the street a couple of blocks away) but when she felt we were old enough to safely walk there ourselves we went on our own. Being an avid reader herself, she still went with us from time to time, leaving with an armload of books. Despite being a very shy child, I had no problem whatsoever tagging along behind one of the librarians in the tiny little trailer and asking for suggestions. Thanks to them, I was introduced to my favorite childhood books, some of which I still reread from time to time. It was one of the bookmobile librarians that allowed me to start borrowing "adult" books when I had read my way through the majority of the books for kids.

    One Thursday (I think I was in second grade) I borrowed the maximum number of books (four) from the bookmobile. I read all of them as soon as I finished my homework. We were in a carpool at the time, for getting to and from school. The mom who was driving us home the next day told my parents Thursday night that she was taking her kids to the library after school on Friday. Wow! That meant I could get to the library two days in a row! I brought all four books back to the library so I could borrow more. The person who checked my books in didn't work on the bookmobile on Thursdays so she didn't know me. She asked me why I hadn't bothered to read the books I had borrowed the day before. She was shocked when I proudly told her I read all of them, and wanted to borrow more!

    When I was in high school I stopped using the bookmobile because I could walk to the main library downtown after school as often as I wanted to. And I was there often to borrow books or study. The time always flew by.

    I regularly go to two different libraries now, and use interlibrary loan as needed. I browse the new book section in each library to see if anything looks interesting, I use the library's electronic card catalog recommendations ("if you like this author, you may be interested in the following books/authors"), I read blogs like JRW, and on occasion a librarian will recommend an author to me. I also read on line book review websites.

    I'm thinking of retiring in the next couple of years and have already decided that I want to volunteer at the library when the time comes.

    Sorry to have gone on for so long! I have some time off from work right now("surgication") and took advantage of the time to talk about two of my favorite activities, reading and going to the library!

    DebRo

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    1. I bet your library would be thrilled to have you as a volunteer, Deb! And I love the term "surgication." I hope you're healing nicely!

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    2. Hi Deb -- What wonderful library memories! I'm from a small town and the bookmobile was a huge part of my growing up. Best day of the week, by far.

      You are what we call a Power User! And it sounds like you always have been. I use two library systems, too (Seattle Public, of course, and nearby King County Library System).

      What are some of your favorite book review sites?

      BTW, this is so great to get to hear how you all find books to read!

      p.s. Hope you heal quickly.

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    3. For mysteries and thrillers Kristopher's Bolo Books, of course, is a favorite book review site! And I have just started reading Kathy Reel's Reading Room. An early favorite was Story Circle Book Reviews, for reviews of both fiction and non-fiction.

      And yes, I'm healing well from the carpal tunnel surgery. I'll be glad when I can hold a book in my hands with minimal discomfort. My Kindle has been a godsend!

      DebRo

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    4. Thanks for those sites, DebRo!

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  18. What a wonderful topic! I love, love, love libraries, and I use mine constantly.

    I mainly rely on reviews and recommendations for my new books, but just last weekend I had an interesting experience. In addition to plenty of books read the traditional way, I ALWAYS have an audiobook in my car. I hurried to finish my last one because my next reserve was in but when I got to the library, there was a mix-up and I didn't get my reserve. So I went to select something from the shelf to tide me over. But apparently audiobooks are more popular in the summer, as I found the shelves depleted and really struggled to find something. I checked all my favorite authors and found nothing. I looked for the ones marked as mysteries, and nothing captured me. Finally, I kid you not, I picked a book by its cover. I picked up an audiobook just because something about it caught my eye, and then when I read the description, it sounded like something I would like, even though not a mystery. I started it and could tell pretty quickly that yes, I WAS going to like this book. Then on a whim, I looked it up online. Turned out that back when it was new, it had received a very favorable NYT review and other positive press. I believe I actually commented aloud, just to myself, "Susan, you've still got it!." (Because when I was growing up and reading voraciously from my small town library, I always just browsed the shelves and found my books that way. But I hadn't thought that method would work any more.)

