Saturday, April 30, 2022

My First Library Card (Holly Schindler)

It was a piece of brown cardstock. 

I can still remember being in the Kickapoo Prairie Branch, waiting at the front counter, that unmistakable summer library smell--air conditioning and pages and sunscreen on all the kids--filling my nose as the librarian typed my name on the top line. 

With that brown piece of cardstock, I checked out stacks and stacks of picture books. I checked out my very first chapter book--one I had to put a bookmark in! I read about animals of the jungle. I solved mysteries. I had adventures. I vicariously went through the joys and pangs of romance for the first time. 

I read--and read--and read. Stacks and armloads. Every summer. I participated in every summer reading program, dutifully adding stickers to my folder to keep track of every single completed book. I won prizes for most books read. 

When the Kickapoo Prairie Branch was renovated, I used my brown cardstock to check books out from the bookmobile, that sweltering vehicle with such limited space--and somehow, books upon books I hadn't yet read. 

I came back during the school year, plunking myself down in the non-fiction section to gather materials for research papers.

I went from a tiny thing in pigtails to a high schooler looking for materials on college scholarships. 

I don't have that brown cardstock anymore. It was long ago replaced by a more modern library card. 

I mean, it was just a piece of brown cardstock. 

And yet, it was a ticket to so much more. 


Holly Schindler is the author of books for readers of all ages. Her award-winning debut YA, A Blue So Dark, has recently been re-released and is available where books are sold.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Wo sie Bücher verbrennen, verbrennen sie letztlich auch Menschen. (Brian Katcher)



My google alerts have really been blowing up the past couple of months. My second book, Almost Perfect, has been challenged in five states. But let's be honest, it's mostly Florida. Citizen committees have taken it upon themselves to challenge dozens of books in school libraries. Along with mine, they're wanting to pull books by Toni Morrison, David Levithan, Maia Kobabe, and other luminaries. And I can't help but ask...why my book?

In case you haven't read it, Almost Perfect is a 2009 book about a heterosexual boy who falls for the new girl in his school, only to discover that she is transgender. It won the 2011 Stonewall Book Award, the first in the children's/YA literature category. 

But this book is old. There have been much more recent, much more graphic, and much better books about transgender people out there. And, despite the title, the book isn't perfect. There's a lot I'd change. So why is it in the censors' crosshairs?

I think it comes down to the fact that people who want to ban books, never actually get around to reading them. I'm guessing they just google 'LGBTQ YA books' and because my book is older, it shows up more often. And out with the torches.

I was recently on a panel about book banning with Maia Kobabe, author of Gender Queer, the most challenged book of recent time. And it got me thinking. What would I do, as a librarian, if the censors came to my library?

I mean, granted, I'm a K-2 librarian, so everything in my collection is pretty vanilla. But what if I worked in a middle or high school? What if the school board ordered me to purge the collection? Would I do it?

 It's easy to say I'd gladly fight for intellectual freedom, even at the expense of my job. But...would I? Getting fired as a teacher pretty much guarantees you'll never be rehired anywhere else. I'd lose my pension, my medical insurance, and more than half our household income. It would be easy just to say that my hands are tied, and the books would come off the shelf anyway, whether my own hand or someone else's. 

But that's how the culture wars are lost. In the end, I don't know how brave I'd actually be.

Also, a big thanks to the Florida Tea Party, whose hatred of my book has really jacked up sales. Let me know if you'd like me to do come to one of your book burnings. I can get you copies at bulk rate.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Danger in the Sacred Grove: A Library Love Story by Dean Gloster

             I was born in Reno, Nevada, and spent a huge part of my youth in the amazing, slightly disturbing, and thoroughly weird Washoe County Library. I loved that library. Floors and floors of bookshelves lined both sides of a huge atrium, with large circular reading areas each held up by single columns and surrounded by plants. It was as if the architect had been told, “Build an amazing library, but make sure it’s also the perfect location for a light-saber duel, a decade from now, when Star Wars comes out. In a rainforest. But with good lighting.” Check. 

            The circular reading areas, little islands that rose several stories, would wobble when children tromped up or down the stairways that connected them to the shelving floor above or below. So while what you were read had transported you to Oz, or Mars, or Middle Earth, you’d also be literally shaken up every few minutes and get to experience a mini earthquake.

