Friday, January 29, 2016

Spotlight on Diversity: Are Your Library Shelves White-Washed?

As librarians, we strive to build a balanced collection that circulates, from a good mix of different genres to coverage of the big topics. This may lead to problems, though, if you are not paying a close enough attention to diversity. The Cooperative Children's Book Center just published results to their survey about diversity in the publishing world. The results are eye opening.

 Let's look at this a little closer and why this affects librarians:

1. Where are you buying your books?

According to the survey, the publishing world is primarily consisted of straight White Caucasians. That means the editors who are selecting the books, the advertisers who are selling them, the writers who are writing them-- every step of the process is dominated by this one segment of our population. And as such, there is little wonder why we don't have diversity in our literature. Up until recently, this was just accepted. Main characters are just white. If they were people of color, their images on covers were white-washed so the books would "sell". People are trying to make changes and bring this issue to the forefront, but it is very evident that it needs to happen on all levels. Public libraries - any library - is not immune to this, either.

Unfortunately, nothing ever happens fast. In fact, over the past 20 years, despite diversity growing in our population here in the US, diverse books have remained at 10% of all books published each year. It looks even worse when you divide up that 10% to show the individual categories that fall into diversity: LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities (as defined by That's beyond pitiful.


2. Where are you getting your reviews?

Do your reviewers read diverse books? Focusing on only the big journals may not be your best source of information to find lots of new diverse books. 

Some great places to check out:

3. What books are you buying?

Are you only ordering diverse books that get starred reviews? Publishers will never publish more diverse books if we're not buying them. Of course, we don't want to fill our shelves with mediocre books; however, if we are willing to buy mediocre stories from white authors, we should be willing to buy mediocre stories from diverse authors, too. It isn't fair to only hold diverse authors to a higher standard.

4. What books do you promote?

What books do you have on your displays? Do you have book lists that make it easy for people to find diverse characters? Do you make sure diverse books are included in all of your lists?

Some Suggestions:

Stay tuned for Allie's Diverse Book Lists!
ALA awards (Many focus on diverse reads!)
Serving Diverse Teens @ Your Library
The Hub
End of the Year Booklists by We Need Diverse Books
1000 Black Girl Books Resource Guide by GrassROOTS Community Foundation

5. What books are you deleting?

Since it is a lot of work to find diverse books to order, can you imagine being a patron trying to find them to read? If we're not promoting them, people may not even know about them. When you are weeding your shelves, pay attention to how many diverse books you're taking out. Are you deleting more than you are buying?

6. What books are you reading?

We all understand the importance of diversity in literature. I don't have to list out to you why we need these books on our library shelves. However, I am embarrassed to admit that when I actually looked at my own reading history, nearly all of the books I have read were white-washed and written by white authors. I wasn't making an active effort to read these great diverse books, so I had fallen victim to the unconscious bias. I hate to say "victim" because I'm not the type to be a victim of any type if I can help it, but the problem was - is - that so many of us don't even realize it's happening. I thought I was doing well - I was reading award winners and top reviewed books - but my sources weren't strong in diversity and I was influenced by the book buzz. Now that I fully understand how deep our white-washed literature goes, I'm realizing that I need to be part of the change. I need to read more diversity, turning it from a buzz word to just a part of my every day reading life. We all need to, if we want to make any strides to a more inclusive literature.

So, how would you answer these questions if someone were to ask:
1. How many books have you read which featured a diverse character?
2. How many many books have a person of color as the main character?
3. How many books were written by non-Caucasians?

If your answers were not many, it might be time to #colormyshelf.

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Ultimate Book Awards Calendar

In preparation for Spoilers, Sweetie, I hunted for a list of book awards, arranged by the month they are announced. I had no luck, so decided to create one and share it with you all. Enjoy! They are divided by age groups (Adults, Teens, and Children), so you can easily find your target audience.

