Friday, November 1, 2019

In Defense Of Decorating For Every Holiday

Perhaps it's just me, but between taking down the bats and pumpkins and putting up the turkeys and other pumpkins, I sometimes take a moment to consider: do I really have to decorate for EVERY holiday? But then I get back to work and tack up another cornucopia because: yes. You might not find it necessary, but I think it's worthwhile to decorate for everything. I've compiled a list of my thoughts on the subject, which I will share with you today. This does not only include wall art and decorations, but also displays and bulletin boards. (Please note that, while I believe this about the entire library, I am - to be fair - a children's librarian.)

We Want To Be Relevant

When many people think of libraries, they think of buildings full of dusty, old books. Of course, these people are incorrect, but what better way to prove that we are currently relevant than to be as current as this very week? Yes, we care about being up to date! Take away that Halloween candy, it's old news - it's Thanksgiving season now!

We Want To Be Friendly

It's hard to be angry when you're surrounded by happy things, and creating an environment full of cheer is helpful for those who tend to lean toward the grumpy side of life. Of course, some people will be stressed and unhappy no matter what you do, but for the majority of people, a cheerful, welcoming environment helps relieve some of life's tensions. According to scientists, "the nostalgia associated with festive decorations reminds people of when they were children with no responsibilities."

This same study mentions that people who decorate the outside of their homes for the holidays are seen as "more friendly and cohesive" than their neighbors who do not decorate. Our goal as librarians is to create an environment that people want to visit and use, and if sticking a pilgrim hat on the turtle tank will make that happen, I am all for it. As I tell patrons who are overly worried about a 25 cent fine, "this is a happy place."

We Want To Be Inclusive

Halloween is the most popular holiday in October in my part of the world, but it's not the only one. I had up a small display of books about Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, and every single book was checked out! Several parents were surprised we had any books about Diwali at all, and more than one family expressed gratitude that their holiday was represented.

Of course, it's impossible to celebrate every single holiday, but we can do our best to make sure that all of the most important celebrations are noted. The choice is yours: would you rather celebrate absolutely everything, or nothing at all?

We Want To Be The Third Place 

American sociologist Ray Oldenberg wrote in his book The Great Good Place that people in productive societies need to have a third place - not work, not home - "where you relax in public, where you encounter familiar faces and make new acquaintances." Whether this is the neighborhood coffee shop, the barber shop, the local park -- or, perhaps, the library! -- this place can be integral for people's mental well-being. The idea is that people have no obligation to be here, but they want to be. What better way than to create a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere?

What Do You Think?

Do you agree with Kat? Let us know here in the comments, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Literary Ghosts We Love

October is the spookiest month, and a perfect time to have some fun! Last year, we showed you our favorite Spooky Fictional Libraries, and this year we at 5 Minute Librarian wanted to share with you some of our very favorite literary ghosts.

Image result for jacob marley basil
Basil Rathbone as Jacob Marley, 1954
Jacob Marley
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Sure, there are more famous ghosts in this title, but Jacob Marley is where it all begins. He's the one who earned his ghostly shackles and is warning Scrooge of his doom by demonstrating exactly how bad things can get.

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Shirley Henderson as Moaning Myrtle, 2002
Moaning Myrtle 
Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Hogwarts is chock full of ghosts to choose from, but arguably none as memorable as the girl who was killed in the toilets and haunts the castle's pipes. She's also one of the few characters who befriends both Harry and Draco!

Related image
Cynthia Garris as Mrs. Massey in The Shining TV series, 1997

Mrs. Massey (The Bathtub Ghost)
The Shining by Stephen King
There's a good reason to stay out of Room 217 at the Overlook Hotel. Danny Torrance finds this out one day when he decides to explore, and ends up meeting Mrs. Massey in the tub - who then tries to strangle and kill him! Mrs. Massey is the newest of the Overlook's ghosts, having committed suicide just a few years before the story is set. (Sure, the creepy twins may be the most memorable from the movie, but Mrs. Massey was the one in the book that we were afraid of.)

Image result for headless horseman
The Headless Horseman, in miniature, as a Halloween decoration.
The Headless Horseman
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
American folklore specifies that the Headless Horseman was a Hessian soldier who was decapitated by a cannonball during the Battle of White Plains in the American Revolution. He was buried without his head, and his ghosts wanders the world searching for it. He was immortalized around the world when he pursued Ichabod Crane late one autumn night.

