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.

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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!

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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.)

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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.


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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.