Friday, March 29, 2019

How Drinking Tea Makes Me a Better Librarian

Let's be honest here: sometimes the stereotypes can be true. I may not be old, and I dislike shushing people, but I have a deep love of cardigans (which are both warm and stylish), cats, and tea, and I do generally spend my Friday nights home reading a book (by choice, I swear!). On the other end of the stereotype spectrum, I do not have purple hair, but I do have one tattoo.

I would venture to say that the stereotypes exist because the things that so many people love are really amazing things! Take tea, for example. I can prove to you that drinking tea can make you an even better librarian.

Drinking tea can decrease stress

 The chemical compounds found in black tea have been proven, in a blind study by University College London, to decrease cortisol levels, which are an indicator of stress. The study noted that, "Although it does not appear to reduce the actual levels of stress we experience, tea does seem to have a greater effect in bringing stress hormone levels back to normal.” So, it may not be able to help us from getting stressed, but it can fix it once we already are.

If you don’t like tea, that is also okay. While the compounds that have been proven to reduce stress are found in black tea, any hot drink can help, and making a mug of cocoa gives you healthy fats from milk – which helps stabilize blood sugar – and chocolate – which studies have shown helps reduce cortisol and raise endorphin hormones, which make you happy.

Can drinking tea make you a better librarian? 

Actually, yes! A study from the University of Colorado at Boulder shows that holding a hot drink can make you friendlier. During the study, “participants who briefly held a cup of hot (versus iced) coffee judged a target person as having a ‘warmer’ personality (generous, caring).” So, if I am holding a warm mug, I will think everyone else is a better person. Despite our desires to treat every patron the same, the perception of a person as nicer than average makes it easier to go the extra mile for them in terms of service.

A special, dedicated mug can also help. “One clear signifier of humankind’s emotional dependence on hot drinks is the ubiquity of the special mug. We become attached to our own drinking vessel of just the right degree of chunkiness, weight, feel and hue, although heavier crockery generally makes its contents more satisfying.” Make sure you have your proper mug handy when you need it.

The ritual of making tea 

Mindfulness is a healthy trend, so you've probably heard all about clearing your mind and practicing being present in the moment. One of the ways that people can practice being mindful is directing your focus consciously onto a specific thing, be it an item or task that takes you away from the stress of the day. Making tea can be one such ritual – using your specific mug, procuring the hot water, selecting the tea, opening the tea bag, letting it steep, watching the color of the water change, feeling the warmth of the mug in your hands, and finally smelling and then tasting the beverage, and noticing the flavors and the warmth it provides. It gives you a break from the day, even if only for a few minutes, in which the entire point of the break is to create something that brings pleasure. Of course, this feeling can last well beyond the drinking of the tea itself.

If you prefer to have someone else make you a cup of tea, that’s okay, too. Participants in the University College London study above stated that someone else making them tea makes them feel loved, cared for, and valued.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Highlight: Animals at Your Library

A couple weeks ago, we told you Why Your Library Needs a Reading Dog. Today, Kat is going to talk about some other ways that you can involve animals in your library programming.

Collaborating with Animal Shelters

If you can't or do a Read to a Dog program at your library, but wish you could, fear not! Some libraries are unable to have animals in the library due to policy, but are able to have reading programs at a local animal shelter. How? Well, the first step is to contact the shelter and see what they are comfortable with. You may be able to use private rooms, such as the rooms where potential adopters spend time with pets, for children to read to the animals. You might also be able to have children visit with adoptable pets near their cages, and read to them there. It's always a good idea to have advance sign-ups for these programs, and make sure that rules are clearly stated at that time, to avoid any confusion.

I have held programs at animal shelters, in which children visit and learn about the animals, and then get to play with them, read to them, and draw pictures of them. It worked out for us to hold a program each Saturday morning in July, with a different type of animal each week (dogs, cats, rabbits, and small mammals such as mice and gerbils).

You can also have visitors from the shelter come to the library. One surprisingly popular program I held was a "Meet the Bunny!" program; during school spring vacation, a volunteer from the local shelter brought two rabbits to the library to allow people to meet them and learn about what you'd need to know if you wanted to adopt one. We had over 100 people show up to meet and pet them! With such a crowd, we pulled out some rabbit-themed books to read and were able to hold their attention for a good long time.