Billy Boyd as Banquo
Billy Boyd as Banquo, 2014
Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Three witches tell Macbeth that he will be king, and that Banquo will not but his son will be, so Macbeth sees him as a threat and has him murdered. He shows up later at a feast, scaring Macbeth out of his wits and hastening his descent into madness. We like him because, if we were killed, eternity haunting at a feast sounds pretty good.

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Ghost of Emily in "Anya's Ghost" by Vera Brosgol
Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol
Emily is, at first, a friendly, helpful spirit to Anya, who is lonely after just having moved to town. Of course, she gets less friendly and demure and much more vengeful as time goes on, making this graphic novel super creepy and amazing.

Aragorn-Dead army
Aragon and the Dead Men of Dunharrow, Lord of the Rings, 2001
The Dead Men of Dunharrow
Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein
They were oath-breakers, men who abandoned their promise to Isildur to fight with him in a war, and cursed to remain on Middle-earth until they could make it right. Aragon, heir of Isildur, was able to call upon their aid and finally release them from their oath. But seriously, can you imagine being in a battle and suddenly an entire army of unkillable warriors is fighting against you?

Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna, #1)
Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
Anna is still wearing the bloody white dressed she wore the day she was murdered in 1958. She's killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home, sometimes literally tearing them apart. She's so creepy.


Image result for death
Image of Death from Wikimedia Commons
The Book Thief, Marcus Zusak
Though not technically a ghost, the narrator of this book from his point of view is particularly creepy when you know that it takes place during World War II in Nazi Germany. 

Monday, October 21, 2019

Ready to Go Book Display: Black Friday

Welcome to our series, "Ready to Go! Book Display." Once a month we'll highlight the latest or greatest for every age group that you can promote within your library or order for your collection. This month we are showcases books for a Black Friday display with a twist: titles with the word Black in them!

Recommendations for Adults:

Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates (Aug 2015)

One game. Six students. Five survivors. It was only ever meant to be a game played by six best friends in their first year at Oxford University; a game of consequences, silly forfeits, and childish dares. But then the game changed: the stakes grew higher and the dares more personal and more humiliating, finally evolving into a vicious struggle with unpredictable and tragic results. Now, fourteen years later, the remaining players must meet again for the final round.

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan (Sep 2018)

Unexpectedly chosen to be a family manservant, an 11-year-old Barbados sugar-plantation slave is initiated into a world of technology and dignity before a devastating betrayal propels him throughout the world in search of his true self.

Black Sun by Owen Matthews (Jul 2019)

Days before the test of the world's largest nuclear device, a KGB officer in 1961 Russia investigates the murder of the bomb's architect, unraveling a conspiracy that poses apocalyptic threats. 

A former top CIA executive and media pundit shares previously undisclosed details about the September 11 attacks and how the CIA developed enhanced interrogation techniques and other controversial initiatives under wrenching circumstances.

Black Moon by Kenneth Calhoun (Mar 2014)

Insomnia has claimed everyone Biggs knows. Even his beloved wife, Carolyn, has succumbed to the telltale red-rimmed eyes, slurred speech and cloudy mind before disappearing into the quickly collapsing world. Yet Biggs can still sleep, and dream, so he sets out to find her.

Recommendations for Teens:

Edited by National Book Award finalist Ibi Zoboi, and featuring some of the most acclaimed bestselling Black authors writing for teens today - Black Enough is an essential collection of captivating stories about what it's like to be young and Black in America.

Black Butler by Yana Toboso (Dec 2013)

Just a stone's throw from London lies the manor house of the illustrious Phantomhive earldom and its master, one Ciel Phantomhive. Earl Phantomhive is a giant in the world of commerce, Queen Victoria's faithful servant... and a twelve-year-old boy. Fortunately, his loyal butler, Sebastian, is ever at his side, ready to carry out the young master's wishes. There apparently is nothing Sebastian cannot do. In fact, one might even say Sebastian is too good to be true... or at least, too good to be human.

The Black Witch by Laurie Forest (May 2017)

Elloren Gardner, the granddaughter of the last Black Witch, lacks her grandmother's powers in a society that covets magic ability above all else. In an attempt to escape the shadow of her grandmother's legacy she heads to school with her brothers to learn to become an apothecary.

Black City by Elizabeth Richards (Nov 2012)

Ash, a sixteen-year-old twin-blood who sells his addictive venom, "Haze," to support his dying mother, and Natalie, the daughter of a diplomat, discover their mysterious - and forbidden - connection in the Black City, where humans and Darklings struggle to rebuild after a brutal war.

