Welcome to Library Lions interviews. Raising a Roar for Libraries

Welcome to Library Lions interviews. Raising a Roar for Libraries

Saturday, March 16, 2013


Welcome to Library Lions interviews Raising a Roar for libraries and the outstanding librarians serving youth in schools and public libraries across the U.S. Please Roar today’s guests the Teacher-Librarian Heidi Rikard and Library Assistant, D’Arcy Rowe.  Heidi and D’Arcy work at West Valley Junior High in Yakima, Washington. 

Heidi and D’Arcy St. Louis 

Tell us About Yourselves
Heidi: I am the teacher-librarian at West Valley Junior High in Yakima, WA.  This is my 3rd year as TL here in WV.  Before I came here I was a language arts teacher for 11 years.  I spent nine years in Selah, WA and two years in Issaquah SD.  I went into education because I love learning and I love helping students learn new things. 

D’Arcy: I am a library assistant at West Valley Junior High in Yakima, Washington. I love finding books for students and turning them on to reading!  This is a perfect age for kids to discover reading a book for entertainment!
The Skinny
D'Arcy: We have about 850 students at our junior high in the 7th & 8th grades.  We have a pretty large library with about 15,000 books and four computer labs for students to use.

Right now we are in the process of genre-fying our fiction section in our library!  This is a huge project and will probably take a couple of months for us to finish.  If you don’t know what it means to genre-fy here goes:  we are taking all of our fiction books and categorizing them as to a genre and then putting stickers on them so the patrons will know what kind of book they are.  Afterwards we will put them in specially marked areas in the library.  It will be kind of like being at a bookstore.  Our genres are:  adventure, classics, fantasy (sub-genres of fantasy are-paranormal romance; animal fantasy; dystopian & post apocalyptic; mythology; fairytales; mermaids, witches & fae; and dragons), Holocaust, sports, scary, science fiction, mystery, and historical fiction.  I’m super excited about this project!  I think it will make it easier for students to find books they like and they may even find books that they’ve never seen before and check them out.

What Do You Love Best About Your Work?
Heidi: The thing I love most about my work is helping connect students to the right book.  I also love that there are students in this school who may have no other place where they feel completely “safe” or at home except for in the library.  Students know they can come in the library before or after school or at lunchtime and they will be welcomed and offered a cozy place where they are truly accepted.  They can pick a quiet corner to read, get that homework finished, or just relax with some friends.  I definitely have a core group of kids I get to know well as they are our “regulars”.  I love that these kids love our library.

D’Arcy: One of my favorite things is a student who is sooooo excited about a book that they are literally jumping up and down and squealing about it.  I got this reaction last year when I dressed up as Effie Trinket (from The Hunger Games) too.

A Lion’s Pride of Programs
D’Arcy: We are really trying to make our library a place where students love to come.  I am doing a weekly art class with some students after school.

We also run contests and have raffles for different things.  Every year we have a book drive and have students donate new or gently used books.  We then have a party with prizes for everyone that has donated books. 

Heidi: We try to have as many events and programs for students as we can.  We want them all to know the library is the best place to be. We offer after school programs during the week.  On Monday we host an art club.  Thursdays we have a book club.  The students in book club have become the reading advocates for our school.  They help promote happenings in the library by making posters, talking to classes, and doing book talks.

During the holiday season we have a community service project book drive.  Students donate picture books, chapter books, non-fiction, and appropriate YA books.  We then have a celebration with all the students who donated.  Local businesses donate door prizes and treats, and it’s a celebration of books and giving.  Students also get new books of their own.  The donated books then go to three or four local outreach services for children, youth, and families. 

We celebrate several times throughout the year with special events for students and teachers to participate in.  We enjoy Banned Books Week, Teen Read Week, Teen Tech Week, Dr. Seuss Week, and National Library Week.  Last year, with the release of the Hunger Games movie, we celebrated with a week-long trivia tournament, prizes, and just overall Hunger Games mayhem.  We even had a staff team competing against kids in our trivia challenge. 


A Mighty Roar for Libraries!

