Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sign of a Good Friendship

From the What Does a YA Librarian Do? Pinterest board

100 Notable New York Writers Who Are Still Living

New York City has long been recognized as an epicenter of the literary world. Home to numerous book publishers and the persons they attract - authors and editors, copy editors and proofreaders, book designers and booksellers, agents and publicists - New York is a veritable hotbed of big shots and up-and-comers in the book business. Flavorwire profiled those comprising the city's literati in its list of "New York's 100 Most Important Living Writers."

Zadie Smith

One of the reasons that drove Flavorwire to put this list together - aside from stirring up a bit of debate, I imagine - was a recent announcement made by Philip Roth. The much-lauded writer of Goodbye, Columbus, Portnoy's Complaint, Sabbath's Theater, American Pastoral, Everyman, and other impactful books stated in October 2012 that he was going to retire after more than 50 years of producing works of literature. News of Roth's retirement led Flavorwire to "look at some of New York City's most important writers, from Roth's contemporaries to his possible successors...taking into consideration their legacy, their publishing history, and their cultural relevance across the board."

Junot Diaz

Among those who Flavorwire listed in its "New York's 100 Most Important Living Writers" article are Junot Diaz, Zadie Smith, Chuck Klosterman, Patti Smith, Pete Hamill, Walter Mosley, Jonathan Safran Foer, Joan Didion, Gary Shteyngart, Paul Auster, and more. Despite some notable names being absent (I would have included Toni Morrison and Arthur Nersesian), the list is an impressive who's who of writers who are either from New York City or live in one of its five boroughs (although I'm guessing that most live in Manhattan or Brooklyn).

Chuck Klosterman

Besides presenting brief profiles of these writers, Flavorwire also interviewed some, asking questions including "How do you feel about Philip Roth retiring?", "Who is your favorite emerging New York writer?", and "What's next for you?" Their answers are touching, unexpected, and quite entertaining. (One of my favorite answers is Sam Lipsyte's response to the question, "How do you feel about Philip Roth retiring?" He said, "I didn't know you could." Writing, like any other form of creative expression, is an impulse that never stops nagging at you and therefore must be heeded. If Roth can turn that valve off, then good on him.)

To see everyone who made Flavorwire's list of "New York's 100 Most Important Living Writers," go to THIS LINK.

* All of the above photographs are from the Flavorwire article.

Americans Read an Average of 15 Books a Year

What does it mean to be an above-average reader if you're in the United States? It means you read more than 15 books a year! A study from the Pew Research Center found that, on average, Americans went through 15 books in the past 12 months. That included printed and e-books. Who knew that we're a nation of readers?

Image via

The same Pew Research Center study revealed that 89 percent of U.S. readers age 16 and older read a printed book; 30 percent read an e-book; and 17 percent listened to an audiobook. More women (81 percent) than men (70 percent ) read a book within the past year, according to the study. Also, reading declined with age: 90 percent of 16- to 17-year-olds, 80 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds, 77 percent of 30- to 49-year-olds, 72 percent of 50- to 64-year-olds, and 67 percent of those age 65 and older read books within the past year, revealed the study. I wonder if 16- to 29-year-olds read more because they're more likely to be in school and thus are assigned books to read for class; too, they tend to have more free time during which to read. I assume the percentage drops for 30- to 64-year-olds because of the time that child-rearing takes up. And perhaps the numbers further drop for seniors because of physical ailments that get in the way of reading, such as diminished eyesight, arthritis, or some other condition. Still, this is a very intriguing set of data on readers in the United States.

Lastly, the study showed that a whopping 75 percent of Americans age 16 and older read a book within the past year. As someone who is working her way through library school, I find this bit of information to be very reassuring!

To see all of the results from the Pew Research Center study, go to THIS LINK.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

In Case You Were Wondering...

Image from the Hillsdale Free Public Library (Hillsdale, NJ) Facebook page.

Call for Papers on Librarian Stereotypes

When someone says the word "librarian," what do you think of? Most envision a shushing spinster wearing sensible shoes, her grey hair pulled tightly in a bun and glasses perched on the end of her nose. How does this common perception affect people's attitudes toward libraries and the library profession? This question and more will be addressed in a forthcoming book titled Beyond the Bun: Librarian Valuing Through Perception and Presentation. The editors of this book are now accepting papers on the topic of librarian style, stereotypes, and image.

A library associate who works at a public library in Washington, D.C.

