I interview Robin Talley, author of “What We Left Behind”, in School Library Journal

When diversifying your library collection, remember that the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement includes characters in the LGBTQ spectrum, too. Enter Robin Talley‘s What We Left Behind, one of the few YA novels that features a genderqueer/nonbinary protagonist.

Download a high-res cover

Click here to read our discussion about labels, community, and the college experience. Hey, Robin even gives a shout-out to George!

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

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Come see me (and many rad non-nobodies) at Book Riot Live!

I am here to let you know two things:

One, I have NOT fallen down a well nor am I trapped under something heavy. I know it seems like this may have happened to me as I haven’t blogged in forever. My new job is wonderful yet exhausting! Stay tuned and I’ll tell you how I’m pretending that I know what I’m doing as a brand new school librarian! Mostly I’m just really tired!

Two, I’ll be on a panel at Book Riot Live!

screenshot-bookriotlive.com 2015-10-15 18-05-03Laurie Halse Anderson?!?!? Everybody freak out!


I don’t know how I got this lucky. Plus, I get to be on the panel with Shelley Diaz, who I know IRL and I think is the jam.

So, join us for our panel titled Banned: Challenges, Censorship, and Trigger Warnings, on November 7th at 3 PM.

So many rad people will be speaking at Book Riot Live, not just weird old school librarians that nobody has heard of! You can see Jason Reynolds, Margaret Atwood, Daniel José Older, and so many more.

Sign up today! Sign up all your friends! Come say hi to me so I don’t feel like a loser!

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

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P.S. Hey, while you’re here, read about the webcast I did with School Library Journal regarding the “Teen Transgender Experience”. Tell ’em Large Ingrid sent ya!

I’m Leaving: A photo history of sorts

Today is my last day at Brooklyn Public Library. If I had stayed here until November, I would have been working here seven years. Needless to stay, being a BPL staff member has been a major part of my adult life. If you ever want a frank discussion about what it’s like working for a massive urban librarian system with sporadic funding, you know where to find me. But, in lieu of that, here’s a look back at my years here. Remember when I was thin and had kinda dumb hair?

I was delighted to get hired by BPL, even though the only available branch was an hour and forty-five minutes each way from my home. Midwood was a busy branch in a Conservative Orthodox neighborhood. There were lots of kids, but I was the only children’s librarian. It was hard work. I got into making displays and decorations here (the branch was kind of ugly):

(1) 3326_77934183998_4636056_n

In less than six months, due to some pretty terrible circumstances, I was transferred, leaving Midwood without a children’s librarian for quite a while:

Greenpoint was tiny in size, but bursting to the brim with kids. Most programs were standing room only, especially storytime:

I loved making displays, still, though resources were few and I mostly used donated and recycled supplies:

The kids say this, right?

The kids say this, right?

Our best display ever, though, was an all-staff group effort and featured a major topic of workplace conversation:



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Public librarians: Get out of your chairs

I’m in my last two weeks as a public librarian before I leave for my new job as a school librarianI’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned in my almost 7 years of working for a large urban public library system, and one action, in particular, has stood out in my head as one of the most easy and effective ways to be good to your patrons.

When a patron, of any age, asks you for a book, you can do one of the following:

☹ Tell them the call number

☹ Write down the call number

☹ Point to a shelf

☹ Give them detailed instructions on how to get to said shelf

♡ If you are physically able, get up, out of your chair, and walk the patron over to where the book is located. (If it’s not clear, this is the best option).

I know. Getting up and getting moving is hard. No one really wants to. But seriously. Just do it.

It may be super clear to you how your library is laid out, but for first-time patrons or patrons who aren’t as familiar with the collection as we are, the library can be a daunting place! If the patron is unable to locate their materials with ease, they may associate the library with feelings of frustration. That’s not what we want.

It’s OK if library patrons don’t understand the Dewey Decimal system (or whatever organization your library employs), or if they think books are organized by title instead of author, or if library jargon like “Easy Readers” or “Graphic Novels” doesn’t make sense to them. This is fine. It’s our job to know what all of this means, not theirs. We can’t expect every patron to speak librarian-ese.

So, if a patron requests a title, walk them to the shelves. Since I work with kids and families, I’ll often explain where we’re walking and why. For example, “You want book about Barack Obama, and that will be in Biography under O. Biography is shelved by the person’s last name, so Barack Obama is under O, just like Abraham Lincoln is under L” or “You wanted Smile so we’re walking to Graphic Novels, which is just another way to say Comic Books.” This way, I’m teaching them how the collection works. Hopefully, they are starting to understand how the collection is organized so that the next time they need something, they might have a better idea how to find things on their own.

Or maybe they won’t. Who cares?

