Holiday Gift Guide for Book Lovers

When it comes to buying gifts around the holidays, think outside the box when buying for the voracious reader in your life. Sure, gift cards to Barnes and Nobel are great, but there’s so many awesome literary themed items out there that you can easily get them something unique to go along with the trusty gift card.

I’ve rounded up a few of my favorites I’ve found out on the web and hope it will be helpful to you when you start your holiday shopping!

Pins are IN!
Enamel pins have made a huge comeback in the last couple years. They add personality and flair to clothing, bags or anything you want to put them on. Here are a few favorites that the reader in your life is sure to love.

Literature Ladies Pin                  The Very Hungry Caterpillar      What Would Hermione Do

Show your Love for the Library
If you have a librarian in your life, or even someone who just loves to wear library themed clothing and accessories, then be sure to check these adorable finds out! The library due date head wrap comes from The Lemondime and there are still a few left. You can use my code RETROREADER for free shipping.

 Library Due Date Head Wrap                      Library Stamp Tee              Due Date Mug

For the Home
Readers love a cozy space! What better gift than making their reading nook feel and smell even better? This pillow is so cute and features some classic titles screen printed on the slipcase.

Capture

Wild Geese Bookshop sells Harry Potter themed candles! I am not sure if they ship, but if you are local to the Indianapolis area, they have several scents to check out.

This library scented candle will have to do if you aren’t able to pop in to Wild Geese!

Capture

Clothing & Jewelry

Alex and Ani have the best Harry Potter Jewelry. Each month there’s a new bangle, but they also have necklaces, rings and other unique items.

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The Book Was Better sweatshirt from Mod Cloth

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Bookshelf skirt, also from Mod Cloth

I hope you were able to find something unique for the reader in your life! If you come across other things you think NEED to be on this list, drop the links in the comments so others can check them out.

Happy Holidays!


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Project Prom: Thinking Outside the YA Library Programming Box

Five years ago a former co-worker and I started a teen program we called a Prom Dress Swap. Like most women in their mid to late twenties, I’d amassed a number of formal dresses from weddings and high school banquets that I never wore anymore. They were in great condition but just hanging in the closet taking up space when I thought “why not create a program out of this at the library?” And Project Prom was born, although it didn’t take on that official title until 2014.

Our first year was filled with uncertainty – would anyone come? Would we get enough donations? It started off slow at first but then the Indianapolis Star got wind of the program and the donations began to pour in. We set the program up in our tiny community room at the library and bought cheap garment racks off Amazon. Our branch manager brought in dressing room screens from her theater group and we used mirrors from other staff members who loaned them to us for the weekend. The day of the program, the line of girls was out the door and around the building! I think we had close to 100 come that first day and most found something to wear to prom. My co-worker and I agreed that we should do it again and thankfully the library I work for has a large climate controlled barn, so any leftover dresses went to storage until the next year. Sadly, my co-worker left the system before the Spring of 2014, so I was on my own to plan and implement the program in year two.

We have four branches in my system, so I decided for year two that I would host it at a different branch and in the years that followed rotate it so that eventually each branch in our county would have a chance to hold the program, reaching all of our served communities. However, the response for year two was even greater than anticipated so by the time year three rolled around, I had expanded the event to three days at one location then three days at a second location all in the same year.

By this point, I had developed a relationship with several consignment shops who served as donation locations for our program and gave us any prom dresses that didn’t sell during their consignment period. These were NICE dresses too – many came from upscale prom shops in the area and were well over $500 new.

I also decided it was time for a catchier, more clear name change. By calling the program a Prom Dress Swap, it implied that to receive a dress, you had to donate one. That wasn’t my original intention for the program but it was confusing to the girls who wanted to attend, so after consulting our Young Adult Programming Committee, we settled on the name Project Prom.

In 2015, I added another partner – Sophia’s Bridal, Tux and Prom and started collecting prom attire for guys! The consignment shops both closed down in 2015, so Sophia’s became a crucial partner for us and also served as a donation location. Over the past couple years they have offered different promotions for their customers who donate (like $75 off a new dress when bringing in a dress for Project Prom). This year they gave away a free tuxedo rental to one of our teen guys who couldn’t find something at the program.

For a time we also had a local seamstress making custom dresses for girls who couldn’t find a dress that fit perfectly, but she eventually got too busy to continue but it was a wonderful donation of her time for the years that she was able to participate.

The number of donations continued to grow and eventually our cheap Amazon racks broke and the program needed something more sturdy and permanent. Around the time we needed something new, the Deb store in the mall went out of business and started selling all their store fixtures! Our library director gave me the OK to buy some and I purchased four commercial grade round garment racks for $25 each which I use during the program and for storage the rest of the year.

