All Posts By:


    Books Readers' Advisory

    Tis the Season: Differences Between Faux Printz and Actual Printz Discussions

    Like most librarians I love to speculate about book awards. I happily participate in the discussion at Someday My Printz Will Come, and I’m a big fan of Cross Referencing’s What Should’ve Won series. Both manage to talk intelligently about contenders and the merits of winners while still being respectful of the work the Printz committees both current and past put in to choosing a winner.

    Today I’d like to discuss a few of the major differences between serving on the actual committee, as I did for the 2012 award, and participating in informal Printz discussion. I would imagine this goes for other awards too, but as I haven’t served on any of those committees I can’t guarantee it. Of course, since one of the differences that doesn’t need lots of explanation is confidentiality I won’t be getting into specifics.

    1. Multiple Readings

    This is one of the biggest differences, and yet it was absolutely essential near the end of the Actual Printz process. When the process gets down to the end committee members will often re-read a book or parts of a book several times. With really excellent books often details of plot, structure, and characterization become clearer and more impressive with multiple readings. On the other hand, some books just don’t stand up to this intense scrutiny. Sometimes titles with a lot of buzz from people with excellent taste don’t end up recognized by the committee and  I suspect that often it’s because the committee are the only readers who gave them a second reading.

    2.Breadth of Reading

    Faux Printz discussions are almost always based of someone’s list; a blogger, the books that got a lot of stars, Twitter consensus, whatever. Influential Reader #1 finds a book they think is good, they mention it and suddenly it’s on the to read list of Influential Readers #2-#8. A couple of them read it and like it and now it is a must read. It inevitably goes on a list and now it’s a contender. At some point during the year it will be declared a “weak year”, because the big books aren’t “putting out” so to speak. It happens nearly every year.

    The Actual Printz, on the other hand, is looking a lot broader. Books that are even remotely possible contenders are divided up for a first read or partial read depending on how close to Printzy-ness they come. Committee members are sent hundreds of books and somebody on the committee takes a look at most of them. Committee members are also watching other sources to find gems that might not arrive on their doorstep. I promise that the committee has read books you’ve barely even heard of and unless one of those titles is chosen they might not ever hit your radar.

    3. 100% Finish Rate

    One of the obstacles even in a good informal Printz discussion is that it’s rare that everyone participating has actually read all the books under discussion. Not surprisingly this generally leads to people arguing passionately and voting for the books they have read, which skews the results quite a bit to the books with wider distribution, known authors, and overall bigger buzz.

    Of course the Actual Printz is decided by people who have read all of the nominated books. In Faux Printz discussions we often give up on reading books that don’t work for us personally. In Actual Printz discussion not only must you finish the book, but it’s essential to determine whether the problem finishing is with the book or with the reader. Additionally, having nine opinions about a dark horse book instead of two or three makes for a very different type of discussion.

    4. Criteria, Criteria, Criteria

    The Actual Printz award has criteria, starting with the charge “To select from the previous year’s publications the best young adult book (“best” being defined solely in terms of literary merit).”  Now, SMPWC  does a truly excellent job at trying to focus discussion on criteria, but I’ve seen enough discussion and enough certainty about mediocre books by very popular authors to know that not all discussions hit those marks.

    The Printz is not for being inspiring or being socially important. The winner might be one or both of those things but that is by coincidence, not design.  “POPULARITY is not the criterion for this award. Nor is MESSAGE.”  Amen to that.  The Printz is in the committee’s opinion the best book by literary standards, period.  The Actual Printz committee comes back to the criteria over and over during the course of the year.



    Kid's Programs Programs

    The Land of Stories: Five Activity Ideas for Library Programs

    LOS1Chris Colfer's THE LAND OF STORIES

    Today the second book in the Land of Stories series, The Enchantress Returns, will be released.  I’m pretty biased when it comes to the author so instead of a review I bring you program ideas. This would be a great tween program as the audience for the book extends past it’s middle grade-ness.

    Versions of Fairy Tales

    Alex and Connor’s teacher talks about how the original versions of stories have been lost to modernization and Hollywood versions. Why not check your collection for various versions of the same story and have the kids compare and contrast? Do a little research and share the oldest version you can find as well. Sur La Lune Fairy Tales will get you started.

    Writing Activity:Fairy Tales from a Different Point of View

    “What the world fails to realize is that a villain is just a victim whose story hasn’t been told.”

    Challenge students to write a version of a fairy tale from the point of view of the villain. You could share The True Story of the Three Little Pigs to get them thinking. How would the witch in Hansel and Gretel explain her actions? What about the tailor in the Emperor’s New Clothes?

    Fairy Tale Improv

    For a more active game get silly with favorite stories. Pick a couple of well known stories and several ways to perform them like fast forward, slow motion, super sad, cowboy style etc. Make a spinner with each of the styles and have participants spin the wheel and volunteer to act out the story in that particular style.

    Make a Map 

    Provide large sheets of paper and let kids create a map of their own imaginary world just like Chris Colfer did as a child. Here is the author’s childhood map of The Land of Stories and the professionally illustrated version from the actual book.

