Friday, December 20, 2013

So Many Good Books!

It's the end of the year and so time to celebrate all the good books that have come out in 2013 (and time to update our collections with overlooked best books!)  There are many end of the year lists put out, so check out the one that fits the age level your library serves.
  • School Library Journal compiles several lists including Best Fiction, Best Nonfiction, Best Picture Books, Top Graphic Novels, Top Latino-themed Books, Best Adult Books 4 Teens, and even Top DVDs and Apps of 2013.
  • Kirkus has a slew of book recommendations including Best Children's Books, Best Teen Books, and Adult Fiction and Nonfiction.
  • The New York Times lists 100 Notable Books for adults and fewer than 100 for children.  Also, they list the 10 Best Illustrated Children's Books
  • Librarians of middle grade readers should definitely check out Tween Recommended Reads from ALSC. 
  • NPR has an interesting taggable collection of lists that combines a slew of genre book lists, Kids' Books, Comics and Graphic Novels, and Young Adult Books.  Just trust me and check this one out; it's pretty cool.   
  • NYPL put together a similar interface listing the top 100 Children's Books for Reading and Sharing.
  • Publishers Weekly lists include Children's Picture, Children's Fiction, Children's Nonfiction, Comics, and a range of adult books.
Did I miss any? (This is mostly a joke, I'm quite sure I've missed some.)  Please add your favorite "best of" list in the comments.  Happy reading and we'll see you in 2014!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Scholarships Available

Here's an update from our scholarship committee:

This year the Hudson Valley Library Association (HVLA) will award two scholarships of $1000 each for use toward professional development. One scholarship will be awarded to a student currently enrolled in a library school program at an accredited educational institution. The second scholarship will be awarded to a current school librarian. Applicants should be current members of HVLA. See our membership page for more details on how to register.

The scholarship application deadline is Wednesday, February 12, 2014, and recipients will be announced on Wednesday, March 12, 2014. Upon receiving the scholarship award, winners have until December 31, 2014 to use the funds and will be expected to share a response to their award, and their experiences through a post (or posts) on the HVLA blog.

HVLA is a network of supportive and enthusiastic educators who are passionate about the world of school libraries. HVLA offers members the opportunity to connect with fellow school librarians and share knowledge and experiences through meetings, listservs, and events. If you are interested please fill out the forms below. Feel free to share this link with your library network.

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to any of the committee members. The following HVLA members serve on the Scholarship Committee:

Christina Karvounis, Brooklyn Friends School
Elizabeth Fernandez, Convent of the Sacred Heart
Constance Vidor, Friends Seminary
Shana Hitt, Queens College GSLIS, Class of 2010
Joy Piedmont, Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Moving Toward Mentorship

Here's an update from the HVLA Mentorship committee:

At the beginning of the school year, a call went out to the HVLA membership for volunteers to create a mentorship committee. In late November, we held our first planning meeting. A mentorship program is a complicated beast. It involves determining a clear purpose, recruiting mentors & mentees, training participants, and ensuring confidentiality. Launching a mentorship program is the committee’s long-term goal. As a first step, we decided to spend this year establishing a series of Empowerment Meet-Ups, open to all members of HVLA, with the purpose of gathering a supportive group of colleagues to discuss and brainstorm specific topics in a casual atmosphere. Librarians would be encouraged to come armed with an idea or project they are trying to implement or realize in their school. Our collective energies, positive collaboration and creativity could then be used to pose solutions, provide suggestions or facilitate sharing 
of resources. Possible future meet-up topics include, 

• Catching the Big Fish: Landing the Library Job You Want 

• Clever Collaboration with Teachers

• Research Projects “Show and Tell”

• Expanding Your Professional Network

The first meet-up will take place early in the New Year in a central location (near Union 
Square). The topic will be “Advocating for You and Your Library Program.” We hope to 
see many of you there.

---Laura Bishop, Rachel Berkey, Angela Carstensen, Nishette Isaac

Monday, December 9, 2013

December Book Club

Thursday December 12, 5:45

Elizabeth Irwin High School - meet in the library
40 Charlton Street
(between 6th Ave and Varick)

What We're Reading:
A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty

If time permits, we will also discuss the follow up to The Raven Boys:
The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

Monday, December 2, 2013

AASL - Top 10 Takeaways

This week we are excited to have a guest post from one of our HVLA scholarship winners, Christina Karvounis!