I do this even during crazy bananas Summer Reading reference desk lines. Will I find the patrons all 50 books from their summer reading list? Yeah, no. But if I help them locate two books, maybe they’ll have a good shot and finding the rest on their own. Maybe at this point, they’ll be self-sufficient until the line dies down and I can pay them more attention.

(And hey, same goes for computer sign up, using the OPAC, or other confusing patron tasks. Some of our patrons don’t know the difference between a barcode and a PIN/password. Sometimes they don’t know how to log on. Other times it’s not clear where the patron computers are. Don’t tell them how to sign onto a computer or use the catalog. Show them how. You’ll make their day much easier.)

I walk patrons to the shelves even when I don’t feel very well.

I do this even when I’m exhausted.

I do this even when I don’t want to.

If I am able to walk, I take the patrons to the shelves. I think it’s just good customer service.

I even had a boss at one point who told me to stop getting up from my desk to help patrons, that I was wasting time. He even said that librarians “shouldn’t have to touch books”. But I didn’t listen to him, because I really feel that offering patrons this extra level of help is the right thing to do.

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

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P.S. When I worked at a one floor library branch, I would walk patrons to any part of the library they required. Now that I’m at a massive three-floor facility, I’ll take them anywhere in our wing, as I can’t leave the Youth Wing when I’m on desk. I’m not suggesting that librarians in big old buildings should have to hop on elevators or travel to different floors several times a day. That would be bananas.

P.P.S. I had knee surgery in my early 20s, so I do have bad days sometimes. Once in a while, my knee hurts way too bad to do too much walking. On those days, I’ll explain to patrons that I’m having some knee issues so they’ll understand why I’m not getting up to help them. Never sacrifice your health for your job.

Out of the Public Library and into the School: Hey. I have a new job.

I somehow got it into my head that I’d never leave the public library system, that I’d be working for my current system until I retired. Through all the budget cuts and layoff scares, I fought so hard to keep my job. I spent every waking minute advocating for the library and desperately clinging onto this position. I was so busy and stressed and worried about losing my job and becoming unemployed that I never stopped to consider what I wanted for my own life. Now that my job is more secure than it’s been since I started over six years ago, I’m leaving.

It’s just time.

I was lucky to find a job in NYC. Recently, I’ve been wondering if I could afford to stay in one of the country’s most expensive cities. Though my family has been living in four out of the five boroughs (and surrounding areas; most of them are in Long Island now) for over 100 years, I feel like I don’t belong here anymore. It’s so hard to financially survive. My partner and I have been living paycheck to paycheck since forever. While this situation is not uncommon for your typical NYC resident, it has become exhausting and clearly unsustainable. I knew that I either a) had to make a big career change or b) leave NYC. Since most of my family lives in New York, I am glad I can stay. Seeing my father on a regular basis is very important to me.

As for my new job, I’m making what feels like a massive transition from the world of urban, public libraries to an urban, independent school library.

I’ve settled into a role as the resident know-it-all here, but soon, I’ll have to come to terms with a new environment, library mission, and set of coworkers. I imagine my first year will consist of observing and asking questions, rather than innovating and creating. Experienced public librarian, no longer. I am ready for n00b-dom. I am equal parts excited and terrified.

This blog will definitely still exist, though its tone and mission may shift a little or a lot.

I have less than a month left here in the Central Youth Wing. I’ll have three days off and then I’ll go straight into my new position. It’ll probably prove to be exhausting and overwhelming, but I’m ready.

Wish me luck.

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

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Happy birthday, Harry Potter, ya old fart! Here’s a quiz.

In honor of Mr. Ginny Weasley’s big day, take the quiz that I’m sharing with the kids/teens:1. What do Ron and Hermione name their kids?

a)Harry and Hagrid

b)They don’t have kids. KIDS ARE GROSS!

c) Kylie and Kendall

d) Rose and Hugo

2. What person from the Wizarding World does Harry discover living just down the road from his Privet Drive home?
a) Mrs. Figg
b) Katniss Everdeen
c) Moaning Myrtle
d) Madam Malkin

3. What happens to Professor Lockhart?
a) Drake writes a diss track about him
b) His hair turns white
c) He loses his memory
d) He elopes with Peeves in a breathtaking destination wedding. It was just lovely.