Adult Awards


ALA Awards (Midwinter)
National Book Critic’s Circle Finalists
Costa Book of the Year (UK & Ireland)
BCALA (Black Caucus)
Carnegie Medal (ALA)


GRAMMYs: Best Spoken Word Album
Nebula shortlist


National Book Critics Circle Awards
Canada Reads
Bram Stoker Awards (Horror)


L.A. Times Book Prize
Pulitzer Prize
Benjamin Franklin Awards
Edgar Awards (Mystery)

April/May (may come out either month)

IACP Cookbook Awards
Agatha Awards (Traditional Mystery)
James Beard Cookbook Awards


Audies (Audiobooks and spoken word entertainment)
Christian Book Awards
Nebula Award (Sci-Fi/Fantasy)
Man Booker International Prize (Translated Fiction)


Women's Prize for Fiction, Bailey's (formerly The Orange Prize)
Lambda (LGBT)
Locus Awards (Sci-Fi)


Eisners (comics, announced at ComicCon)
International Thriller Writers Award
RITA / Golden Heart Awards (Romance)
Shirley Jackson (Psychological Suspense, Horror, and the Dark Fantastic)
Man Booker Prize Longlist (Longlist, July; Shortlist, Sept)
Mythopoeic Award (Fantasy)


Hugo Award (Sci Fi/Fantasy)


Man Booker Prize Shortlist (Longlist, July; Shortlist, Sept)
National Book Awards (Longlist)
Christy Finalists (Christian Fiction)


Giller (Shortlist)
Anthony Award (Crime Fiction/Mystery)
Nobel Prize in Literature
Kirkus Prize
Man Booker Prize
National Book Awards (Shortlist)


World Fantasy
Giller (Winner)
National Book Awards
Costa Book Shortlist (UK & Ireland)
Christy (Christian Fiction)


PEN Literary Awards Longlist
Goodreads Choice (by readers)

Teen Awards


ALA Youth Media Awards (Midwinter)


IACP Cookbook Awards
L.A. Times Book Prize
Benjamin Franklin Awards


Edgar Awards (Mystery)
Children's Choice Book Awards - (voted by Children and YA)
Andre Norton Award (a Hugo Award; Sci Fi/Fantasy)
Boston Globe Horn Book Award
Audies (Audiobooks and spoken word entertainment)
Christian Book Awards


Lambda (LGBT)
Locus Awards (Sci-Fi)


Eisners (comics, announced at ComicCon)
RITA / Golden Heart Awards (Romance)
Mythopoeic Award Finalist (fantasy)


National Book Awards: Young People's Literature Longlists



National Book Awards Winners
Christy (Christian Fiction)
Costa Book Shortlist (UK & Ireland)


Goodreads Choice (by readers)

Children Awards


ALA Youth Media Awards (Midwinter)
Phoenix Award (Chapter book/Picture Book)
Charlotte Zolotow Award (Picture Book)
ALA Rainbow List (GBLT)
Scott O'Dell Award (Historical Fiction)
Costa Children's Book Award (UK & Ireland)


Cybils Awards
American Indian Library Association (Every two years; 2016 Current List)


Walter Dean Myers Award (Presented by We Need Diverse Books)


IACP Cookbook Awards
Benjamin Franklin Awards
Jane Addams Peace Awards
Edgar Award


Children's Choice Book Awards
Boston Globe Horn Book Award
Audies (Audiobooks and spoken word entertainment)
Christian Book Awards


Lambda (LGBT)


Eisners (comics, announced at ComicCon)


Kirkus Prize: Young Readers


Costa Book Shortlist (UK & Ireland)


Goodreads Choice (by readers)

Special thanks to Krystal Smith for help with compiling this list!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Ready to Go Display: Sherlock Holmes

Ready to Go Display: Social Media Fiction
Welcome to our series, "Ready to Go!" Book Display. Once a month, we'll highlight the latest or greatest for every age group (Adults, Teens and Children) that you can promote within your library or order for your collection. 

Recommendations for
The Sherlock Holmes Book (Oct 2015)
An "elementary" reference to each of Sherlock Holmes' cases as written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle provides infographics, inspirational quotes, and at-a-glace flowcharts that explain how the Baker Street detective reached his conclusions through deductive reasoning. 

Sherlock Holmes: Color in Classics by Simon Balley (Mar 2016)
Color in 70 pages of scenes related to the classic Holmes stories.

The Great Detective: The Amazing Rise and Immortal Life of Sherlock Holmes by Zach Dundas (June 2015)
A journalist and lifelong Sherlock Holmes fan explores Doyle's original tales to reveal how they laid the groundwork for a myth of seemingly infinite variety in literary and screen adaptations.

The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories edited by Otto Penzler (Oct 2015)
A massive collection of Sherlockian tales, presented by an Edgar Award-winning editor, features more than 80 stories about Holmes and Dr. Watson.

