Saturday, December 29, 2012

2012 in Review

I seriously can't believe how quickly the past three months have flown by...or this year for that matter! I'd thought I'd finally take some time away from my busy new life as a library director to update this blog with a review of the past 12 months. I promise to be as concise as possible and keep it to one post! I'll start with the books I've read. Along with GoodReads, I started using Pinterest to keep track of my reading history - it's a wonderfully visual way to look back on what I've discovered. Click here to check out my "Books I've Read 2012" board.
My favorites would have to have been John Green's The Fault in Our Stars, Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood, and Karen Thompson Walker's The Age of Miracles.

My life has proven to be nearly as adventurous as some my reading choices this year. In April, as I was celebrating my 27th birthday, I had to say goodbye to a wonderful coworker whose wake was the evening of the same day. My first year and a half at the Lawrence Public Library, I got to work a lot with Olga, the interlibrary loan specialist. Her wit and smile were contagious - she was one of the reasons I enjoyed working at LPL so much. As summer approached, I prepared to express my love and commitment to my husband, Nate, in front of my family and friends - and it was extra special to have my good friend, Becky, my two brothers, and my current supervisor, Lynn, stand up with me as my guests of honor. At the end of August came another big change: I applied for and was offered my first director position at the Oskaloosa Public Library, and Nate and I packed up our things and moved to Iowa!

The changes didn't stop there! Because we weren't able to get out of our lease in Lawrence, we decided to stay with Nate's parents - who live about 30 minutes away from Oskaloosa. Thankfully they kindly agreed to let us stay rent free until we either found a subleaser or got out the lease, as long as we helped out with groceries and necessities. However, we quickly realized our allotted space was a little too constricting, and my Cat, Echo, wasn't getting along with the feline locals - Sissy and Zoey. So we bought a house! A beautiful two story, four bedroom, two bathroom turn of the century home. We actually closed yesterday, and Nate and I spent the evening and a good part of the night transferring our stuff again, unpacking, hanging picture frames and putting together our bed. We're now looking forward to the new year - and many more - in our new residence!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Meeting the Technology Needs of the Community

One of the ideas I've been excited to bring to the Oskaloosa Public Library is offering free computer classes to the public. It's obviously not a new idea - the staff has offered Q&A sessions in which patrons could bring their own devices before, but because of budget cuts that affected part time hours, they had to stop. The local cable and Internet provider comes in and offers classes once a month in one of the meeting rooms, too, but I wanted to be able to do something more. So I scheduled a few classes in December as a trial run just to see how the community would respond.

Coming from a library that serves a population of nearly 100,000 residents to one that serves a little more than 11,000 - I've quickly realized the limitations I have to work with. The computer lab that I'll be using only has 8 computers in it, but two of them are so outdated they're pretty much useless for this purpose. Thus, I have to limit my class sizes to six. Because the library can only afford to replace a few computers at a time, we have a mismatched set. Funding has also limited the programs that we have on the computers - not all of them have the basic Microsoft Suite. Staff time, too, is limited. However, I've decided these things aren't going to stop the library from offering the best service we can.

The day after I released the schedule for December's computer classes and sent out a press release, the local newspaper, The Oskaloosa Herald, published it on the front page. By that evening, my two Computer Basics 1 and Computer Basics 2 sessions had filled up. By the next morning, we had enough people on the waiting list to fill another session of each. I can't express how good I feel about this. It's a clear demonstration that opportunities to gain technology skills is a real need in the community, and that the library can be the first place people can go for it. I'm excited to see how the classes go!

Friday, October 19, 2012

An Update...Finally

Where do I begin? I haven't posted about what I've been reading in a while. After a Harry Potter re-reading binge in which I read straight through the fourth book, I moved on to Alison McGhee's Falling Boy. Ready for something a little less fantastical, I was satisfied with the story of sixteen year old Joseph, paralyzed and having trouble coming to terms with his new wheelchair bound life and the accident that brought it on. Zap, a coworker at the bakery Joseph works at, and his strange little sister Enzo, who wants to believe Joseph's a superhero, inadvertently help him get there through their interest in his past. I loved the characters and couldn't put the book down til the end.

From there, I moved on to Veronica Roth's Divergent and Insurgent at the suggestion of my administrative assistant and cataloger. Another dystopian trilogy, the Divergent novels follow Beatrice - or Tris - Prior, as she leaves the selfless Abnegation faction she grew up in to join the Dauntless, a group of people who live for thrill. However, this transition is just the start of her problems, as she discover's she's a Divergent - someone who shows aptitude for more than one faction. My cataloger said she enjoyed these much more than The Hunger Games. I personally can't say I feel the same; however, I did enjoy them. The second got a little slow for me - I kept wanting a little more action, but got very little til the end. I'm still looking forward to the conclusion to the trilogy though.

Things at my new library couldn't be going better. Not only do I have a great staff to work with, but a wonderfully supportive Friends of the Library group and an incredible Board of Trustees. The past month has flown by, with my keeping busy with collection development, learning the budget, and getting to know the community. I've been working on a couple of projects that I'm excited to present to the board, projects that I hope will help increase the library's visibility and relevancy in the community. One of those is a redesign of the logo - I've already shown my idea to the staff, and they've seemed pretty receptive. I'm looking forward to the tasks and challenges ahead - one of which came a little sooner than expected.

After my staff meeting a few weeks ago, my Children's Librarian, Mrs. Fox, handed me her letter of intent to retire. Mrs. Fox has been with the library for nearly thirty years and has built a strong relationship with the parents, teachers and children of the community. I spent all of last week shadowing her - following her to preschool and elementary school classes and observing her storytimes and activities. Because I value the work she does, I want to make sure the library continues to live up to the level of service that she has provided for the community. I'm now working with the Friends of the Library, the Library Board, and the local Parent Teacher Organization to put together a reception for her so we all can thank her and wish her well in her retirement.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

10,000!


At some point today, this blog surpassed 10,000 page views! Though I've got some regular readers for which I'm very grateful, most of those are thanks to a February post in which I shared a "What I really do..." meme image I created. It's responsible for 1,825 of those views. (So that's pretty much how you gain page views if you really want them: embrace the meme.) Other popular posts were a review of Kimya Dawson's song, The Library (411 views); my About Me post (178) and a Top Five Friday post on librarian blogs (128). Anywho, thanks for visiting and reading!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Interested, Invested and Involved

From stepping into the building for the first time to attending my first library board meeting tonight, I can't believe how quickly my first two weeks as director have gone by. I've done everything from touring the building and meeting the staff to managing invoices, placing orders for new materials, and even interviewing and hiring new staff! I arrive every day at 8:00 a.m. and am amazed at how fast 5:00 comes around. The board of trustees, Friends of the Library and Library Foundation sponsored a great reception the Thursday evening after my first day, during which I met many members of the community, including the mayor and a few city councilmen. I interviewed with the local newspaper, the Oskaloosa Herald, Osky News, an online news site, and CRI News, the local television news station. I almost felt like a celebrity!

