Monthly Archives: June 2014

Bluford High Represent

Yesterday a gregarious teen came up asking where we’ve got books with “crazy stuff” – high schoolers dealing with romance, drama, sometimes drugs and violence, etc. I tried feeling out exactly what she wanted during the elevator ride to the teen section, and she got wide-eyed and excited when I told her we had the Bluford High series, and she called her sister over to examine the shelves with her. I struggled to find another series or book that engaged her or her sister, and it occurred to me that despite their popularity, I didn’t really know what Bluford High was about. (Bad librarian, I say to myself. If I keep seeing a certain series on the reshelving cart, I should learn about it!)

So the Bluford Series is 20 books strong now, each of them 200 pages or less and focusing on teens dealing with problems you’ll see in inner city high schools – surprise pregnancies, drug dealing, alcoholic and abusive parents, failing grades, the urge to solve problems with violence. The series has gotten a lot of praise for its wide appeal and has appeared on several of YALSA’s Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Readers. The list has a lot of silly zombie books and other sci-fi, but I’m happy to see there’s a couple other real-life titles that are similar to the newest title in the series, Paul Langan’s “Survivor.” They have a lot of the same elements as its bigger brother, street lit, but it’s not quite as gritty. (I made a street lit pathfinder once, but it’s only last night that I actually started reading the genre with Sister Souljah’s The Coldest Winter Ever.)

There’s another great thing about this series: audiobooks. In my experience working in an urban library, audiobooks in all genres are a necessity, considering the poor or nonexistent reading skills of many patrons. We’re talking about a school system with a 70.5% graduation rate after all, and you know that many of graduates are just being pushed through the system and are at a reading level way below their age. So yes. I like this series.

Library Services for Youth in Custody, part of the Colorado State Library, has compiled some great reading lists that deal with teens in tough situations, like all of the above, and homelessness, and parents in jail. They also have street lit read-a-likes. So next time somebody comes in who loves the Bluford Series, I’ll know better than to pluck It’s Kind of a Funny Story off the shelf and I’ll turn to the LSYC list instead.


What I’ve been consuming (aside from lots of taco salads)

Okay, so I’ve read a few books in the last couple months that I keep meaning to mention. Like how Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart has one of the most meaningful, stunning, tragic endings ever that just slaps you upside the head suddenly (plus it’s barely over 200 pages). Or how Jesmyn Ward’s new memoir Men We Reaped is downright heartbreaking in its portrayal of Black Southern poverty and her descriptions of the grief she carries with her, and despite some structural problems, it was an emotionally tough read that had me near-crying several times. Or how I spent a day binging Augusten Burroughs reading his memoir Dry and I probably scared my neighbors with my loud cackling, but it’s now my second-favorite thing by him after his essay collection Magical Thinking.

Or how Barbara Ehrenreich’s Bright-Sided had some highlights but overall was just okay and made a few too many stretches I think, and Kevin Fong’s Extreme Medicine: How Exploration Transformed Medicine and John E. Douglas’ Anyone You Want Me to Be: A True Story of Sex and Death on the Internet were too dry for me to get past the first couple chapters (Tim Wise’s White Like Me might also have a premature rendezvous with the book drop, too). And though I liked Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s super short novel Chronicle of a Death Foretold, it didn’t quite hook me like his short story collection Strange Pilgrims did.

Come to think of it, the movies Carnal Knowledge and Enough Said were also disappointing. Or maybe it just bored me. How many movies can we possibly have where actresses are portraying deeply flawed 30-or-older women in quirky / ridiculous / unsustainable jobs that they seem to hate but continue to perform? See also: Orange is the New Black, Bridesmaids, The Office after Jan gets fired, Young Adult, et al. Dexter, on the other hand, has been a great binge watch the last few weeks, and I love how it explores universal issues of identity through what amounts to a grown-up version of Jhonen Vasquez’s Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, just packaged as a cop/detective show.

But after noticing that if I come across an article in Feedly that’s more than like four paragraphs (six if they’re easy reading), I say “ugh” and skip to the end, I’ve decided to not write a big huge blog post on those. Nobody would read it, plus I’ve waited so long to write about this stuff that I don’t remember enough to give them each substantial paragraphs. Plus, most of that I read is old, and somebody out there has probably already done a better, more timely job of covering the newer stuff.

So there. This is paragraph five, so here’s a cartoon I found on Twitter that made me laugh. It makes me miss my husband, who has absconded to Petrozavodsk, Russia, until the beginning of August and has left me to my own devices. Which apparently includes binge-listening audiobooks and reading Twitter and eating taco salads for a week straight. Anyway, cartoon:

Bonus image: a taco salad. Ground turkey with some of that packet taco seasoning, plus a lazy dressing of just sour cream mixed with salsa.

Taco salad

The perfect reference interview

So I just came across this recent blog post on Agnostic, Maybe, where he lists some informal rules about doing reference. It’s definitely worth a read, whether you’re fairly new to reference or it’s old hat and you could just use a couple reminders. My favorite part? He describes the perfect reference interview:

For me, the perfect reference interview is the one that makes someone’s day. It doesn’t have to be important or big, but just right to make them leave feeling good. It means I have them more than they expected, whether it is materials, information, time, and/or patience. The last two can overshadow all others because it shows a level of care and concern that translates at the human level.

Yes and yes and more yes. People really appreciate when I take extra time to help them. Yeah, it probably interrupted the workflow earlier this week when I spent almost 30 minutes fighting with the 3000th update Yahoo Mail and tried to help a lady print some online gift certificates… but 1) the poor lady was frustrated and starting to snap at her partner, and I hated to see them leave the library empty-handed and angry 2) for all I know, the certificate could have been for necessities like food, diapers, medicine, etc. 3) that’s exactly why I’m there! They were super grateful that I stayed with them until their printouts were in hand, but that’s just what you’re supposed to do as a good librarian. On the surface it may look like libraries are about materials, but the connections we make with people are really why libraries exist.