             To me, it was heaven. And, while libraries are places of safety, it was also a place with the appropriate frisson of adventure. A place of knowledge and ideas. Those are dangerous, because they can change you. They can expand you.

            It felt like a sacred, exciting grove dedicated to helping us grow. 

            I think about that sometimes, especially now that libraries and books and schools are under attack by the rising tide of right-wing authoritarianism in America.

            Books are being banned. Librarians and teachers are being fired. Librarians are being threatened with criminal prosecution for the books in their libraries. The attacks are often against books that: (1) Simply portray the existence of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer people. (2) Accurately describe the history of slavery and racism in this country or their effects today. (3) Were authored by women, people of color, or LGBTQ+ authors.

            In just 4 days this month:

·       Florida banned 41% of all school math textbooks as containing elements of “CRT” “social-emotional learning” or other prohibited topics. In grades K-5, Florida banned 71% of math textbooks, leaving only one publisher, Accelerate Learning. Coincidentally, that publisher is owned by the private equity fund of which Virginia’s GOP Governor Glenn Youngkin used to be CEO. (Virginia is seeking a similar ban.)

·       Kentucky passed a law giving single local partisan politicians control over libraries starting in 2023. Judge Elects, who are not librarians, will have control over libraries and can close the libraries and sell the buildings to other educational institutions, including private, for-profit and religious schools.

·       After prohibiting state university faculty from testifying about the discriminatory impact of redistricting, Florida eliminated tenure for all Florida state university professors, to “prevent educators from bringing their political views into the classroom” that are not “in line with the state’s priorities.” The new law requires tenured faculty to be re-reviewed every five years by the state-appointed Board of Trustees, which can now fire professors without cause.

·       Florida’s Governor DeSantis, angry about the mild criticism by the state’s largest employer, The Walt Disney Company, of his new “don’t say gay” law prohibiting discussion in primary schools of the existence of LGBTQ people, signed a bill revoking Disney’s self-governing district, saddling each family in the Orlando area with $2200 of bond debt to be repaid.

·       In a tacit acknowledgement that its new “don’t say gay” law was devastating to the mental health of its LGBTQ+ kids and kids from LGBTQ+ families, Florida quietly withdrew from further participation in a 31-year-old CDC study on student depression, suicide, sexuality, and sexual identity.

·       Walton County, Florida, banned 58 books from its libraries, including the picture book Everywhere Babies because two of the pictures in its 32 pages could be interpreted to imply that there are same sex couples among the parents. The complete list:

Sheriff Eric Flowers of Indian River County, Florida, sent a threatening letter to the county school board, announcing that while he wasn’t able to prosecute them or their librarians for pornography or obscenity in connection with complained-about titles in school libraries, they should remove all objectionable materials from the library anyway: “we do not think it…appropriate” for children to have access to the books.


            None of this is okay. It’s horrific and particularly cruel after four years of the daily authoritarian chaos of the Trump administration and two years of pandemic living, which have stressed our mental health and pushed schoolteachers, librarians, and students to their limits.

            But cruelty is the point. So far this year, 238 bills to limit the rights of LGBTQ people have been introduced in 26 states, an average of three a day. It’s part of a broader trend of rising authoritarianism and othering that aims to make the U.S. more like Putin’s Russia, where gay pride parades are banned with criminal penalties, on the false premise that merely acknowledging the existence of gay people is the equivalent of soliciting minors.

            I hope, and believe, this effort to deny reality and to impose censorship, silence, and ignorance will ultimately fail, but not until it instills fear and does its best to damage learning institutions and careers.

            It’s not popular even with most Republican voters. A recent poll found that a majority of Republicans favor teaching all aspects of American history—including the legacy of slavery and racism and how this legacy affects our laws, institutions, and society even today. Younger, GenZ/Millennial Republican voters, favored this the margin of 59-28%.

            And it’s not going to work in imposing a permanent barrier to knowledge. In response to book banning elsewhere, the Brooklyn Public Library has announced its “Books Unbanned Initiative”—that anyone aged 13-21, anywhere in the U.S., can get a free digital library card giving access to the library’s entire digital collection. No parental permission is required.  