One of the questions I had to answer was "What are your plans for the library?" When I interviewed for the position, I told the board that I wouldn't consider any major changes within the first 6 months to a year. My first intentions were to get to know the staff, the board and the community, and then I said I would work from there. One small goal I've been working on, though, is increasing the library's social media presence. So far since I've started helping provide content, the reach of the library's Facebook page has risen to about 6,000 (up from ~250) with an average of nearly 200 people interacting with our content weekly, and we've gained a couple of new followers on Twitter. At the board meeting tonight, I presented this information, explained that I'll be forming a social media and website team with staff, and then requested the policy committee work on developing a social media policy, which will help guide and inform the team. I'm very excited to see where we can go with social media.


Facebook and Twitter aren't the only areas in which I'm getting involved, though. Day by day, I'm learning the collection, training at the desks, and working with the staff in understanding how they've gotten along so far and coming up with ways in which we, as a team, can improve the services of the library. In his closing remarks at tonight's meeting, the president of the board of trustees said that I was a breath of fresh air for the library. He explained that I was the first director to express an interest in meeting with each of the board members individually and mentioned that I was also the first to attend the teen advisory board's Annual Cemetery Walk. I'm just doing what they asked me to do, though - be interested, invested and involved in as many of the details of the library as possible. To me, that's what it means to be a library director.

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Final Farewell and New Beginnings

This is the third and final post in which I am reflecting and reminiscing on my former position as Reference Librarian at the Lawrence Public Library. I'll also include a little bit about my first day as Director of the Oskaloosa Public Library in Oskaloosa, Iowa.

By the time I left the Lawrence Library, I really felt I had done almost everything. Managing the Book Club in a Bag service, scheduling and teaching computer classes, keeping track of reference desk statistics, providing technical support for eReaders and audiobooks, creating reader's advisory handouts, working on displays, serving on the staff development committee, processing interlibrary loan materials...I'm grateful that my supervisor allowed me so many avenues in which to explore my creativity as a librarian and information professional.

Reflecting on my time at LPL and in Lawrence, I really feel like I couldn't have had a better start to my career in librarianship. I had a wonderful, supportive and encouraging supervisor, Lynn, and many great coworkers who were fun to work with and easy to get along with. Lawrence, too, was a great place to be as a young adult getting started - progressive, culturally vibrant, and full of interesting, friendly people. As evident in the approval of the upcoming expansion and renovation project, the library serves a community that recognizes the value of its services - which makes working there much more fulfilling. That renovation is one thing that I'm kind of sad I'll miss out on - but I know I can always come back to visit and check it out.

I don't know how often those visit will be, though - today was my first day as a director! Bright and early at 8 a.m., I met the city manager, who's been acting as interim director, and he introduced me to some of the staff and gave me a tour of the building. One of my favorite parts: my office. My office. Going from a work space shared with about 8 others to a full size office of my own is a definite upgrade - and I'm pretty sure it made a few of my Facebook friends a little jealous. The rest of the day was spent filling out HR paperwork, setting up my email account, meeting staff and volunteers, observing, and reading over board packets, budget reports, and annual reports. Oh, and I also had the local news station come in and take a few clips of me working...or wandering around the library and straightening a few books, that is.

So what will I be doing tomorrow? Who knows?! Well...I do have a few meetings planned and I'll be receiving training on the circulation desk. I'll keep you updated on my adventures!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Farewell LPL, Part 2

This is a second post in which I am reflecting and reminiscing on my time in my former position, and giving a final farewell to the Lawrence Public Library.

Until my attempts to get a position in a library, I had never experienced trouble feeling confident in interviews and getting jobs. Because I had already met Lynn, though, I was able to relax and feel comfortable again in my interview with her and Sherri, the assistant director of LPL. Afterward, Lynn seemed very impressed and pretty much told me to expect a phone call. She told me that there were a few other people from my library school class who did a reference observation at her desk, but I was the only one who sent a thank you note - and that impressed her very much. And so, just a few days later, she called and offered me the part time Reference Assistant position and my adventure with the Lawrence Public Library began.

Me as Harry Potter at the Halloween themed
Caddy Stacks golf in the library event in
October 2010.
Once I started, I wanted to do everything. I told myself never to say no to a task asked of me, no matter how tedious. From keeping track of reference desk statistics to helping process interlibrary loan items, from shifting ranges full of books to sitting at the lower level computer lab reference desk for more than 2 hours - I never hesitated to do things some of my coworkers deemed undesirable. In retrospect, I almost feel taking the job was a big risk. I had intended to stay on at Lawrence High, but they weren't willing to work with me. As librarianship was my intended career path, I gave up the full time job; however, I definitely don't regret it.

Over the next two years, I managed to gain full time status and then a professional title through a series of fortunate events. In 2010, a coworker who was half time interlibrary loan and half time serials went on maternity leave and decided not to come back, so Lynn merged my part-time reference position with the serials half. She was determined not to lose me, because she knew I was needing a full time position badly. In 2011, the serials responsibilities that I took over were then given to the technical services department. Since I had finished my MLS at that point, administration decided to give me the official, professional title of Reference Librarian, along with all the benefits that come with it. This finally gave me the time and freedom to do what I really wanted.

To be continued again...

Friday, September 7, 2012

Farewell LPL, Part 1

Well, my last day as a Reference Librarian at the Lawrence Public Library has come and passed, and I'm just a few short hours away from driving away from Lawrence. As I look forward to my new adventure as a library director, I want to take a couple of blog posts to reflect and reminisce on my experience at LPL.

Before I started library school and was offered a job at the library, I commuted to Lawrence from a small neighboring town and worked as a paraeducator at Lawrence High School. I used to drive by the library everyday on my way home from the high school and tell myself, "Some day I'm going to work there." My supervisor laughed and thought I was being mendacious when I first told her this, but I wasn't. I knew what I wanted, and by reminding myself of that goal everyday helped me take the first steps and apply for entrance into the School of Library and Information Science at Emporia State University. I had long before decided librarianship was the career field for me, instead of education, as I wanted to work in a place where people come because they want to learn, not because the government requires them to.

Getting that job, though, was much tougher than I had imagined. With two high schools and a university, the job market in Lawrence is very tough - it always helps to have connections. I didn't. By the time I had gotten through my first semester of library school, I had applied to two different positions at LPL, and I heard very little to nothing in response. I also offered to volunteer my time, but even those opportunities are scarce. Figuring I'd have to start elsewhere, I applied and interviewed for a simple circulation desk clerk job at a small library in another town, and I was told I didn't have enough experience. I almost gave up. But then I was assigned a reference observation report for one of my classes, and that's when things started to fall into place.