4. Luna’s earrings are made out of ________:
a) Chicken feet
b) radishes
c) bananas
d) She doesn’t have pierced ears

5. How did Hagrid get his pet dragon, Norbert?
a) Norbert’s a chicken actually, thanks.
b) There’s no such thing as dragons.
c) eBay
d) In a card game

6. What is Tonks’s first name?
a) Trick question. Tonks’s first name is Tonks. Nice try.
b) Taylor
c) Nymphadora
d) Bellatrix

7. When is Harry’s birthday?
a) July 31st
b) Christmas
c) Wizards don’t have birthdays
d) The 42nd of Nevermember

8. What is splinching?

a) It’s a combination of the words “splinter” and “flinching”. It’s when you flinch when you get a splinter

b) I could tell you, but it’s gross. I better not.

c) It’s just what happens to old spinach.

d) Splinching occurs when a witch or wizard apparates wrong.

9. How many Harry Potter books are there?

a) They aren’t books. They are movies.

b) 7

c) 1

d) 3 1/3

10. Who is the Ravenclaw House ghost?

a) Patrick Swayze

b) Bookins Bartleby

c)The Grey Lady

d) Dumbledore
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Catapults and Kids: Or how to destroy Voldemort and Justin “Beever” with popsicle sticks and rubber bands

Greetings from the 7th level of Summer Reading Hell. I’ll be your librarian until I can no longer keep the screaming, steaming, roaring semi-illegal summer camps at bay.

Now that I’m done with the kvetching that keeps me so young and vibrant, let me talk to you about my most recent program. All of the Youth Wing librarians were expected to provide a “wild card” program for school aged kiddos, and I chose the one that came with a pre-assembled kit of supplies (I lose a lot of my I HAVE TO BE THE BEST LIBRARIAN EVER-motivation during the summer. I blame the humidity and how bad it makes my hair look).

The catapult kit came with popsicle sticks, rubber bands, the sturdiest cupcake wrappers I have ever seen, teeeeeeeeny pom-poms, and instructions (mostly taken from this post by Amy of The Show Me Librarian blog).

Here's the program flier I made!

Here’s the program flier I made! No camps, please, OK?

Really, the only thing I added to this program was the targets. I mean, what good is a catapult if there’s nothing diabolical to seek out and destroy? I quickly whipped up some solid villains:

Yeah. This would be the Joker, Justin Bieber, Voldemort, and the Green Goblin.

Yeah. This would be the Joker, Justin “Beever” as the youths call him, Voldemort, and the Green Goblin.

I glued their faces to some cardstock, attached them to the popsicle sticks, and then mounted them on some playdough.

First, I helped the kids assemble the catapults. I was glad that the program size was small. They all needed lots of help with the rubber banding part. I have to admit it was tricky, even for me.

I provided a pre-made catapult. Even though I don’t usually include a model project, I think it was helpful in this case. I would take it apart and reassemble it to show the kiddos the different stages of building it:

Hey, before the program started, I glued the cupcake wrappers to the popsicle sticks. The kit provided velcro dots, but those weren't really working. I didn't want the kids to have to wait for the glue to dry.

Hey, before the program started, I glued the cupcake wrappers to the popsicle sticks so the kids wouldn’t have to wait for the glue to dry. The kit provided velcro dots, but those weren’t really sticking well enough.

While we made them, I talked about how catapults worked because of levers, which are a kind of simple machine. I said that it would be really hard to throw a heavy rock at your enemies with your bare hands, but a lever would help you do lots of the heavy-lifting.

I taped this info all over the table and the program room.

I taped this info all over the table and the program room.

I have to say, they weren’t really into the actual building of the catapult (I think wrapping the rubber bands around the sticks was a bit frustrating), but they were SUPER pumped about firing pom-poms at the villians. We quickly learned that the tiny pom-poms didn’t work that great, so we switched to some bigger ones.

We weren’t really able to knock down any of the targets, at first, but with some practice and the addition of some heavier ammunition (dice, stamps, and tiny rubber bus toys), our aim got better.

The first villain to bite it is was the Green Goblin:


We talked about how the pom-poms went further because they were lighter, but were less likely to knock over the target. The dice and stamps made more of an impact because they were heavier, but didn’t go as far.

This little girl was shy and quiet at first, but by the end, she was screaming,

This little girl was shy and quiet at first, but by the end, she was screaming, “DESTROY THEM!”

By the end of the program, all of the villains met their doom. At one point, the girl above knocked down Justin “Beever” by catapulting the Green Goblin at him, which is pretty clever, really.

I tried several times to explain to them that the name was Bieber, not Beever, but they all firmly told me that I was wrong.

Be sure to check out Amy’s post for more info, including a link to assembly directions.

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

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#SLJTeenLive: I’m moderating the Teen Transgender Experience panel

You know who is super bad at self-promotion? Me, your main girl, Ingrid. I had speaking engagements several times this year and have failed to mention a single one of them on my blog. This ends now.

Did you know that on August 13th, School Library Journal is offering a full day of teen library-centric online programming? Yeah! And guess how much it’ll cost you to attend? NOTHING! It’s totally free, sons.

