Friday, October 28, 2016

Meet your new board members!

We are thrilled to welcome three new board members this fall! Their terms will run 2016-2018 and it's wonderful to have them on board (so to speak). 

Maria Falgoust (Vice President) is the Librarian at ISB, a Nursery–8th grade independent school in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. ISB offers French and Spanish language immersion programs as well as an International Baccalaureate curriculum which is reflected in the multilingual collection. Previously, Maria ran the elementary school library at the American Overseas School of Rome in Italy. In 2008-2010, Maria served as the vice-president of the HVLA. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Fine Arts from the University of Washington, Seattle and a Masters of Library and Information Science degree from Long Island University (The Palmer School) with a School Media Specialist certificate. Maria loves traveling, cooking, reading and hiking.

Susannah Goldstein (Recording Secretary) is the school librarian at the Bronx School for Law, Government & Justice, a NYCDOE public school serving grades 6-12.  She graduated from Rutgers with her MLIS in 2013, following a decade in fundraising and volunteer management (and time off with children).  Before working at LGJ, Susannah worked in the Lower/Middle School library at Convent of the Sacred Heart.  Susannah is currently serving on Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult readers, and has reviewed YA literature for School Library Journal for several years.  Her entrée into HVLA was the fabulous book club, which she has been attending since grad school.  When Susannah is not working/ parenting/reading, she can be found knitting, baking, obsessing over pop culture, and sporadically tweeting via @SusInTheLibrary.  She lives in Riverdale with her husband, daughter, son, and cats Babka and Kugel.

Hannah Mermelstein (Treasurer) is in her sixth year as a librarian at Saint Ann's School in Brooklyn Heights, where she works in the middle and upper school (4th-12th grade). She coordinates the Saint Ann's Mock Newbery Committee, a vibrant program with 30-40 students in grades 4-6 and a similar number of titles. Before her time at Saint Ann's Hannah worked with the NYPL, bringing mobile library service to Rikers Island and conducting "Daddy and Me" and "Mommy and Me" reading programs at several of the island's facilities. Hannah is a founder of Librarians and Archivists with Palestine, and spent many years doing human rights work and leading solidarity delegations in Palestine. She lives in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn with her partner and 8-month-old daughter (as of 10/16), whose favorite books include I Love You, Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt and Cyd Moore, and What Makes a Baby by Cory Silverberg and Fiona Smyth.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Book Fair Questions Answered! An interview with Greenlight Bookstore

For many years now, I've been working with Greenlight Bookstore on my book fairs and it's been a rewarding partnership. I love collaborating with them on book fair lists and I love supporting a local independent store. More of that, please! 

I find that working with an independent store means I get a lot of personal feedback and am able to create a unique book fair that truly reflects the interests and needs of my community. It also means that I've gotten to know Greenlight very well over the years and I thought it would be fun to hear from Hannah, the Offsite Sales and School Partnerships Manager, about book fairs. I put together a list of questions and she, very kindly, obliged. Thank you Hannah!

How does your store go about choosing the right books for each book fair? How do you select?

The process is different for every school we work with--which makes book fairs both a lot of fun and a unique challenge! Some schools have done a lot of fairs in the past and have a clear idea of what their students and families will want, and some have less experience and ask for more input from us. Often, schools will give us general guidelines--which themes they do (or don't) want, what price points they're looking for, titles or authors that their students love--and we'll build the specific list of titles from there. For schools with less information on past fairs, I base my choices on a combination of what's sold well at similar schools, what's popular in our store, and the titles (new and classic) that I love most.

What has a librarian done for a book fair that worked so well that you wish everyone would do it?

The librarians who run the most successful book fairs are, I think, the ones who really pay close attention to what their students get excited about, which of course changes from year to year and even week to week. I love it when I read through a list of requests and find titles that I've never even heard of; more often than not those books show up because a librarian has picked up on enthusiasm directly from their students, and those books almost always end up selling well at the fair. As much as possible, it's so helpful to let us know what your students love, even when it's an older or offbeat title that we might not have sold before.

What has a librarian done for a book fair that totally tanked (it happens to best of ideas!) that you wish no one would ever do?