Recommendations for Teens:
The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason (Sept 2013)
In 1889 London young women are turning up dead, and Evaline Stoker, relative of Bram, and Mina Holmes, niece of Sherlock, are summoned to investigate the clue of the not-so-ancient Egyptian scarabs - but where does a time traveler fit in?

Lock & Mori by Heather W. Petty (Sept 2015)
In modern-day London, sixteen-year-old Miss James "Mori" Moriarty is looking for an escape from her recent past and spiraling home life when she takes classmate Sherlock Holmes up on his challenger to solve a murder mystery.

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro (Mar 2016)
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson descendants, Charlotte and Jamie, students at a Connecticut boarding school, team up to solve a murder mystery.

Down the Rabbit Hole: An Echo Falls Mystery by Peter Abrahams (Aug 2008)
Like her idol Sherlock Holmes, eighth grader Ingrid Levin-Hill uses her intellect to solve a murder case in her home town of Echo Falls.

 Recommendations for Children:

Sherlock, Lupin & Me: The Dark Lady by Irene Adler (Feb 2014)
While on summer vacation at the seaside, twelve-year-old Irene Adler meets the young Sherlock Holmes, and his friend Arsene Lupin - and when a dead body floats ashore the three young friends set out to solve the mystery. 
Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of Baskervilles by Jennifer Adams (Sept 2013)
This board book introduces sound using characters, places and events from Arthur Conan Doyle's "The House of Baskervilles."
Sherlock Holmes and a Scandal in Bohemia adapted by Murray Shaw (Nov 2010)
Retold in graphic novel form, Sherlock Holmes attempts to retrieve a photograph being used to blackmail the King of Bohemia and finds something even more valuable.
The Sherlock Files: The 100-Year-Old Secret by Tracy Barrett (Mar 2010)
Xena and Xander Holmes discover that Sherlock Holmes was their great-great-great grandfather when they are given his unsolved casebook, from which they attempt to solve the case of a famous missing painting.

Friday, January 8, 2016

So You Want to Be a Reference Librarian

We here at the 5 Minute Librarian try to write for every type of librarian, from children's services through academia, and everything in between. We know that the world of librarianship is vast and varied, and we are but three people. As such, we have decided to speak to some librarians in other areas, and learn more about their particular specialties. This week, we reached out to the phenomenal Tina McEvoy, who works as the Assistant Director and Reference Librarian at the Lawrence Library in Pepperell, MA, to talk to us about her job, and what you might need to know if you aspire to be as awesome as she is.

So You Want to Work at a Public Library Reference Desk

I've worked at various reference desks, from community college and university libraries to small town public libraries, over the past 20 years. While some things have changed dramatically in that time (hello online databases!), many of the basics have remained constant. I'm going to assume that anyone looking for reference work is already a Google ninja and database super user. If you're not, you need to be!

This list is geared toward working in a public library. Everything on it is applicable to working in a college or university library as well, but academic libraries have the exciting extra challenges of faculty, course reserves, and incoming freshmen.

This is what I would tell anyone new to reference work:

Know Your Community

  • If you are working in a town where you do not live, familiarize yourself with the geography of the community – where are the schools, stores, gas stations, post office, cemeteries, nearest hospital, etc. What towns are nearby? How do you get to the highway? What local newspapers are there? Is there a business association? Senior Center? Preschools? You should be able to answer any type of “Where is the ...” question quickly.
  • Beyond the physical aspects of the community, you should find out more about who lives there. Check out the town demographics for a idea of the population makeup. Are there a lot of children, or maybe seniors? Do most people own a single family house, or rent an apartment? What is the average level of education and income? What languages are spoken at home? What  industries do people work in? Is there a large military presence? Then, pay attention to who comes in the building. Get to know the regulars – who's going to need help on the computers, who likes to see the newest mysteries, who wants you to save the coupon inserts from the newspapers. This makes the patrons feel welcome and wanted, and goes a long way to forging good feelings about the library in the community.

  • If the town has any interesting history (famous residents, important businesses, Revolutionary War ties, etc.) read up on it! You must be able to hold your own in conversation with the town history buff, or the genealogy researchers who just arrived from Kansas to learn about their ancestor who was at Bunker Hill.

Know Your Building

  • Be prepared to give impromptu tours of the building to new patrons or out of town visitors. Know when it was built, and by whom. Have a few interesting things to point out to people, or favorite spots for reading. Know what events are going on that day/week/month.

