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Banned Books Week

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Each of the top 10 most challenged books were represented at the 2009 Banned Books Read Out, which kicked off Banned Books Week September 26 at Chicago's Bughouse Square (across the street from the Newberry Library.) This video features ALA President Camila Alire, authors Cecily von Ziegesar (Gossip Girl) and Lauren Myracle (ttyl), and a reading from Chicago Public Library's Teen Volume Reader's Theatre troupe.

Should We Still Be Celebrating?

Martin L. Garnar
Chair, ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee

Every fall I lead groups of first-year students on tours of our university library.  The goal is to show them the physical resources available for research while also highlighting some of our special collections.  Shockingly, microfiche doesn’t capture their interest, but a stop in the Juvenile collection always gets their attention.  Though I start by telling them of its value for supporting our children’s literature classes, I also mention our practice of purchasing controversial titles.  A favorite for illustrating this point is It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris, which was the 13th most frequently challenged book during the 1990s and made the Top Ten List in 2003, 2005, and 2007.  My students express disbelief that that a book about puberty with cartoon-like illustrations could be the source of so much trouble.  They are horrified to learn that the act of showing them the book almost became a criminal offense , as Colorado recently considered legislation designated such “sexually explicit” material as “harmful to minors” and labeling anyone convicted of making those materials available to minors (including the occasional 17-year-old first-year college student) as a sex offender.  These bright young college students never fail to be amazed that people still get so excited over books and would go to such lengths to block access to them.

Yet, here we are about to observe the 27th occurrence of Banned Books Week.  That’s more than a generation of children growing up in schools and libraries that have annually displayed a range of books and other materials that have been attacked for not conforming to someone’s view of the world.  In 2008 alone, 513 challenges were reported to the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom, and this excellent map of challenges from 2007 to 2009 demonstrates that challenges occur across the country.  If the purpose of Banned Books Week is to educate the public about what could be lost through banning books and to deter those so inclined to challenge books in the future, then something isn’t working.  We should be seeing a steady decline in challenges every year, but we’re not.  After almost 27 years of Banned Books Weeks, should we call it a failure?

Indulge me for a moment: what if Banned Books Week has another purpose?  What if one of its goals is to point out how deeply people care about their libraries’ collections?  Think about it: in order for people to challenge a book, they have to (1) know that it exists, (2) know that the library has a copy, and (3) take the time to start the challenge process.  Yes, I know that some of these challenges stem from organized attempts to target certain books, but that still means someone cares enough about an issue to expend the energy on a challenge.

Let’s step back and think about what it really means to live in a democratic society.  People should be allowed to hold any belief they want.  Acting on all of these beliefs is another matter, but just believing something should be acceptable for all.  So, if we allow that a democratic society likely means a diversity of beliefs, should we not expect that some people will feel compelled to express opinions that are based on their beliefs?  Should we not also expect that some will feel compelled to work for change in our society so it embodies their beliefs?  If, as the ALA’s Policy Concerning Confidentiality of Personally Identifiable Information about Library Users proclaims, “libraries are one of the great bulwarks of democracy,” should we not support the right of people to express their opinions based on their beliefs?  ABSOLUTELY!

Therefore, if Banned Books Week is about promoting the values of ALA and highlighting the importance of intellectual freedom, should we not consider that a consistent number of challenges could mean an embrace of democratic values?  Well, if we follow these premises to their (mostly) logical conclusion, the answer is YES. 

This, however, is not the world of Star Trek, where we may hold different beliefs but are evolved enough not to act on the ones that would infringe on another person’s freedom.  We still live in a society in which groups are trying to shape it into what they want it to be.  That holds true for defenders of intellectual freedom as well as those who prefer a narrower range of acceptable opinions.  In a sense, Banned Books Week is a sign that our society is still at a point in which neither side have achieved its goal.  We still have to fight for intellectual freedom, and other still have to fight to censor, restrict, or otherwise protest ideas with which they don’t agree.

Personally, I think this is OK. In fact, I think it’s exciting to be alive at a time when so many opinions are being shared and promoted, even I don’t agree with all of them.  If having the freedom to express my beliefs means giving others the same freedom to express theirs, I’m happy to see Banned Books Week continue well into the future as evidence that freedom of expression is alive and well.


Nation’s libraries participate in inaugural Reader’s Digest Make It Matter Day

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Libraries across the country will play an important role in celebrating the cause of reading during Make It Matter Day, sponsored by Reader’s Digest magazine.

On Saturday, Oct. 3, more than 100 events will be held on this national volunteer day of reading, writing and learning in support of literacy and education. Libraries will join schools, Boys & Girls Clubs and YMCAs in taking part in the inaugural event.

Events will include author read-alouds, storybook scavenger hunts, Pictionary and Scrabble tournaments, as well as creative writing, crossword puzzles, riddles, hangman and sentence work, all to support the love of reading and learning.

Libraries celebrating the kickoff event will include the Auburndale Library in Flushing, N.Y. The library will present Meet a Live Explorer @ Your Library: In the Footsteps of Marco Polo, featuring a local explorer who retraced Marco Polo’s route from Venice to China and back.