Libraries are vital to a healthy school.  We are quite literally the center of the learning universe here.  Because we service every student at WVJH, we have to be ready for each individual who walks through our door…from our most hard-working Special Education kiddo to our highly capable students, we need to have the right materials and the right information that fits their needs.  We help students with research, homework, finding books, and even some life skills.  Teachers look to us as a partner and resource.  If we were not here, there would be a giant void in the school, and in the lives of all who learn and work here.
D’Arcy: Libraries are so important in schools because the librarian is a great resource to teach research skills.  Also, because we are one of the few places in the school where students can come together to study, read books, or just hang out with friends.
Readers Roar: (Let’s hear from the kids!)
Alicia, 8th grade says: “This library has amazing books that I love to read.  Where the Red Fern Grows would be one of my favorites.  I love coming to the library to find new books I can read and be absorbed into another imaginary world.”

Jessica, 8th grade says: “I love going to my school’s library because it has a large selection of books, all of which I enjoy!”

Book Brag:
Heidi: We promote the Evergreen Book Award nominees and also the YALSA Teen’s Top Ten.  So, those have been our hottest books.  At the beginning of the year I was able to do book talks with all 7th grade language arts classes.  The result?  Our hottest books were (and actually continue to be) Matched by Ally Condie, Bruiser by Neal Shusterman, and A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.  Students seem to be spreading these books through word-of-mouth.  Divergent by Veronica Roth has also been big.  I get the ball rolling in the fall, and do more book talks throughout the year, but kids keep it going by talking to each other and passing around the books. 

D’Arcy: I'd also add The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. These are all award winning books that we have book talked this year and the kids just really love them.  Two of these are dystopian and that is a really popular genre right now and another is just a wonderful tearjerker.

Author! Author! Describe the perfect author visit from a librarian’s point of view.
Heidi: The perfect author visit would be from an author who is well-known and has some great books, but is also well-spoken and can relate to teens.  The author would be well-prepared to share with students and teachers about a certain topic or area that has previously been decided upon.  Also, student questions would have been written down ahead of time, and the author would have had a little time to peruse those so as to answer them without feeling too “on the spot”.  The students will also have time to speak to the author one-on-one (if time) and get books signed. 
To me, this would be the perfect author visit. 

D’Arcy: The only author we’ve been able to have at our school is a local author, Chris Weedin.  He actually works in our school district so we have easy access to him.  It’s wonderful when he comes in and talks to the students.  They are always very receptive to him and want to check out his books for quite a while afterwards.  We would love to be able to have more authors come here or have some Skype visits.

Let’s Link:
Visit our West Valley Junior High Library Website  

Thank you Heidi and D’Arcy for working on this interview together and letting LL readers know about your terrific programs at the West Valley Junior High School Library!

 Love Libraries? Give a Roar in “Comments” below.

Note to Librarians: If you’re a Youth Librarian working in a school or public library we’d love to hear about you and your library. Contact Janet at jlcarey@hotmail.com for an interview slot. 

Friday, March 1, 2013


Welcome to Library Lions interviews Raising a Roar for libraries and the outstanding librarians serving youth in schools and public libraries across the U.S. Please Roar today’s guest, Emily Dagg!

Emily Dagg in the Teen Zone the night of the donor thank-you reception, for supporters of the project.
I have been working at the Everett Public Library(WA) as the Manager of Youth Services and Outreach for almost 5 years. Working in Everett is special, because not only was EPL my childhood public library, but my mother was also a librarian there.  Coincidentally, this is now the third library where my mother, now retired, worked before me. The other two were the Northeast and Lake City Branch Libraries in Seattle.  

EPL is a medium-sized library system, in a city with a little over 100,000 residents.  We are only 25 miles north of Seattle, however Everett is not a suburb, it is its own, distinct city.  When our parent’s generation was growing up, Seattle was an hour and a half away.  That was before the Interstate, now I can get downtown in about 28 minutes.  We have a large Main Library, a medium-sized branch library, a bookmobile, and an outreach van that provides cart service to seniors. 

(Coffee shop entrance on the South side of the Main Library. The original 1933 portion of the building is on the right; the perpendicular wall on the left with the wide gray stripes is part of the 1991 expansion and renovation.)

Let’s Hear Your Roar! 
I’d like to roar about our renovated and improved youth services area at our Main Library, which opened in November of 2011. We now have a teen seating and computer area, in addition to our well-established YA fiction collection.  Space for the Teen Zone was carved out inside our existing building. First, by knocking out two walls from the very small and windowless old Storytime Room.  Then, the seldom-used magazine archives behind the juvenile stacks had been a magnet for illicit activity. So, when many physical magazines were retired in favor of magazine databases, those dusty stacks came down and the new Activity Room went up; double the size of the old Storytime Room.  We also made the entire youth services space feel more open by carving out a central aisle through the juvenile stacks, and cutting down stacks to improve sight lines.