One other way you can help is by collecting items for the shelter during Fine Forgiveness times. In addition to collecting food, you can collect pet food and cleaning supplies for a local shelter.

Programs About Keeping Animals

There are some great programs that you can do that feature animals, too! Adopt A Shelter Cat month is annually held in June, and Adopt A Shelter Dog month is in October. This would be a wonderful opportunity to invite local rescue organizations to bring information about pet adoption, and potentially even bring in a furry friend or two!

There has been a rise in the popularity of keeping backyard chickens, but how does one even know where to begin? There are plenty of online guides and books out there about this topic, but being able to speak to someone with experience could make all the difference in the world to someone who is considering it. Put some feelers out in the community and see if there's anyone local who might be interested in speaking about it.

Beekeeping is also a great hobby, particularly given recent environmental concerns. Learning how to keep a beehive can be great fun, and may even help out with the local ecology! Bonus program points if you get to try local honey, which can also help with seasonal allergies.

In Conclusion

Have you run any other successful programs with animals? Let us know here in the comments, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter!

Friday, March 15, 2019

Ready to Go Book Display: A Universe of Stories (Space Fiction)

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 space fiction to tie into the CSLP 2019 theme: A Universe of Stories.

Recommendations for Adults:

Firefly: Big Damn Hero by James Lovegrove (Nov 2018)

The first original novel tying into the critically acclaimed and much-missed Firefly series from creator Joss Whedon. Also check out The Magnificent Nine (Mar 2019).

The Martian by Andy Weir (Feb 2014)

Stranded on Mars by a duststorm that compromised his space suit and forced his crew to leave him behind, astronaut Mark Watney struggles to survive in spite of minimal supplies and harsh environmental challenges that test his ingenuity in unique ways.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (Jan 1979)

Chronicles the off-beat and occasionally extraterrestrial journeys, notions, and acquaintances of galactic traveler Arthur Dent.

Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente (Apr 2018)

A band of human musicians, dancers, and roadies have been chosen to represent Earth on the greatest stage in the galaxy. And the fate of their species lies in their ability to rock.

Armada by Ernest Cline (Jul 2015)

Struggling to complete his final month of high school only to glimpse a UFO that exactly resembles an enemy ship from his favorite video game, Zack questions his sanity before becoming one of the millions of gamers tasked with protecting the Earth during an alien invasion.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green (Sep 2018)

The first to document the appearance of the Carls, giant robot-line statues popping up around the world, April May finds herself at the center of an intense international media spotlight that puts her relationships, identity and safety at risk.

Red Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson (Oct 2018)

Three travelers to the Moon, now fully colonized, in 2048 find that it is a very deadly place.

Recommendations for Teens:

Queen's Shadow by E.K. Johnston (Mar 2019)
When Padme, "Queen Amidala" of Naboo, steps down from her position, she is asked by the newly-elected queen to become Naboo's representative in the Galactic Senate. Padme is unsure about taking on the new role, but cannot turn down a request to serve her people. Together with her most loyal handmaidens, Padme must figure out how to navigate the treacherous waters of politics and forge a new identity beyond the queen's shadow.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer (Jan 2012)
As plague ravages the overcrowded Earth, observed by a ruthless lunar people, Cinder, a gifted mechanic and cyborg, becomes involved with handsome Prince Kai and must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect the world in this futuristic take on the Cinderella story.

Waste of Space by Gina Damico (Jul 2017)

Cram ten hormonal teens into a spaceship and blast off: that's the premise for the ill-conceived reality show Waste of Space. The kids who are cast know everything about drama - and nothing about the fact that the production is fake.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman (Nov 2015)

The planet Kerenza is attacked, and Kady and Ezra find themselves on a space fleet fleeing the enemy, while their ship's artificial intelligence system and a deadly plague may be the end of them all.