The Manhattan Village Kaplan Center in New York will hold an orientation for literacy volunteers with the organization New York Cares.

At the Pinecrest Branch Library in Miami, Fla., youth and families will take part interactive games of Scrabble to test spelling and vocabulary skills.

Also, the Doral Branch Library in Miami, Fla., will hold read-alouds for youth and families, as well as interactive literacy sessions using bilingual (English/Spanish) books.

In addition, Reader’s Digest is bringing Make It Matter Day to life by holding a celebration at the New York Public Library on Sunday, Oct. 4.

The American Library Association (ALA) has signed on as a sponsor of Make It Matter Day. “The ALA supports Reader’s Digest in its commitment to literacy and education, which matter to the librarians who help foster the literacy skills Americans need to participate fully in a global information society,” said ALA President Camila Alire.

ALA’s Campaign for America’s Libraries, which is providing promotional support to the   Make It Matter Day initiative, is a public awareness campaign that promotes the value of libraries and librarians.  Thousands of libraries of all types – across the country and around the globe - use the Campaign’s @ your library® brand. The Campaign is made possible in part by ALA’s Library Champions.

Earlier this year, the editors at Reader’s Digest asked its community of 37 million Americans to identify the cause that mattered most to them. The pre-selected causes were hunger, literacy & education, environment, supporting military families, human rights, violence, rebuilding New Orleans, health & wellness, and children & youth.  The winning cause was literacy and education. For more information, visit the Make It Matter Day website.

 “Literacy is at the core of our country’s success,” said Peggy Northrop, Editor-in-Chief of Reader’s Digest. “We are excited to be rallying people to support such an important cause and in the coming years we will focus on other causes that matter to our community.”

Through the website, Reader’s Digest offers a number of resources, including a literacy directory that highlights key literacy issues, a book-club resource that provides valuable advice on running a book club, reading resources, online book clubs, and reading group guides.

Reader’s Digest magazine, the world’s most widely read magazine, is published in 21 languages and reaches 70 million readers worldwide. 


IMLS Grant Will Help Libraries Help the Unemployed

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Job seekers have packed libraries around the country during recent months, searching online job sites, building resumes, taking interview classes, and making use of a wide range of other employment services and resources. More help is on the way. Through a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), WebJunction, the online learning community for library staff created by OCLC, a nonprofit library service and research organization; and the State Library of North Carolina (SLNC) have launched a one-year initiative to gather and share best practices for providing library-based employment services and programs to the unemployed.

"We know that libraries are making important contributions to the nation's economic recovery, and IMLS is committed to helping those libraries help their communities get back to work," said Anne-Imelda M. Radice, IMLS Director. "We admire this grant because of the educational opportunities it will provide and the relationships between libraries and economic and workforce development agencies that it will foster."

"In North Carolina, we have established real collaborations in communities across the state between public libraries and local workforce development organizations, which together support job seekers in everything from basic computer skills to applying for jobs online," said Mary L. Boone, State Librarian of North Carolina. "We are delighted to partner with IMLS and WebJunction to share what we have learned with our colleagues around the country." The State Library of North Carolina was one of the state library agencies that stepped forward earlier this year to coordinate a highly successful statewide library education program in response to the economic downturn. Members of SLNC's staff who were instrumental in that state's success will contribute significantly to the national project.

The partners will develop and host an online training module - available to everyone -- that adapts the workshop curriculum and experience. A core feature of the program will be online conversations at for state library administrators to explore new ideas for supporting local public library staff to deliver workforce services. All regional workshops and the online training module will be supported by follow-on programming. This will provide participants with the resources and support they need to assist local public libraries as they respond to urgent patron demands.

"Severe unemployment strikes at the core of any community, and libraries work hard to respond to these community needs," said Cathy De Rosa, Vice President, Marketing, OCLC. "We are pleased to work with IMLS and the State Library of North Carolina to help respond to those needs. This program allows us to support communities and individuals working to cope with unemployment and to support libraries as they work to provide essential infrastructure and services for national economic recovery."

Project goals include dissemination of services, programs, and partnerships to support the unemployed; greater capacity in state library agencies to support their local public libraries; and broader understanding and support outside the library field for the workforce development role that libraries have in responding to the crisis.

Additional IMLS resource: Libraries to the Rescue is a set of five podcasts, including one by Mary L. Boone, State Librarian of North Carolina, that focuses on how libraries are helping citizens access all types of employment assistance. See a list of Online Resources for Libraries and Jobseekers.

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services 

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums.

The Institute's mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. The Institute works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development. To learn more about the Institute, please visit

About WebJunction

Since 2003, WebJunction has helped more nearly 50,000 library staff build their job skills by partnering with state library agencies and other library service organizations to deliver cost-effective staff training and development programs. WebJunction's vision is to be the place where the worldwide library profession gathers to build the knowledge, skills, and support it needs to power relevant, vibrant libraries. Based in Seattle, Washington, and Dublin, Ohio, WebJunction is supported in part by OCLC, grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the library community. More information is available at


Treasures Found by Seafaring Librarians

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By Mary Johnston

Originally published in the April-June 2009 issue of Virginia Libraries, a publication of the Virginia Library Association

Ahoy! To manage an undergraduate library while sailing around the world, you will need your well-honed library skills and a bit of an adventurous spirit. In this article, the University of Virginia librarians who have belayed their traditional landlubbing librarian jobs and successfully navigated a semester at sea present their ideas on the value of embarking upon such an adventure.

