Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Wannabe Librarian

One of my favorite things--right up there with homemade cookies and finding an unexpected five dollar bill in my pocket*--is people asking me for book suggestions.

Recently I was on hall duty with a U.S. History teacher, and she said, "Hey, I wanted to ask you--we want to bring in some fiction for our westward expansion unit later in the spring, and I hoped you might have some titles to suggest." Did I ever. I'm not good at thinking of them off the top of my head, but it only took me a quick cross referencing of my "historical fiction" and my "recommended for middle schoolers" bookshelves on Goodreads to come up with a fine list for her team.

Just before Christmas I got a text from my sister.  "What graphic novels would you recommend for a sixteen year old who likes Percy Jackson type books?"  To me, sixteen is old enough to read any damn thing you want, but I didn't want to risk her offending her brother- and sister-in-law, the parents of the kid in question, so I annotated it as to which ones might include nekked people. (Even for myself, I find the visuals of nudity to be more startling than the narration of it.)

And then there are the pleas on Facebook book communities of various types.  An elementary school teacher writes, "What books do you recommend for a 4th grader reading at an 8th grade level who is definitely not ready for more mature themes?" A younger reader says, "Are there any books with African American characters but the books are just about people, not the Civil Rights movement?"

I type a few ideas, then a few more, then come back five minutes later with a second and longer comment.

If I were independently wealthy, I'd volunteer at a bookstore or library and just offer title suggestions to people all day long. I often dream about adding a librarian certification to my teaching license, but my state requires practicums at two levels (middle and high school), and it's awfully hard to swing "student teaching" when you already teach full time. Also, school library jobs have been decimated in the past 15 years. So for now, I'll have to be content with creating lists for the occasional person who brightens my day by asking.

Do people ask you for book recommendations? Are you good at thinking of them off the cuff, or do you have to do research and get back to them too? Would you be a librarian if you could? If you are a librarian, tell me something about your job that drives you nuts, so I won't be as envious.

*I originally had this as "finding a five dollar bill in your pocket," but I realized it made me sound like the Artful Dodger that way.

Linking up with Nicole and Shannon's Discussion Challenge.

Era of Westward Expansion MG/YA Fiction
Walk on Earth a Stranger
One Came Back
Vengeance Road
May B.
Salt: The Story of Friendship in a Time of War
Under a Painted Sky
The Jump-Off Creek
A Heart for Any Fate
Donner Dinner Party
Mr. Tucket
Our Only May Amelia
Carver: A Life in Poems

It bothers me that this list is so Eurocentric. Even letting go of the pioneer classics of my youth with their racist tropes, this is still a collection of books mostly about white people written almost entirely by white people.  I would love any suggestions of books about westward expansion from a Native, black, or Latino point of view, especially if its #ownvoices.

YA Graphic Novels
Saga (some adult stuff)
Paper GIrls

adaptations I recommend:
Kindred (some adult stuff)
The Graveyard Book
Anne of Green Gables, although I didn't suggest this one for my sister's nephew

currently popular comic collections:
The Walking Dead
Archie (Riverdale reboot)

Lighter Middle Grade Authors for Precocious Elementary School Readers
Gordan Korman
Sharon M. Draper
Jennifer Nielsen
Rick Riordan
Jennifer L. Holm
Christopher Paul Curtis
Donna Gephart
Alex Gino
Gary Paulsen
Kwame Alexander: The Crossover, Booked
W. Bruce Cameron's young readers' editions
Jason Reynolds: Ghost, Patina, Miles Morales
Margaret Peterson Haddix's sci fi series

Louisa May Alcott
Lucy Maud Montgomery
Lloyd Alexander

African American authors and POV characters-not slavery or Civil Rights setting

Sharon M. Draper
Kwame Alexander
Jason Reynolds
Christopher Paul Curtis
Stephanie Kuehn
Tiffany D. Jackson
Renée Watson
Ashley Bryan
Nicola Yoon
Angie Thomas
Nic Stone
Nikki Grimess
Marilyn Nelson
Walter Dean Myers
Kekla Magoon

Walter Mosley
Toni Morrison
Octavia Butler
Colson Whitehead
Trevor Noah
Chimamanda Adichie Ngozie


  1. I am a librarian (duh...check out my photo) so I give recommendations all the time. I just took a book to my brother, The Narrow Road to the Deep North. I told him as I tell everyone to not feel compelled to read it. My brother, a huge baseball fan, told that my batting average is pushing a thousand.

  2. I've always wanted to be a librarian too. It just seems like a dream job. That or book store owner. I like giving book recommendations if I know the person very well but I find it frustrating otherwise because many people find out I like to read and just want a generic book recommendation. How am I supposed to do that if I have no idea what they like? They have to give me something to work with.