Nicole Pagowsky, instructional services librarian at the University of Arizona, and Miram Rigby, social services librarian at the University of Oregon, are accepting abstracts and proposals that cover - but aren't limited to - the following issues:

How the historical and current underpinnings of demographics in the profession impact stereotypes and how to overcome these when attempting to attract more diversity to the profession.

The sexuality and sexualization of librarians: how are librarians gendered within librarianship and by others? How do race and age tie in to these notions?

How have librarian demographics evolved in relations to diversity? Where are the pitfalls, and where have gains been made? What is needed for the future?

Does the "trendiness" of librarians impose additional expectations? Does it diminish what users expect? Does it attract users?

Do users truly judge librarians based on what they wear? Are they more open to library instruction or reference service if librarians look a certain way?

How does the public's perception of librarians impact programming efforts, and is programming one way to reverse negative stereotypes through action? How can this be accomplished?

The deadline for these papers is February 1, 2013. Send abstracts and proposals of up to 500 words and a brief author's statement to Those who submit papers will be notified by April 2013. Final manuscripts of 1,500 to 5,000 words will be due August 1, 2013. For more information, go to THIS LINK.

The above photograph is from

Tattoos Inspired by the Writing of J.R.R. Tolkien

One of my favorite literary quotes is "Not all those who wander are lost." These words are from J.R.R. Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring, and they resonated enough with some people that they had them permanently inked on their flesh.

Image from

Whether it's excerpts from one of the three volumes of The Lord of the Rings, lines of Elvish, or maps of Middle Earth, hardcore fans of J.R.R. Tolkien are getting elaborate tattoos that pay tribute to their beloved author.

The folks at Flavorwire selected "20 Amazing J.R.R. Tolkien-Inspired Tattoos" for a recent article. Some of these tattoos are really quite beautiful, like this rendering of the White Tree of Gondor. This symbol, which is featured in The Lord of the Rings, makes for an absolutely striking tattoo design.

It's amazing that people are so passionate about an author or a work of literature that they will have sayings or symbols connected to that author or literature be forever made a part of their bodies. That's some serious book love! 

The next time I'm sitting near someone reading a novel by J.R.R. Tolkien, I'm going to wonder if he (or she), underneath the layers of clothing, has a tattoo inspired by this author of high-fantasy classics.

To see all "20 Amazing J.R.R. Tolkien-Inspired Tattoos," go HERE. 

PS. I now want a White Tree of Gondor tattoo!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Yes, Yes They Were

 Image from Rice Lake Public Library's Facebook page.

Great Non-Book Gifts for the Book Lovers on Your List

I'm sure by now, the book lovers you're shopping for this holiday season have given you a list of the reads they want. But if you want to get creative - or if you can't get your hands on that obscure title they want by that author you've never heard of - consider getting them a book-themed gift. Any of the items highlighted by Flavorwire, in its "Christmas Gifts for the Book Nerd Who Reads Everything" post, should go over really well. Like, how cool is this crocheted Stark family? Even if you're not into Game of Thrones, you have to admit this is an awesome gift.

And how about this stacked paperback wallpaper? Doesn't it look great? I love the colors of the titles against the black background and that the paperbacks are classics. The price tag ($198 for one roll measuring 12 inches long by 18 inches wide and covering 18 square feet) is a bit hefty, but this wallpaper from Anthropologie would wonderfully accent any room in your house or apartment, giving it literary flavor that's both vibrant and unique.

If you've ever been to WORD, a cozy and well-curated independent bookstore in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Greenpoint, then you've seen this T-shirt. I want it, and I'm sure the book lover in your life will love it. They'll look great in this shirt that's a flattering shade of blue and features the eye-catching "I Read Books" design by Mike Fusco of M+E. And at $20, it'll be easy on your wallet.