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    1. You've definitely still got it, Susan! Do you mind telling us what the book was?

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    2. Loving Day, by Mat Johnson

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    3. Sometimes it works just perfectly to judge a book by its cover, doesn't it? (That's one of the challenges we have -- "Choose a book by its cover" -- for our adult summer reading Book Bingo program. It's a GREAT challenge because we don't browse as much as we used to. I tend to choose my books online, put them on hold, and then just pick them up. I miss those days of browsing the stacks. I miss serendipity in the stacks and just stumbling across something that's the right book at the right time. Sometimes I'll go to a different library to browse and recapture that (because browsing where you work is working; something always needs to be fixed or rearranged or just generally fussed with).

      At our library, we do get a lot more people coming in person to browse audio books in the summer, right before a road trip. I love that.

      And yes, Susan, you've still got it!

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    4. My post on Saturday is going to be about the "Book Bingo" program! Stay tuned!

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    5. Yay! Book Bingo has totally brought back the joy of designated summer reading for me!

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  19. I was also one of those children who made a weekly trip to the library. Luckily my mother was an avid reader so she would pile us into the car and we would come home with a stack of books. During my working and "mothering" life I wasn't able to go to the library much except when my kids needed to borrow a particular book for homework. Now that I'm retired, I volunteer at the library and check out books for my book club reading and other books that I don't want to invest in but still want to read. I have to try to keep to a budget.

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    1. It's so awesome to see a lifelong library lover volunteer. I'm sure they're so grateful for you.

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  20. I am a life-long library lover. I went to both our city library (where the librarian snootily told me Nancy Drew is not literature and they don't carry those books)and the county library where they had those books galore. I've had a library card for every town we've ever lived in. And now I'm back in my city of origin and go to the city library branch near me. I used to prowl the shelves and pick out what looked interesting, but no more. I go online and reserve books, check them out when they come in, look at the new books shelves, and skedaddle. I'm on the email list so the library sends a post each month about mysteries and suspense books readers may like. Oh, I forgot! Eons ago in high school I volunteered in the school library.

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    1. Hi, Pat -- one of the librarians from my youth didn't approve of Nancy Drew, either, and the books weren't in our library for a time. My parents bought them for my older sister, and the combination of them being for someone older AND being basically "banned" from my school library made them extra enticing. I was delighted every time I snagged one of those yellow-spined books from my sister's bookshelves.

      Maybe saying we couldn't have easy access to Nancy Drew was actually a ploy from our librarians to get us to be mystery readers. If so, it totally worked on me!

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    2. How can anyone disapprove of Nancy Drew? That's blasphemy!

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  22. This is such a great post today! Thank you, Linda and Andrea, for sharing with us. It's easy to discern how much you both love your jobs and reading. And, your library looks amazing. I'd love to explore it. Maybe I need to put it on my bucket list.

    I do love libraries, and I have my Masters in Library Media, which is geared toward working in schools. Unfortunately, even though I took most of the classes I would take in working toward a public library goal, the program was not ALA certified. That means that I am a librarian, but being hired to work in a public library is tricky if not impossible. Sadly, that is where I ended up wanting to work. My dream job would be in readers' advisory.

    Our local library is often a disappointment. They either don't care to discuss what books they might not have that are actually well read by others or they don't seem to have any knowledge of popular books. And, my favorite genre of mystery/crime, seems to especially stump them. Not to disparage the young, but our library seems to have a lot of younger people, not librarians, who aren't familiar with enough books. I don't know. Maybe you don't have to love reading to work in a library, but it bothers me and a friend of mine who read a lot. The last time I tried to talk to someone (who was supposed to know something about ordering books), it was such an ordeal pitching the series that I was pitching I decided to quit trying, at least for a while. I'm now thinking of setting up a meeting with the director and asking about their purchasing guidelines and also about the number of qualified librarians they have working there. If I was required to meet ALA certification, it seems that the current hiring practices of our library have relaxed.

    Sorry for ranting on so. It's just that I read about awesome libraries and librarians in places like Seattle, and it brings up the dissatisfaction I have with my local one. Kudos to you, Linda and Andrea for being the best of what librarians should be.