I think the biggest mistake that librarians make is wishful thinking about which books will sell well. Sometimes I'll see librarians asking for the same titles year after year, even when no one has bought them in the past. It's important, I think, to find a balance between the books you want your students to read and the books they actually will read. It's great to challenge your students by providing books that they might not have thought of on their own, but also helpful to recognize when a particular book just seems unlikely to be a hit with students.

What’s the best thing a librarian can do to prepare his or her students and families for book fair?

Aside from the basics of publicizing the fair and talking with students about the kinds of books that will be available, I think it's really helpful to encourage families to take advantage of online ordering options. When families buy books online before a Greenlight fair, it ensures that they get the books they want and then on the day of the fair, all they have to do is pick them up at the school without worrying about payment. Nothing can replace browsing in person, but publicizing online ordering helps include families who might not otherwise be likely to participate in the fair and also cuts down on the day-of work for the volunteers or school staff who are coordinating the fair.

Give us your best book fair piece of advice!

To summarize: know your students! Know what they like and don't like, and what kinds of literary challenges they'll respond well to. Know who might forget to give a flyer to their parents or which families might appreciate a reminder about online ordering. It's our job as a bookstore to know titles and authors inside out, but because every school is so different, a librarian's knowledge of students, families, and school culture is the key piece to putting together a successful book fair.

-Karen, Williamsburg Northside School

Friday, October 14, 2016

Lit happenings

This is the post in which I tell you all about some literary happenings around town this month. BUT I just finished introducing a group of Grade 4 students to the Win the White House game and the sounds of their yells about the electoral collage are still ringing in my ears. Have you played that game yet? I recommend. It's a fabulous, fun way to introduce and support an election curriculum (and it can be customized for elementary, middle, or high school). There's something so very, very satisfying about helping kids understand big concepts without them noticing. I'm sneaky like that.

Onward! I admit I usually rely on you, my librarian peers, to tell me about fantastic literary events so please do chime in in the comments about all the fun literary things you're going to. Here's what I'm looking foward to doing/hearing about this month:

OpenHouseNY - October 15/16
Open HouseNY "provides audiences with unparalleled access to the extraordinary architecture of New York and to the people who help design, build, and preserve the city." Not all buildings are literary themed but many, many libraries are participating as open access sites. Check out the guide for all the site information and enjoy your behind-the-scenes tour! This event is such a fantastic way to explore all five boroughs.

BookFest@Bank Street - October 22
The big event of the month. The day will feature a keynote address by Pam Muñoz RyanPanelists include: Jorge AguirreJason Chin, Raúl Colón, Angela Dominguez, Rudy Gutierrez, Laurent Linn, Francoise Mouley, Christopher Myers, George O'Connor, Brian Pinkney, and Hervé Tullet.

Tickets are $80 and appear to be not sold out, which is crazy. Go get them!

Greenlight Bookstore Anniversary Celebration - October 22
How is it possible that there are two book events on the same day? Why are they doing this to us? 
"Greenlight celebrates its seventh year in Fort Greene with the annual birthday event, where they say thanks to everyone whose support keeps business growing by offering 20% off in the bookstore all day on Saturday and Sunday! Join them for a festive birthday weekend featuring decorations, giveaways and other surprises, and news about the new store."
Special note: Greenlight is my bookstore partner and you'll be hearing more about them in my next post.

October Picture Book Bonanza at Books of Wonder - October 30
There's another one of these on October 15 but you'll be at OpenHouseNY...
Books of Wonder always has fabulous events. Here's what they have to say about this one: "Join us for the second October Picture Book Bonanza, as we welcome SIX talented picture book creators to share their latest books with your young readers and listeners. TERRY and ERIC FANRITA MEADEREBECCA GIBBONJOHN DUVALL and KLAAS VERPLANCKE will bet at Books of Wonder to share their newest creations!

THE FAN BROTHERS for The Darkest Dark and The Night Gardener
RITA MEADE for Edward Gets Messy
KLAAS VERPLANCKE for Magritte's Apple"

There will also be amazing Halloween events all over town to enjoy. But that would be another post, wouldn't it?

Happy reading!