The week of November 13-17, I attended the bi-annual American Association of School Librarians conference in Hartford, CT. This was my first library conference and it was outstanding. I attended 1 pre-conference leadership workshop, 8 topical workshops on topics ranging from choosing multicultural titles to utilizing iPads in the library to guided inquiry in research and beyond, visited with many booksellers and vendors, and added many new professional contacts to my #PLN.


10. Only 10% of books published in the last decade were authored by people of color - be aware and continue to be a champion for change.

9. Consider creating a MakerSpace in your library. Or become one.

8. Curiosity and creativity are essential 21st century skills - deepen them - offer opportunities for students to deepen them - in your library.

7. Create/cultivate a culture of collaboration!

6. Scaffold opportunities for regular, meaningful, reflective inquiry.

5. Create library centers: Lego poetry, read to self, puzzles, word building, draw an ad for a favorite book, bookmark creating.

4. Essential Applications: Scratch, Animoto, VoiceThread, iMovie

3. Rudine Sims Bishop: "Mirrors, Windows, Sliding Glass Doors" is a must read.

2. Keep ear to the classroom for 'just in time' learning.

and the top theme I gathered from AASL13 was:

1. Jump in with both feet! Try new connections, technologies, styles, collaborative techniques, applications for sharing -- challenges always present themselves; get going!

I came home energized by the experience but also concerned about ways to implement ideas. At Brooklyn Friends School, Kathy and I work together in the PS/LS library - and we've already implemented many of the strategies we learned at the conference and are in conversation on others. It was an excellent conference and I highly recommend it!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Literary Events

Here's a list of great literary events that are coming soon!!!

  • A Closer Look at Norman Rockwell: Deborah Solomon in Conversation with Jason Farago at McNally Jackson Books. Date: Today, Monday November 25 7:00pm. Location: 52 Prince Street, New York, NY 10012. Noted biographer and art critic Deborah Solomon, author of American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell, will provide new reflections on the reality of the man who for so many years provided America with an idealized image of itself.

  • Geoff Dyer in conversation with Ben Lerner at McNally Jackson Books. Date: Tuesday November 26, 7:00pm. Location: 52 Prince Street, New York, NY 10012. Two scribes who like to talk about art sit to discuss "writing about looking." Dyer often considers photography in personal and journalistic contexts (e.g., in The Ongoing Moment and Otherwise Known as the Human Condition); Lerner touched on the same in his memoiristic Leaving the Atocha Station.

  • Brooklyn by the Book: Malcolm Gladwell at BPL/Congregation Beth Elohim. Date: Thursday December 5 2013, 7:30 PM to 9:00 PM. Location: 274 Garfield Place, Brooklyn, NY 11215. Gladwell reads and discusses "David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants".

  • Edwidge Danticat: Haiti Noir 2: The Classics at Brooklyn Public Library. Date Thursday January 16 2014, 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM. Location: 10 Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, NY 11238.  Edwidge Danticat reads and discusses this volume of classic Haitian noir literature by authors such as Marie-Hélène Laforest, Dany Laferrière, Pierre Marcelin, Philippe Thoby-Marcelin and more.

Monday, November 18, 2013


The Joy of Children’s Literature
I can still remember how the joy I felt as a child reading my favorite books, from the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and Archie Comics to such classics as Tuck Everlasting, The Neverending Story and A Wrinkle in Time. Those books and many others helped shaped the way I read and the way I view the world. We all have our favorite children’s books which are dear to us and have also found recent children’s books that speak to us as adults.
The New York Public Library has an amazing exhibition called The ABC of it: why children’s books matter. This exhibition celebrates the extraordinary richness, artistry, and diversity of children’s literature across cultures and time. If you have any time, please go and enjoy this extraordinary tour given by NYPL.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Lack of Diversity in Children's Literature


As I was thinking about my first blog entry for the month of November, two things happened simultaneously. First, during my book club meeting, the conversation quickly revealed that members felt that they were not represented in the literature that we were discussing. As such, they felt that the articles we had amassed on our topic of discussion was not authentic.  Secondly, a book club member asked for children’s books suggestions for her young niece who happened to be African American. Although ShelfLives, my book club which was formed in early 2002 with ten friends, was meeting to discuss our latest book and although we started to discuss the novel, the conversation quickly turned into the lack of diversity in children’s’ literature.