For other book-themed gift ideas - including a vintage Mark Twain beer stein, an "I Would Prefer Not To" Bartleby the Scrivener tote bag, a George Orwell 1984 fleece shirt, and a classy-looking "Recommended Reading" drinking flask ("One size fits alcohol," according to its item description) - check out the Flavorwire article "Christmas Gifts for the Book Nerd Who Reads Everything" HERE.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

15 Truly Bizarre Christmas-Themed Books

If there's a book lover in your life who appreciates irony, camp, or just odd things, there's a list that will make shopping for them easier. Publishers Weekly released its list of "15 Weird Christmas Books." Some of the selections are not completely unexpected, considering the zeitgeist, such as It's Starting to Look a Lot Like Zombies! A Book of Zombie Christmas Carols, by Michael P. Spradlin:

Yet other books on the list come completely out of left field, which makes them appropriately weird. These include Lawyer's Week Before Christmas, by Joseph Justice, and A NASCAR Holiday 3 ("Four brand-new romances that will send hearts into overdrive this Christmas!"), by Liz Allison, Wendy Etherington, Brenda Jackson, Marisa Carroll, and Jean Brashear:

But there are books on Publishers Weekly's list that I wouldn't mind finding under the tree, like Dawson's Creek: A Capeside Christmas, by C.J. Anders. Sounds like a must-read for fans of the late '90s teen melodrama, a show that was pretty well written and acted, in my opinion.

Other books among the fifteen are goofy (Ugly Christmas Sweater Party Book, by Brian Miller, Adam Paulson, Kevin Wool, and Glenn Gontha), funny (Scared of Santa: Scenes of Terror in Toyland, by Denise Joyce and Nancy Watkins), or outright macabre (Santa Claus Is Dead, by Jason Twede). However, all of these books would make memorable gifts for the adorable oddball among your circle of friends or in your family. To see all "15 Weird Christmas Books," go HERE.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

'Tis the Season to Shop at Independent Bookstores

The holiday shopping season is well underway. Independent bookstores hope that consumers will skip the chains and spend money at their establishments instead.

Greenlight and other indie bookstores hope to see a boom in business this holiday season. Photo via

Fortunately, that's already happening at BookPeople in Austin, Texas. Steve Bercu, owner of BookPeople, told NPR, "People choose to come to this store to do their Christmas shopping. It doesn't have the overwhelming intensity of a shopping mall. It's a single store." And what do people tend to buy at independent bookstores this time of year? Hardcovers.

"The holidays, Bercu adds, are definitely the season for hardcovers," reported NPR. "Any other time of year, you might settle for a paperback or prefer the convenience of an e-book. But at this time of year, customers are looking for something special for someone special."

That "something special" tends to be elegant coffee-table books filled with photographs or artwork. Or they're cookbooks, according to Daniel Goldin of Boswell Book Company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. "And I don't mean cheap cookbooks," he told NPR. "A $60 cookbook will fly off the shelves." But he's doubtful people actually use these cookbooks. "People buy the book to have the book, to show off the book, to enjoy the book," he said.

Enjoyment of an exquisite hardcover book is what Jessica Stockton Bagnulo, a founder of Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn, New York, hopes to foster with the First Editions Club. "It works a little like a wine of the month club," she explained to NPR. "You sign up for a six-month or twelve-month subscription, and then the booksellers at Greenlight will select new titles - fiction or nonfiction - that they think are great and might be valuable in the long term. And subscribers get a first edition of that book signed by the author."

Whatever will draw more shoppers to small bookstores, I'm all for it. This holiday season, support independents like BookPeople, Boswell, and Greenlight!

To read the full NPR article "Independent Bookstores Find Their Footing," go HERE.

Friday, November 30, 2012

For Hipsters Who Don't Know What to Read Next

(By the way, I have not read Infinite Jest.)

Following Your Favorite Authors on Facebook

I like James Baldwin enough that I "Liked" his page on Facebook. As a result, I routinely get quotations from Baldwin in my Newsfeed, along with news of exhibitions, readings, tributes, and other events celebrating the late American novelist, playwright, poet, essayist, and civil rights activist.
James Baldwin. Photo via

The James Baldwin Facebook page, along with most other Facebook sites focused on a particular author, is maintained by the author's publisher - in Baldwin's case, Pantheon/Vintage Books. Other author sites on Facebook are managed by the estate of the author. If the author is still living, it's not uncommon for the author to upkeep his or her own Facebook page, informing fans of scheduled appearances and new releases or even sponsoring contests for signed copies of his or her books. Folowing your favorite authors on Facebook is a great way to stay informed of their literary goings-on. recently listed "10 Bookish Facebook Feeds You Should Follow." (Alas, Baldwin's is not among them.) To see what they are, go HERE.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The One Book That Hit You Hard in High School

Tuesday afternoon, I turned on the radio and tuned in to NPR. I happened to catch the final minutes of the show "The Takeaway," and listeners were calling in to tell the host, John Hockenberry, the books that had the most impact on them in high school. Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies, Catcher in the Rye, and The Sun Also Rises were among the titles that were enthusiastically rattled off by callers who sounded more than a little nostalgic recalling the pivotal books of their youth. I had stopped what I was doing to listen, and I began to really wish that I had caught the broadcast from the beginning.