Oh, and guess who will be moderating the Teen Transgender Experience panel? Me! Ingrid! I’m the one whose blog you are reading RIGHT NOW!


I’ve already mentioned I’m a huge fan of Alex Gino and GeorgeBeyond Magenta is a huge hit at my library (every time I put a copy out on display, it goes out immediately. It was also a Rainbow List selection when I was on the committee) and Lies We Tell Ourselves had one of the most poignant descriptions of school desegregation I’ve ever read (I’m currently waiting on a copy of Talley’s newest title What We Left Behind, I’ll tell you what I think).

I hope you’ll tune in.

Click here to register!

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

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I am Reading this So Hard Right Now: George by Alex Gino

A little late on posting this, but here’s my review of George by Alex Gino in School Library Journal (scroll down to the first entry in the “Middle Grade” section).

If your library works with a Middle Grade population, I highly recommend you read and purchase this title.

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

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How teachers can create a Summer Reading list that won’t make librarians die or children cry: Unsolicited advice from a public librarian

Summer Reading depresses the bejeezos out of me. While my school librarian friends are looking 10 years younger and more carefree than should be permitted by law, I’ve got the Summer Reading blues real hard. The reference desk lines are non-stop, everyone needs everything right now (stress levels of parents seem to go up to 11 during July and August), we’re running out of titles and our will to live, and the Summer Reading assignment lists from the schools don’t seem to have been written by actual people:

Often, parents hand me lists so outlandish I’ve considered whether I was being featured on a really bad hidden-video reality show. They’re either really poorly organized or they contain titles that I know just by looking at them that we just don’t have. I’ve tried contacting schools and teachers, either by phone, email, or in person, and have had absolutely no luck. We have pre-written form letters that we send home with the parents (we call them “Dear Teacher” letters: Dear Teacher, Name of Child was unable to obtain this book due to 1) lack of copies 2) high demand 3) plague of locusts 4) flood of librarian tears, etc.) so that their children won’t get in trouble for not being able to access the books on the list. The letter has our contact info on the bottom, so the teachers and librarians can talk before the next summer comes around.

(On the rare occasion that I get a really great list, I ask the parents to tell the teacher I said so. I don’t know if that feedback actually goes anywhere, but, girl, I try).

Sending kids home with a Dear Teacher letter instead of a book is not a good moment. The kids feel guilty for not doing their summer homework, I feel bad that they’re not reading, and the parent, child, and school have had a poor library experience. What if this is the only time I interact with this family all year? What if their entire opinion of the library is based on this transaction? This is not literacy positive! This is the opposite of what I hope to accomplish during the summer.

So. Teachers. I love you, but you’re bringing me down (hashtag Not All Teachers hashtag Not All Summer Reading Lists). In response to the bananas lists I’ve seen in my 6 years as a public librarian, here are my tips for writing the perfect Summer Reading list. This will be the list where your local librarians will actually be able to help your students and their families. Don’t be mad. We’re in this together.


Make sure your list is in alphabetical order BY AUTHOR. Not by title. Never by title. Please not ever by title. If there’s a library where books are arranged by title, I don’t know that library but I’d like to smack that library. Most libraries arrange their books by author. No one wants to run in circles looking in the stacks for books. I don’t. I promise your students don’t.

I wrote about it in another post about Summer Reading: Imagine if you listed your books by title instead of author:

And if the Moon Could Talk, by Kate Banks
Buster, by Denise Fleming
Dog and Bear: Two Friends, Three Stories, by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Froggy Goes to Camp, by Jonathan London
Previously, by Allan Ahlberg

Do you see what’s happening here? If our books are shelved by author, that means your future student or the nice if not neurotic librarian is running from B to F to S to L to A, instead of just straight through the alphabet. If you make a list alphabetically by author, the student, parent, or I get to walk in a straight line, instead of in circles like a raving lunatic.

Imagine how easy it would be to scan the stacks, list in hand, and actually be able to find the books in a timely manner. What fun!

♥ Offer options. My favorite Summer Reading lists are the ones where the teacher has given the students some choices. If your students have options, there’s a better chance that they’ll actually get the reading done. As far as choices are concerned you can: 1) Offer a large range of titles but state that students need only choose a few. 2) Say that the students can read any title by a certain author. 3) If you’re offering a book in a series, say that any book in the series will suffice.

♥ Make sure the book is in print and that the library has multiple copiesOnce, a teacher assigned a book that we only had one copy of in our 60 branches. That copy was in storage. It was also non-circulating. No child was going to get this reading done. They were being set up to fail. You can check the library’s online catalog for how many copies the library owns. When in doubt, contact the library. Call us. Email us. We’ll let you know. It’s our job.

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