You see for us, a group of ten professionals from different cultures, it has been something that has also come up when we discussed our own childhood. We never saw ourselves or our families in the books we read as children. This is also something that comes to mind when I am ordering books for the library at my school. I want the students to come to the library and choose from books that reflect true diversity in race, gender, sexual orientation and social class.

Lack of diversity in children’s literature is a real problem that must not be ignored. In a study done last year, the Cooperative Children’s Book Center reviewed thousands of kids' books, and found that only 3.3 percent were about African-Americans, 2.1 percent were about Asian-Pacific Americans, 1.5 percent were about Latinos and only 0.6 percent were about American Indians.[1]  To truly foster a love of reading and to cultivate connections, children need to see their stories and realities reflected in the books they read. 

So, this is my question to my fellow HVLA members; how can we solve this problem? What are we to do for there to be more books with varied content so that children can experience the richness of each other’s stories?

[1] The stories for all project: First ever market solution to the lack of diversity in kids' books. (2013, Jun 13). PR Newswire. Retrieved from

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

HVLA Satellite Book Club

Have you always wanted to participate in the  HVLA Book Club, but you live too far from downtown?  Here’s your chance to get in on the act!

Convent of the Sacred Heart, Greenwich, will host an HVLA satellite Book Club starting in November.

We will meet on Thursday, November 21 @  4:30 to discuss Far Far Away by Tom McNeal and

The Thing About Luck  by Cynthia Kadohata.  Delicious snacks will be served! Let us know how this time works for you - we can be flexible.

RSVP: Elizabeth Fernandez fernandeze (at), Marian McLeod mcleodm (at)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Introducing Christian Zabriskie and ULU

This is a final guest post from my friend Christian Zabriskie, founder of Urban Librarians Unite. I first met Christian while I was in library school when he was invited to speak on a panel in my youth programming class. The panel was inspiring, and after we were coincidentally on the same bus we started a great conversation. I felt an immediate affinity with the work he talked about doing and, clearly, he feels a strong affinity with school librarians and the work we do every day.

ULU hosted the first of a now-annual conference last spring, the annual 24-Hour Read-In at Brooklyn Public Library in June, and is involved with many other library advocacy projects (and some fun stuff too!). I’d been uncertain about getting involved with ULU because I find that “urban” is often used as a euphemism for communities very different from the independent school I work in. But Christian has always encouraged a diversity of experiences and ideas, and has helped me draw connections between the work I do and the work done by other librarians around the city. I have found it to be a really interesting, exciting, and fulfilling organization to be a part of, even tangentially, and if you have any interest I encourage you to check it out!


I am a radical public librarian and I am the intellectual godchild of a radical school librarian. No I don't wear an anarchy tshirt in the library and I don't want to “tear down the system”. I run an organization called Urban Librarians Unite, we do library advocacy, mostly in New York City but we have a chapter in the Bay Area in California as well. I wear a tie to work and as my day job I help to run a large branch library in Queens. I am radical in how I fight for libraries and I am radical in how I tell people about libraries but the library ideal that I am fighting for is a pretty classic one. I think everyone has a right to a good, safe, and fulfilling library. I think this is one of the basic rights of mankind and I feel it in the weave of my soul. Where did I learn this? My middle school librarian taught me.

My radical school librarian was not a visible radical either. She was a hardworking school media specialist way back in 1982. She didn't wear flower dresses or smell of patchouli. She just made the radical choice to set up an independent study literature class for gifted students which she ran out of the school library with herself as teacher/mentor/guide. My best friend Jon and I were her first students. When we started we were both the favorite targets of bullying in our year. Bullying is so freighted now and the kids of today have it a lot worse with the constant abuse they get via social media but it was no fun to be constantly hectored and harassed at school.
Mrs. Monica Blondin created a safe space for us. She taught us to have intellectual play, to toy with ideas, and to make creativity a part of our problem solving. She made it so that the library was more than just “library” it was also our classroom, our clubhouse, and our sanctuary. I had an ownership over that library that was so deep it still informs my connection to libraries today.

I am the man I am today because of my school librarian. Her courage to try something different informed my life and has gone on to impact the lives of those around me. School librarians, you are like the breeze that makes the ripple that becomes a tidal wave. Thank you for your courage every day.