Tonight, I had a chance to listen to this edition of "The Takeaway," the podcast of which had been posted online. This edition of the show is titled "Is Literature Necessary?," and Hockenberry started things off with:

"At a certain point in school, if you got serious about reading and books, you took the leap. You went from picture-dominated kid books to real titles. The real books kids read in school are an important door to intellectual independence. The mind-meets-book relationship can be one of the first times a kid really explores his or her identity. So the world opened up when you read what?"

Immediately, listeners started calling in to reveal their favorite school reads, or they began posting them on the show's website, Hearing their selections, I wondered what book had a major effect on me when I was in high school. And I couldn't come up with an answer - at least not right away. Being in AP English, my classmates and I were assigned an incredible amount of reading. Much of it left me feeling lukewarm (or stirred a strong dislike for particular authors). Oftentimes, the books were something to slog through just to complete the assignment. I can't remember the books I chose to read; it seems whatever I was reading at that time in my life was something that needed to be read for class. Animal Farm and Catcher in the Rye were books that I picked up long after my high school years. (I still wonder if the faculty considered these books too rudimentary or too rough, respectively, for their AP English students. I enjoyed both tremendously while devouring them in early adulthood.) I guess if one book stood out for me at that time, it would be Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave: Written by Himself.

Image via

From the very beginning, the book grabbed me. I was impressed with the title - by its length and by the fact that, in it, Douglass asserted that he was the one who wrote this story about himself. To me, that said so much, especially when I thought about who the author was and when the book was published - in the pre-Civil War United States. It was such a strong testament. Then as I got into Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, I was amazed at what he went through to arrive at the incredible person he became. I was especially moved by his determination to learn how to read; his unabashed love for the written word was in sharp contrast to the deep derision that many in my age group directed toward those who were into books or were serious about doing well in school. So I was enlightened - and bolstered - by the example that Frederick Douglass set. So, to answer John Hockenberry's question, the world opened up when I read Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass in high school.

To listen to Tuesday's broadcast of "The Takeaway," go to THIS LINK.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Beautiful Corners to Curl Up in with Books

Some people daydream about breakfast nooks. I, on the other hand, fantasize about having a reading nook - like the one seen here. If I ever had a rustic setup for reading such as this at my place, I would never leave...except maybe to go to work and to library school! For nine more "Excellent Reading Nooks," go HERE.

Such a dreamy place for reading! Image via

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Overcoming Obstacles to Finding a Library Job

A friend once told me he would not accept a job if it paid less than X amount, even if all of its other aspects were just what he was looking for. This sense of entitlement can be a big obstacle in gaining employment, says Ellen Mehling, director of Westchester Graduate Library School, director of internships at Long Island University's Palmer School of Library and Information Science, and job bank manager/career development consultant for the Metropolitan NY Library Council.

When trying to find a library job, it's best to be flexible...and stay positive! Image via

"Entitlement," says Mehling, "is believing you should have something that you want simply because you want it: you deserve it, you have a right to it, things should go your way. To complicate things further, caught up in entitled behavior are past experiences which can lead to unrealistic current expectations." Not being willing to adjust your outlook based on today's reality - "a still struggling economy," according to Mehling - can make finding a library job, or any job, much harder.

A sense of entitlement is just one obstacle that can come between you and the job you want. Other obstacles within your control are "lack of specific required skills or experience or education, poor verbal communication and interviewing skills, a sparse online presence, poor writing skills and/or resume and cover letter, insufficient network and poor networking skills, inability to "sell yourself," [and] inappropriate attire for interview[s]." You can work on all of these things to bring yourself closer to your dream job. For instance, if the jobs you're interested in require you to have certain skills, take courses or workshops to acquire those skills. That's totally within your power.

However, Mehling admits, there are some obstacles that are not within your control: "age (or other types of) discrimination within the mind of an interviewer, a number of applicants so high that the hiring manager doesn't even get to your resume and cover letter, employers posting positions even though they have already chosen the candidate they will be hiring." Although you can't do anything about these obstacles, it's best to stay "confident and positive, [and] demonstrate persistence and determination." With the right attitude, proper preparation, and patience, you'll eventually get the library job you want.