I emailed the director of the Lawrence Public Library and asked if I could set up a time to observe at their reference desk. He referred me to the Adult Services Coordinator, Lynn Koenig, who was happy to let me come in and watch for a bit. When I did, she just happened to be covering the desk. She was very friendly and expressed interest in my school work, as she too graduated from Emporia. We chatted for a while, I watched her interact with a couple of patrons, and I left with enough information to write my paper. When I visited the library's website to get a little bit more information, I noticed that there an opening in Lynn's department. I promptly wrote her an email thanking her for allowing me to do the observation, and I mentioned that I would be submitting an application...

To be continued...

Thursday, August 30, 2012

wreaking havoc and consequence

Tuesday saw the release of Alanis Morisssette's seventh album Havoc and Bright Lights, and, having been a long-time fan of her music, I clearly had it on pre-order. Having gotten married and given birth to her first child since her last release, Alanis reveals her nurturing, maternal side with a track list of 12 songs that - to me - sound reminiscent of adult contemporary of the 90's. It's a clear contrast from the "spiteful female singer" she was typecast as during her "Jagged Little Pill era," but she's no stranger to embracing and expressing all of who she is, as should be her most die-hard fans. Sitting listening to it yesterday, I was amazed at how coincidentally relevant some of the songs seemed to my current situation. One in particular, Havoc, spoke directly to some of the inner feelings I've been experiencing about my transition to my new position.

I am beaten by my impulsiveness
By this uncanny foreshadowing of regret
Cause I'm repulsed by restriction - at least that's my excuse


A part of me feels like by accepting the directorship in Iowa, I'm wreaking havoc on my life as I know it - but it's havoc that I, in no way, regret. I'm ready to accept the consequences of - what almost feels as impulsive - actions - consequences that include broadening my skill set as an information professional, encountering challenges that will only serve to strengthen my abilities, and embracing opportunities for leadership and transformation. The havoc - and not necessarily negative havoc - I feel is also being brought upon my soon-to-be-former workplace. I had my exit interview with the assistant director this afternoon, and she told me that I'm leaving quite a big hole they'll have to fill. Teaching computer classes, developing and printing reader's advisory handouts, managing the Book Club in a Bag service, helping plan the staff in-service day, organizing the staff holiday breakfast - on top of all the normal tasks of a Reference Librarian - all of these responsibilities I'm having to pass on to others. Though I secretly worry about how things will go, I'm happy that I'm providing other people with the opportunity to develop their skills with these things.

I'm slipping grip
I'm up to my tricks off my wagon
I have no defense
I'm wreaking havoc -
Wreaking havoc and consequence


Just as Alanis has embraced her new roles as a wife and mother, I'm convincing myself that, despite the havoc that's being wrought, I too can accept and embrace the changes that are coming in my own life. I'm excited about my new job, I'm excited about my move to Iowa, and I'm excited to continue sharing my experiences and musings with you...not as a Reference Librarian, but as a Library Director.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

My next great endeavor

I realize I've been neglecting posting for a while, but I've been holding off so I can safely announce some really big news. In less than a month, I'm going to have to change my tagline to "...Musings of a Library Director." That's right! I'm happy to announce that I have been offered the position of director at the Oskaloosa Public Library in Oskaloosa, Iowa and will officially begin on the 10th of September. Having spent the majority of my life here in Kansas, I'm a little nervous, but excited all the same to embark on this new and exciting endeavor. This obviously means, though, that I will be leaving the Lawrence Public Library...

As my first library job, I couldn’t have asked for a better experience working with the adult services department and the rest of the staff at LPL. From keeping reference desk statistics to processing interlibrary loan materials, providing readers' advisory to teaching computer classes, creating displays and helping patrons with their eReaders, I've enjoyed everything I've done here. The past three years have been invaluable – I have learned so much, met many wonderful people from the community, and worked alongside many amazing, supportive coworkers. The opportunities for both professional and personal growth have been plentiful, and it’s with this experience that I know I will be successful at the Oskaloosa library.

In a charming, expanded Carnegie building, the Oskaloosa Public Library serves a small college town of about 11,000 people. On the verge of a strategic planning process, the library is sure to provide me with challenges and even more opportunities to strengthen my skills as an information professional. Nervous and excited, I can't wait to see what I can bring to the community in this position, and I look forward to sharing about my experiences there.

Friday, August 3, 2012

LPL's Last Bash of Summer

Yesterday evening, I got to help out at the Lawrence Public Library's Last Bash of Summer block party. I've got to hand it to our adult programming librarian, the youth services coordinator and department, and anyone else who had a hand in planning it - they sure know how to put together a party!

The city let the library block off the street to set up a stage for performances by three local bands, Hospital Ships, The Dan Ryan, and Danny Pound and the Wild Card Catalog - a reunion of the library director's band from the 90's, Vitreous Humor. The library partnered with local businesses to provide free kettle corn, cotton candy, and soft drinks, and Local Burger, a restaurant across the street, provided 1,000 hot dogs - which were delicious. I was assigned adult beverage patrol, as the library also got a permit to let Free State Brewing sell beer during the party, and fortunately I had no major issues - the crowd was a good one. People as young as infants and as old as seniors hung out for two hours, enjoying the snacks, making crafts, and listening to music.

Danny Pound and the Wild Card Catalog -
Library Director, Brad Allen, on the far right.

The Last Bash is an annual end of summer celebration that the library hosts. It's a wonderful way to both bring the people in the community together and reward them for their participation in the summer reading program. Over 1,000 children and teens and more than 800 adults have finished this year - breaking our records yet again. You can view more of the photos from the party on the library's Facebook page.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Transformations in the Library

At the end of my Getting Started with Facebook class this morning, one of the participants commented on how much more comfortable she felt using the site because of what she learned. This was the second part of a two session class, and today's focus was primarily on account and privacy settings. All of the people who came to the class had already had Facebook accounts, but I could tell that most of the information I presented today was new to them.

I've posted before about teaching classes on Facebook, but it's comments like the one the patron made today that cause me to further reflect on the value of the service we provide not just through computer classes, but through the free access to information in all the forms the library presents.

The patron left class with with a better understanding of the site, which will allow her to connect and communicate with her friends and family more easily. Armed with the tools to protect her privacy, she now feels less hesitant in those interactions and is able to enjoy the site as it was meant to be enjoyed. Transformations like these make being a librarian so rewarding.