Know Your Collection

  • Know your fiction and nonfiction collection. This is really, really important. I rarely ever use print reference material any more, and have drastically weeded the reference collection at my library, but I am always helping people find circulating nonfiction books to fill their needs. Walk the stacks as often as you can (offering roving reference help as you go!), and keep an eye on the reshelving carts. If you participate in collection development, you'll already have a good idea of what your collection has and what is new, if you don't do collection development then pop in to the cataloging area to see what's coming in. Make a note of what areas you have good coverage for, and what areas need help. You should be able to go right to the area for a particular topic, and have a good idea of what you're going to find there. For fiction, it's always helpful to have a few suggestions ready to go for that patron who just wants “something good to read”, even if reader's advisory is not usually your job.

Know Your Patron

  • The patron will not usually ask for what they actually want/need (i.e., the customer is never right.) You need to nail the reference interview. The first question I always ask is “are you asking for someone else, or yourself?” Then I try to find out what they need the information for. So, someone comes in and asks where we keep the dog books. I could just tell them 636.7, or I could investigate more. Maybe they're looking for books on puppy training or different breeds – or maybe they're looking for a memoir about a guy who drove across the country with his dog that they saw on the Today show. If they are looking for a specific book, don't assume they have the title or author right. I always check first in Amazon, Ingram, or even Wikipedia to verify what it is first, then search my catalog.
  • Keep in mind the types of questions that you can't answer (legal, medical) , and do not provide any more information than referrals to the proper professionals to answer those questions.

Know When to Teach and When to Do

  • Know when to take the opportunity to teach someone how to do something, and when to just do it for them. If you have a parent with a child, and the parent is asking all the questions for the child, try to speak directly to the child. Make eye contact. Show them how you are searching the catalog, and then how to find something in the stacks. If you have a person who needs a certain tax form but has never used a computer you should ask them – do you want me to show you how to do it, or would you like me to just print it for you? If you, and the patron, have the time it can be a great opportunity to teach someone a new, useful skill – or you can make their day by having what they need in their hand in just a minute!

Know Your Technology

  • You had better be able to clear a paper jam and change the toner, but you should also how to clear the printer queue, where to find the wifi printer's IP and then what to do with it. Know how to download ebooks through whatever system your library uses, but don't feel like you have to know how to use every different mobile device. Use social media to promote your library and reach out to patrons. Know how to use your projector, A/V equipment, fax machine, scanner, video game consoles, etc. 

Additional Tips

  • Read the local news. Know what's going on in the town and state.

  • Be prepared for constant interruptions – plan your work in short chunks, and keep lists. I find that reading book reviews, ordering books, and working on fliers are good tasks to do at the reference desk.

  • Project confidence – you don't have to know all the answers, you just have to be willing to look for them!

  • Respect your patrons and their right to privacy. Tempting as it may be, do not post hilarious stories about your weird patrons on social media. Don't gossip about them to your coworkers. Your patrons should be able to count on confidentiality.

  • Learn how to disengage from overly chatty patrons. Have a plan for getting away from that patron who treats you like a bartender/therapist - “It's been nice seeing you, Sally, but I've got to get these papers over to the director!”

Tina McEvoy is the Assistant Director at the Lawrence Library in Pepperell, MA. She started her career as a periodicals acquisitions assistant, and then she caught a lucky break when she was offered one shift a week at the reference desk!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Weeding Challenge - Staying Trendy

A few weeks ago, we here at the 5 Minute Librarian gave you a crash course in Weeding 101.
I mentioned that you need to take the time to go through your collections every so often and see what's old and needs updating. I even joked: "Do you really want to be the library that still has the biography of Milli Vanilli on the shelf?"

Here's the thing, though: When did Milli Vanilli become so old that it's a joke to have their biography? Yes, they're from the 1980s, so this is an extreme example, but there had to be a point when it was time to weed that book from the collection before it was silly to have it. Today, we challenge you to think about staying on top of cultural trends, so your library can be current.

The Challenge

In many sections of the library, especially fiction books, you can get away with not weeding for a while. To stay on trend, though, there are some books that should be looked at annually. These include:
  • Sports and sport teams
  • Actors/Actresses
  • Singers, bands, and musicians
  • Movie and TV tie-ins
 Let's take a closer look, shall we?