Studying on a ship while sailing the globe—that’s Semester at Sea.

Answering reference questions while standing on steady sea legs—that’s a Semester at Sea librarian.

What Is Semester at Sea?

 Semester at Sea (SAS) is an educational voyage of discovery administered by the Institute for Shipboard Education (ISE) and academically sponsored by the University of Virginia (U.Va.). Differing from traditional study abroad immersion programs, SAS emphasizes a global comparative education “to build the insight and background necessary for perceiving and understanding international issues and differences.”1   

In his welcome to visitors to the SAS webpage, ISE President Dr. Les McCabe elaborates, “It is within this shipboard community that individuals not only receive the highest quality of international education available through a curriculum sponsored by the University of Virginia, they also receive an education in adaptability and versatility within a setting that includes individuals who share the desire to see the world and to understand its complex issues.”2   

The SAS library supports a study-abroad program that circumnavigates the globe on one of the world’s fastest passenger ships. This floating campus, the MV Explorer, serves as dormitory, student union, athletic facility, classroom, and library for 600-700 undergraduate students representing more than 200 universities from across the United States. These students are guided by 65 faculty and staff on a 110-day voyage around the world each fall and spring semester. The summer voyage is slightly shorter at 70 days and focuses on a region such as Europe or Central and South America. To earn U.Va. credit, students attend classes held while the ship is at sea and participate in field programs during days spent in port.

U.Va.’s academic sponsorship of the SAS program started in 2006 and comes at a time when, according to the report of the Commission on the Future of the University, U.Va. is moving forward in its effort to raise its international profile and “will be looking at ways to mainstream a global perspective into the classroom and the broader student experience.”3    Further, Thomas Jefferson’s academical village provides the model for shipboard life: “Daily life aboard the (MV) Explorer has been compared to a residential college experience, a place where students and faculty live and learn together—in the same way that Jefferson envisioned the Academical Village.”4   

SAS Library Challenges and Treasures

Far from the comforts of home and all the amenities available there, e.g. interlibrary loan services, knowledge from subject experts, support from colleagues, and rock-solid, high-speed Internet access, challenges ensue. Shiver me timbers! Why in the world would you, a sane librarian, choose to spend a semester at sea when plenty of challenges await right there in your home library?

A semester at sea can be a transformative experience not only for the undergraduates but also for the librarians. Here are some reasons why a semester at sea can be the library job of a lifetime:

See the world (and the world’s libraries). Classes are held and the library is open for business while the ship is at sea—roughly half the voyage. While the ship is docked in each port, the library is closed, giving the entire shipboard community the opportunity to explore. Using the ship as home base and security blanket, each SAS participant can experience vastly different cultures. And some of the world’s great libraries—the Great Library of Alexandria, the Hong Kong Central Library, the Royal Library in Copenhagen (The Black Diamond), the Museum Plantin-Moretus Library in Antwerp, or the ruins of Hadrian’s Library in Athens—are often only footsteps away from the dock.

Mentor a student or two. Many faculty and staff choose to adopt one or two, or even eight, students for the duration of the voyage. Because so many students express an interest in being adopted in order to simulate a little bit of home life, some faculty members adopt larger-than-usual shipboard families. The opportunity to share the voyage with students in a personal way adds much to the experience. It is an opportunity to connect, to have fun, and to mentor. And when your library work-study assistants return to their home campus, complete their undergraduate degrees, and then enter graduate school for library degrees, your heart will swell with pride.

Connect with the shipboard community. Your motivation for spending a semester at sea is undoubtedly shared by other faculty and staff, creating a strong bond from the beginning that often lasts long after the voyage ends. In addition to regular library responsibilities, librarians are expected to be an integral part of the shipboard community participating in onboard educational and social activities and attending the interdisciplinary Global Studies course.

Witness learning. The opportunity to witness learning in a more intimate scale gives the librarian an easily observable reward. Right in front of your eyes, the students gain knowledge in their course topics and an understanding of the role of the library.

Learn how to be flexible. Blimey! Things can happen quickly on the MV Explorer. Itineraries can change quickly based on weather and world events.
And it’s not only the outside world that dictates flexibility. Living in close proximity with a shipboard population of about 1,000 students, faculty, staff, lifelong learners, and crew can require a great deal of flexibility. Adapting to close living quarters, dining with colleagues and students at every meal, and the inability to go for a solitary walk can challenge the introvert among us.