  3. A book recommendation job sounds wonderful - ooh to be a book angel, wouldn't it be great if you could slip a book into someone's bag, or leave it where they could find it, one you'd specially chosen for them.
    I bet real librarians get fed up with people who complain and those who never return books.

  4. I've debated getting my library certification as well! I'm not pursuing it at this point, but I'm not ruling it out either. If I were to win the lottery, I would probably do something a little more bookish with my time (own a book store or cute cafe, volunteer at a library, pursue that certification). Until then, I'll just keep reading and giving out suggestions!

  5. People do ask me for book recommendations, but it's usually difficult to please them. Often they're asking for reluctant readers or for children reading below grade level, so it can be hard to suggest something they think the child will actually read.

    One thing to keep in mind about library work is that a good deal of it is customer service. I would say that if you work in a store, you have a good idea of what much of the job will entail. Also, many library jobs are part-time and don't pay well, so if you want a job that will give you enough to pay rent, you might have to move. Just something to keep in mind before you pay for degree and take out loans you might have difficulty paying back.

    1. I would just be adding on a library media endorsement to my teaching certificate, but yes, even that would take some time and money, and definitely not guarantee me any kind of job in the field. Oregon has so few school librarians any more.

    2. Yeah, I'm seeing school libraries closed or turned into "media centers." School librarians, if the exist, typically seem to be doing double duty, maybe as the computer teacher. In which case they tend to emphasize tech and forget about books. I find it sad. I know schools think tech is the future and we need "21st century skills" and so forth, but reading isn't going away and reading for pleasure is associated with school success. It all seems very short-sighted. :(

      I just realized that both my comments seem pretty bleak, but I think the reality in the U.S. right now is that funding isn't necessarily going to libraries or to school libraries. Most public librarians I know work more than one job if they're not being supported by a spouse and I imagine it might be the same with school librarians. However, library jobs are relatively stress-free, if you can get one, which is nice. But that also means people tend not to retire out of the few jobs there are. So...not to be the voice of doom or anything, but I think it's worth considering job prospects vs. expense and so forth. If you could make contacts in the field who you think would give you a job after graduation, that would be ideal. It's really all about networking in most cases.

    3. Yes, in my first three years of teaching we had a full time librarian at our building, but in the seventeen years since then, I've never worked in a district that had ANY librarians. It's really sad.

  6. Aw this is fun! I never actually considered being a librarian, which is funny because I have always been a huge reader, hah. I get nervous with recommendations, which is also funny as a blogger, I suppose, but especially if I KNOW the person is going to take the book and read it? Or BUY it! People DO ask me in bookstores a lot, and I also know more than the people who work there (when it comes to YA at least). This mom approached me one day and asked for "recommendations like The Hunger Games" and I was like a kid in a candy store... until she told me she doesn't like even the mention of sexual activity, violence, cursing, or "bad decision making". To which I internally rolled my eyes, and said "but THG is kids physically killing each other?" It was a weird encounter, and I finally recommended Cinder, because it seemed mostly unoffensive. And then I sent a thought out to the kid (who was 16, by the way- NOT a little kid) because man, she's going to be a hot mess if mom is that controlling.

    Oh, and great lists, too!

  7. Not a librarian, but I feel like at least half of my friends went into Library Science! A coworker mentioned that her granddaughter (then 8 years old, going on 9) hates reading and she was starting to read with her once a week on Tuesday night (which I LOVE! How awesome is that?!) Anyhoo! I was like "Hates reading?! No, she just hasn't found the right books. What kind of stuff is she into?" I compiled a list of recommendations based on the stuff they said her granddaughter likes, and even bought copies of a few books (Pippi Longstocking and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle for the win!) It felt pretty great when she came back and said which of the books I suggested her granddaughter loved. :)

  8. I love that you can come up with all of these amazing recs when people ask. I feel like I'm always floundering for answers, even though I read SO many books. I'm going to hold onto your lists for myself for future reference.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  9. I was a children's librarian before becoming a stay-at-home mom, and my mom friends do ask me for book recommendations now and then. I will say, though, that recommending books is a pretty small part of what librarians do. In the public library, at least, you spend a lot more time fixing printer jams, monitoring the behavior of "problem" patrons, setting up chairs for events, explaining to parents that you can't babysit their kids, troubleshooting computer problems, etc. My favorite part of the job was doing story time and recommending books, but the less exciting parts of the job could be draining. It was a great feeling, though, to recommend a book to someone and find out that they loved it!

    Katie @ Read-at-Home Mom

  10. You're so talented! I'm always in awe of people who can always recommend more titles from one title tell them, especially those whose recs are on-point and I actually enjoyed what they suggested :D I, sadly, can never recommend anything~ I feel my mind going blank and I forget every book I've ever picked up and I just make out sounds that give away my confusion lol. (That's quite embarrassing for a reader, if you ask me XD) So you're a true hero for bookworms like me, doesn't matter if you're a certified librarian or just a wannabe one <3


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