Booktalking George, by Alex Gino: It kind of takes a village

When I started this blog, I was a public librarian with a clear mission for what I wanted to write about here. Now that I’m a school librarian who is settling into a whole new work culture, it’s become less apparent to me what I’m supposed to talk about on this blog, except to say, “This is really different from my last job and sometimes it feels like I have no idea what I am doing.” Though I have been a school librarian for almost 6 months, it somehow only feels like a couple of days. The newness has not worn off yet. Hence, the lack of blog posts.

I thought I would talk about how George, by Alex Gino, became a project that much of our Upper School became involved in: 2 sixth grade classes, me (the librarian), several teachers, and the school psychologist. It all started when the 5th and 6th grade teachers asked me to present some booktalks to their classes. First, I asked if I could include books that acknowledged the existence of gay and trans* people. This is what I mean when I say that I’m adjusting to a new work culture. I would have never asked if this was OK at the public library. It would never even occurred to me to do so. It was never an issue there, a place where I was heavily protected by the First Amendment and an environment that supported freedom of information. Schools, especially independent schools, are trickier places to navigate, especially for us rah-rah liberal librarians, and I felt compelled to ask permission. Luckily, the teachers were open to my book selections.

I presented several titles: Fake Mustache by Tom Angleberger, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (which none of them had really read, oddly enough. I know this is an obvious choice), Better Nate than Ever by Tim FederleThe Marvels by Brian Selznick (I showed this trailer), The Uglies by Scott Westerfeld (another older title they hadn’t read), and George by Alex Gino. While we saw increased circulation on all the titles, George generated the most discussion. I couldn’t keep a copy on the shelves and students were constantly asking when they could get their hands on it.

Here’s how I booktalk George: I say that it’s funny that the book is called George, because it’s actually about a girl named Melissa. Melissa gets home from school every day and does some pretty stereotypically “girly” things: She reads magazines written for girls, puts on lip gloss, and combs her bangs down over her face. However, before her mom and brother come home, she must fix her hair, clean her face, and put the magazines back in their hiding place. You see, while Melissa has always known she is a girl, her family sees her as a boy named George.

This last line usually elicits a good deal of confusion, so I ask that if I said Melissa was trans, would they know what this means? When Melissa was born, she was assigned the male gender, but she never identified as such. The teachers and I found that while the students were certainly curious about trans* people, their only exposure to a trans person is Caitlyn Jenner. And while I’m grateful to Caitlyn for giving the students some sort of access point to discuss this topic, she’s certainly not the default experience.

When talking to the class, I referred to the author, Alex Gino, with the pronoun “they“. I explained that beyond she/her and he/him, there are a myriad of other pronouns, including they/them. I quickly realized that they had never heard of anything like this before. Caitlyn Jenner has exposed them to the idea of transitioning from one end of the gender binary to the other, but otherwise, they had no concept of people who exist in the middle (or outside the gender binary altogether).

I thought the booktalks would sort of be a one-off deal, but conversations around George kept sprouting up around the library and the classrooms. Students were asking me if I had anything else like George (I don’t, outside of a copy of Beyond Magenta in the inaccessible professional collection). I mentioned to Alex on Twitter that our students were obsessed with George and they suggested that we have a little Skype session to discuss how that was going. I appreciated this, as talking to kids about the book and trans-related issues was way harder than I had anticipated. They had questions and I had answers (or at least I thought I did), but how were we going to tackle all this in the limited time I, as the librarian, have with students?

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Check out this interview with me in the Programming Librarian

Click here to witness Eleanor Diaz and I discussing body positivity, talking about racism while white, and glitter.

Stay tuned!

Love and Libraries,


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Support the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESEA)


Read more here.

To ask the Senate to vote Yes on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESEA), click here.

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

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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! 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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