Revitalize your land-based library position. Aptly expressed by Michael Pearson, an SAS faculty alum: “The word travel has its roots set complexly in the ancient meaning of the word travail. It is associated with pain and anguish and hard work—even with the labor of childbirth. And this makes sense to me, for travel should be about bringing new things to life, and that’s never easy.”5   

Yet despite the travails, each returning U.Va. librarian has asked the question, "When can I go again?" And students, too, are eager to return: “There are such strong connections established that a good number of students take more than one journey and some return to work either full-time on staff or to become lifelong volunteers.”6   

The SAS experience is great for shaking things up and bringing new things to life. In addition to being far away from home, the librarian faces the challenges and benefits of a new living arrangement, a new highly specialized collection, a new support mechanism, a new library catalog, and new faculty colleagues. And it might be that once shaken, you’ll want to keep things stirred when you return home again, as revealed by a former SAS librarian: “You’ve changed—you’ve seen the world, literally, but everything else has basically stayed the same. . . . Some librarians return to their jobs newly reinvigorated, while others, in time, move on to different careers. SAS makes people unafraid to pick up and do something different.”7   

Getting It Done

 Despite the unique circumstances of running a shipboard library while sailing the world, much regular library work remains—circulation, reference, reserves, cataloging, shelf-reading, scheduling, and staffing the library from 0800 to 2300 each day at sea. To manage that workload, the library is staffed with a librarian (always from U.Va.), an assistant librarian (selected from a national pool of candidates), and library work-study students.

The shipboard library collection is “specifically tailored to international study, travel, world cultures, religion, art, history, and to the curriculum and itinerary of each voyage.”8    Expertly assembled and managed through the years, it has grown according to the teaching needs of hundreds of previous faculty.

Since 2006, SAS librarians have overseen the SAS library transition to U.Va. In addition to the semester-specific responsibilities of each voyage, the librarians have also accomplished the transitional tasks required to integrate the SAS library with the U.Va. library system:

  • Relabeled the collection to meet U.Va. library standards
  • Inventoried a library collection open to all, 24-7
  • Migrated the records to a new integrated library system
  • Imported all catalog records from the ship into the U.Va. library home catalog

The first U.Va. librarian to provide library services at sea was Barbie Selby, then manager of Reference and Information Services in Alderman Library. Prior to sailing, Selby laid the groundwork for future voyages by setting up systems to deliver access to U.Va. library electronic resources at sea. According to Selby, “Semester at Sea was an amazing opportunity. I was the first U.Va. SAS librarian basically because I could pick up and go more easily than my colleagues. Everything and everyone was new to me—and a bit overwhelming at first. This seems to be the experience of all SAS faculty and staff. The ship is new and strange, the people are unknown, the experience is new, the future is unknown. You start off in awe. But I also realized that ‘This is a library, and I’m a librarian—I can do this!’ Then, you just buckle down and do the job, and, oh yeah, travel around Asia in my case. A truly amazing opportunity.”

For a more in-depth look at the SAS librarian experience, Selby and her colleagues have each blogged their adventures:

Your Opportunity

To find the treasure of an SAS experience, marks the spot. If the benefits of a semester at sea pique your interest and you have a bit of that adventurous spirit, you might consider a semester at sea.

Assistant librarian duties include reference work, faculty assistance, supervision of work-study students, maintaining a fifteen-hour-per-day library operation, collection review, cataloging (LC), reserve processing, and shelf-reading. Requirements are MLS or equivalent, five years of experience as an academic librarian, and supervisory experience. The application process for assistant librarian begins on the SAS webpage.

Sailing as an SAS librarian is a challenging and rewarding library experience, perhaps the assignment of a lifetime, for those committed to the concept of academic enrichment through travel and education.




Mary Johnston is the Semester at Sea library coordinator for the University of Virginia and a two-time alum of the Semester at Sea program. She can be reached at


Hands-On Reading: The Pioneer Book Club

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By Carol Elizabeth Jones

Originally appeared in the January/February/March 2009 issue of Virginia Libraries, a publication of the Virginia Library Association

In 2007, the Rockbridge Regional Library began an association with Boxerwood Nature Center and Woodland Garden in Rockbridge County, Virginia. Our goal was to create programs that encouraged children to read, while also getting them outdoors to enjoy nature. Bonnie Bernstein and Hannah Klein from Boxerwood helped us to create the Survival Book Club for fifth through eighth graders. The book club featured novels about kids surviving in the wilderness, and gave the kids the opportunity to spend time outdoors learning survival skills.  The culmination of the experience was a campout in May, using a shelter we built for ourselves in the woods.

The growth we saw in the Survival Book Club participants was very gratifying.  Members included both home-schoolers and public-schoolers who were not necessarily acquainted when we began. Through the book discussions and hands-on activities, the club members formed a real community, showing respect and patience for one another and working together to complete projects. One or two members tended to take over discussions early on, but gradually learned to make space for others. One member’s accomplishment was reading a whole book—something he had struggled with previously. When we saw how much the youngsters had grown from the combination of reading, talking, and doing, we wanted to try another hands-on book club with a fresh theme for 2008-09. We settled on the Pioneer Book Club, with books about frontier life and activities and experiences related to life as a pioneer. 