I also got a Facebook page up and running for the program which I try to keep active throughout the year. This is where we share all the photos from the program, create events and share any media attention that the program gets. I’ve added our other teen librarians as administrators to help with responding to any messages we get and also so they can add photos on event days since I am unable to staff all 6 days each year.

That brings us to present day – this year has been bigger than ever before and we’re still not done yet! Fox 59 interviewed staff about the program and I also appeared on WISH-TV’s Indy Style program with this year’s partner Zeta Tau Alpha. We had a whopping 217 people attend over our first three days and we gave away about 100 dresses plus many of our items for the guys. The program will be held again in April at another location and I’m hoping for a record breaking turnout there as well.

Somehow we’ve gone national and have had calls from Washington DC asking if we have an affiliate there that has the same program and we’re getting dress donations shipped here from Dallas, TX. I’m incredibly amazed at the growth and so happy that we’ve helped hundreds of girls and guys over the past five years get outfitted for prom!

It really exciting to see how Project Prom has grown and not only is it a wonderful service that a library can provide to their community but it also proves that libraries are still relevant in a technology driven world. If you are a librarian thinking about starting a similar program, please feel free to contact me – just click on the e-mail link on the Facebook page and it will send an e-mail directly to my work account. And if you are already doing this kind of program in your community, I’d love to hear what’s worked for you and suggestions on how we can make our program even better!

For anyone thinking of starting their own Project Prom, I leave you with some tips/advice/cautions based on my experiences the last five years:

FIND A COMMUNITY PARTNER. This is crucial. We didn’t have one the first year and it worked out OK but if not for the local businesses that helped us starting out, we would not have been able to build up the dress selection that we currently have.  (This year I estimated about 400 dresses)

Get other staff on board to help you out. Trust me, one person cannot do this alone. It’s literally a full time job on top of your other librarian duties. I get calls year round from businesses who have dresses to donate and it’s hard to find a time to go pick them up. If you have a team helping you, it will go much smoother, take some of the burden off you and keep you sane. I’m working to find a dedicated team for next year that I can consistently count on.

-Look for grant/funding opportunities. This year we are getting Kohl’s Cares volunteers to help with set-up at our second branch. If a minimum of five Kohl’s employees help for three hours, we will get a $500 donation. That money is much needed as we’re out of room on our current garment racks and could use a couple more.

-Utilize volunteers. Our partners this year were from Zeta Tau Alpha and they were a life saver. The program took four hours to set up in our community room and they were there to help with that and staff the program over the weekend. You will be surprised at how long it takes to take dresses out of garment bags and sort by size.

Social Media is your best friend. One of our photos from this year was viewed over 1,000 times on Facebook. That’s 1,000 people who learned about the program that may not have otherwise know about it. Keep your Facebook page active year-round, even if it’s just to post to say you’re planning next year’s event and details are coming soon. I like to post pictures of dresses and shoes that I’ve styled as they come in and that gives people an idea of what they can find at the program. We also have photo albums of the girls/guys who have found something to wear and many will tag themselves in them so it’s a fun interaction for the teens too.

-Don’t be afraid to say no. For the first few years, I would drag the dresses out of storage for girls who couldn’t make it to the program. That got tedious and tiring, plus it was hard to find a time to schedule them to come in to try on. So by adding extra days, I had hoped to eliminate that problem. It did for the most part but some still miss it and you just have to say no. If that happens, it’s good to be aware of any similar programs in your area that way you can refer them elsewhere at least.

-Be prepared to make trips to Goodwill. Unfortunately not every dress that’s donated is acceptable. We sometimes get ugly velvet dresses from the 80s or badly stained ball gowns that can’t be cleaned. People mean well but teens still want something stylish even if it’s free. Just smile and say thanks and then bag it up for Goodwill.

 

Favorite Reads of 2016

It’s that time of year again – everyone is making their top 10 “Best of 2016” lists. It was a weird year but I still read some awesome books. This year I set a goal to read 52 books and surpassed it by reading 61! I may be able to squeeze one more in before December is over but I haven’t finished it at the time of writing this. Here are the Top 10 titles that made my #libfaves16 countdown on Twitter.

boy 10. KILL THE BOY BAND by Goldy Moldavsky

Have you ever loved a boy band or been a part of a fandom? I have (and still am)! Four friends and life-long fans of fictional British boy band The Ruperts (probably One Direction) stalk and accidentally kidnap one of the members in their hotel room right before a huge concert in New York City. Things quickly spiral out of control from there. While some of the plot is pretty over the top, this young adult title takes on the crazy, dark and hilarious world of music fandoms in a pretty accurate way.

