Anteaters, Potatoes, and So Much More

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This month marks my fourteenth anniversary of library work. In that time, I’ve shelved, shifted, repaired, cataloged, purchased, and weeded a lot of books between my public and school library jobs. People (including myself at times) can think of books as precious treasures to be valued forever, but not all books deserve that type of adoration.

One of my favorite websites is the delightful Awful Library Books. (Their tagline is “Hoarding is not collection development.” Amen!) I’ve enjoyed this site and the book covers they feature for a long time, and I realized recently I have my own collection of awful library books to share with the world.

Over the years, I’ve taken snapshots or have written down titles of books that have, for whatever reason, made me laugh. Today I’m sharing some of my “favorites” with you. These are books I’ve actually seen in person, either in a public or school library. I’m not commenting on the quality of these books, just pointing out that the title and/or cover cracks me up. I think you’ll see why.

Amish Vampires in space book cover
Amish Vampires in Space

I remember seeing this book during Jimmy Fallon’s Do Not Read segment a few years back. Imagine my delight when it showed up at the public library. I’ve shown it to multiple coworkers and live in constant fear of it getting weeded. It makes me happy every time I see it on the shelf.

The Anteater of Death book cover
The Anteater of Death

I have several questions:

  • Are anteaters violent?
  • Why did this anteater presumably murder someone?
  • Why did Betty Webb choose to write a book about anteaters?
Chicken Soup for the Soul brothers and sisters edition
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Celebrating Brothers and Sisters

I feel sad that my brother and I have never taken a similar photo.

Crafting with Cat Hair

I like cats. I like the occasional craft. What I definitely don’t like are crafts made from cat hair.

Family Emergencies

On one hand, they definitely should have gone with another cover. But on the other hand, I love this one so much.

Innocent Wife, Baby of Shame

I saw this romance novel on the shelf many years ago, but have never forgotten it. Why is the wife so innocent? Who’s going to help the poor shame-filled baby? Is there hope for mother and baby to have a flourishing relationship someday? Fingers crossed.

Modem Menace

Computer issues are indeed a bummer, man.

Potatoes

Surely any other photo of a potato–and I mean any–would have been better than this one. Whoever signed off on this cover was having a rough day and just wanted to get out of the office ASAP.

Prancerise: The Art of Physical and Spiritual Excellence

Joanna Rohrback, you’re a legend. You’re living your best life and I’m here for it, though I don’t totally understand why there are two of you and a horse on this book cover. (To see prancercise in action, click here.)

Make Quilts, Not War

Who knew world peace was sew simple? (I’m sorry.)

Shake Your Head, Darling

This book was on the shelf in a high school library. In 2012. It had to go, but not before I savored this cover. (The man sort of looks like Stephen Colbert, right?)


What are the books that have made you laugh, roll your eyes, cringe, or all three? I’d love to know about your awful library books!

The Something of Books

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“There must be something in books, something we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.”

― Ray Bradbury,
Fahrenheit 451

I work in a high school library and made a banned books display a couple of years ago. I chose the words above to be the centerpiece, not merely because of the censorship flowing through Bradbury’s novel, but because I loved this quote on its own. Sometimes when people ask me about my favorite books, I can’t explain why I like something. When I read a poem or a complicated text that I don’t fully understand, I can still find it beautiful and essential. I echo Bradbury’s words in those moments: “There must be something there.“

fahrenheit 451 book cover

Reading is an endless search to find that something. For some, it’s comfort. For others, it’s entertainment. William Nicholson writes, “We read to know we’re not alone.” Realizing there’s someone else in the world who thinks what you think or feels what you feel is a wonderful thing, especially when those thoughts and feelings are dark and isolating.

I think about the link between reading and loneliness a lot since working with teenagers. I feel a unique duty to these kids to be able to point them toward books that will inspire and teach them, but also toward books that will lessen the blows of that still-familiar teenage feeling of aloneness. A fictional character can say to them what someone else might not: “You’re okay. You’re not the only one. Life gets easier; I promise.”