During the summer of 2008, I did some related research as part of my MLIS work at the University of Alabama. I wanted some background on what makes pre-teens and young teens want to read. Linda Teran Strommen and Barbara Fowles Mates used surveys and interviews in their 2004 study of children’s reading habits. Strommen and Mates were interested in identifying older children and teens who were passionate about reading and identifying what influences the readers had in common. They were not looking for excellent readers, but for young teens who chose to read just because they enjoyed it.
The researchers identified the students who loved to read and interviewed them about the influences that helped to make them avid readers. They found that the most important factor was that the students talked about books with their families. Most said that their parents had read to them when they were little and that once they became independent readers, their parents continued to talk about books with them. Students reported that family members passed around books, newspapers, and magazine articles they enjoyed. Having access to plenty of books and regular trips to the library were also part of the family reading influence.

The non-readers in the study bore out how important support for middle grade reading can be. One student said, “Maybe I gave up reading because I phased out of Goosebumps books.” Another said, “I had a time when I liked the Beverly Cleary books…that stopped when I was about 10.” The support of family during the transitional time from young chapter books to something more advanced appears to be very important. Although the library can never take the place of family, gatherings where young teens talk about books and where books are easily available can be a positive influence on the transitional reader.

Stacy Creel, who teaches at St. John’s University in Queens, New York, asked graduate students to survey teens about their reading habits. The students approached young teens to ask them to answer a 3-5 minute survey. Forty-four percent of the 127 participants said they read more than once a week. Twenty-two percent said they read at least once a week. Those who said they did not read at all gave reasons such as  “boring,” or “not interested,” or “prefer T.V.”

My impression of the research was that we were onto something with the hands-on book club.  The books we chose are fun to read, the discussion helps get participants excited about reading, and the projects are entertaining and engaging. In fact, the hands-on activities are the hub of the program because they mirror what the characters in the books are doing, and the experiences bring the books to life. Excited about our Pioneer theme, we planned our every-other-week schedule and assembled a collection of books from which the kids could read. We also created an interactive website for club members to keep in touch between our twice-monthly meetings.

We recruited in the public schools and among home-schoolers, so we had a nicely varied group of twelve members. We usually did the book-talking early in the session after a few minutes of socializing. The participants had a snack while we talked and the atmosphere was warm and relaxed. After the first two sessions, children who started out shy were eager to talk about what they were reading.

We selected some twenty books, which we had on hand in paperback. Readers borrowed books and brought them back as they finished, so we were all reading different books at different times. Sometimes we would pose a particular questions for our book discussions such as “What role did food play in the lives of the characters in your book?” Sometimes the kids gave mini-reviews of what they were reading and advised whether they would recommend the book to others in the club.

For our projects, we wanted to come as close as we could to authentic pioneer activities.  We used antique cross-cut saws, hatchets and axes to cut and split wood, and an old-time cider press to make fresh cider. A local hunter taught the kids how to use a bow and arrow and fire a flintlock rifle. The kids followed pioneer recipes to prepare and cook a meal over a fire, and made old-fashioned lye soap and beeswax candles. All of these activities were potentially hazardous, but the kids learned to be extremely careful and responsible. Working together on these projects helped us to create a real community, which became dear to all of us. 

The interactive website for the club has been slow to take off, but we are starting to get the hang of it. Broadband is not accessible to everyone here, so participation is somewhat limited to those who have high speed Internet. The site was easy to create using Google tools, and is an excellent way to display schedules, contact information, and photos.

If I were to choose one word to describe the mood during our Pioneer Book Club meetings, it would be “happy.” We meet at a beautiful place (Boxerwood) and after a day at school, the club members can relax and talk, and get outside to try new things. They love learning new--and dangerous--things, and take great pleasure in simple tasks such as flipping  hoecakes over the fire.  Although some youngsters did not mix well early on, they have learned how to be good working partners.  Some of this year’s homeschoolers started out extremely shy, but are now mixing well and taking the lead in planning future sessions. Our goals in starting the Pioneer Book Club were to keep kids reading, to create a social atmosphere where they could talk about books, and to provide hands-on activities to bring books to life. While we had planned to end our meetings in March, the kids have mounted a rather strident campaign to keep the club going until summer. This kind of enthusiasm from middle-school students is definitely worth paying attention to.


1.  Mates, Barbara Fowles and Linda Teran Strommen.  “Learning to love reading: Interviews with older children and teens.”  Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy.  48, 3 (November 2004) 188-189.

2.  Braun, Linda W.  “Reading—It’s Not Just about Books.”  Young Adult Library Services: 5, 4 (Summer, 2007) 38

3.  Creel, Stacy L.  “Early Adolescents’ Reading Habits.”  Young Adult Library Services 5,4 (Summer 2007): 46-47.

Carol Elizabeth Jones is Youth Services Librarian at Rockbridge Regional Library


ALTAFF Celebrates Fourth Annual National Friends of Libraries Week

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The Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations (ALTAFF) is coordinating the fourth annual National Friends of Libraries Week, October 18-24, 2009. The celebration offers a two-fold opportunity to celebrate. Friends groups can use the time to creatively promote their group in the community, to raise awareness, and to promote membership. The celebration also offers an excellent opportunity for the library staff and Board of Trustees to recognize the Friends for their help and support of the library.