Whether it's a shy young patron who opens up when asked about his or her favorite book or someone researching overcoming addictions finding the resources that will help them or the patron eagerly anticipating the release of the next Sookie Stackhouse novel but satisfied with a read alike, librarians have the power to change peoples' lives. I've said it before, and I'll say it over and over again - this is what I love about my job.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Going Beyond the Stacks

My supervisor, Lynn, and I had the opportunity this afternoon to visit with the Welcome Club of Lawrence which meets monthly for a luncheon and presentation at the Alvamar Country Club. They treated us to cold cut sandwiches, fruit and cheesecake for dessert, and then we presented on the topic of "Contemporary Communication Technology." Knowing that we had given a similar presentation on eBooks for a University of Kansas alumni group, one of the first vice presidents and co-program chairs, Marlene, came to the library about a month ago and invited us to come and share with the group about the different smartphones, tablets, and other devices available. The members of the group that generally attend the lunches are retired, and Marlene thought they would be interested in learning about the different things their children and grandchildren use to communicate and connect to the internet.

When we first arrived, we still didn't know quite what to expect - but we were excited to have the opportunity to share with them. Several of the board members of the group greeted us and introduced us to many of the members, who ranged in ages from 40 to late 80's. They were all very friendly, and once our presentation commenced, many had questions and comments to share. Lynn and I started by showing off the different Apple and Android devices available, then we talked about WiFi and data plans, and then briefly toured Facebook, Twitter and YouTube as examples of websites their children and grandchildren probably access. I was amazed and impressed at the variance in experience and knowledge they demonstrated, and Lynn and I could have gone on for hours answering questions and talking about social media sites. After we had finished, Marlene and members of the board said that that was the most participation they've ever had at any of their luncheons.

On our drive back to the library, Lynn and I discussed how well the presentation went, and envisioned the possibility of presenting to other groups in town. As our library moves toward a renovation process, with the possibility of temporarily relocating during construction, these outreach opportunities will become much more important. It was a perfect way for us to promote library services (several in the group expressed an interest in attending our upcoming computer class about Facebook) as well as network with members of the community. We didn't just share about technology, we demonstrated the importance and relevance of the library and what we can provide for them.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars

How would you live your life today if you knew you were going to die tomorrow? How would you interact with the people you love if you knew you were leaving them?

If there’s just one young adult book you read this year, make it John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. Heartbreaking and intelligent, the novel tells the story of 16 year old Hazel, a stage IV thyroid cancer patient who has pretty much come to terms with her terminal diagnosis. Having to cart an oxygen tank wherever she goes because the cancer has ravaged her lungs, she has accepted that any day now she could fall asleep and never wake up. But that’s not the end to her story.

Hazel doesn’t expect much out of her cancer support group, and she certainly doesn’t expect to fall in love. Agustus Waters, a fellow group member whose leg was claimed by a malignant bone tumor, however, quickly becomes the object of her affections. It doesn’t help that Gus himself instantly shows an interest in her. That six letter word they share in common provides them a perspective on life that allows them to easily relate to each other, and they develop a romance that’s mature beyond their years. Despite Hazel’s terminal illness, Gus uses his one wish granted by a foundation to whisk her off to Amsterdam (though not without proper medical provisions) so she can meet the author of the book with which she’s been obsessed. On the trip, they both discover much about life, love and dreams.

Green has a fantastic ability to create real characters you can connect with. Other readers have suggested taking on this book when you’re alone with a box of tissues – as those around you may give you strange looks, confused as to whether you’re laughing out loud or crying. You’ll fall in love with these characters, laugh with them and never want to let them go.

This review also appears on the Lawrence Public Library's Great Reads blog.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

More Love for Librarian Blogs

Two weeks ago, I posted about my favorite blogs by librarians. Want more? What I may have failed to mention (and this may be stating the obvious) is that there are tons of really great blogs and websites for and about librarians. A reader recently contacted me through email and shared OnlineCollege.org's recently updated list of 100 Best Blogs for School Librarians, and suggested I pass it along to my readers.
The list covers blogs by all sorts of librarians - from school to children's and young adult librarians - as well as professional development and book blogs. Whether you're interested in keeping up with trends in the profession, networking with other librarians, or just seeing what other librarians are doing, the blogosphere is the perfect place to do so, and this list is a great starting point. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Book Review: With or Without You by Brian Farrey

I honestly almost returned this book to the shelf after reading the word "sexy" in the synopsis on the back cover. I'm not a fan of shallow, sex centered plots, especially in young adult titles, and that's what that word said to me. However, I gave Farrey's debut a second chance, read the first few pages and found it had a little bit more to offer.

Evan leads a double life. He and his best friend, Davis, have been out of the closet for years, and he even has had a boyfriend for almost a year - but a boyfriend nobody knows about. Bullied and beaten up through the last day at their Wisconsin high school, Evan and Davis dream of finally escaping their tormentors - whom they call trogs - with their not too distant move to Chicago. First, though, they have to spend one more summer in Madison. That's when Davis discovers the Chasers - a group that promises protection, liberation and revolution.

Enamored with the reckless leader of the Chasers, Davis convinces Evan to join the the group and their dangerous schemes to get back at the society of hate set against them. But Evan has his own personal problems to deal with. The lies that keep his two worlds separate now appear to only harm his relationships. His boyfriend, Erik, becomes frustrated that Evan has yet to fully invite him into his life and to meet his family. It doesn't help that Erik has invited Evan to move with him to California, forcing him to choose between their relationship and his loyalty to his best friend.

With or Without You turned out to be a pretty relevant, decent read, despite that choice word I didn't like in the description. Farrey addresses bullying, coming out of the closet, monogamous versus open relationships, and other gay issues. I appreciated how his characters didn't perpetuate stereotypes, which makes them more realistic. I actually enjoyed the read, and I'm happy I didn't put this book back.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Read Cool, Keep Cool

Saturdays are usually pretty slow at the reference desk, so today I decided to take some of that downtime and swap out one of the displays. Kansas - and much of the nation - has been experiencing a heat wave this week, with temperatures in the triple digits, and there doesn't seem to be much of a relief in the near future. Thus, I came up with the theme Read Cool, Keep Cool:
Reading takes you to different places, right? I thought people would respond well to the idea of keeping their minds off the heat by reading fiction that takes place in cold climates. I pulled general fiction, mysteries and even science fiction set in places like Alaska and Antarctica, or during winter months.

I have a few titles lined up already for summer reading, but I'm thinking I might have to amend my list and check one of these out myself. What's your favorite cold weather read?

Friday, June 29, 2012

Top Five Friday: Librarian Blogs

It's been a while since I've done a Top Five Friday (I know, I know - I said I'd do it every week...but then I realized every other post was a Top Five Friday and felt it looked kind of silly). Anyway, through a small project I call Librarian Problems, I've recently become more aware of the amazing community of blogging librarians out there. Today I've decided to blog a bit about my favorite blogs by librarians!

1. This Is What a Librarian Looks Like
Aiming to challenge the old bun and cardigan stereotype, Bobbi Newman of Librarian by Day and Erin Downey Howerton of Hybrid Librarian invite librarians all over the world to share photos and tell a little bit about themselves. I love seeing and reading about all the different personalities and kinds of people who make up our profession today. By recently submitting a post myself, I've come to realize how it's also a great way for librarians to connect and network with each other.