For more obstacles to employment, and what you can or can't do about them, see Ellen Mehling's article "Know the Difference" at THIS LINK.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Random House Says Libraries Own Its E-Books

Of all the "Big Six" book publishers, Random House is the only one that has held fast to its stance on libraries' ownership of its e-books. Last year, Ruth Liebmann, director of account marketing at Random House, told attendees at a library panel, "A library book does not compete with a sale. A library book is a sale." And just last month, Skip Dye, RH's vice president of library and academic marketing and sales, reiterated to Library Journal, "Random House's often repeated, and always consistent, position is this: when libraries buy their RH, Inc., e-books from authorized library wholesalers, it is our position that they own them."

        Book publisher Random House has not waivered in its long-held assertion that libraries own its electronic titles. (Image via

Random House's belief that libraries own its e-books is in stark contrast to the viewpoint held by the other big book publishers, especially Penguin, which feel "the ready download-ability of library e-books could have an adverse effect on sales," according to Molly Raphael, president of the American Library Association (ALA). As a result, they've developed an increasingly adversarial relationship with libraries, finding more ways to limit libraries' access to popular electronic titles, or even going as far as refusing to offer any of their e-books to libraries for fear of lost sales. That Random House has confidently allowed libraries continuous access to its electronic titles is commendable. 

Yet, this action doesn't completely absolve Random House of accusations of greed. Earlier this year, it drastically raised the prices of its e-books - in some cases, as much as 300 percent - eliciting both exasperation and consternation from librarians across the country and the world. The South Shore Public Libraries system in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, Canada, actually  boycotted Random House e-books in the wake of the steep price increase. "I don't want to pick a fight with them," said Troy Myers, chief librarian of South Shore Public Libraries, "but their pricing's unfair and I think they need to change it." Despite calls from the ALA to reconsider the price increase, Random House has, as of yet, not done so. I doubt it will. After all, once prices go up, they're not very likely to come down.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

'Hobbit' Coins Thrill J.R.R. Tolkien Enthusiasts

New Zealand just keeps on giving. It was enough that it brought us Flight of the Conchords. But now Hobbit coins? That can be used as legal tender? Stop it!

A spoof of Lord of the Rings in an episode of Flight of the Conchords.
Brett McKenzie (left) actually appeared as the elf Figwit in the LOTR films.

A set of coins featuring Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf, and other characters from The Hobbit, the 1937 fantasy novel by J.R.R. Tolkien, are now on sale in New Zealand. More than collector's items, the coins are real currency, although their face value is only a fraction of what Tolkien enthusiasts will pay to possess them. According to ChannelNews Asia, the coins range in price from NZ$3,695 ($3,020) for one that's pure gold to NZ$29.90 ($24.68) for one that's made of aluminum and zinc.

A set of coins featuring characters from The Hobbit.
Image source:

The coins have been released to coincide with this month's premier of The Hobbit film series, directed by Peter Jackson. Part 1 of the series will open in Wellington, New Zealand's capital, on November 28. (It will hit theaters in the United States on December 14.) International orders for the coins can be made through the website of the New Zealand Post, which "has worldwide exclusive rights to issue official legal tender commemorative coins celebrating Sir Peter Jackson's trilogy of films based on 'The Hobbit,'" according to its home page.

To read more about The Hobbit coins, go HERE. To order the coins, go HERE.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

How a Bookstore Selects the Books It Sells

I think anyone who's ever browsed a bookstore has wondered why certain books were on store shelves and others weren't. As Sam Sacks, a book clerk for Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, explains it in the New Yorker, it all comes down to the personal bias of those who run the bookstore. "Bookstores are human places," Sacks says. "They are extensions of the personalities of the men and women who operate them." What about the customers? A longtime bookseller confided to Sacks: "We do this for the books, not for the customers."

The interior of Housing Works Bookstore Cafe.
Image via e.j.i./flickr

If you've been a customer at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, located at 126 Crosby Street in New York's SoHo neighborhood, you were undoubtedly surrounded by its sizable and eclectic selection of books. Where did they come from? According to Sacks, they're "from publishers or magazines getting rid of their overflow, from the apartments of lifelong readers who have died, or simply from the shelves of New Yorkers who need to clear the space." So, how do certain titles reach store shelves? There is a method, despite the personal bias that's inherent in picking inventory. Sacks illustrates this in his New Yorker piece.