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    1. Hi Kathy, I wish you were working in readers advisory, too!

      We all know that being a librarian is more than just loving books, but I don't get why someone would choose to work in a public library and not embrace readers advisory. Those are the questions we get asked every day at all our locations. I wish that readers advisory was considered a core competency in public libraries. Or, if not something expected of everyone, that SOMEONE on staff had that role of leading a culture of readers.

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    2. Hi Kathy.
      Ditto what Linda said. In addition to not having staff enthusiastic to talk about books, I'm also sorry that they're unreceptive to discussing the collection and purchasing guidelines.

      One thing I've run into over the years is that many libraries and librarians value reference work, but somehow see readers adivsory as a niche, or as a special skill/talent that only a few people have. When, really, suggesting a book to someone is also a reference question, and the skill set can be developed. One reason I feel lucky to work at Seattle Public Library is because we have a department dedicated to reader services; most libraries don't, and so I feel like it can fall through the cracks.

      In any case, your library is lucky to have a patron like you who cares and holds them to a higher standard.

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    3. Linda and Andrea, your jobs are so important and it's obvious you care deeply about ensuring a culture of readers. Seattle is so lucky to have you both!

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    4. We are lucky, Kathy! Linda and Andrea have been so generous with their time and have given such thoughtful answers to all these questions!

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    5. Thank you, Kathy and Ingrid! It's been such a joy today to read through these comments.

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  23. Wonderful post! I love the library. I often volunteer at library book sales. Even though I can afford to buy any book I want, I have NO room in my tiny place for more books. I kept many books when I moved and unfortunately, I donated books that are now out of print like Julie Kaewert's Alex Plumtree series. Once in a while, I find old copies at secondhand bookstores.

    At the library, I can borrow books by my favorite authors. I often send requests for books that I want to read through the Interlibrary system. Right now I am in a cozy mysteries book club online and we are reading a new book in August. The library does not have a copy so I sent a request! I also discovered many new authors at a mystery convention. Once in a while my library has books by these authors. I also send suggestions to purchase a book.

    I do not really have any questions. I love my local library. They have children's books and large print books. They also have DVDs and books on tape.

    Once in a while, I do buy a book at the bookstore for Christmas / birthday gifts to friends. And if the library cannot get a copy of a book that I want, I would buy a copy then donate it to the library when I finish.

    The other day the librarian helped me. This happened twice. I would return a book then get a notice from the library a week later that the book is due. I went to the library, found the book on the shelf at the library and brought it over to the librarian saying "I am confused. I received a notice that this book is due and I returned it a week ago. I found it on the shelf." I do not want to have to pay a fine for a book that I already returned :-)

    Diana

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    1. Hi Diana,
      Oooh, I love the idea of an online cozy mysteries book club - that sounds like a great community. I'm glad that you love your local library, and that you're active in both checking out books and making purchase suggestions.

      Sometimes, due to mechanical or human error, a book (or books) can end up back on the shelf without being checked in. Definitely if you remember checking in a book, say something! You can look for it on the shelf, or staff people can - we have a whole process for it, which goes under the imaginative title "claimed returned."

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    3. Tried to edit this comment.

      Hi Andrea, thank you! Yes, that's what I did twice and they apologized for the error. If you are interested, the online book chat is on Facebook on Monday July 31st at 7 p.m. Central time. If you are on the West Coast, perhaps 5 p.m. Pacific time? I already got Ellen's books at a mystery convention last year.

      The book for August is by a new author and I hope I can get it at the library. Sometimes the bookstore does not have a book that the library has.

      Have a great day!

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  24. As a child and teenager I spent hours in one of Chicago's libraries. The village our family lives in now has a relatively small library. My daughters and I still use it, but generally to request books from the regional cooperative. That can takes months of waiting. At times when our Granddaughter is visiting her Aunts will take her to our library and she brings home a stack of books for Grandma to read to her. Our daughter is on the Friends of the Library Board.

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