Sports and Sports Teams

This stuff changes fast. A player who is beloved to everyone in your corner of the world could leave or be traded to another team or city, and be irrelevant to you (or worse) in the blink of an eye. In Massachusetts, the sports world consists mostly of the Boston Red Sox, the Boston Bruins, and the New England Patriots. There are other teams around, but these three may as well be the Holy Sports Trinity. I'm a casual fan; that is, if the game is on I will take a glance at the score, cheer for the local team, and go back to what I'm doing. I do not follow sports closely enough to know anyone except the major players.

That said: I have a story for you, about why you should remain current on this topic. Years ago, while still in library school, I worked at an independent bookstore, where the owner got "this AMAZING deal!" on the biography of Johnny Damon - he bought probably 200 copies of this book. (For those not in the know, Johnny Damon was one of the most popular players for the Red Sox, and had professed that he would NEVER play for the New York Yankees-one of the biggest rivalries in sports. And then, they offered him a lot of money, and he left Boston to play for New York. To sports fans, it was as if Boston itself had been stabbed in the back.) Anyway. My boss decided to put these books on display, a scant year after he had gone to the Yankees. I had one very nice, kindly older lady tell me that she "wouldn't even take a book about that Despicable Rattlesnake if it was free with purchase!"

Don't forget to take a look at the team books, too. Sure, the local football team is the same team, but your books about them might have information about "current" players who have since retired, or may not have information about recent seasons. Check out the sports almanacs, too - these should be updated every year, and then you can get rid of the old ones.

Actors, Actresses, Politicians, and Celebrities

It's a cruel world out there, and someone with the spotlight can suddenly be pushed into the shadows. Not to add to their torment, but if they are no longer on television or in movies, they are fairly irrelevant to us, too. Check the shelves, and check the statistics.

This is particularly true for child- and teen-actors. Even if they are still working and culturally relevant (good for them!), they have probably changed drastically. Take Miley Cyrus, for example: she went from country-pop Hannah Montana to a completely different type of pop artist. You might want to get rid of the books about her as a brunette child, and pick up a new one about her avant garde adult lifestyle.

This is also the time of year when we can take a look back at the previous year's major events, and act accordingly. I have weeded every Bill Cosby book from the children's department, due to recent developments. I also bought every single book I could find about Malala Yousafzai (who is not exactly a celebrity, but she is relevant and out there, and I am personally just amazed by her). And, sure, you might have a patron-base who needs to read all about Donald Trump, but he, and many other politicians, may be in next year's dust bin.

Singers, Bands, and Musicians

A lot of this rings true for musicians and singers, too. Have they had an album come out recently, or will they be working on a new one? Do they still have a strong fan-base, or were they teen idols who have out-grown their cherubic innocence? It's hard for me to know what's on trend and what's not, so I find the easiest way to answer this is to ask the patrons - particularly the teens. "Hey guys, does anyone care about One Direction anymore? Okay, back on the shelf it goes." If you're not comfortable doing this, you can always see if they have tours/album ongoing or coming up, or even take a look at your ordering system and see if anyone is still writing books about this particular artist. If nothing new is coming out, you may not need the old things, either.

Movie and TV Tie-Ins

This is particularly helpful for me in the children's room, but there are movie and book tie-ins and novelizations for all ages. For example, Bear in the Big Blue House is not on television anymore, so I can probably get rid of books starring those characters. Likewise, once Castle goes off the air, people will forget about the books "by" TV character Richard Castle (played by the adorable Nathan Fillion, who himself will always be relevant). We can also get rid of the behind-the-scenes-of-filming for older movies and shows.

A Caveat

This is not to say that we need to get rid of every single book about a person/band/sports team that is no longer new and exciting. There are hundreds of books about people who have achieved a sort of icon status, and just because The Beatles aren't around, doesn't mean you have to weed books about them. I'm just saying, you don't have to have books about the ephemeral celebrities, once their 15 minutes of fame is over.

So, what's to be done?

As we said last time, the first thing to do is to take a good look at your circulation statistics; if a book isn't going out, it's probably passe. There are also many titles that, for whatever reason, get missed on the statistics (for example, if the call number has a space in front of it in the computer system, it won't appear accurately if you sort by call number), and for this reason, I recommend doing an actual Shelf Check. Heck, print out the stats and bring them with you!

We at the 5 Minute Librarian would love to see what gems you've uncovered by weeding! Follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook, and make sure you never miss an article.