9. HEARTLESS by Marissa Meyer

If you’ve ever wondered how the Queen of Hearts came to be such a cruel character who enjoys cutting off people’s heads, then Heartless is a must-read. Marissa Meyer, best
known for her Lunar Chronicles series, has written another stellar heartlessYA title which vividly re-imagines Lady Catherine Pinkerton of Wonderland before she became the Queen of Hearts.

 

8. ALL THE SINGLE LADIES: UNMARRIED WOMEN AND THE RISE OF AN INDEPENDENT NATION by Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister’s book about single women in America singlefocuses on the growing rate at which women are pursing education and careers and delaying marriage or choosing to remain single altogether. Traister takes us through feminist history beginning with the changing role of women in the home and in the workplace and delves deep into the major waves of independence
covering monumental moments such as the right to vote, equal pay, the Fair Housing Act and Roe v. Wade. Read more of my thoughts on this title in a blog I wrote earlier this year.

7. SMALL GREAT THINGS by Jodi Picoult
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Jodi Picoult could have not picked a more timely moment in history for her latest novel. Known for her moving fiction that usually delves into a legal or moral dilemma, she tackles racism, Black Lives Matter, the media and cultural tension that goes along with social justice movements.  An excellent writer who knows how to craft an engaging story, choosing to write a narrative that featured an African American woman  at a time when racial tensions are high and often front page news, is a very bold move for a bestselling author. I also blogged about this one earlier this year!

6. FLYOVER NATION: YOU CAN’T RUN A COUNTY YOU’VE NEVER BEEN TO by Dana Loesch

9780399563881 There’s a great divide between how those of us in the heartland and those who live in the coastal regions view the issues affecting our culture today. Dana touches on gun control, the Black Lives Matter movement, feminism, equality and explains how each topic differs from the coastal’s point-of-view. A lot of the content is autobiographical and very personal but the subjects covered are also balanced out with research and facts. An excellent book to give to liberal friends or relatives to help them understand why Trump won the Presidential election of 2016.

5. ALL THE MISSING GIRLS by Megan Miranda

23212667Ten years apart, two women go missing in the same town. Both cases are eerily similar even though they appear to be unrelated. Told in reverse order , this page turner has lots of psychological twists and the ever popular unreliable narrator. This year’s Gone Girl.

4. TRULY MADLY GUILTY by Liane Moriarty

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Three seemingly happy suburban couples get together for a barbecue. It’s a nice evening , the kids and dog are happily playing – what could go wrong? Then, not one but TWO shocking incidents happen that night, causing cracks in lifelong friendships and forever altering life in the neighborhood.

The story switches back and forth between the day of the barbecue and the events that follow, yet the narrators don’t at all let on what happened. Just when you think you’ve figured it out, a new wrench is thrown in the plot and it’s not until the book’s final few pages that one truly learns the truth. Liane Moriarty weaves another suspenseful tale dealing with friendships, marriage and parenthood.

3. THE CHEMIST  by Stephenie Meyerthe-chemist-jacket

Alex is an ex-CIA agent/chemical torture specialist who’s on the run – the agency decided she knew too much and tried to take her out. So she jumps from town to town, always sleeping with her gun nearby and a gas mask on.
When she’s approached about a way out, she cautiously accepts but it means taking on one more job that turns out to be a whole lot more complicated and dangerous than it’s supposed to be. One part James Bond, one part Alias, The Chemist is a high adrenaline spy adventure and easily Stephenie Meyer’s best novel to date.

2. AND THE TREES CREPT IN by Dawn Kurtagich
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Dark and gothy, this modern fairy tale is about two siblings who flee their home after an incident with their father. They seek refuge at their aunt’s home in the forest and soon it’s apparent that not only is the the crumbling old mansion haunted but their aunt is most definitely insane. The story is rich in emotion, horror and the imagery is very vivid. You will never see the ending coming. One of the very best and most unique books of 2016.

 

1. TALKING AS FAST AS I CAN by Lauren Graham
lauren-graham-big_0A must read for fans of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood! As a huge fan of Gilmore Girls, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Lauren Graham’s life, her time on the show and her chapter about Someday, Someday, Maybe – the fiction book she wrote a few years ago. Graham is witty, personable and her memoir arrived just in time for the Gilmore Girls Revival. I read it in a couple hours and just like the show, it left me wanting more. My favorite book of 2016 and the best non-fiction autobiography of the year.

 
Honorable Mentions: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – J.K. Rowling, Party of One – Dave Holmes, There Goes My Social Life – Stacy Dash, The Last Star – Rick Yancey, Sorry Not Sorry – Naya Rivera and Settle for More – Megyn Kelly.

I Am a Public Librarian

I Am a Public Librarian

Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of patrons who sit down at the reference desk to ask a question and while I’m searching for the material they have requested, their small talk begins delving in to my personal life.