The Disasters by M.K. England (Dec 2018)

Nax and a handful of other space Academy washouts are the only surviving pilots after the school is hijacked by terrorists, but in order to spread the truth about the attack, Nax and his fellow failures must execute a dangerous heist.

Mars One by Jonathan Maberry (Apr 2017)

A teenage boy leaves for Mars as a colonist with the Mars One space program and grapples with what he's leaving behind to do so.

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman (Dec 2013)

Two star-crossed lovers must fight for survival when they crash land on a seemingly uninhabited planet.

Collects stories featuring each incarnation of the Doctor in all new adventures by such authors as Richelle Mead, Eoin Colfer, and Neil Gaiman. 

Recommendations for Children:

Papa Put a Man on the Moon by Kristy Dempsey and Sarah Green (May 2019)

Marthanne's whole community is excited about the moon landing, and Marthanne is especially proud because her father helped create the fabric for the astronauts' spacesuits.

Moon's First Friends by Susanna Leonard Hill and Elisa Paganelli (Jun 2019)
Commemorate the extraordinary Apollo 11 spaceflight mission with this heartwarming story of the Moon who just wants a friend.

Marty's Mission: An Apollo 11 Story by Judy Young and David Miles (Apr 2019)
Based on actual events, Marty finds himself playing a key role in helping bring the Apollo 11 craft safely back to earth.

A Kite for Moon by Jane Yolen, Heidi E. Stemple, and Matt Phelan (Apr 2019)
A heartfelt story about a young boy's fascination and unlikely friendship with the moon.

We're Not from Here by Geoff Rodkey (Mar 2019)

After a year on Mars, a young boy and his family migrate to the planet Choom, but the inhabitants of Choom, the Zhuri, who look like giant mosquitoes, don't really like humans and it's up to the boy and his family to change their minds if they hope to survive.

8 Little Planets by Chris Ferrie and Lizzy Doyle (Oct 2018)

To the tune of "Ten Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed" comes a new bedtime story that will get little ones excited about the solar system while learning new facts about each planet.

Space Case: A Moon Base Alpha Novel by Stuart Gibbs (Sep 2014)
Dashiell Gibson, who lives on Moon Base Alpha, has to solve a murder of one of the moon's most prominent doctors.

Space Dumplins by Craig Thompson (Aug 2015)

When Violet Marlocke's father goes missing she sets out with a group of misfit friends on a quest across space to find him.

Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood (May 2015)

In this outer space adaptation of the fairy tale in rhyme, Cinderella dreams of becoming a spaceship mechanic.

Laika: Astronaut Dog by Owen Davey (Oct 2013)

Laika, a stray dog found in Moscow, becomes the first animal to be launched into space.

The Darkest Dark by Chris Hadfield (Sep 2016)

Young Chris loves pretending he's a brave astronaut, exploring the universe. Only one problem - at night, he's afraid of the dark. Only when he watches the moon landing on TV does he realize how exciting the unknown can be. Inspired by the childhood of real-life astronaut Chris Hadfield.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Why Your Library Needs a Reading Dog

Reading dogs are nothing new - children sign up to read stories to therapy dogs in the safe, comfortable setting of a library. These programs have been around for years, and come with a variety of fun names, designed to garner interest. Whether you call your program Barks & Books, Tales for Tails, or Read to Rover, it could be a great way to help reluctant readers gain confidence and enjoyment in reading. 


In 2010, the University Of California - Davis completed a study on reading dog programs, which found that readers who participated in a 10-week schedule of reading to dogs increased their confidence and reading skills, as compared to children who did not participate. (Why? Practice makes perfect, and dogs - while lowering blood pressure and cortisol levels, which cause stress - don't judge!)

Anecdotal evidence supports this claim, with stories of children who didn’t enjoy reading becoming excited to read to their canine friends. By hosting programs that cater to reluctant readers, libraries also reach a population that otherwise would be incredibly resistant to visiting the library, and introduce them to the joys of lifelong learning, and the wealth of things the library has to offer. In addition, since therapy dogs and their handlers work on a volunteer basis, this is a free program that practically guarantees attendance!