Before I took my current job, I never read many young adult books, even as a teenager. I still don’t consider myself well read in the world of YA lit, but I do have a few favorites that I recommend frequently. When I dipped my toes into the water of YA books, I was surprised at how stellar the writing is and how adult the subject matter can get. I realize that sounds snobbish, but it’s true. I’m thankful for great writers like Sara Zarr, Courtney Summers, and Laurie Halse Anderson, who not only address hard topics but do so with eloquence.

Some of my favorite young adult books

For me, the element of surprise is one of the best things about reading. Not only does surprise open my eyes to whole new genres, but it gives me pause. A beautifully written sentence or paragraph makes me slow down and take note. Sometimes I end up seeing more in the long run by focusing on one small thing. Throughout my reading life, I’ve had my eyes opened so many times to new ideas and unique ways of seeing the world. Whether it’s discovering a whole new genre or reading a line of poetry that invites me to pause and see something ordinary in a new way, those moments of newness and wonder are necessary elements to the something of why I read.

There must be something there. I want each student who walks through the doors of my library to sense that truth. I want them to develop their own reasons for reading. I want books to become a joy and not a chore. Not every student is going to become a reader, but I want even the ones who don’t to be curious about how any character could stay in a burning house for the sake of some words bound together.

Small and Low-Cost Library Changes That Make a Big Impact

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Sometimes when I think about changes I’d like to make in the school libraries where I work, I think about new furniture, cool technology, fresh layouts, and shelves packed full of new books. It’s fun to imagine these things, but it’s also unrealistic given my schools’ annual budgets. Instead of making over the entire library and purchasing every new book that’s released, most of the changes I’ve brought to my libraries have been small but effective. Today I want to share a few of those changes with you in case you need some free or low-budget ideas that have a significant impact.

Read the rest over at Teen Services Underground.

On Losing School Librarians

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Last Thursday, I found out that all of the librarians in my school district had been laid off. I’ve been a library clerk in this district for nearly eight years and had no clue this was coming. I still haven’t heard if I have a job next year or, if I do, how that job will change in light of these recent developments. The district claims school libraries will remain open and that students will continue to have access to books and other resources. If we clerks get to keep our jobs, books will be cataloged, processed, circulated, and repaired just like they are now. But elementary students will no longer have stories read to them each week. Middle school students will no longer have a librarian to hand them that perfect book that would make them feel a little less alone, a little less awkward. High school teachers will lose classroom collaborators and students will lose the person who knows just what database they need to use for their assignment. The library is the heart of some schools, and with librarians gone, that will be compromised.

Like so many issues, this one boils down to money. (I should note that teachers and other staff members have been laid off, too.) Logically, I realize that when schools are forced to make cuts, keeping teachers is their priority, as it should be. Having teachers in the classroom is an obvious necessity. Still, it saddens me to know that some people see librarians as disposable. I want librarians to be essential in every school and for others to see their work as crucial to student success.

I’ve asked many questions over these past few days, such as:

  • Do librarians not promote themselves and their work enough to be appreciated and given credit?
  • Do people believe that librarians only check books in and out all day?
  • If school administrators value student literacy, how can they get rid of the people who are experts on the subject?

I can’t answer these questions, and even if I could, I doubt I’d be satisfied. People I care about would still be laid off, programs I’ve seen flourish would still come to a halt, and students who need librarians would still be without them. Other than contacting my state legislators and asking for more funding, there’s not much I can do in the face of the school district’s decision. I can keep talking about libraries, though. I can tell people about the little kids who stop at my desk and tell me how much they love coming to the library each week. I’m happy to share stories about energetic classes who become silent when a librarian reads them a great story or focuses their attention with a fun, hands-on project.

If you too love libraries and appreciate librarians, speak up! Show your support, whether or not jobs are on the line. When you notice a librarian who’s doing great work, spread the word. Use your public library and vote for library bonds. Enthusiasm is contagious, and while it’s not enough to make up for budget shortfalls, it certainly can’t hurt. If you believe librarians matter, do what you can to spread that message.

YA Fiction & Nonfiction Pairs

In the high school library where I work, it can be difficult to get students to read nonfiction. One of the ways I like to promote it is to do a display in which I pair high-interest nonfiction titles with a novel about the same topic. Today I want to share a few pairs with you in case you too are looking for ways to promote nonfiction to your teen patrons.

Click here to read the rest of the post over at Teen Services Underground.