Black River Falls by Jeff Hirsch (Jul 2016)

Seventeen-year-old Cardinal has escaped the virus that ravaged his town, leaving its victims alive but without their memories.

Beyond the Black Door by A.M. Strickland (Oct 2019)

Everyone has a soul, and soulwalkers - like Kamai and her mother - can journey into other people's souls while they sleep. But no matter where Kamai visits, she sees the black door. It follows her into every soul, and her mother has told her to never, ever open it. When tragedy strikes, Kamai does the unthinkable: she opens the door.

Recommendations for Children: 

Black Canary: Ignite by Meg Cabot (Oct 2019)

Thirteen-year-old Dinah Lance is in a rock band with her two best friends and has a good relationship with her mom, but when a mysterious figure threatens her friends and family, she learns more about herself and her mother's secret past.

Black Cat, White Cat by Claire Garralon (Jun 2016)

Black Cat, who lives in a white house, and White Cat, who lives in a black house, become friends but must find a more colorful place to play together.

Black Belt Bunny by Jacky Davis (Jul 2017)

Black Belt Bunny is good at sidekicks, backflips, and air chops, but when told he must learn to make a salad, he resists, only to be unexpectedly empowered by himself and the narrator. 

Young, Gifted, and Black by Jamia Wilson (Feb 2018)

Join us on a journey across borders, through time and even through space to meet 52 icons of color from the past and present in a celebration of achievement. 

The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale (Oct 2014)

Who says princesses don't wear black? When trouble raises its blue monster head, Princess Magnolia ditches her flouncy dresses and becomes the Princess in Black!

The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole by Michelle Cuevas (Sep 2017)

Eleven-year-old Stella Rodriguez finds herself in possession of a strange new pet that swallows up everything in sight when a black hole decides to follow her home.

Not Quite Black and White by Jonathan Ying (Sep 2016)

Have you ever seen a zebra wearing pink polka dots? Or a penguin with bright yellow boots? These black and white animals are not all quite black and white.

Friday, October 11, 2019

The Why Of Programming

At a staff meeting recently, my fellow librarians and I were discussing our programming. The question came up of why we do what we do. (This wasn't a judgment at all, but rather an invitation to think more about our work and attempt to make it better.) I mean, of course we offer crafts for kids! But... okay, why do we actually do that?

As an institution that used to be dedicated solely to books, it's interesting to think that we do so many activities - movies, author talks, craft programs, science clubs - the list goes on! Why do we do so much, and how can we make it as effective as possible? This is not to say that every single program has to check off every single box, but it may be worthwhile to consider the different reasons for programming, so we can try to offer a wider variety.


Because we have a background in information and knowledge, of course we want to continue to offer educational opportunities as much as possible. This could look different in every program: children learning how cool science is when they're not in a school setting, or teens making healthy snacks so they're not always reaching for Doritos, or adults attending an author talk to hear about the writing process. Everyone will hopefully take something away from a program that they didn't have before.

I am also including many programs for young children under this umbrella; they may come because they get to make a craft, but they will also be practicing hand-eye coordination.


The world has changed drastically in the last few decades. With the rise of social media and the ubiquity of cell phones, people are both much more connected with friends and family, and much less connected to their physical neighbors. Getting to know your neighbors is, in a way, a lost art, which keeps people feeling like they are not part of the place in which they live. What better way to foster a sense of community than to bring everyone together for a program? It will give people a common topic to discuss and a chance to get to know one another.


Of course, libraries want to promote literacy and a love of reading. To this end, we offer book clubs for all ages, story times, poetry circles, author talks, and other ways in which our reading lives, as a whole, are enriched. Discussion groups encourage readers to broaden their horizons and read books that may not have reached them otherwise.


Of course, literacy isn't just about books! Our cultural literacy has expanded to include movies, television shows, podcasts, music, YouTube channels, and more! Having a Welcome to Nightvale party may seem a bit odd to some, but it's embracing the enjoyment and sharing the cultural experiences of the podcast to fans (and potential new fans).

This can also work with cookbook clubs - have you tried making foods from different cultures? It might be fun to try some new things!


The phrase "lifelong learning" has come to be a buzz-phrase, that simply means an enjoyment of experiencing new things and learning about what you care about throughout your life. What better way to spur a love of learning than to share some opportunities to try new things that may not otherwise be available?


Of course, there is nothing wrong with doing a program because people want it. Will they enjoy it? Yes. Will they then come into the library and see all the wonderful things you have to offer, and think of the library first when looking for any of the above topics? Then it sounds like a successful program to me.