    Chris's map

    TheLandofStories_MAP (1)

    Fairy Tale or Literary Wanted Posters

    In The Land of Stories Goldilocks is a wanted criminal. Have students create a wanted poster for her or another literary criminal. This could easily extend beyond fairy tales to other literary bad guys like Count Olaf or Bellatrix Lestrange.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, my pre-order copy should be here any time.


    Doing More With Summer Reading Data

    Pretty soon youth services librarians across the country will heave a giant sigh of relief and wrap up their summer reading programs for the year.  Beyond soothing over-competitive or under-organized parents, making sure all the vendors are paid, and breaking out the wine and/or chocolate it’s also a time for evaluation and reporting.

    Traditionally we track the following things depending on the structure of your program:

    Number of registrations
    Number of participants reaching a pre-determined completion point
    Program attendance
    Circulation (You are including this in your SRP stats, right?)

    This is all important information, and numbers are essential when telling our story and advocating for our programs and services to administration and outside funding partners.

    However, given the wide use of Evance and other electronic registration systems there are some other numbers that can help us evaluate our offerings and possibly grow participation in the future. If you didn’t get this information this year don’t worry, it will be time to plan next year’s program before you know it. (Sorry)

    New Participants vs. Repeat Registrations

    Are you reaching your entire community or are you preaching to the choir? Of course we love our regulars, but those are the families who would likely read over the summer anyway.  If we really want to make a difference we want to reach out to families that might need the incentives, whatever they might be, to make reading a priority over the summer.

    One way to see if this is happening is to count the number of kids registered this year who have never participated in summer reading before. It’s true you would need data from previous years for this, unless you asked upfront if this is their first time, but it might be worth it.

    While you are doing that look for other patterns in new registrations such as school affiliation or location which we’ll talk more about below.

    Age Participation

    Usually we keep stats in two or three broad age groups such as preschool, school-age, and teen. Yet it might be instructive to look a little deeper at these numbers. If you run your program from birth to high-school are you actually getting participation from all of those age groups?  Looking for more detail will let you see who you are and aren’t reaching.

    Do you need to modify your teen program to appeal to high school students?  Do you need better publicity to get the word out to parents that their littlest ones can participate as well? Do fifth or sixth graders participate in your kids’ program or is it aimed too young?  You won’t know without the numbers.

     School and Location Information

    For libraries serving larger populations this can be very interesting, especially when these numbers don’t line up along socio-economic or geographic boundaries.

    What schools have the highest participation compared to enrollment? The lowest?  Gains or losses from previous years?   It might be wise to reach out to schools in the fall both to encourage and thank those schools with high participation and to see how we might better reach schools with low participation. Sometimes schools can help us overcome tricky problems like providing translations of program materials or contacts for summer programs where we might reach children who can’t get to the library.

    What branches have large gains or losses in registration? There may be new staff, schools that have opened or closed, changes in school staff, or competing programs that influence these numbers. How can under-performing branches plan for next year to improve their results? How can the library as a whole support both these branches and ones that are overwhelmed with participation?

    Obviously there are tons of factors to consider when evaluating your summer reading program and we know that the strict numbers only tell part of the story.  Still, it’s worth our time to get the whole story the numbers can provide. Now, go dig into that chocolate. You’ve earned it this summer.




    Kid's Programs Programs

    In the Tall, Tall Grass: A Class Visit



    I’ve been wandering through my flash drive looking for successful programs to share with you all and this was one of my favorites. I’m especially proud of it because school age is the group I have the least confidence with after so many years doing teen.

    Remember when I talked about our Winter Reading Club featuring Ohio authors? I had the pleasure of hosting a group of second and third graders from a local charter school during that time and created this program based on Denise Fleming’s In the Tall, Tall Grass for them. 

    I set up the room so that chairs were in a horseshoe shape facing the front. At that small branch the meeting room wasn’t big enough to have the whole class at tables and chairs.

    After introducing myself and sharing a bit about the library I started by reading the big book version of In the Tall, Tall Grass.

    After reading the book I passed out a readers’ theater script adapted from the book. A child would read one line from the book, like “Crunch, munch, caterpillars munch” and then all together we would repeat “In the tall, tall grass.”  This continued with a single line and the group response for all the lines in the book.

    To finish our session we did a craft/writing activity based on the book. Each student picked an animal and constructed a sentence in the style of the book: Blank, Blank, Animal Blanks. The children wrote their sentence on the top of the paper and drew a picture of their animal below it. I then passed out strips of green construction paper that I had pre-cut. The students glued them over their picture so their animal was peeking out.


    Books Readers' Advisory

    Breaking Away: A Possible 2013 Trend?

    I love spotting trends in YA books, especially ones that are a little more subtle. In this case I think it’s fascinating that several established YA authors ended up publishing books with similar themes at the same time. Especially given how far in advance these things are settled.

    The theme I’m talking about is young women on the verge of college (or close) breaking away from their parents’ expectations and becoming their own people.

    So far I’ve found:


     The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr


    Just One Day by Gayle Forman


    Return to Me by Justina Chen


    Dirty Little Secret by Jennifer Echols


    The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle

    And not quite like the others, but still about a girl choosing her own path:


    Transparent by Natalie Whipple


    Black Helicopters by Blythe Woolston

    Do you have titles to add? Let me know in the comments.