Chances are, there are libraries in your area that have run a successful reading dog program, and your best bet may be to reach out to them to find out the best volunteer organizations in your area. Some organizations are dedicated to reading animals specifically, while others certify only dogs. The Alliance of Therapy Dogs and Reading Education Assistance Dogs (R.E.A.D.) specialize in therapy dogs, whereas Pet Partners, which operate nationwide, includes many types of animals, including dogs, cats, and rabbits. 

In many libraries, Read To A Dog programs will have 15-minute appointments that children can sign up for, which gives them personalized time with the dog. Appointments should be held in a secluded area or closed room if possible; having an audience may be an issue for children with reading issues. In addition, this helps mitigate issues with allergies and dog phobias.


In order to be therapy certified, dogs must pass a number of tests and be able to handle stressful certifications. (While specific guidelines may vary by organization, it is common for the pets to need to be able to handle a number of commands, hear loud noises without reacting, and deal with large crowds.) 

Most organizations will, with certification, insure their dogs in case there is an issue (unlikely as that is). You may want to check with your town to make sure you don't need any additional insurance. Handlers also are required to be present with their animal at all times, and the pet must always be on a leash. Please be sure that all library rules are clearly spelled out with the therapy team before appointments are made, to ensure that everyone is on the same page.


If the idea of having live animals in your library is uncomfortable or simply not possible, reach out to your local animal shelter and see if they would be willing to host library readers. Some shelters look for volunteers to help socialize their animals, and pairing children with these animals could be a beneficial partnership for everybody involved. 

Have you had a successful Reading Dog program? Tell us about it here in the comments, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter!

Friday, March 1, 2019

4 Unknown Factors Behind the Bestseller Lists

For many people, when they hear a book is on a bestseller list, they assume just one thing: That book sold the most copies. That assumption, however, would be incorrect.

I was one of those people until a few years ago, when I read an article from the Observer titled, The Truth About The New York Times and Wall Street Journal Bestseller Lists. This was reinforced recently when an unknown YA author scammed her way onto the New York Times Bestseller List.

I highly recommend you read the article in the Observer, but if not, I wanted to pull out a few points that I think every librarian should know. It turns out that, in addition to being a top seller, there are four factors that greatly influence these lists:

1. The sold numbers is only collected from a limited number of sources.

         The New York Times gets their numbers from select booksellers across the United States, not all sellers. People aren't suppose to know what stores are participating, but if you call the store and ask directly, they will tell you if they report back to the NYT or not. (Which leads into the problem stated in #3.)

         The Wall Street Journal gets their numbers from Neilson's BookScan, which doesn't cover 25-15% of the book selling market.

2. Personal opinion trumps selling numbers.

The editors from the NYT evaluate their bestselling list and decide which books make the cut, and which ones don't. And some big books were excluded from this list, like William Blatty's novel The Exorcist. It eventually made it onto the list once, but it was a bestseller for many weeks. Hugh Howey's Dust sold more than 50,000 copies but was listed at #7, much lower than other books on the list who had sold less copies.

3. Bulk purchases can change the game.

NYT tries to prevent people from buying their way onto the list. Any bulk purchase is flagged and not included in the numbers. However, there is a cutoff point of how many books are considered a bulk purchase (80 for independent stores). The YA author I mentioned above did use bulk purchases -- but she bought just 79 so she wouldn't be recorded as a "bulk" buy. Other bestsellers have used book laundering firms to do this dirty work for them.

4. People with money can still buy their way onto the list.

As was pointed out in the Observer, one author spent big money advertising his own book, hired people to buy it all across the US, and succeeded on making the list -- for one week. It was worth it to him -- he can forever call himself as a New York Times bestselling author -- and it may explain why odd selections have made the list.

So, what does this mean for librarians? Should we ignore bestseller lists?

No, they are still important. Many patrons do pay attention to bestselling lists and will want to check these books out. However, if you do find the bestsellers aren't circulating at your library (besides the books from the obvious popular authors), this may explain why!

Further Reading

Find this interesting and want to read more? Here are more articles!
The convoluted world of best-seller lists, explained
Scientists Decode What Makes a New York Times Bestseller
How To Get On The NY Times & Every Other Bestseller Book List