2. Shelf Renewal
Last fall I attended a workshop on blogging presented by Rebecca Vnuk, Editor for Reference and Collection Management at Booklist, who coauthors this great resource for back list titles with Karen Kleckner Keefe, Director of the Hinsdale (IL) Public Library. They offer read alike suggestions for current popular titles and bring attention to older, but great reads.

3. 658.8 - Practical Marketing for Public Libraries
Susan Brown, Marketing Director at my library, offers up tips and examples of useful marketing efforts for public libraries. Since accepting the marketing position, she has positively transformed the Lawrence Public Library's social media team and strategy, helped in the recent redesign of the website, and in many ways, has opened the eyes of the community to what the library can really offer. She has some great ideas to share!

4. RA for All
I was introduced to this blog at another workshop. The blog's author, Becky, who works at Berwyn (IL) Public Library and teaches at the Dominican University library school, provides "a showcase of the wonderful world of Readers' Advisory (RA)." From her 10 rules for basic RA to tons of reading suggestions, Becky's blog is a great resource for anyone who works in a library - because all library workers can be reader advisers.

5. Sturdy for Common Things
Rebecca Dunn, a children's librarian at the Lawrence Public Library, blogs with images, words and books. Though it's more a story of her life than her library experiences, she does share about her work at the library, including storytimes, crafts for children and book reviews of titles she loves. The blog is filled with amazing photography, great ideas and inspiring reflections.

Now that I've shared some of my favorite, what are some blogs that you follow?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

To shush or not to shush

While I was working the reference desk yesterday, a coworker was chatting with a mom and her kids about their summer reading and a recent trip they went on. This conversation took place near the desk, which is just in front of the adult sitting area. Besides a few excited outbursts, their volume level, I thought, was pretty low and I thought nothing of it. After about ten minutes, though, an older woman stormed up to the desk and said, "You know, if I were talking that loud I would have been spoken to." She then held up a pair of headphones. "I can't even hear these!" Before I could even respond, she turned and stomped toward the exit.

The main level of our library is pretty much a big open space. The entry ways, children's room, teen zone and check out desk are all on this level and are all areas where noise tends to collect, so we typically maintain a loose volume policy. We don't prohibit patrons from using cell phones in the building, but we do request that they use soft voices and keep their conversations brief. If someone talks loudly or carries on a longer conversation - person to person or on a cell phone - I will ask that they move out to the lobby or entryway. The lower level is a different case. Because it's a smaller space and most of the computers are down there, we do try to enforce a somewhat stricter policy.

Not too long ago, there was a discussion on KANLIB-L about noise policies. While many of the responses described similar situations like ours, there was one librarian who rebuked this practice. He argued that this was abandoning traditional library practices and that we shouldn't banish those seeking quiet spaces to certain areas of the library. Boy did he get some sharp replies. "If we want to stay relevant, public libraries must move away from the ancient tome of silence model and welcome all patrons - noisy or not so noisy," they all seemed to say. When it comes to customer service, though, to whom should we cater?

While I understand both sides of the argument, it's hard to claim a general rule one way or the other. In yesterday's situation, it was clear to me who's experience would be more negatively affected. I noticed that the woman, still visibly angry, had wandered back in and had taken a seat in the adult area again. In order to appease her - and not to get an angry comment sent to administration - I did approach the small group and let them know that someone thought their voices were too loud. They weren't put off, and the mother actually apologized. I then got a self righteous "Thank you!" from the lady who complained. As much as I hated that, I felt at least she was satisfied without the expense of the group's positive library experience.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Out with the old!

Yesterday, I told my supervisor that I finally felt like a real librarian. Yeah, I've had my masters degree for about a year and a half now. And my position title has been "Reference Librarian" for just over a year, but there was one responsibility I hadn't been given until yesterday: weeding books. That is, going through the stacks and getting rid of old, unneeded titles or suggesting ones to replace. All the other reference librarians - and even some of the reference assistants - in my department have been weeding books and have had that task in their job descriptions since way before I started here, but I just was officially trained yesterday. And what power I feel!

I've been assigned the 900s - history, geography and travel guides. Our collection development coordinator, who trained me yesterday, explained that the previous selector for the area was an academic librarian, and because he was kind of stuck in that mindset, our collection tends to be a little more academic than necessary. She also said at some point our library served as a resource collection for the 400s, 600s, and 900s for a consortium, and those areas grew and grew during that period. The 900s also haven't been weeded in a while - so I may have my job cut out for me. I'm not complaining though!

Fortunately, the collection development department makes the job very easy. They print off a spreadsheet with a range of titles with copy right dates, years titles were added to the collection, total circs (number of times items checked out), year to date circs, and last year's circs. I basically get to throw out (well, not really throw away, as most of our weeded titles go to the Friends of the Library sale) anything that's older than 15 years, hasn't been checked out in more than 3 years, or just looks really old and torn up. The collection development librarian told me condition trumps circulation count, but I can always suggest they replace something if it's really popular.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Weddings, Moustaches and Summer Reading!

As you can tell, I've been neglecting this blog for the past couple of weeks, but not without a good reason - final planning stages for a wedding! This past Saturday, in front of family and friends, I got to express my love and commitment to my - now - husband, Nathan, in marriage.

Though the final few weeks leading up to the big day were stressful and tiring, I couldn't have asked for a better experience. We rented an open shelter in a park in Des Moines and had a wonderful outdoor wedding, despite a little heat and a few strong gusts of wind. My supervisor, who I asked to stand up with me as a guest of honor, her 7 year old twins - our flower girl and ring bearer - along with a couple of other coworkers made the experience even more special with their presence. I feel fortunate to work with people who support me and Nathan, and am glad to have been able to share the day with them.

In other news, the summer reading program at my library is going strong with many patrons participating, several programs being offered, and even more books being read! Straying from the national theme, Summer in the City strives to "go outside our walls" to get inside our patrons' heads. Our marketing director, adult programming librarian, and those in the children's room and teen zone have done an awesome job getting the program together - and it has encouraged me to read more too, as there's staff prizes this year! The whole thing kicked off with a Lawn Games & Moustaches party, which attracted hundreds of people to the library grounds for pie, fun games, accordion music, and, of course, moustaches! It was great to see so many people excited about the summer reading program and the library.

This year has turned out to be good one for new releases too, and I've got a couple of new books to look forward to reading. Here's what's on my summer list so far:

            Bonshaker by Cherie Priest
            The Legend of Pradeep Mathew by Shehan Karunatilaka
            Neuromancer by William Gibson
            The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
            Office Girl by Joe Meno

What will you be reading?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Book Review: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

My first experience with the steampunk genre, Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan was a fast paced, adventurous read and definitely not a disappointment. Westerfeld reimagines World War I with steam powered iron walkers loaded with machine guns and cannons and genetically fabricated animals bred and raised by British Darwinists to serve humans. Caught in the middle of the multi-country conflict are Aleksander Ferdinand, prince of the Austro-Hungarian empire on the run after the assassination of his parents, and Deryn Sharp, a girl pretending to be a boy so she can serve in the British Air Service.