            Because we need more information about a lot of things, not less. For all my countless hours of exploration of the Washoe County Library when I was young, there are lots of books on topics available today that I’d never heard of back then—wonderful, well-written books about history and reality and possibility.


            You know, the things one should encounter in a sacred grove of learning—a library designed to help us grow.

 P.S. It's my birthday today! Celebrate by reading a book. 

Dean Gloster is a former stand-up comedian and a former law clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court. His debut YA novel DESSERT FIRST is out from Merit Press/Simon Pulse. School Library Journal called it “a sweet, sorrowful, and simply divine debut novel that teens will be sinking their teeth into. This wonderful story…will be a hit with fans of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars and Jesse Andrews's Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.” His YA short story “Death’s Adopted Daughter” is about to come out in the anthology Spoon Knife 6: Rest Stop from Autonomous Press. He hopes some day to write a book inclusive, open-hearted, kind, accurate, and thoughtful enough to be banned in Texas and Florida.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

When Your Critique Partner is Also a Librarian -- Jen Doktorski

As an author, I owe so much to my generous, talented critique partners, who always push me to be a better writer, and to the librarians, who’ve invited me to do writing workshops, panel discussions, and book signings and often have hand in making sure my books are turned cover-side-out on the shelves.

How lucky am I to have a critique partner who is also a youth services librarian, a published author of short stories, and an aspiring author of middle grade fiction? Very. She also has mad art skills, creating library displays out of everything from Peeps to Post-It Notes.

Since we’re celebrating all things library this month, I asked her if she’d be willing to a do a short Q&A here on YAOTL. She’s also doing me a solid by helping me ease back into blogging and the KidLit world after an extended hiatus.

Meet Becky Osowski.

After earning her M.L.I.S. from Rutgers University, Becky became a Youth Services Librarian at the Monroe Township Public Library. She is in charge of juvenile Technical Services and coordinates with the local school district and other outreach partners. She is the recipient of a Talk Story Grant, has headed multiple teen volunteering programs, and is currently the Secretary/Treasurer of the New Jersey Library Association's Children's Services Section. She is also an avid middle grade and YA reader.  

Tell us about your path as a reader and writer and what led you to pursue a career as a librarian.


My earliest memories include my mother reading to me. She instilled my passion for books and brought me to the local library, encouraging me to read whatever I wanted—even if it was Stephen King when I was 12 years old.


After being a library volunteer, I was offered a job as a Page, which led to becoming a Youth Services Assistant. Getting my MLIS was a natural next step as I was already instructing a weekly craft hour for kids and recommending titles that clicked for each kid. I simply love the everyday magic of connecting a reader with the right book.

 How do librarians/libraries decide which books to keep on the shelves? (Before we met, I had no clue that some books were taken out of circulation.)


This is a GREAT question. I’m sure it differs from library to library, but where I’m working, it’s a numbers game.


If one book has gone out 40 times in the past five years, and the other has only gone out 5 times, guess which one’s on the chopping block?


Since each library has limited space, it’s survival of the fittest on the shelves. Books with more check-outs stay. Books with less check-outs may get discarded.


This is where it might be handy to have a librarian on your side to champion your work. Librarians are in charge of curating displays, but we’re human. We’re biased. If we love your book, we’re more likely to share it with our patrons by putting it on display. Which equals more check-outs.   

What are some of your most requested titles and/or genres? i.e. What are kids and teens reading these days? Is there anything that surprises you?

For teens, I’ve seen an uptick in books that address contemporary social issues. Also thriller and mystery titles. Middle Graders are asking for light fiction, graphic novels, or something that blends pictures and text, similar to Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

Libraries have evolved to become so much more than a place where you can borrow books and seek out information. My library, like many, offers free museum passes, a recording studio, and everything from sewing machines to drones that can be check-out. What are some of the programs your library offers kids and teens?


Programming is near and dear to my heart, since offers a chance for kids—and grown ups!—to experience the library as a place not only of learning but of fun.


Seasonal programming which celebrates everything from Unicorn Day to Diwali, from Palentine’s to Thanksgiving, is a staple right alongside the good old fashioned storytime. But libraries offer so much more!