Christian Zabriskie
Urban Librarians Unite

Monday, October 21, 2013

Librarians and Archivists to Palestine

This is a guest post by Hannah Mermelstein, a librarian at Saint Ann’s School in Brooklyn. In the summer of 2013, she led the Librarians and Archivists to Palestine delegation.


Last summer I traveled to Palestine with a group of sixteen librarians and archivists in order to connect with Palestinian colleagues in libraries, archives, and related projects and institutions and to gain mutual benefit through information exchange and skill-sharing. For the past ten years, I have been working in Palestine in various capacities, including with many delegations, but this was the first time I was fortunate enough to be able to merge my two worlds – Palestine and librarianship. What I’d like to share with you is some of what I learned from Palestinian school librarians and youth services librarians in particular, both in the West Bank and inside Israel.

Near Ramallah, in the central West Bank, we spoke with staff from Al Bireh Public Library and from the Tamer Institute about the obstacles to obtaining quality children’s literature in Arabic. Much of the best Arabic kids’ literature these days is published in Beirut, and the Israeli government (which controls all borders of the West Bank) does not let books in from Lebanon. Even when libraries try to obtain Arabic-language books through third parties, the books are often held up in Customs for months. Whether they’re ultimately allowed in or not seems somewhat arbitrary, and the libraries are required to pay for the costs of holding them in Customs. A Swedish librarian who was on our delegation commented that at the Madaa Silwan Creative Center in Jerusalem, she saw more books translated from Swedish into Arabic than originally written in Arabic, and she has more books originally written in Arabic in her library in Stockholm than they do at the center! The Tamer Institute for Community Education has tried to mitigate the negative effects of these Israeli restrictions by co-publishing a few titles with publishers in Beirut, and by publishing a few of their own as well, but their efforts are not adequate to meet the needs of the children they’re serving.

In Haifa, the situation is even more difficult. Although supposedly a “mixed city” of Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel, Haifa has 22 public library branches that primarily serve the Jewish community, and only one that serves the Palestinian community. Even this one branch is privately funded by an NGO, rather than by the Israeli government. We spoke to a number of Palestinian school and public librarians in Haifa who, because of difficulty traveling between Israel and the West Bank, are largely unable to supplement their collections with books put out by the Tamer Institute. Instead, most of their Arabic language books are low-quality translations of Hebrew books, effectively denying Palestinian citizens of Israel their literary heritage. This must be seen in its larger context, librarians told us, in which the Israeli government has for decades tried to erase Palestinian identity by calling Palestinians inside Israel “Israeli Arabs” or “Arab Israelis.” So whereas the availability of quality Arabic children’s literature could be a powerful way to preserve Palestinian identity and culture, the lack of availability further demoralizes the community.

I’ve shared these stories with a few people upon return from Palestine, and they’ve been moved to try to organize book deliveries to Palestine. Our delegation has had similar thoughts, but we must be careful how we approach this. Librarians in Palestine made it clear to us that they are not looking for a charity model. Not only can charity easily be accompanied by a colonialist attitude, but it simply won’t work. Large shipments of books would be held up at Customs for months, and smaller deliveries would do more to make us feel good about ourselves than make any significant dent in a system designed to prevent such a project. Palestinian libraries in the West Bank and inside Israel face a political problem that is at the core of any economic or humanitarian problems we might more easily address. But this should not stall our work. We are beginning conversations about effective follow-up, and we hope others will join us in these efforts. In the meantime, we can support some of the amazing organizations that are doing such important work on the ground. Here are a few:

The Tamer Institute for Community Education – based in Ramallah with partners throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip
Lajee Center in Aida refugee camp, Bethlehem – youth center that has, among other things, conducted workshops with children in which they have written and illustrated their own children’s books
Madaa Silwan Creative Center in Jerusalem – many amazing programs, including a library. They even published their own Palestinian cookbook!

To keep in touch with the delegation:
Our website – Here you can read more and see the statement we put out shortly after we returned.
Email to join our (very!) low-volume email list.

AND, we’re having a delegation reportback at Bluestockings bookstore at 7 pm on Thursday, October 24. Come on by!

Looking forward to any questions or comments you have. All questions welcome! 

At Al Bireh Public Library, a youth services librarian from Providence, RI exchanges ideas with Tamer Institute staff.

Winner of a book contest by Tamer Institute
Wall of the children's section of Nablus Public Library