“Are you in school?”, they’ll ask.
“No – I am out of college and have my Master’s Degree.”
“What’s your degree in?”
“Library Science.”
“You have to have a degree for that??” or “I didn’t even know that was something you went to school for!” are the most common responses I get. Then there are the people who ask me if I’m working at the library while I’m finishing high school or college. (Yes, I still get people who think I’m in high school.)

Nope, this is my chosen career path, person who wants the book with the blue cover but can’t remember the author or title. Believe it or not, this is a professional career, not just something people do who are drifting along with no clear goal of what they’d like to do for the rest of their life.

By now, you may be asking “So what exactly do librarians do?” (Hint: the answer is not “read books all day!”)

For starters, it really depends on the kind of librarian you are that determines your role at the library. My position is an Adult/Teen Services Librarian, so that means I work with adults and teens. Sometimes I fill in at the Children’s Desk when they are short staffed, but I’ve never wanted to be a children’s librarian.

Every day tasks include staffing the adult reference desk where I answer in person, phone, e-mail and chat reference questions. People will ask anything. Trust me on this. Even though the Dewey Decimal System has been in place for 139 years, it still seems to be confusing for people who want sections of books and not subject classification. Sadly, most people don’t understand the difference between fiction and non-fiction either. So while I’m trying to find a book on “How to write a complaint letter to a CEO of a company” or a book by an author (that they can’t remember) who wrote a bunch of novels thirty years ago about all the US states, I’m using very specific search terms called a booleen search to return the best hits on whatever source I’m searching on.

We help a lot of people print, copy and scan and I will admit, that is not my favorite thing to do and it’s probably what I do the most of on a normal day. Our printing system can be confusing and I usually feel like a broken record having to explain exactly what to do all the time but it’s a necessary part of the job.

My job also includes programming, which I love! I bring in outside speakers and presenters and do some programs myself. Librarians are big fans of life-long learning, so any kind of program that opens them up to something new is viewed as a valuable service we offer to the community. Some of my favorite programs that I’ve done over the past 4 years have been our annual Project Prom where we collect used dresses/tuxes then have them at the library for girls and guys in need, the unique craft programs I adapt from Pinterest and our bowmaking program where the man who made the bows for the Hunger Games movie did a demonstration.

We also teach basic computer skills, help people with job applications, resumes, cover letters, setting up e-mail accounts, and help with Microsoft Word and Excel. We even help people transfer photos from their cameras or phones to their laptops and I’ve done several one-on-one sessions just generally helping people learn about their smartphones or tablets.

During tax time, we’re slammed with tax questions – most of which we’re not able to answer but we will help people find the correct form they need and direct them to someone who can help them with their problems. We also make tax appointments for seniors and low income filers who come in to have their taxes done by our AARP volunteers during the months of February – April.

And the courthouse is constantly sending people over to get forms from our Legal Forms database. Of course they never tell them what for they need, so we usually have to help them figure that out when they get here, but basically the library is the place all other government agencies send people when they don’t have the resources to help them.

There are lots of internal duties too that don’t necessarily involve the public but when completed, make the library better for our users. We’re constantly serving on committees and task forces that determine what new services we can offer our community. Did you know that you can go to your library and take free, online courses on a variety of subjects ranging from learning a new language to medical coding and terminology? And many of those courses count for credits needed for re-certification. Our task forces have also selected ebook vendors, streaming music/video providers and our chat reference module which allows people to ask questions from home via text or instant messaging.

We make homebound deliveries to people who are ill or elderly and aren’t able to leave the house to come to the library. My department visits a nursing home each month and reads to the residents for an hour each time.

Sometimes we even take our programs on the road and do crafts, story times or computer classes for Girl Scout Groups, active adult centers and nursing homes. Book discussions are regularly held at the juvenile detention center and we’re exploring working with the jail to extend outreach services to them.

Dealing with the public can be challenging – I’ve been yelled at more times than I can count and usually for things that I have no control over. And as a younger female, I also have to deal with creepers who think it’s funny to make inappropriate comments to me or repeatedly look at pornography on the public computers.

I could keep going, but I think you’ve got the idea by now: librarians do so much more than just read books! We are professionally trained by an accredited program to help YOU do more than just use Google. We come from all different backgrounds and experiences but have one common goal: improve the quality of life for everyone, promote lifelong learning and give people access to a wide variety of services and information.

So the next time you hear someone say that no one reads anymore or libraries are becoming obsolete, you’ve been given the knowledge to empower them on what we really do! Libraries and librarians are so important and I hope I’ve been able to give you a tiny glimpse into just how valuable of a resource they can be.