My library has partnered with the California Academy of Sciences’ Science Action Club, which was an amazing opportunity. Over two months together, the kids, my co-workers, and I become citizen scientists, trained to share our observations of insects, birds, and weather patterns. I particularly loved running SAC, because it got us outside and looking more closely at the natural world.


Other regular programs for kids and teens have explored varied topics such as creative writing, 3D Printing, calligraphy, yoga, sewing, cooking, coding, anime, learning a new name it, chances are a library has done it. 


Larger family events have included a Car Show, Solar Eclipse Viewing, Makerfest, an after-hours Haunted Library for Halloween, Magic and Puppet Shows, and Pop-Up Shops, just to name a few. We’re looking forward to hosting a weekly Farmer’s Market this summer.

Certain libraries and books have come under fire recently in states and municipalities that believe it’s the government’s job to tell kids what they can and cannot read. Any thoughts on censorship and how has your library been impacted, if at all?


My thoughts align with the American Library Association’s statement on censorship, in that banning or removing books infringes on the First Amendment right of free speech. If certain titles are censored, banned, or removed, then how can a constructive dialogue take place? Being exposed to different points of view and ideas promotes not only critical thinking, but empathy, which we could certainly use a little more of.  

Jennifer Salvato Doktorski is the author of four young adult novels. Her first paid writing gig was at The North Jersey Herald & News, where she wrote obituaries and began her lifelong love of news and coffee. A proud Jersey girl, she lives with her family in New Jersey and spends summers "down the shore," where everything is always all right.

Visit her at or on Twitter @jdoktorski and Instagram @authorjendoktorski.

Monday, April 25, 2022

In Support of Libraries

Top 12 reasons for why I support libraries:

1.   As a child, libraries offered me a sense of independence. I still remember getting my first library card. I remember checking out my first books and listening to my first books-on-cassette tape (while sitting on my favorite beanbag chair in the library). 

2.  Librarians are some of the most wonderful people. As a kid, they got to know my name. They read me stories, made me feel welcome, and picked out books they thought I may have liked. I got to take home books without paying for them (which would have been too expensive).


3.     Libraries promote literacy, diversity, and intellectual freedom. They support authors, community members, and readers.


4.     Librarians taught me how to research – to really research, performing deep archival dives. They were invaluable resources when working on term papers in middle school, high school, and college.   


5.     Libraries provide free access to workshops, classes, and other learning opportunities for community members, all of which support and encourage education, perspective, collaborative learning, and critical thinking.


6.     Libraries provide internet and computer access to community members who might not otherwise have access at home.


7.     As a kid, my library provided a safe place to go, where I didn’t have to be alone, when no one was home.


8.     Libraries sell used books. :)


9.     Libraries provide space for reading, writing, studying, meeting, gathering.


10.  Libraries store historical documents and archives, especially those related to local history and community. 


11.  Libraries provide educational and programming support for parents, caregivers, and children, as well as to the elderly population, and to those who are unemployed and seeking employment. As a new mom, I was able to develop a new love of libraries. 


12.  Libraries work in collaboration with other entities in a community, furthering educational and programming missions and goals.



I obviously love and support libraries and always have. Here are some additional links to convince you of their value and worth (if you need convincing):



Sunday, April 24, 2022

Your Local Library: More Than Just Books! (Brenda Hiatt)

I was all set to launch into the importance of libraries as bastions of free speech, but Patty Blount expressed that point far better than I can probably manage. Still, I don’t think it’s possible to overemphasize that point, particularly with so many libraries and books currently under attack. Politicians, and groups whipped into self-righteous frenzies by them, seem to be on a rampage these days, working to ban books right and left—not just in classrooms, but in both school and public libraries. I see this as an assault on writers’ very reason for being, and something we need to fight on every possible front. 

That said, I’m embarrassed to admit that after living in my current town for more than two years, I only recently joined my local public library…and that only because a visiting friend wanted me to help her check out a canoe. (Yes, they actually do that! Though the canoes themselves are located at a nearby lake.) Like too many of us, writers included, I’d become overly dependent on the internet in recent years, almost forgetting how valuable—and soul-filling—libraries can be. 