Absconding in the middle of the night in a Cyklop Stormwalker with his mechanicks master and fencing instructor, Alek doesn't know who to trust when he's told the news of his parents' death. His mother having been of common blood, many see him as unfit to rule and even a threat to the empire, so he must flee. They don't make it far, though, before they're discovered and must do battle with their enemies. Meanwhile, Deryn, going by Dylan, manages to prove herself a capable airman through a freak incident involving a Huxley - a jellyfish-like creature that flies by filling itself with hydrogen. She winds up on the Leviathan, a gigantic living ecosystem that doubles as a military aircraft, where she must continue to prove her usefulness on top of keeping up her disguise. When the Leviathan must make a crash landing in the neutral Swedish territory, Alek's and Daryn's paths cross, which only leads them to further adventure.

The first in a series under the same title, Leviathan was a great introduction to the steampunk genre and an intriguing look at what the world would be like if science and technology would've advanced earlier. In addition to the author's writing, illustrations by Keith Thompson throughout the pages help bring the images and scenes of the story to life. Written for a young adult audience, the story does have some death and violence - but it isn't overly graphic or gratuitous. Though the idea of a girl in disguise as a boy to serve in the military clearly isn't a new one, I found Westerfeld's character in this role fresh and likable. I'm looking forward to reading more from the series.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Top Five Friday: Authors I Love

For Top Five Friday this week, here's five authors who've touched me, impressed me, thrilled me, engaged me and entertained me:

1. Toni Morrison

The Bluest Eye was the first book by Toni Morrison that I read, and I knew I was going to love her. During my senior year of undergrad, I took a seminar course in which we read all 8 of the novels she had published at that time, in order of their release. Each class session we pretty much just discussed each novel - if it weren't for the tests and papers we were assigned, it would have been just like a book club. Discussing the books in this way, though, allowed me to see them from my classmates perspectives, learn all the things I didn't pick up on, and learn to appreciate her writing all the more. Toni has a wonderful way of describing the world, and a true talent in creatively opening the eyes of her readers to the injustices of society, particularly when it comes to African Americans and their longtime struggle for equality in this country. I was no less impressed with her latest release, Home - but I wish I were still in that seminar class so I could discuss it!

2. Chuck Palahniuk

I was first introduced to Chuck Palahniuk in college. I read Invisible Monsters in one sitting (and the book instantly became an absolute favorite). And then I had to read Fight Club, because the movie, I admit, kind of confused me. Then I read Diary. And I couldn't stop there. Sometimes disgusting (check out the short story Guts included in Haunted), sometimes fascinating, always brutally honest, Chuck holds nothing back. From vindictive transexuals to part-time historical tour guides who pretend to choke in fancy restaurants for pity money, his characters are fascinating, if not downright detestable (in an engaging manner). I always look forward to a new release (though admittedly I didn't much care for Pygmy), and he's pretty much one of the few authors whose books I all own. I certainly can't wait to get my hands on Invisible Monsters Remix due out next month!

3. Joe Meno

"Oh, sounds a bit like Perks of Being a Wallflower." That's what I thought when I first picked up Joe Meno's Hairstyles of the Damned. But it was much more punk, I discovered - and just as good, if not better. I had moved on to this title after reading The Boy Detective Fails, hoping it was just as brilliant. I wasn't disappointed. Joe's novels are primarily character driven, and each of those characters are as real and relateable as your neighbor or the kid sitting next to you in math class or that family arguing on the street you passed. His books are the kind that I hesitate lending to others and get really upset if they never return them. And then I end up grudgingly buying another copy. Joe will be releasing his newest title, Office Girl, next month and I've already got a hold on my library's copy! (I'll probably end up buying a copy of my own though.)

4. Jill Churchill (Janice Young Brooks)

My grandmother introduced me to Jill Churchill, and after reading Silence of the Hams, I was hooked and had to read the entire Jane Jeffrey series. Then my grandmother told me that Jill's real name was Janice Young Brooks, that she was a local author, and that she used to write historical fiction. I was fascinated when I found Seventrees, and I was the least bit embarrassed to admit to reading it despite the busty figures on the back cover. "It's historical fiction," I'd tell those who pointed it out. I then tracked down each and every one of her books, even the two titles she begs readers to ritually burn. Yes, like she admits, some of those titles aren't that great, but Janice/Jill became a way I could connect with my grandmother, and that's probably why I appreciated her so much. Her stories are pretty good too, and I'm sad that we haven't seen anything new from her in quite some time.

5. Stephen King

Carrie, The Shining, The Stand, Dolores Claiborne, the entire Dark Tower Series - I can list a number of Stephen King's books that I've read and loved over the years. I've always wondered where he finds the time to write so many books - especially those that reach well over 1,000 pages. From short stories to saga length series, from horror to adventure, his writings are as diverse as they are numerous. Some say he's overrated. Some he's wordy. Some say he's a terrible writer. Others, and I'm included, couldn't disagree more or care what the critics say and read his books anyway. He's got an amazing imagination and certainly has a way of conveying a story that has caught the attention of millions for nearly 40 years. I started reading his books in junior high, and I still anticipate seeing what he comes up with next.

Now what about you? Who are your favorite authors?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What kind of punk are you?

Hoping to expand my reading knowledge, I've recently been attending a number of genre workshops sponsored by the Mid-America Library Alliance in pursuit of their Reader's Advisory Certificate, which is intended to provide individuals in the RA field with a well-rounded foundation. Yesterday, I took a trip over to the North Independence branch of the Mid-Continent Public Library system to attend the workshop,Choose Your Illusion: A Look at Steam, Cyber and Splatterpunk Fiction. Another opportunity for me to peek into the world of a few genres I've pretty much no experience with, the workshop supplied me with interesting facts about Steampunk, Cyberpunk and Splatterpunk fiction, some tips on how and what to recommend to interested patrons, and several titles to get started with.

The first presentation was on Steampunk, given by Susan Schafer, a Public Services Specialist at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library. Citing the Urban Dictionary definition, she explained that Steampunk basically offers and idea of "what the past would look like if the future had happened sooner." With very early roots, which include H.G. Wells's The Time Machine and Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the genre has seen a resurgence in the past few years. The Clockwork Century Series by Cherie Priest, the Leviathan Trilogy by Scott Westerfeld, and the Burton & Swinburne Series by Mark Hodder were among the more recent titles Susan featured in her presentation. She also pointed out that Steampunk wasn't just about books - from music, movies and television to modded tech items, websites and conventions, Steampunk has become a lifestyle.