Friday, October 7, 2016

Librarian inspiration

Welcome back to school! Now that we’re in October and theoretically all settled in (Do you feel settled? I feel both like I’ve been back forever and just started…), I thought it would be a fine time to think about how we librarians inspire each other. Last year, fellow HVLA’er Kyle Lukoff sent a link to an article on gender disparity in picture books. One of the parents at his school was the author and Kyle not only came up with the last line of the piece but helped provide resources (with an assist from HVLA colleagues, of course!).
I was fascinated by the article and thought my 4th and 5th graders would be as well. With a lot of guidance (so, so many new vocabulary words!) my intrepid students followed me on a two month project.  Inspired by the pivotal 2011 study of picture books from Florida State University, the class spent over a month reading picture books, informational articles, and having discussions about gender bias in children's literature. The FSU study found a major disparity in gendered characters (with the vast majority being male) in picture books; we spent some time thinking and looking into this. 
Thanks to Kyle, we were able to make contact with journalist and editor Jennie Yabroff, whose Washington Post article "Why Are There So Few Girls in Picture Books?" was the jumping off point for our project. Jennie volunteered to answer questions from the students about her experiences writing and researching the topic. They class asked some incredible questions and were very inspired by her answers. UPDATE: Below please find the transcript of our Q&A!
In addition to inspiring the students, the project also introduced and expanded some key reading skills:
  • help students articulate characteristics of the text
  • uncover messages and theme
  • refine critical thinking skills
One of the most exciting and engaging parts of this project was using technology to redo popular picture books. Students selected a favorite book and used iPads to literally gender swap characters by changing names and pronouns. We then visited a Kindergarten class (who had also been doing a gender study) and read aloud both versions of the book. The 4th and 5th graders discovered that the younger children most enjoyed the books in which their own gender was reflected. This sparked fantastic conversations and awareness around representation.
As I often say, I don’t need my students to think like me, I just need them to think. This project gave my students opportunities and tools to look at picture books in a new way. It was a real privilege to hear their conversations and see their work. Inspiration from HVLA and Kyle made it happen!
Do you have any projects that have been inspired by other librarians? Please share!

-Karen, Williamsburg Northside Schools

UPDATE: Thank you to Jennie Yabroff for granting permission to share her Q&A!
Q&A with journalist Jennie Yabroff:
1.     How did you come up with the idea for the article?
I know I have a good idea when I have a question about something I’ve noticed in the world, and no one I talk to seems to have an answer. I started noticing that nearly all the characters in the books I was reading for my daughter were male, and it was actually hard to find books with female characters once I got past Olivia the pig and Lilly the mouse. I talked to other moms about it, and they said they’d noticed the same thing, but no one had any idea why. So I started calling people who write and publish children’s books, to see if I could get an answer.
2.     When did you figure out that more characters in picture books were male?
When I was pregnant, my friends all gave me their favorite children’s books as a baby shower present. I noticed pretty quickly that despite the fact that these were books picked out by women, for another woman to read to a baby girl, most of them, whether they were classics like “Are You My Mother” or new books like “Oh No, George,” featured male main characters.
3.     Do you like the books where you have to swap the genders?
Yes. I’ve found that there’s nothing inherently ‘male’ about these characters, and changing the gender does nothing to change the story. So I tend to just read books that I think are great already, and then swap the genders if I feel like I’ve read my daughter three books in a row with male main characters.
4.     Do you enjoy swapping the genders when you read?
I think it’s interesting, because I definitely notice my own gender assumptions. I am always curious, when I’m reading a new book, to see how many pages go by before the writer uses a gender pronoun, and if that changes my ideas about whether the character is male or female. But it’s also hard, because I have to pay attention and be careful to remember to change every he to she and every his to her!
5.     Has this affected your awareness of gender disparity in other media?
Definitely! It’s really pervasive. If it weren’t everywhere, I wouldn’t feel the need to be so vigilant with the books, but it does make me sad that in general, our culture seems to think stories about boys are more interesting or important than stories about girls.
6.     Do you feel bad for your daughter that you gender swap the books?
A friend told me my daughter was going to get really confused when she starts learning to read. I’m not really worried about that, but I do wonder if she will start correcting me every time I swap genders once she can recognize the words. I hope when that happens we can have conversations about why I’m changing the genders, and talk about whether it matters if the characters are boys or girls, and if that changes the story. I certainly don’t expect her to only read books about female characters, but I think it would be great if, as she gets older, she is aware of the issue – and, ideally, there will be more options for her in the future!