Once upon a time, I spent countless happy hours in libraries—first as a child hungering to read more books than I could convince my parents to buy for me, later as a student doing research, and still later as a volunteer and parent of students who made good use of libraries in their turn. When I began writing historical romance, I made heavy use of InterLibrary Loan for access to obscure research books. Back then, when the internet was new, there were
very few online sources for historical research, so without my local library (and ILL) I’d have been lost. Not to mention the hours I spent poring over microfiche of newspapers from the early 1800s. 

Eventually, Google searches began returning more and more useful historical tidbits for my use, making the library less essential for book research. My children finished school and moved away, and then I also moved away from my familiar local library. Somewhere along the way, I almost forgot how special libraries can be. Now, I’m experiencing a sort of personal library-Renaissance as I rediscover all that my new-to-me local library has to offer along with books…and canoes. 


How long has it been since you visited your local library? They need our support now more than ever, so I encourage you to stop in, explore, even volunteer if possible. And never stop reading!


Brenda Hiatt is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the award-winning Starstruck series.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

 Ode to the Sioux Falls Public Library

Or How Public Libraries Saved Me from a Life of Crime


By Christine Gunderson


            The day I graduated from college, I got a phone call offering me a full time job as a television reporter at an ABC affiliate in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. 

            I was so grateful to have a real, on-air television job that I failed to ask how much they planned to pay me. I do not recommend this as a negotiating tactic. I eventually learned I'd make $14,500 dollars a year. I was ecstatic, as only a person who doesn't really understand numbers could be. 

            Prior to this, my experience with a salary consisted of the minimum wage paychecks I'd earned in part-time and summer jobs as a nurses aid, a waitress, and a purveyor of denim at The County Seat. Compared to $4.25 an hour, $14,500 dollars sounded rich. Posh. Extravagant, even.

            And I suppose it might have been an extravagant salary if I hadn't needed things like shelter, food and semi-presentable clothes to wear on television. Oh, and student loans. The people who made the job possible by funding my education now expected a cut of my salary. So did those FICA people, for reasons I could not understand, because surely I would be 22 forever and never need something like Social Security.

            But the pleasure of the job compensated for the salary.  I would have paid them to let me work in a newsroom. Fortunately, they didn't know how much I loved my adrenaline junkie co-workers, the squawking police scanners, the empty pizza boxes, the rush of being on live television, and the deep satisfaction that comes from writing and delivering a solid story. I'd finally found a world where the skills you needed to succeed were the limited but specific skills I actually had. 

            Best of all, the job ended when the newscast ended. You reported your story, went home and the assignment editor wiped the big board clean. You came to work the next morning and started something new. That's the great thing about news. It's new, every day. 

            And so I finally had time to read again. No homework to do. No papers to write. Just hours and hours to read whatever I wanted for the first time in years.

            But in a terrible and ironic twist of fate, even though I finally had time to read books, I had absolutely no money to buy books. And this, my friends, is where our blog topic for April (finally) appears. 

            Some long dormant, book-seeking instinct led me to the Sioux Falls Public Library. An astute librarian recommended the Clan of the Cave Bear books and I devoured each one. Another introduced me to audio books and I listened to I, Claudius while driving across South Dakota. To this day, Roman emperors and the Mitchell Corn Palace are inextricably linked in my mind.

            Without the Sioux Falls Public Library to support my insatiable reading habit, I might have started robbing trains, rustling cattle or selling Laura Ingalls Wilder artifacts on the dark web as part of an international crime syndicate.

            But I did not turn to a life of crime because the library gave me books when I was young and broke and needed them most.

            Fast forward a few years, and I'm still going to the library, but now I go because it's a great place to write. The Martha Washington Library here in Alexandra, Virginia has a glass enclosed nook on the first floor surrounded by trees. You feel like you're outside, but without the mosquitos. In the days before Covid, I sat for hours in the silence and serenity of this space, happily typing books for other people to read. 

            And I hope to do so again, because if I weren't writing, I'd be helicopter parenting my children, yelling at Vladimir Putin (who can't hear me), having imaginary conversations with people I don't like inside my head, and possibly even exercising.

            Years later, my local library is still keeping me out of trouble. 



            Christine Gunderson is a former television anchor/reporter and former House and Senate aide who lives outside of Washington, D.C. with her husband, children and Star, the Wonder Dog. When not writing, she’s sailing, playing Star Wars trivia, re-reading Persuasion, or unloading the dishwasher. 