Up next was Kelly Fann, director of the Tonganoxie Public Library, and her presentation on Splatterpunk. A long time fan of all that's horror, Kelly explained that Splatterpunk sets itself apart with its graphic, gory and over the top descriptions of violence. The term was coined by the author David Schow, and the movement was initiated as a revolt against traditional horror stories that were meekly suggestive at best. Kelly covered several gut wrenching titles, including Clive Barker's Books of Blood, Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door, Joe R. Lansdale's The Drive-In, and Schow's The Kill Riff. She cautioned that unless someone specifically asks for Splatterpunk, these titles should be suggested with careful knowledge of a patron's interests. Someone who approaches the desk and asks for some good horror starter titles may be turned completely off by some of these titles. However, as Kelly explained true Splatterpunk titles were written only in the 80's and 90's, chances are a lot of these titles won't be on your library's shelves.

The final presentation was given by Lorna Condit, an English instructor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, on Cyberpunk. Starting with a few thematic questions - What does it mean to be a human in an increasingly post human world? What role do art and imagination have in a world dominated by technology? - Lorna provided the attendees with an academic look at the genre. Published in 1983, Bruce Bethke's short story Cyberpunk is known as the first use of the term, which now is used to describe science fiction with a focus on "high technology and low life." William Gibson's Neuromancer, though, is considered the premier Cyberpunk novel, and it earned him recognition as the "father" of the genre. Bruce Sterling, Lewis Shiner, Pat Cadigan and Shariann Lewitt were among several authors known for their Cyberpunk novels that Lorna also mentioned.

Overall, it was another good workshop and I'm glad I got the chance to attend. Of the three genres, I think I'm most interested in looking more into Steampunk - I've already picked up and am eager to get started with my library's copy of Westerfeld's Leviathan! I may take a chance with Splatterpunk too...

Monday, May 14, 2012

Creating Spaces in the Stacks

If you work in a library that serves a relatively large community, you'll know that to satisfy the needs of your patrons when it comes to best sellers and ensure no one has to wait months and months for a copy, collection development librarians will purchase multiple copies. In my particular library, they generally order one copy for every five holds that's placed on the title while under the ON ORDER status in the catalog. For example, as I'm writing this post, I notice there are 105 holds on that steamy best seller, 50 Shades of Grey, and we own 27 copies, plus we have 7 more on order. That's a lot of grey! As long as all those titles are checked out, there's pretty much no issue, right?

When popularity on titles decline and weeding duties fall behind, though, shelves can become pretty crammed with these previous best sellers and popular books. At my library, there are only one or two people assigned to weed the fiction stacks, and that responsibility is just one of many of theirs, so our stacks are pretty tight. Our temporary solution to the problem: a "Best Sellers You May Have Missed" display!

Knowing we had done something like this before, our assistant director actually came to my supervisor and suggested we free up some room on our shelves by putting it up again. Not needing to write up a list and get too creative with a sign, my colleagues and I were able to quickly put up this display in place of our Mother's Day feature.

Usually our displays are just one or two titles face out on each shelf, but my supervisor wanted me to cram as many books on the shelves as possible. Another colleague commented and said it really lent toward a cozy bookstore feeling. Besides weeding, what are some other ways librarians can create space in the stacks?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Top Five Friday: On Screen Moms

In honor of Mother's Day coming up this Sunday, I've decided to blog about my favorite TV and movie moms:

1. Roseanne Conner from Roseanne

Whether it was at a plastics factory, behind the counter of a diner, or at home, Roseanne Conner worked hard to support her family. She got angry, could be a little bossy sometimes, and wasn't afraid to tell it like it was. Some may have just thought of her as a "big-boned, loud mouthed banshee," but I always appreciated Roseanne Conner because she represented what the real working class American mother was - not always perfect. The thing that resonated most with me about Roseanne is the importance she placed on ensuring that her children knew that they were loved. Though everyone in the Conner household may have not always got along, Roseanne made sure her kids and her family knew they were welcome in her home.

2. Lynette Scavo from Desperate Housewives

Lynette Scavo is tough. She's passionate and protective. She's headstrong, outspoken and realistic. But most importantly, Lynette cares about her family and wants to see her children lead healthy, successful lives. She's not afraid to admit that she would have loved to focus on her career, but that sacrifice only empowers her to do the very best she can at being a mother. She survived raising four kids, operating a pizza restaurant, a gunshot wound, a tornado and cancer. Though she does come off as (more than) a little controlling, I appreciate Lynette because she's always had her family's best interest at heart.

3. Mrs. Gump from Forrest Gump

"Mama always said, 'Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get.'" Imparted through her son, Mrs. Gump's wisdom is as timeless as it is unforgettable. Forrest may have been simple minded, but that didn't stop his mother from loving him for all he's worth and providing him with countless amounts of encouragement and support. She stood up for his right to an equal education, taught him important life lessons like valuing oneself no matter what others think, and always welcomed him home with open arms.

4. Nancy Botwin from Weeds

She's pretty, but she's no where near perfect. Since her husband died after a heart attack leaving her to raise her two teenage sons on her own, suburban housewife, Nancy Botwin, has always had to make the best of a bad situation. Without a post secondary education and with very little to no work experience, she decides to join the lucrative but highly risky business of dealing pot to make money. This venture, though, often lands her in tight situations and trouble. Fiercely protective of her children, Nancy always has a plan - and though she sometimes loses sight of how carrying out that plan affects them, she always has her sons' best interest at heart.

5. Selma Jezkova from Dancer in the Dark

When asked why she gave birth to her son knowing that he may suffer from the same blinding affliction that she had, Selma Jezkova said, "I just wanted to hold a baby." Since seeing Dancer in the Dark for the first time, I've always remembered her for her truly inspiring self sacrificial love. Selma works day and night at a factory, trying to save up enough money for an operation for her son that will prevent him from losing his sight, and, when her trusted landlord, whose wife has an expensive taste, steals her savings, she's forced to make a decision that has serious consequences.

Make that top 6...

This last mom isn't a movie or television figure, but she's just as inspiring - if not more! I can't do a Mother's Day post without giving a shout out to my own! I feel as if she embodies the best qualities from each of the on screen moms I mentioned here - wise, encouraging, supportive, and loving. From working minimum wage jobs to going back to school to get a nursing degree, from raising four often times unruly kids to caring for the elderly, from providing me and my siblings with a safe home to helping and encouraging us as we began our lives on our own, I will always celebrate and appreciate all she has done. Happy Mother's Day!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Book Review: The Wind Through the Keyhole

A story within a story within a story that's nestled somewhere in the middle of a seven book saga - that's the simplest way to describe the Master of Horror's newest release, The Wind Through the Keyhole. When Stephen King released the seventh book in his Dark Tower series, many readers thought that was it. Heck, even King may have. In the forward to this newest addition, he wrote, "I was delighted to discover my old friends had a little more to say. It was a great gift to find them again, years after I thought their stories were told." Maybe he's grown too attached to his characters. Maybe there was a more to say. King is a firm believer that stories write themselves. Whatever the excuse, the story of Roland the gunslinger and his ka-tet - or band of heros - clearly wasn't finished.