All In All...

Of course, there is no bad reason to have a program, but thinking about the Why can help with planning when you're stuck, and can help with funding when you need to ask for it.

Why do you do what you do? Tell us here in the comments, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Graphic Novels ARE Real Books

I recently had an interesting patron interaction. A mother came in with her 8 year old daughter and brought her up to the desk, where both my assistant and I were sitting. "My daughter doesn't much like reading," she said. "She only reads graphic novels, and I'm sure you'll both agree with me that those don't count as reading."

"Actually," we told her, "we agree with HER." After singing the praises of graphic novels - during which, the daughter's face lit up more and more! - the mother said, "okay! I guess I'm not always right." She let her daughter check out one graphic novel for each chapter book, which seemed like a win for them both.

Much like the debate about audio books being "cheating," I thought we might want to address the reasons why graphic novels are real, worthwhile, wonderful books.

They Are Not "Just" Comic Books

While comic books are valid in their own right, the graphic novel format is not just a "glorified comic book." Artwork is combined with narrative storytelling to create a cohesive piece of work wherein a story is told. They are not always superheroes saving the day the same way every single time; graphic novels can be any type of story, including biographies, retellings of classics, historical pieces, science fiction epics, and more! And also, of course, super heroes saving the day. (We love you, Lunch Lady!)

The Format Is Great for Reluctant Readers or Struggling Readers

There are a multitude of reasons!
  • The artwork reinforces the narrative, which helps struggling readers more clearly understand the context of the words, which aids in comprehension and gives a better foundation to decipher an unfamiliar piece of text.
  • The fast pace of graphic novels helps those who are reluctant to pick up a book, to keep reading. Especially for those who struggle to "get lost" in the printed word, it's easy to quickly get immersed in a story when you can see what's happening, which in turn will encourage readers to go back and read the words, and figure out the text they are missing.
  • Because space is so limited, every single word has been cultivated to have maximum impact. The language is carefully chosen to pair with the illustrations, meaning that there are no "meaningless" phrases. 
  • Graphic novels are excellent for visual learners. A reader who might not be able to remember something easily when reading of hearing the printed word can actually see what is going on, and as such may be more likely to learn and remember it.
  • For those who struggle to read body language, the graphic novel helps to reinforce what is easier seen than read about, in a format that can be studied frame by frame (as opposed to television or movies, which sometimes move too fast to analyze).
  • They have been proven to assist struggling readers with the foundations of literacy, such as sequencing, recall and memory, and critical thinking.
  • It also makes it easier to reinforce story elements, such as character, plot, and theme.
  • The format feels more relevant to many students, so giving reluctant or struggling readers the graphic novel of a Shakespearean play or a Jane Austen novel may help level the playing field with students who are able to read and comprehend the prose, which enables them to join in conversations about the plot.
  • Reading as a whole helps readers to empathize with other people, and helps people to create their own value system.

Graphic Novels are Great for Modern Literacy

The pairing of text and graphics dominates the online world in which we live. The ability to easily pair a few words with an image is crucial to understanding memes, which - while some may not find "important" - are vital to our modern cultural literacy. The graphic novel format helps to reinforce the ability to understand and appreciate this multimedia method of cultural exchange. 

Graphic novels also strengthen appreciation for the arts; each image is carefully created to look a certain way, and an appreciation for the reasons why each illustration is chosen to look that way is a valuable foundation in fine arts and even architecture.

There's More!

What did we miss? Let us know how you feel about graphic novels here in the comments, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Promoting Breast Cancer Awareness at the Library

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and while the little pink ribbons are absolutely everywhere, we don't see as much explanation of what those ribbons actually mean.

We have come up with some ways that libraries can help spread the word about cancer, early detection, and surviving "the worst," and get your community involved in the fight against breast cancer.


Did you know that 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer in her lifetime? (For men, it is roughly 1 in every 833 people.) When you add in caregivers and families, it's likely that this has an effect on pretty much every person out there.

  • Information is key! Have a table with contact info for local clinics that perform mammograms, pamphlets on early warning signs, and other important facts. Be sure to include dates and times for local support groups!
  • Put up a book display with medical information and biographies of survivors. There are even cookbooks designed for cancer patients!
  • Perhaps have a speaker to come in to talk about their cancer journey, or a local doctor or nurse talk about the importance of doing self-checks. 
  • Put the word out on social media! The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion has some great sample tweets that you can use to start the conversation.
  • If you are unable to host any yourself, or in addition to any that you can host, find and promote local events to promote awareness.
  • There is a great article with information to share with your patrons on the Ebsco blog.