At Housing Works, Sacks sifts through all the boxes and bags of donated books and selects what the store will sell, both at its brick-and-mortar location and on its website. He admits to a preference for certain genres: "I have always thought that the backbone of a good used-book store is formed by its fiction and history sections, so whenever possible I separated these books for the floor. Naturally, there were exceptions," he says. "Specialized histories with a narrowly scholarly focus are better sold online - so a history of the Punic Wars makes it to the store; a study of urinals during the reign of Hadrian doesn't."

Just as Sacks has a propensity for particular genres, affecting what is sold at Housing Works, he also has a fierce aversion to certain book forms, like the hardcover. "I do not like hardcover books," he discloses. "They are needlessly bulky and cumbersome, far less attractive or readable than their svelte paperback siblings. Unless the hardcover was of a perennial seller (your Doris Kearns Goodwins or John Irvings), I didn't allow them to eat up the limited shelf space."

It's interesting to read about what goes on behind the scenes at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe and the other bookstores where Sacks has worked, including The Strand and Barnes & Noble, the latter of which he says is "unjustly maligned. It's true that the mind governing these stores is corporate, but the staff tends to be far better read and more informed than detractors allow, and the selection is large and egalitarian." For more insider information on the bookstores whose selections are not as large as Barnes & Noble's and are much more curated, see Sam Sacks' article for the New Yorker, "The Bookstore Brain: How Bookstores Choose Their Books," at THIS LINK.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

NPR Librarian Talks Radio, New Book

I think working as a librarian at a radio station is one of the coolest jobs a person could have. Kee Malesky has that job. For more than 20 years, she's worked as a librarian at National Public Radio (NPR), headquartered in Washington, DC. 

Research librarian Kee Malesky finds the answers for NPR hosts, editors, and reporters.
Image via

Malesky recently came to New York to promote her new book at an event hosted by METRO, a nonprofit organization that works to develop and maintain essential library services in New York City and Westchester County, New York. When not discussing Learn Something New Every Day: 365 Facts to Fulfill Your Life, which hit bookstores earlier this month, Malesky delivered tidbits about being a research librarian at NPR to an eager and inquisitive audience.

Image via

Since 1984, Malesky has been on staff at NPR, which actually doesn't have a centralized library. She and her colleagues - 14 full-time librarians in all - are embedded in various bureaus throughout the media organization, such as the News and Science desks. There, they field questions from NPR hosts, editors, and reporters. Some of the questions that she and the other librarians are asked have to do with proper pronunciation, while others concern statistics and research. Together, they answer more than 11,000 reference questions a year. Although NPR staffers can be demanding, Malesky said that "for the most part, they're very appreciative of our efforts."

On being a librarian, Malesky said, "We read all the time. We're constantly looking at new sources, at websites, at all kinds of things that are happening in the world. We're all very proactive. It's really a part of the proper job of a librarian."

In July, Kee Malesky was named the 2012 recipient of the Dow Jones Leadership Award, which "recognizes exemplary leadership as an information professional through personal and professional achievements," according the SLA Blog. Congratulations, Kee!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Cleveland Public Library Honors Harvey Pekar

I first heard of Harvey Pekar in 2003, thanks to the publicity surrounding American Splendor, a film based in part on Pekar's graphic novel series of the same name. Intrigued, I went to the local movie theater and, for a little more than an hour and a half, sat absorbed in the story of the Cleveland, Ohio, native. Despite his dark outlook on life, Harvey Pekar shone brightly as a star of the underground comic scene and as an accidental celebrity in the entertainment industry, first as a repeat guest on David Letterman's late-night talk show, then as the subject of a successful comedy-drama loosely based on his life.

A clip from the credit sequence of the 2003 film American Splendor.
Image from
In 2010, Pekar passed away at the age of 70 from what was later determined to be an accidental overdose from a combination of antidepressants. A year later, in 2011, his widow Joyce Brabner spearheaded a Kickstarter campaign to fund the "Harvey Pekar Library Statue: Comics as Art & Literature Desk." The online campaign was a huge success, raising more than $38,000 for the memorial to the late graphic novelist. This month, the memorial was unveiled on the second floor of the Lee Road Branch of the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library, which Harvey Pekar often visited.