“I encourage the whole nation to celebrate Friends of Libraries and the work they do.  I’m convinced that the libraries are so much richer for the enthusiasm and expertise that the Friends bring to the Library,” said ALTAFF Executive Director Sally Gardner Reed. “I hope that libraries across the country will use this week to honor their best supporters – The Friends of their Library – and use this opportunity to promote and expand their membership in this valuable organization.”

In a 2006 survey of members, 754 respondents reported raising more than $11 million dollars to support libraries with an average annual donation of more than $50,000. Eighty percent of respondents indicated they support their library through advocacy efforts with primary focus on local or municipal government and the general public. The top three goals were to prevent cuts to library budget, increase library budget, and general public awareness. Friends also support their library by coordinating programs, volunteering in the library, promoting the library in the community, and advocating for libraries on the state and national level.

Friends groups, library Trustees, and library staff can access a variety of online resources to help them celebrate National Friends of Libraries Week. Materials available on the ALTAFF website include promotional ideas, editable publicity materials, camera ready bookmarks, ideas from past celebrations, and much more.

Also available are Public Service Announcements created by ALTAFF national spokesperson Paula Poundstone in which Poundstone explains her “unbalanced relationship” with her public library until she joined the Friends to help raise money for her local library. “It’s funny that we think of libraries as quiet demure places where we are shushed by dusty, bun-balancing, bespectacled women,” said Poundstone. “The truth is libraries are raucous clubhouses for free speech, controversy and community. Librarians have stood up to the Patriot Act, sat down with noisy toddlers and reached out to illiterate adults. Libraries can never be shushed.”

“We’re thrilled that Paula Poundstone is using her celebrity status to help highlight and support Friends of the Library groups,” said Reed. “These volunteer citizen organizations work hard throughout the year to raise money for and public awareness about their libraries. Libraries would be immeasurably poorer without them.”
ALTAFF is pleased to announce a third year of financial awards in conjunction with National Friends of Libraries Week. Supported by the Lana and Michael Porter Foundation, five Friends groups or libraries will each receive $250 in honor of outstanding efforts to recognize Friends during the 2009 celebration of National Friends of Libraries Week, October 18-24, 2009. Application materials are available online at Entries must be postmarked by December 1, 2009. 

For more photos from 2008 National Friends of Libraries Week celebrations visit

ALTAFF is a division of the American Library Association (ALA) with approximately 5,000 Friends of Library, Trustee, Foundation and individual members and affiliates representing hundreds of thousands of library supporters. Begun in early 2009 with the merger of Friends of Libraries U.S.A. (FOLUSA) and ALTA, the new division brings together Trustees and Friends into a partnership that unites the voices of citizens who support libraries to create a powerful force for libraries in the 21st Century. For more information about ALTAFF, please contact Beth Nawalinski at (312) 280-2161or


Read Beyond Reality @ your library for Teen Read Week!

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Teen Read Week starts on Oct. 18! Get ready to celebrate at your library from Oct. 18-24. Teen Read Week is an annual event sponsored by the Young Adult Library Services Association  during the third week of October each year. The 2009 theme is Read Beyond Reality @ your library, so libraries across the United States will do something special to encouraging teens to read something out of this world — like sci-fi, fantasy, or virtual reality — just for the fun of it.

Teens have a wide variety of options for entertainment: video games, chatting online with friends, spending time on social networking sites, watching movies on their iPod, or just hanging out. But it’s important to remember that reading is a fun, free way to be entertained!

Teen Read Week is also the official kickoff for the WrestleMania Reading Challenge. More than 1,600 libraries in the U.S. and Canada signed up to participate in this year’s challenge — teens and tweens in grades 5–12 could win a trip to WrestleMania XXVI in Phoenix and their sponsoring library could win $2,000.

How can you get involved in Teen Read Week? YALSA offers following tips:

Talk to your librarian! Whether you’re a parent or a teen, the best place to start is at your library. Ask your librarian what he or she plans to do for Teen Read Week this year and mark it on your calendar. Volunteer to help at your library’s event.

Volunteer! If your school or public library doesn’t have anything planned, ask how you can get involved and help the library celebrate. Teens and parents can volunteer to start a book club or help the library form a teen advisory group. There are plenty of ways for teens to get involved at the library, and Teen Read Week is an excellent reason to start volunteering.

Watch the Teens’ Top Ten! Fifteen teen book groups across the United States choose 25 nominees each year for the Teens’ Top Ten, a booklist chosen entirely by teens! Voting for the final list took place in August and September, and a video — hosted by Brie Bella and Nikki Bella, World Wrestling Entertainment Divas — will announce this year’s winners on Oct. 19! The video will also include the reaction for the winning author. Tune in to on Oct. 19 to see who won.

Go to the library! This is a good week to plan a family outing to the library. It’s important that teens have safe, regular access to libraries — whether it means a school library stays open during study period or a little later than the final bell or that parents make sure their teens have transportation to the public library in their city or town. Plan a group outing and pick up a good book!.