Everyone wants to make a difference, and there are many ways that your patrons can help people who are going through one of these hard times.

  • If you have a knitting or crocheting group, see if they would be interested in making hats for people going through chemotherapy. Some hospitals and treatment centers will leave boxes of donated hats near the patient entrance, for people to take.
  • Patrons of all ages can make Get Well cards for patients. Cards can either be sent to hospitals and treatment centers without a specific recipient in mind, or can be crafted for people to take and mail to those in their own life who are going through treatment or are survivors.
  • Assemble care packages for people going through treatment. Include words of encouragement, crossword puzzles to do in the waiting room, and hard candy for a sweet surprise. 


  • Host a support group for cancer patients, survivors, caregivers, and their families. You'd be surprised how many people fall into one of these categories!
  • One library had a program where people did "yarn bombing" (where trees, light poles, bike racks, etc. are covered in knit or crocheted yarn), all in pink, to show their support.
  • Have pink ribbons that people can take and wear to show their support. Have staff wear them as well.
There are lots of ways to spread information, awareness, and support. In which ways does your library help? Tell us here in the comments, on Twitter, or on our Facebook page.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Ready to Go Book Display: Sleep

Welcome to our series, "Ready to Go! Book Display." Once a month we'll highlight the latest or greatest for every age group that you can promote within your library or order for your collection. This month we are featuring books related to sleep.

Recommendations for Adults:

While You Sleep by Stephanie Merritt (Mar 2019)
Seeking a retreat from her failing marriage in a remote Scottish island house, Zoe disregards local superstitions about the property's tragic history before the manifestations of eerie, gothic phenomena reveal the work of a ghostly, or all-too-human, predator.

Go the F**K to Sleep by Adam Mansbach (Jun 2011)
A bedtime book for adults portrays the trials and tribulations of a parent who cannot get their little angel to nod off.

Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson (Jun 2011)
An accident in her 20s severely damaged her memory, so although Christine Lucas is now 47, she doesn't recall anything that has happened since the accident. Each morning, her husband has to tell her who she is, and who he is. But each morning after he leaves for work, she receives a phone call and is prompted by a doctor to retrieve her secret journal.

Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King (Sep 2017)
In a near-future where women succumb to a sleeping disease and men revert to their primal natures, one mysterious immune woman struggles to survive in an Appalachian town where she is treated as both a demon and a lab specimen.

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker (Jan 2019)
Presents the story of a student in an isolated Southern California college town who witnesses a strange sleeping illness that subjects patients to life-altering, heightened dreams.

Recommendations for Teens:

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman (Sep 2015)
A brave young queen and her dwarf companions set out to rescue an enchanted princess who is not quite what she seems.

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black (Jan 2015)
In the town of Fairfold, where humans and fae exist side by side, a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed at knives awakes after generations of sleep in a glass coffin in the woods, causing Hazel to be swept up in new love, shift her loyalties, feel the fresh sting of betrayal, and to make a secret sacrifice to the faerie king.

More Than This by Patrick Ness (Sep 2013)
Awakening inexplicably in the suburban English town of his early childhood after drowning, Seth is baffled by changes in the community and suffers from agonizing memories that reveal sinister qualities about the world around him.

Recommendations for Kids:

Sleep Book by Dr. Seuss (Jan 1962)
Tells in humorous verse what happens when all ninety-nine trillion and three creatures in the world go to sleep.

Bear Can't Sleep by Karma Wilson (Oct 2018)
It's time for Bear to hibernate but he can't sleep, so his friends all band together to help.

Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker (May 2011)
At sunset, when their work is done for the day, a crane truck, a cement mixer, and other pieces of construction equipment make their way to their resting places and go to sleep.

I Will Take a Nap! by Mo Willems (June 2015)
Gerald is tired and cranky and wants to take a nap, but Piggie is not helping.

Happenstance Found by P.W. Catanese (Jan 2009)
A boy awakens, blindfolded, with no memory of even his name, but soon meets Lord Umber, an adventurer and inventor, who calls him Happenstance and tells him that he has a very important destiny - and a powerful enemy.

Dormia by Jake Halpern (May 2009)
After learning of his ancestral ties to Dormia, a hidden kingdom in the Ural Mountains whose inhabitants possess the ancient power of "wakeful sleeping," twelve-year-old Alfonso sets out on a mission to save the kingdom from destruction, discovering secrets that lurk in his own sleep.