( The new aisle through the juvenile stacks, leading to the new, multipurpose Youth Services Activity Room; used for both children’s and teen programs, in addition to library staff meetings, book discussion groups, and community groups.) 
A nearby high school and middle school suggested names for the new teen space, and voted on their favorite.  “Teen Zone” was the clear winner.  The entire youth services section of the library is now a magnet for families with kids of all ages, and a popular hangout spot with teens after school and on the weekends.  Our two full-time youth services librarians hardly have a moment to think anymore!  As we like to say, being crowded and busy is a good problem to have, because that’s what we’re here for. 

(View into the Teen Zone from the Youth Services librarian’s desk the night of the opening celebration.  Everett High School’s Battle of the Bands winners, Ohmega 3, were the featured performers. Nov. 2011.)

(Teen computers and seating, with the Children’s Library in the background, top right. The purple wall is magnetic, and so are the galvanized steel back panels on the custom-built movable shelving.) 

What do you love most about your work?
It’s a three-way tie between the books, the kids, and the teens.  I especially enjoy collection development and reader’s advisory.  Finding the perfect match between a reader and a book is one of the most rewarding parts of my job.  I’m always thrilled when a child or teen returns to the library to tell me about reading a book I recommended, and then they ask for more suggestions. When their parents start asking me for recommendations of juvenile or young adult books they themselves might enjoy reading, that’s a wonderful bonus.          

Library Laughs
This goes way back to my first full-time job after library school. I was working at the old High Point Branch Library, with The Seattle Public Library. Back then, the library occupied the main floors of 4 townhouses with the interior walls torn out to connect the four units. These were originally World War II defense worker housing, but were now considered “The Projects” for low-income families.  Many of the families were refugees from northeast Africa and Southeast Asia.

One little girl from Somalia finished reading her favorite picture book for what seemed like the hundredth time.  She was about five or six, it was the first book she learned to read on her own, and she asked us to find it for her every day. She hugged that book tightly to her chest, sighed with pure book bliss, and gazed happily up at our branch manager, Christy Tyson. “I love reading! Reading makes you gooder.”   Christy, who was one of the original YALSA board members, has passed away since then, but whenever I have an exhausting day at work, I remember Christy who mentored me, and I remember this girl who is now a young woman, and I remember that libraries make the world “gooder.”
There is a part two to that story.  That little library had only 1,200 square feet of public space and after school, we were wall-to-wall kids.  We were so full every day; I was told there had already been two written warnings from the fire department for being over capacity.  I never verified this fact, but allegedly, if we were caught violating fire code again, the library would be fined $10,000.  So, we counted heads every day after school, and when we hit building capacity, which was around 45, we had to post a staff person at the door.  We couldn’t let anyone else in unless somebody else left.  It was so heartbreaking to tell a child, especially a child from that housing development, “I am so sorry.  I can’t let you into the library right now, it’s full.”

After hearing this unwelcome news one afternoon, a teenage boy stormed off, waving his arms and shouting  loud enough for the entire neighborhood to hear, “What d’ya mean the li-berry is full?!?  How’m I suppos’t get my ed-u-ma-ca-tion!?!”  And yes, he spoke that way intentionally, he was normally very well-spoken, and also quite the comedian.  One of the things I love about libraries is that libraries can help make the difference between “edumacated” and “educated.” 
That entire housing development has since been demolished, along with that overcrowded library.  There is now lovely new housing with a large and beautiful community library. 

A Lion’s Pride of Programs:
Our storytimes in Everett are often at maximum capacity, so we don’t need extra promotion for those.  In 2012, we did a soft launch of a monthly Saturday program series for families and youth. We hired children’s performers and entertainers, and even scheduled some authors.  Attendance varied widely from month-to-month, from 5 people to 75 people.  Although our program budget was reduced this year, we are trying to continue these Saturday programs.  We’d love to see them full! 

(Seattle “Kindie-Rock” musician, Caspar Babypants -- AKA Chris Ballew, of the band The Presidents of the United State of America -- was one of our most well-attended family programs at the Main Library.) 
Sadly, whenever we host a children’s or teen author program, we usually don’t get same high turnout that we do for a puppet show or for performing animals. We had an Alien Author Party last September, with Bellingham (WA) author Clete Barrett Smith.  He talked about Aliens on Vacation, and Alien on a Rampage. We encouraged the audience to wear alien costumes, served alien snacks, and after the author’s very humorous presentation, we did alien crafts.  There were only 9 kids there, plus their parents, but those who attended had a fantastic time.      