Friday, April 22, 2022

This is the Hill I'll Die On by Patty Blount

 It's National Library MONTH here on the ol' blog. That's right. The rest of the world gives libraries a stingy week, but we're honoring libraries the whole month of April. 

That seems fitting given the way books and libraries are coming under attack these days. 

Libraries are safe havens where everyone can go to pursue learning, to read books they might otherwise not have access to, to research projects that matter to them. Libraries serve as community hubs, helping newcomers get acclimated to their new home towns, maybe learn the language, discover resources that are available. Libraries connect us. 

But libraries are scary places to some people -- they blame books and the libraries that circulate them for  *clutches pearls* indoctrinating impressionable young minds into *gasp*...

....thinking for themselves.

*recovers from attack of vapors*

When I was an itty bitty Patty, the library was my first classroom. I learned magic lives between the covers of books. For children with vivid imaginations (like me!), the library opened up worlds with no limits. For children afraid of damn near everything (also me!), the library taught me that what's fearful is the unknown and by coming to know it through the safety of books, fear could be overcome. 

One of the very first books I read was called KAREN, a biography of a young girl named Karen, living with cerebral palsy. It was a big door-stop of a book and well beyond my age at the time, but my mother helped me with the big words. 

It was the first time a book's happy ending did NOT turn out perfect and that, I realized, made it somehow happier. 

I discovered Judy Blume at my library when I wasn't even in my teens yet. 

[Brief aside: I adore Judy Blume and she is the reason I published under my real name. I get to share shelf space with my favorite author!]

Judy's novel, DEENIE, was about a beautiful girl whose scoliosis diagnosis derails her dreams of modeling -- oops, HER MOTHER'S dream, I should say. Barely two months after reading this book, I learned I also have scoliosis. As I asked the pediatrician about surgery, exercises, and a back brace, his eyes practically fell out of his face. He asked my mother if I was a savant. 

My mother said, "No. She has a library card." 

See?? The library saved me from weeks of anxiety over a spinal condition that might have been terrifying had I not first read all about it. 

When I was in high school, I suffered through heart-breaking loneliness when friends broke off into cliques. I spent every free period I had in the school's sunny two-story library, reading in a corner until the bell rang. 

Now that I'm an adult still living (at least part time) in a teen world, it breaks my heart to see books being banned and librarians under attack for defending them. In a country that boasts of LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL, how sad that so many of its citizens do not grasp how fascist it is to deny people the right to choose their own literature and how utterly subversive it is to hold librarians accountable for not removing offensive titles from circulation. 

Some years ago, I had a conversation with a coworker about the 50 Shades of Grey series. Not a reader herself, this colleague mentioned her daughter just bought the book and she'd wondered if I'd read it. I had read it, back when it was still called Master of the Universe and posted on a Twilight Fan Fiction site. 

I asked her how old her daughter was and whether she knew if she was sexually active or in a relationship. My friend laughed nervously and said, "Of course not! She's only fifteen."

I told her outright I would NOT let my fifteen-year-old daughter read EL James' books at this time and here's why: 

  • The books exalt problematic behavior such as stalking, manipulation, abuse, control
  • The books put an unhealthy emphasis on wealth and all that it makes possible
  • The books don't even fairly represent BDSM
  • The books treat virginity is a "problem"
  • The books present a woman as "savior" for a broken man and that is DEFINITELY not something a fifteen-year-old should be thinking about
  • The books romanticize child abuse, drug addiction, and sexual abuse

Absolutely not. 

Parents have the right to control and manage their children's reading material but that right does not extend to my children or to your neighbor's children. Reading these novels could provide great lessons in recognizing toxic relationship warning signs and what NOT to condone or accept in real-life relationships. Reading such novels together could even provide positive experiences for parent and teen (once you overcome your laughter). 

GONE, GIRL is another problematic novel and again, I would not remove it from libraries. 

People are screaming to ban THE HATE U GIVE, THE KITE RUNNER, SPEAK --even my own SOMEONE I USED TO KNOW was banned in a Florida school district. 

Some parents object to profanity while others are fine with that, but may object to violence. Still others may not agree with the stance a character takes. (In my adult romance, THE PARAMEDIC'S RESCUE, reviewers actually gave it one star because of the child-rearing advice one character gives to another!)