Be creative! Have a favorite YA book? Make a book trailer! Book trailers are short videos about a book, similar to movie trailers. Teens can talk to their librarian about making a promotional video featuring all the great reading material — including books, magazines, graphic novels and more — that other teens can find inside. Post the videos to YouTube or Blip.TV (make sure you have parental permission if anyone under 18 appears in the video) during Teen Read Week, or see if the library’s website can feature them in any way.

Read! But the most important way you can celebrate Teen Read Week? By reading! YALSA offers plenty of resources to find good stuff to read (and remember — reading includes audiobooks, graphic novels, comic books, and more). Check out YALSA’s Awards and Booklists page to find the right one for you!


Teens' Top Ten 2009

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Each year, thousands of teens vote in the Young Adult Library Services Association's Teens' Top Ten, the only booklist created entirely by and for teens. In 2009, teens cast more than 11,000 votes, choosing the top ten teen books from a list of twenty-five finalists.

The 2009 winners were announced in a webcast produced by World Wrestling Entertainment and featuring WWE Divas Brie and Nikki Bella and winner John Green.

The 2009 Teens' Top Ten is:

  • Paper Towns by John Green (Penguin/Dutton)
  • Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic)
  • City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare (Simon & Schuster/Margaret K. McElderry)
  • Identical by Ellen Hopkins (Simon & Schuster/Margaret K. McElderry)
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins)
  • Wake by Lisa McMann (Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse)
  • Untamed by P.C. and Kristin Cast (St. Martin's Griffin)
  • The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (Disney-Hyperion)
  • Graceling by Kristin Cashore (Harcourt/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

John Green, the 2009 winner, also created a video about his win.


What's out there for lawyers who want a different career?

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By Caryn Tamber, Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer

Originally appeared September 4, 2009 in Maryland’s The Daily Record.

Non-practicing lawyers tend to fall into one of two categories.

Either they always wanted to be lawyers but found once they started that it wasn’t what they’d hoped for, or they never wanted to be lawyers but drifted into law school because they couldn’t think of anything else to do.

The Daily Record spoke to a dozen people who have law degrees but don’t practice law. They work in fields such as finance, education and nonprofit leadership. A representative sample of their stories is featured below.

The ex-practitioners’ new careers are diverse, but they share a common message: there is life after the law.

The Law Librarian

Janet Sinder knew by the time she was in junior high school that she wanted to be a civil liberties lawyer.

After she graduated from the University of Michigan Law School in 1979, she took a job as a criminal appeals defense lawyer in Illinois, but she didn’t enjoy the work as much as she thought she would.

A few years later, she decided to get a master’s degree in library science. She became a law school law librarian — law schools tend to require that their librarians have JDs — at the Duke University School of Law, where she stayed for 16 years. She came to the University of Maryland School of Law library in 2004.

Her job is "gratifying," Sinder said.

"You can find things they didn’t know existed or they thought would be hard to find," Sinder said. "When you’re a criminal defense attorney, you don’t win a lot of your cases on appeal, but you get so much positive feedback in the library world when you help them find something."

"I know there are lawyers out there who, rumor has it, don’t like their jobs," she continued. "I don’t know too many law librarians who don’t like their job. Most of them do."

The Financial Planner

At first, Amir Eyal thought he might want to be a doctor, so he took the MCAT. Then he realized he didn’t want to go into medicine after all, and a lot of his friends at the University of Maryland were taking the LSAT, so he signed up, too.

He did well and was accepted to the university’s law school.

After getting his J.D. in 2003, "I clerked a little bit, I practiced a little bit, but it just wasn’t exciting," Eyal said.

He tried to start his own estate planning practice, but "it didn’t really catch," he said.

His father-in-law kept asking him to join Mylestone Plans, his Rockville financial planning business, and finally, he did. Eyal is now a certified financial planner.

Mylestone has contracts with more than 400 nonprofit groups, so Eyal spends much of his time helping their employees figure out how to save for the future. When one nonprofit folded, Eyal helped its executive director minimize the amount of money she had to borrow from her retirement account and even aided her in finding a new job.

He describes his job as part planner, part "social worker/shrink."

The Democracy Consultant

Eric Bjornlund went to law school as a "way of keeping options open."

"It seemed like lawyers did a lot of interesting things," said Bjornlund, who graduated from the Columbia University School of Law in 1984.

He got a job at Ropes & Gray LLP in Boston and worked there for four years doing transactional work. While he was there, he was assigned to a pro bono project in Namibia, then known as South-West Africa, which was in the process of asserting its independence from South Africa. Bjornlund helped the country write its Bill of Rights, which was based on the U.S. Bill of Rights.

By the end of the process, he was considered an expert on Namibia. He got a job with the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, helping Namibia administer its first national elections in 1989.

He expanded beyond Namibia and worked on election monitoring issues, writing a book on the subject. In 2003, he founded his own organization, Bethesda-based Democracy International. The group consults for the U.S. government and sometimes other countries on democracy issues, taking on projects like monitoring national elections in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Albania. The organization also conducts opinion research in foreign countries.

The Traveling Entrepreneurs

Tonya Fitzpatrick always wanted to be a lawyer.