Those who have read the entire series would figure out that the events in The Wind Through the Keyhole take place between the fourth and fifth books, Wizard and Glass and Wolves of the Calla. Roland and his three companions, Eddie, Susanna and Jake, find themselves taking shelter from a starkblast - a raging, windy, winter-like storm in which the temperature drops so far below zero it causes trees to instantly contract with a pop. To pass the time, Roland begins telling a story from his youthful gunslinger beginnings. Not even old enough to shave, he was sent to a village where a beast had started mutilating and terrorizing the people. While investigating the situation, young Roland ends up watching over an orphaned boy, Bill, who's father was killed by what turns out to be a skin-man - a human that turns into different beasts. As they're hanging out in the local police station, using a jail cell as a temporary bunk, Roland begins telling Bill a tale his mother once shared with him called The Wind Through the Keyhole...

The longest section of the book, young Roland's tale is about another young boy, Tim, who looses his father and takes on a quest to set things right again. Seeking a cure for his mother, who's beaten and blinded by the man who takes her as his wife, Tim travels deeper and deeper into a dangerous forest and falls victim to the ploys of a tax collector with mysterious powers. As life threatening as his journey is, Tim must find the legendary Maeryln, a powerful wizard who holds the key to restoring his mother's sight. Young Roland's early wisdom becomes evident in the use of this story to prepare Bill for the trials he must face as the sole witness and survivor of the skin-man's most recent murderous rampage. Though I may have initially balked at the idea of yet another story related to the Dark Tower series, I was instantly drawn in to the multiple layers of this novel. It's definitely another treasure from a master storyteller worth checking out.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Top Five Friday: Star Wars Novels

In honor of Star Wars Day (may the 4th be with you), I've decided to share my top five favorite novels from the Expanded Universe. For those of you unfamiliar with anything beyond the films, the Expanded Universe refers to any book, graphic novel, film, or television show that expands the story beyond the original six movies. The geeky teenager I was, I developed a slight obsession with the Star Wars series after the release of the first prequel in 1999. I collected nearly 80 of the titles between 9th grade and college, and though I sold most of them (I moved into a tiny, tiny apartment), there are a few still sitting on my bookshelf. Any who, here are the most memorable to me:

1. The Thrawn Trilogy

Set roughly 5 years after the events of Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising and The Last Command, all written by Timothy Zahn, were the first Star Wars novels that I picked up. Still battling the remnants of the Empire, the Rebellion, now the New Republic, goes up against the forces of Grand Admiral Thrawn, one of the most dangerous leaders of the Empire since Emperor Palpatine. Thrawn enlists the help of Dark Jedi Joruus C'baoth, who makes it his personal goal to seduce Luke, Leia Organa Solo and her children (Yes! Han Solo and Leia eventually marry and have children!) to the Dark Side and become his apprentices. I - along with many fans - imagined this trilogy to be the supposedly long-promised sequels to episodes IV, V and VI.

2. Rogue Planet
Published the year after Episode I: The Phantom Menace came to theaters, Rogue Planet by Greg Bear takes place three years after. Young Anakin Skywalker, now a Jedi Apprentice, and Obi-Wan Kenobi are sent on a mission to Zonama Sekot, where organic, living ships that are the fastest in the galaxy are grown. Racing others with more sinister reasons for wanting access to these ships, the Jedi Knight and his apprentice encounter a disturbance in the force unlike any other on the mysterious planet. For me, this book served as temporary filler for the next film installment, which wasn't released until 2002, and I appreciated the chance to learn more details about Anakin's past that wasn't shown in the movies.

3. The Courtship of Princess Leia
Like many who followed the saga, I was eager to learn as many details about the characters as possible, and this title certainly satisfied that desire. Written by Dave Wolverton, The Courtship of Princess Leia, answered many fans' questions about the circumstances which led to the marriage of Han Solo and Princess Leia. Taking place roughly four years after Return of the Jedi, the Alliance seeks the help of Hapes consortium, a group of high-tech worlds, in order to successfully survive against the remnants of the Empire. They're happy to offer their assistance; however, there's a catch: Leia must marry the Queen Mother's son, Prince Isolder. Clearly unhappy with this, Han Solo tricks Leia into accompanying him to the remote planet, Dathomir, where he tries to win her heart and convince her not to marry.

4. The New Jedi Order: Traitor
Taking place 20 to 30 years after the last movie, The New Jedi Order series introduced a brand new threat to the New Republic and the galaxy: the Yuuzhan Vong, a race of extra-galactic religious zealots who happen to exist outside of the Force. As they invade several planets, including the capital world, Coruscant, they kill millions and wreak havoc to the planetary ecosystems. Luke, Leia, and Han, their children - now grown to near adulthood - and the New Republic must form alliances with former enemies in order to repel this horrible race. In Matthew Stover's contribution to the series, Traitor, Han and Leia's son, Jacen, has been captured by the Yuuzhan Vong. In the care of the mysterious creature, Vergere, Jacen is exposed to a new way of experiencing the Force - one that could lead him to darkness or play a key role in saving the galaxy. Out of the entire NJO series, I appreciated this one the most, because of its look at good and evil and what lies in between.

5. Episode II: Attack of the Clones
My favorite of the movie novelizations, R.A. Salvatore's Attack of the Clones moved me. Based on the script for the film, the novel includes a little bit more than what made it to the big screens. It's probably the only Star Wars novel that made me cry. Yes. Cry. (What could say? I was a nerdy, obsessed teenager not afraid of my more sensitive side.) Those who've seen the movie probably have an idea of what happens that would have caused this - but in the novel, it's so much more emotional. I'll refrain from giving that part of the plot away though. Ten years after he leaves his home to join the Jedi, Anakin Skywalker finally reunites with Padmé Amidala, now a senator, who's ordered under the protection of the Jedi after an assassination attempt. As the galactic senate prepares to take a potentially disastrous vote on the creation of an army and the Republic's foundations edge ever closer to ruin, Anakin must deal with forbidden feelings for his long adored Amidala.

As with probably many, the Star Wars series provided me with countless hours of entertainment and good reading when I was a teenager and young adult - and I continue to enjoy it today. Sometimes I do miss my expansive collection of the novels, but I'm fortunate to know of a place where I can get them again (without having to break my pocketbook): the library! For more details about the Expanded Universe, you should check out the awesome Star Wars wiki (from which I pulled most of my information)!