On October 14, nearly 200 fans, friends, and family of Pekar attended the unveiling, which was part of a program titled "Harvey Pekar: A Literary, Library Life." Among those present was Joyce Brabner, who gazed at the 2 1/2-foot bronze likeness of her late husband emerging, palms turned upward, from a fiberglass replica of a page from one of his graphic novels. Sculptor Justin Coultor created the statue, which he based on drawings by J.T. Waldman, an illustrator who collaborated with Pekar on the book Not the Israel My Parents Promised Me, which was published this year by Hill & Wang's Novel Graphics imprint.
The limited-editon library card featuring a likeness of Pekar.
Image via
In addition to the dedication of the statue, Cleveland Public Library issued a limited-edition library card that depicts Pekar entering its main branch. The illustration on the card is based on a drawing from Harvey Pekar's Cleveland, a collaboration between Pekar and artist Joe Remnant that was released this year by Zip Comics/Top Shelf. It's the first in a series of library cards bearing the likenesses of famous people from Cleveland. Explaining why he chose Pekar to be the first Clevelander celebrated in this way, Felton Thomas, director of Cleveland Public Library, said, "He brought Cleveland to life through his work and was a loyal patron of CPL. It's our pleasure to offer this card to our patrons in his honor."

For library patrons in Cleveland, Ohio, who want to get their hands on the limited-edition card featuring Harvey Pekar, all that's necessary is to go to a local branch and ask for it - the usual $1 replacement fee will be waived.

Speaking earlier at the statue dedication ceremony, Brabner said, "Ours was a family that believed a library card was a lot more important than a charge card," a statement that drew the day's greatest applause.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Twenty-Seven Small Presses to Follow on Twitter

I've a confession to make: I am not on Twitter. My reluctance to becoming too "plugged in" has kept me from joining the popular microblogging service. But learning that so many of my favorite small publishers have a presence on Twitter has me seriously reconsidering my stance. How could I not, after poring over these captivating tweets from The Overlook Press?

New York City-based Overlook Press is not the only indie publisher worth following on Twitter. Poets & Writers, a nonprofit literary organization, points to twenty-six more, including Akashic Books, Beacon Press, The Feminist Press, Grove/Atlantic, McSweeney's Books, YesYes Books, and Melville House. Who knew that these small literary establishments were among the Twitterati?

To see the twenty-seven that have succinctly melded book culture with social media, see Poets & Writers' post HERE.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Excitement Gathers for Grace Coddington's Memoir

Ever since I saw The September Issue, the 2009 documentary on the making of the 2007 fall-fashion issue of Vogue, I've had a soft spot for Grace Coddington, who is the magazine's flame-haired and refreshingly down-to-earth creative director.

Vogue magazine's Grace Coddington (in the center) is at last releasing a memoir.
Image from

Watching her fearlessly go toe-to-toe with Vogue's steely eyed editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, warmly comfort those on the receiving end of Wintour's wrath, and superbly weave together fantastical fashion sets and ensembles endeared her to me. The segment of the documentary where Coddington reflects on her earlier years as a successful model in Swinging London intrigued me so much that I swore if she ever wrote a memoir of those years, I'd snatch it up. Those in the publishing world must have realized that such a book would be a hit because, barely a year after the theatrical release of The September Issue, Coddington was "approached by agents and publishers looking to translate her September Issue fame into a bestseller," reported on August 22, 2010. According to, the book would cover "her modeling days in Sixties London, the car accident that changed her career path, and her ascendancy through fashion's ranks as a stylist and editor at British Vogue and, later, its American counterpart." It would be cowritten with Jay Fielden, the former editor-in-chief of Men's Vogue, and published by Random House. Fast-forward to two years later, and Fielden has been replaced by Vogue writer Michael Roberts and the book is given a release date.

Image from

Grace: A Memoir will at last be released by Random House on November 20, 2012. The 416-page memoir promises to "introduce readers to the colorful designers, hairstylists, makeup artists, photographers, models, and celebrities with whom Grace has created her signature images," according to the book's description on The memoir also "reveals her private world with equal candor - the car accident that almost derailed her modeling career, her two marriages, the untimely death of her sister, Rosemary, her friendship with Harper's Bazaar editor-in-chief Liz Tilberis, and her thirty-year romance with Didier Malige. Finally, Grace describes her abiding relationship with Anna Wintour, and the evolving mastery by which she has come to define the height of fashion." posted an excerpt from Grace: A Memoir. Here is a snippet:

My contemporaries were girls like Bronwen Pugh; Sandra Paul, a classic English beauty who married a politician; and Enid Boulting, whose daughter, Ingrid, also became a famous model and went on to marry John Barry, a composer of much of the music for the James Bond films. Another contemporary, Tania Mallet, was cast in a Bond movie herself (only to be killed off after a fleeting appearance), and many of the other girls ended up marrying lords. There was a kind of "Upstairs, Downstairs" feeling to things at the time. I suppose that's why my mother didn't object to my going to modeling school. But the models-pursued-by-aristocrats phenomenon was not destined to last. The Profumo affair, a sex scandal that hit the British headlines in 1963, was a sordid sensation involving government ministers, aristocrats, Soviet spies, and two good-time girls, Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies. They were referred to in the popular press as "models" - which gave our profession a terrible name because, to the British public, the word "model" became pretty much synonymous with "prostitute."