My point is that parents truly concerned about the content of books need to read those books themselves before they demand titles be removed from circulation. If more people did that, I assure you the furor over critical race theory would end because critical race theory has never been taught in public schools. 

And...unless you also plan to ban that iPhone I'm sure your twelve-year-old has, your book-banning efforts are entirely wasted. With that iPhone, your child can access all manner of objectionable material including porno videos. All you're doing is guaranteeing that your child will find that problematic book and read it behind your back. 

So stop blaming libraries for making books available. That's their job. It's parents' jobs to do the policing of the content. 

And while you're at it, give Sachem Public Library a shout out from me. I spend quite a lot of time there and the librarians help me with my novel research. 

What, you thought we authors just use the internet? 


The internet is great for basic research. But when it really matters, you need a good librarian to help you separate the wheat from the chaff. You need to find reputable sources, not Wikipedia. Personally, I find I also need help just phrasing the query correctly to yield desired results. The librarians at SPL have helped me with every book I've written to date, most recently, helping me with Dewey Decimal codes for a character who is a librarian herself and likes to categorize her entire life in Dewey. 

I urge everyone to think of libraries as more than book collections. Libraries serve a crucial role in our communities. Our libraries are our most valuable resource. On this hill, I will die. Prove me wrong. I'll wait. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Both Sides Now-Library Loving Librarian


John Clark on Library Love. I grew up in a small Maine town where the library was open for a few hours on Friday afternoon. Sister Kate and I burned through age appropriate books very quickly. She became the librarian’s assistant and started on adult fiction very quickly, while I went toward science fiction and fantasy.

Fast forward to my thirties when I returned to avid reading, this time mysteries. I loved Tony Hillerman, James Lee Burke, John D. MacDonald, Ross MacDonald and Robert Parker. When the librarian at the Augusta Mental Health Institute retired, I made a rash offer to the assistant superintendent: “Let me take over the library and I’ll revamp and modernize it. Little did I know it was the smartest move I could have made.

I was smart enough to know what I didn’t know (the librarian’s best tool) and reached out for help. People in both the medical and public library sectors in Maine took me under their wing and I was off. When the University of South Carolina offered their MLIS program onsite in Maine, I signed up.

As a medical librarian I learned some valuable skills that also translated to my career later on as a public librarian. Listen carefully and keep asking questions until your patron tells you what they really want. Don’t waste their time. Remember who liked books by a particular author and buy the next one so you can hold it up the next time they come to the library. Let patrons talk and listen respectfully because libraries are one of the few places where someone can go and talk without having to reach for their wallet. In fact, given the opportunity, patrons will tell a librarian stuff they won’t tell their minister, doctor, lawyer, or spouse. (Great fodder for use in fiction when you’re an author.)


My career went from the mental health library field to managing the Boothbay Harbor Memorial Library, serving as a software systems specialist at the Maine State Library (managing Innovative Interfaces products in close to 100 Maine libraries), to being the entire staff at the Hartland Public Library.


When I worked in the public library sector, I loved discovering new authors whose books I felt would appeal to certain patrons. In Hartland, I used my love of young adult books to build a terrific collection and the best part of that was the amazing conversations I had with my teen patrons. There’s nothing like the look you get from a young adult when you check out a book and tell them you read it the month before.

After I retired, we moved to Waterville where even during COVID, I could go online and request books, then pick them up in the library lobby. I can even place holds on YA books while they’re still being processed by the cataloging staff an any of a hundred Maine libraries. I have a TBA list that runs 40 pages. I’ll never get to them all, but it will be fun trying.

Maine is a big state, but has one of the best library systems in terms of cooperation, resource sharing and creativity. We also have a great collection of online databases funded by the Maine State Library and the University system, as well as a statewide interlibrary delivery service subsidized by taxpayers. Want creative? You can borrow pruning poles here in Waterville to help cut down Browntail moth nests, other libraries loan telescopes, ice skates and fishing gear.