(Clete poses with a nine-year old fan. We believe this alien is named William, his brother Zachary was also there in similar attire.) 

Readers Roar
 “A book is like a roller coaster ride, you read it and want to read it again.”  Audryanna, 6th grade

“The library is like Wonderland where we are Alice with a new discovery around each corner.” Kali, 8th grade
Teen boy: Where is the vampire section? 
Me: Let me walk you over to Young Adult fiction …
Teen boy (interrupting): Same thing. 

Teen girl last July 5th, knocking on my office door:  I’ve read ALL the new YA fiction you got in June, where are the July new books? (I ran and grabbed an armful from the processing area, she checked them all out.) 

Book Brag: What three books are hot this year? Why?
Young Adult series continue to dominate, these are three of the most popular YA series with both teens, and adults.   

Allyson Condie’s Reached, book three in the Matched Trilogy, was one of the most hotly anticipated titles this winter. We pre-ordered 12 copies long in advance so people could start putting holds on the title, and we had to lock them up until the official release date.  We are a two-branch library system, so having that much demand for a single title is fantastic!

There has been a waiting list for Insurgent, by Veronica Roth, book two in the Divergent Series ever since it was released.  Our 7 copies are always checked out. 

Boys were asking for The Kill Order, prequel to Maze Runner, by James Dashner months before it came out, so we ordered 14 copies to meet the demand. I recently re-ordered 7 more copies each of The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure to replace the copies that had fallen apart. 
Teens are really into dystopian fiction, and also alternate histories and alternate futures.  I have never seen teen science fiction as popular as it is now, although it’s becoming more and more difficult to distinguish fantasy from SciFi, it’s blending together. 

Another popular sub-genre is fractured fairy tales, especially if it’s futuristic with science fiction elements, like Cinder by Marissa Meyer.  Books with just a touch of the paranormal, such as Raven Boys by Maggie Steifvater are doing well.  And a dash of romance always helps the books fly off the shelves, like The Selection, by Kiera Cass. 
Authors and publishers are hooking readers with book one in a series, the teens all tell their friends, and they all wait in anticipation of the next book, fueled by online hype and buzz, social networking, and the media.  Some new YA fiction is being promoted heavily in the popular media, publications like Entertainment Weekly, and even in teen fashion magazines. The link between YA books and the movie industry also helps fuel the demand for teen fiction.  I love it when readers require themselves to read the book BEFORE they go see the movie.   Although there are some kids and teens who don’t believe me when I tell them not every movie is based on a book.

Library Lion’s Roar: ONE LAST BIG ROAR
Our library is dedicated to getting popular books into the hands of kids and teens when they want to read them.  When a young reader is in the mood to read a book, we want to capitalize on that and not discourage them by putting them on a long waiting list. Waiting for weeks or months feels like FOREVER to a child.  Think about it: for a nine-year old, a 12 week wait for a book is equal to about 2.5% of their entire lifetime.  It would be the equivalent of an adult my age being on a waiting list for more than a year.  It’s way too easy for kids and teens to say, “Forget it! I’ll just go play a computer game.”  Our goals is to hook ‘em early and keep feeding them books!  If we can keep young readers supplied with what they want, when they want it, it’s a self-perpetuating cycle and they will hopefully grow up to be lifelong readers. 

We’ve been experimenting with what quantities of popular titles it takes to reach the saturation level.  A level where there are almost always a few copies on the shelf, with no waiting list.  When the Hunger Games movie came out, I ordered 100 paperback copies of the book, and for a while, we still had a waiting list!  For Diary of a Wimpy Kid book 7, The Third Wheel, we didn’t talk about how many books we should order, we talked about how many CASES of books we should order.  We have 60 of that title, by the way, and only 4 copies are on the shelf right now at our Main Library. We keep ordering, in bulk, replacements copies of the first 6 Wimpy Kid books, because they are continually being read to pieces.  This method is still being refined.  We want to keep titles well-stocked, but we also don’t want to end up with a lot of shelf-sitters 2 or 3 months after the book came out. 

Let’s Link:
Blog: http://areadinglife.com/

Library Website: www.epls.org

Thank you, Emily, for your terrific interview!

Love Libraries? Give a Roar in “Comments” below.

Note to Librarians: If you’re a Youth Librarian working in a school or public library we’d love to hear about you and your library. Contact Janet at jlcarey@hotmail.com for an interview slot.