To read much more of the excerpt from Grace: A Memoir, go HERE.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Awesome Tumblr of Awesome People Reading

In the eyes of many, picking up a book is not a cool activity. Just think about the connotations of "bookworm," a term that's usually not given as a compliment. To say that someone is a "bookworm" is pretty much the same as calling that person a "geek," "nerd," or "nerdlinger." Reading just isn't cool ... or is it? Take a look at the Tumblr Awesome People Reading.

Bettie Page curls up with a magazine amid the comforts of home.
Image via

Awesome People Reading is a Tumblr comprised of tons of photographs of, well, awesome people reading. There are movie stars and directors, graphic artists and painters, musicians and athletes, activists and philosophers, heads of state and astronauts, models and photographers, magicians and Muppets, all caught on camera reading. And they're not always reading books. Some, like Albert Camus and Lenny Bruce, are holding newspapers. Others, like Boris Karloff and Paul Newman, are poring over film scripts. Then you have some, like Muhammad Ali and Tom Waits, gripping comics. While others, such as Beck Hansen and Charlotte Gainsbourg, are eyeing pages of song lyrics. And many, including, Richard Avedon and James Dean, are absorbed in magazines.

There are currently 125 pages filled with black-and-white and color photographs of Awesome People Reading. (The prolific person behind this Tumblr has obvious favorites, as there are many different images of Marilyn Monroe, Gregory Peck, Neil Gaiman, Bettie Page, Bridget Bardot, David Bowie, Louise Brooks, Patti Smith, Bob Marley, Michael Caine, Elvis, and various Stones and Beatles reading.) You can check them out HERE.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Visit to the Zine Library at VCU

If you love zines and ever find yourself in Richmond, Virginia, you should really swing by Virginia Commonwealth University. The university's James Branch Cabell Library, at 901 Park Avenue, houses a wealth of local and national zines.

VCU's zine library is part of the Special Collections and Archives at Cabell Library.
Photo via Matt Carman on Flickr
Just prior to the Richmond Zine Fest, held earlier this month, the people behind the Brooklyn Zine Fest decided to visit VCU to check out these zines. The zine collection is part of VCU's Special Collections and Archives, located on the fourth floor of Cabell Library. Two smiley librarians, Leila Prasertwaitaya and Celina Williams (who also helped organize the Richmond Zine Fest), gave the people of the Brooklyn Zine Fest a grand tour of the Special Collections and Archives, which, in addition to zines, also includes comics, artist books, and even a sword(!).

Librarians Leila Prasertwaitaya (at left) and Celina Williams are happy to help.
Photo via Matt Carman on Flickr
The zine library at VCU currently encompasses more than 700 zines, which tend to focus on feminist and socio-political issues, art and punk rock topics, and personal/autobiographical matters. Many are also of the mini comic variety. The collection also contains resource materials on the history of underground publishing and ephemera from past Richmond Zine Fests.

Gotta keep things organized! Zine files at Cabell Library's Special Collections and Archives.
Photo via Matt Carman on Flickr
Coinciding with this year's Richmond Zine Fest is an exhibit of the work of Aijung Kim. The creative output of the Richmond-based artist and zine collector will be on display on the fourth floor of Cabell Library until November 2012. 

You can see the zine collection and the Aijung Kim exhibit at Cabell Library Monday through Friday, 9AM to 5PM or by appointment. If you'd like more information on either, you can reach someone at the Special Collections and Archives by email, at, or by phone, at (804) 828-1108. I'm sure they would love to assist you...and appreciate donations to the zine library!

Representatives from VCU's zine library man a table at this year's Richmond Zine Fest.
Photo via Matt Carman on Flickr
Also look out for zine nights at VCU's Special Collections and Archives. These collaborative workshops on zine making are free and open to the general public.