Another giveback I do is sharing book reviews of outstanding YA fiction on the Maine Library listserv that has more than 1500 subscribers.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

 Yay for Libraries and Librarians! by Allie Burton

I tossed the other way and rolled off the edge. A second of weightlessness had my insides tightening and disbelief dazzling my sight. There was nothing sturdy beneath me. My knuckles whitened and I repositioned my hands on the precipice. I struggled to pull myself back on the floating rock. My muscles tightened and strained. Sweat formed on my upper lip. The precipice crumbled beneath my fingers. The icy crag splintered and blasted into pieces. I dropped into the abyss.

And I turned the page.

The shelves of the library surrounded me again. I wasn’t hanging from a precipice about to fall to my death. I was in the library with tons of other books filled with adventures.

Libraries have been an important part of my life. In libraries I find escape from the real world, adventures, and romance. I read about real places I wanted to travel. I studied and researched projects for school, and now research my own books.

I understand the impact of libraries and librarians because I volunteered in a school library. I loved talking to the kids to find out their interests and then recommending books that they might enjoy. Most of the fiction books I’d read myself. Or speaking with a child who wasn’t a big reader and steering them to a series they might fall in love with. Or reading to the younger children whose small faces show excitement at a hungry caterpillar. Librarians do all that and more.

Librarians have a wealth of knowledge and are there to help you. So ask a question, get a recommendation, request assistance with research. The more you use libraries, the more likely they’ll get the budgets and be part of your community for a long time to come.

It’s the reason YA Outside the Lines turned National Library Week (April 3-9) into Library Month. Because libraries and librarians deserve a full month of love.

Monday, April 11, 2022

The Lure of the Library: More than a Place on the Map | Sara Biren

It should come as no surprise that, like most writers, I love libraries. To this day, I get a small thrill walking through the doors of libraries, both familiar and new to me. There's something about the sense of possibility, the endless worlds, the anticipation of new lands, new stories, and new friends. 

I especially love old libraries with creaking floorboards, narrow staircases, dusty books, possibly a ghost or two. I can’t help but think of the people who have passed through the rooms, browsed the shelves, learned something new, or gotten lost in a story. 

Throughout my life, when I’ve moved to a new city, one of the first places I go is the local library. I love exploring the building, finding my favorite books, discovering something unique or special about its history. The main branch of the public library in Duluth, Minnesota, for example, is shaped like an ore boat. Then-Senator Walter Mondale attended the dedication of the current St. Louis Park, Minnesota library in 1968.

And I immediately fell in love when I first stepped into the library in my new city–Manitowoc, Wisconsin–and saw a TARDIS. 

Carnegie Libraries

In Mankato, Minnesota, where I attended graduate school, the children’s section of the Blue Earth County Library features an oil painting mural of scenes from my favorite childhood books, the Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace, who grew up there at the turn of the twentieth century. In the books, Betsy longs to be a writer and spends a great deal of time at the library. The original Public Library and Reading Room, the “new Carnegie library” mentioned in the books (set in a fictional Mankato known as Deep Valley), now the Carnegie Art Center, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. (Learn more about Betsy Ray of the Betsy-Tacy series in a recent YAOTL blog post by Christine Gunderson, Betsy Ray–Feminist Icon.)

Ever since living in “Deep Valley,” I find myself seeking out Carnegie libraries while exploring new places, libraries built between 1883 and 1929 with money donated by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. More than 2,500 libraries were built, close to 1,700 of them in the United States. I've only seen a handful. 

Carnegie Library in Two Harbors, Minnesota

I've visited a lot of cool libraries in my travels, including a few listed here. 
  • The Reading Room at the British Museum
  • The Sturgis Library on Cape Cod, the oldest building to house a library in the US (constructed in 1644)
  • Concord Free Public Library, Concord, Massachusetts
  • Historic Hamel Library, Hamel, Minnesota

Betsy-Tacy books at the Historic Hamel Library

Library Bucket List

Someday soon, I hope to start traveling regularly again. Some of the places on my Library Bucket List include:

  • Central Library, Milwaukee, WI
  • The New York Public Library
  • Library of Congress, Washington, DC
  • Trinity College Library, Dublin
  • Belle’s Library at the Beast’s castle
  • San Francisco Public Library
  • Los Angeles Public Library (and actually go inside this time)

What are some of your favorite libraries? Are there any amazing libraries I should add to my bucket list? What libraries would you love to visit? Let us know in the comments.