"I think that a common thread among first-year students is that we enter law school with the thought that we’re going to save the world and do good out there and represent the little guy," she said. "After law school, after the bar, the opportunities are not as plentiful."

After Fitzpatrick graduated from Wayne State University Law School in 1998, she worked as a prosecutor. Eventually, her career took her to the federal government. Her husband, Ian, graduated from the University at Buffalo Law School in 1990 and got a job teaching law at a high school. He, too, wound up working as a government lawyer.

Around 2005, the pair began contemplating a career change, thinking about what truly made them happy. They seized on travel and decided to open a travel agency together, but that project was sidetracked when Tonya Fitzpatrick was recruited for another position with the federal government. When the Bush administration ended in January, she left, and the pair decided to start their own travel media company.

The Silver Spring-based Fitzpatricks make one or two trips a month and produce an Internet radio travel show, Travl’n On. Their shows focus on issues like promoting environmental sustainability and cross-cultural understanding while traveling.

"We feel very strongly about educating our audience," Tonya Fitzpatrick said. "We don’t talk about the pretty beaches out there because that doesn’t educate people."

The Fitzpatricks often discuss legal issues on their show, such as a pending bill that would, among other things, force cruise lines to report crimes that occur on board.

The Training and Diversity Director

Randi Lewis didn’t know when she decided to become a lawyer that dealings with opposing counsel could get downright hostile.

Lewis, who graduated from the George Washington University Law School in 1983, practiced in Los Angeles for 15 years, where, she said, the legal community is less collegial than in Baltimore. The adversarial system just didn’t fit her personality, she said.

When she moved back to Baltimore in 1998, she needed a job but was not admitted to the Maryland bar.

She had been the hiring partner and had run the summer associate program at her firm in California, so she applied for a job as the recruitment director at Miles & Stockbridge P.C. She is now director of diversity and professional development at the firm.

She has helped the 200-lawyer firm increase its count of lawyers of color from just a handful to 17; the firm is on the road to having diversity "as a way of life," she said. She also coordinates the in-house training programs for Miles’ lawyers.

"I’m never bored," Lewis said. There’s always another challenge. "This is such a great fit for my personality and my intellect, too."

The Dealmaker

Kavita Thakrar says that among her friends who began their careers at large law firms, most long for "escape."

Thakrar, a native Canadian, graduated from the University of Victoria law school in 1997 and then got her LL.M. from Boston University in 1998. She practiced with Jones Day LLP and then with Morrison & Foerster LLP in New York, doing corporate finance work.

"Like many lawyers, I never really liked the practice of law,î she said. ìI missed the people contact. I felt it was paper-pushing at a high level."

She left and started a legal search firm, but the economy then rendered the headhunting business dormant. She and her husband founded Columbia-based Skada Capital, which connects businesses with lenders when banks turn them down. Skada takes a percentage of the money loaned.

If a hotel chain wants to build a new hotel, "two years ago, a bank would have been, ‘Great, here’s $10 million,’" Thakrar said. "In this market, the banks have all tightened their funds, even [for] companies that would have A-plus credit."

Several banks have deals with Skada and refer borrowers there when the bank itself cannot make a loan.

Among big-law attorneys, Thakrar’s departure from practice represents the ideal, she said.

"Leaving the law is kind of the golden parachute now," Thakrar said. "It’s like, ‘Wow, you’ve managed to escape and do something with your life.’"


From Ancient Societies to the Modern Day, the Library Endures

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In this remarkable story, Stuart A.P. Murray traces the elaborate history of the library from its very beginnings in the ancient libraries of Babylon and Alexandria to some of the greatest contemporary institutions—the Royal Society of London, the Newberry Library, the Smithsonian, and many others.  Illustrated with 130 rich color photos, readers can follow the fascinating progress of the institution we now know today as the library. A rich textual and visual resource, The Library will delight patrons and library staff alike.

ALA Editions, the publishing imprint of the American Library Association, announces the release of “The Library: An Illustrated History” by Stuart A. P. Murray. Illustrated with 130 rich color photos, Murray traces the elaborate history of the library from its very beginnings in the ancient libraries of Babylon and Alexandria to some of the greatest contemporary institutions—the Royal Society of London, the Newberry Library, the Smithsonian and many others. A rich textual and visual resource, this volume allows readers to follow the fascinating progress of the institution we now know today as the library.

Murray has been an author and editor for almost 30 years and is also a former journalist. He has written (or been lead writer on) 40 books, from historical fiction to scholastic nonfiction, and has edited another 20 titles. Specializing in history (particularly American history), his titles have won book-of-the-year honors several times, both fiction and nonfiction. He has been a newspaper editor and a beat reporter as well as a magazine publisher and editor. His journalistic writing has been published in regional dailies as well as in the New York Times.

ALA Store purchases fund advocacy, awareness, and accreditation programs for library professionals worldwide.

ALA Editions develops resources for the library and information services community. Tens of thousands of librarians are helped and supported professionally each year by 30 or more new and revised titles. ALA authors are leaders across their fields, and their books are distributed and valued worldwide.