Celebrate the Freedom to Read!

Have you ever read a Banned Book? I bet you have. You might have even read a banned book to your child! Because it’s not all about sex. Violence gets challenged. Speaking truth to power gets challenged. And so do historical truths that make people uncomfortable.

And yes, sex makes a lot of people very uncomfortable!

This week, September 30-October 6, is Banned Books Week in the U.S. It celebrates the Freedom to Read what we want, when we want, and, I think, however we want, whether that’s print, audiobook, or ebook. Something that’s going to become increasingly important in the future.

It’s fitting that one of the most frequently challenged books of all time is 1984 by George Orwell. Lest we forget, 1984 is the book that brought us the very concept of “Big Brother”.

It’s easy to talk about the books that get banned or challenged. And I heartily recommend that you take a look at those lists over at the official Banned Books Week site and at the American Library Association site. The range of titles and subjects will astonish you.

Everything bothers somebody.

The whole point of Banned Books Week, and its clarion call to Celebrate the Freedom to Read, is that if I don’t want to read something, that shouldn’t stop you from being able to read it, and if you don’t want to read something, you  shouldn’t be able to stop me from reading it.

Comic books and manga are particularly challenged.  That’s why the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is one of the supporters of Banned Books Week. Heck, that’s why there IS a Comic Book Legal Defense Fund in the first place!

The other supporters are the American Booksellers Association, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the American Library Association, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the Association of American Publishers, the Freedom to Read Foundation, the National Association of College Stores, the National Coalition Against Censorship, the National Council of Teachers of English, the PEN American Center and Project Censored.

What can you do to celebrate the Freedom to Read? See if there’s a Banned Books Week event going on in your community this week. Many bookstores and libraries are sponsoring “Read Outs” – continuous readings of banned books. If you’re a blogger, write a blog post about Banned Books Week. Everyone can participate in the Banned Books Week Virtual Read-Out on YouTube.

If you’re still wondering which banned book you might have read to your child, or had read to you as a child, it’s Maurice Sendak’s marvelous Where the Wild Things Are. And it is truly wild to think that someone might deprive a child the joy of that book through censorship.

Celebrate the Freedom to Read, read a banned book.






This post was originally published at Book Lovers Inc

ARC-Gate at ALA

Last week, and it is difficult to believe it was already more than a week ago, the American Library Association held its Annual Conference in the land of Mickey Mouse, Anaheim, California.

And there was a kerfuffle on YouTube about ARCs and who should be able to pick up how many on the exhibit hall floor.

Two bloggers at The Lost Lola posted a 22-minute video, since retracted, detailing their incredibly awesome book haul at ALA. They scored, and I think scored is a fair assessment, two copies of everything possible, including a lot of books they had no personal interest in.

A librarian who blogs at Stackedbooks questioned on Twitter how authors would feel “knowing a librarian couldn’t get an arc of their book at ALA, but a blogger picked up multiple copies.”

The Lost Lolas have printed an impressive and well-thought out response and clarification, but lots of questions still stand.

Let’s start at the beginning. I have described ALA as BEA for librarians, and I think it’s a fair description. ALA is a business conference for libraries, just as BEA is a business conference for the book industry. And just like the book industry, a good bit of the business of libraries happens to be books.

Not all of it, but a lot of it. That doesn’t make ALA a book convention. There was another half of the exhibits that was all about automated systems, materials-handling units, furniture, and supplies. This stuff isn’t sexy, but it was all on that floor. And those things are a significant part of the business of libraries.

Libraries do promote reading. And one of the ways we promote reading is through books. (I can hear you saying “well, duh” from here). Libraries are also part of the publishers’ ecosystem to promote books and authors. Libraries constitute about 10% of book sales in the U.S overall. For some genres and markets, like children’s books and audiobooks, we’re a lot more.

For midlist authors, libraries are a critical lifeline. Libraries provide the author, not just sales, but also word-of-mouth “advertising”. If the librarian likes the book, it gets “sold” across the desk. One enthusiastic reader puts the book directly into the hands of another. It’s a trust relationship.

We bloggers are trying to get into that “space” but we’re not there yet.

For anyone who has noticed that I’ve said we on both sides of this issue, I have. I am a librarian. I attend ALA because I am a member of the Association, and because I serve on a committee. I’m part of the business of the Association that gets done at the Conference.

And right now, most of my day-to-day work is as a book blogger.

But ALA is a business convention. It’s one of the largest conventions in the U.S. Not just for the number of people who attend (20,000!), but also for the number of simultaneous meeting rooms. On Saturday and Sunday, there are more than 100 meetings every hour.

And because it’s a business convention, if you’re there to be at a meeting, or three, or five, you can’t drop everything to stalk the exhibit halls for the author signings. People notice when you don’t show up at committee meetings, especially if you’re the chair of the committee. Or when you don’t make the presentation when you are one of the speakers.

ALA is a volunteer-run organization for the most part. The members do most of the work.

So when a librarian can’t be in the exhibit hall at a particular time for a particular signing, it’s because she or he has a commitment to keep. It’s a working conference.

But what ALA isn’t, is a book convention. It’s not RomCon or the RT Booklovers Convention or even WorldCon. There’s a picture (at right) from the RT Booklovers Book Fair, where the description touts the 100’s of authors who are there just to sign books. That’s not what ALA is.

The thing about this whole mess is that all the parties involved went in with different expectations. The bloggers saw it as a book conventions, with that set of expectations. They had a plan of attack to maximize their resources to get as much out of the book convention as possible. What they did is understandable from that perspective.

The librarians who come to the conference see it as professional development, or professional commitment. They get ARCs for a whole different set of reasons. Some are just for reading. But a lot more have to do with programming, especially YA programming. Teen librarians want ARCs to give to teen readers as prizes for book clubs, to plan programs, and just to figure out what their groups will be reading next.

Yes, the libraries that sent those librarians should find better ways to reach out to publishers, and should have better funding. And a lot of other things. But library budgets are shrinking right now. And a lot of librarians are self-funded to conferences. In other words, they pay their own way.

Just like bloggers.

The questions remain. Should ALA change their policies regarding exhibits-only passes to give preferential treatment to members and book-industry professionals? BEA has only just begun admitting the general public, and only on a very restricted basis.

However, book reviewers, including bloggers, are eligible for attendance at BEA, it’s just more expensive than an ALA exhibits-only pass. Considerably more expensive.

This isn’t just a question about ARCs. It isn’t even a question about ALA policy.

Why did the issue of ARCs touch so many hot buttons  among both librarians and bloggers?

What do ARCs mean to you? What does a massive ARC haul mean to you? Why do we covet ARCs? What do we do with them after the conference?

And what will we do when publishers stop printing them?

(This post was previously published at Book Lovers Inc.)

Stacking the Shelves (9)

And we’re back! What better way could there be to get back into the swing of things than Stacking the Shelves? Not just any Stacking the Shelves (hosted by the estimable Tynga at Tynga’s Reviews) but with an extra-special shelf-stack.

I just got back from the American Library Association Conference in Anaheim, and I came back with the flu. So not only am I still coughing, I brought books back with me from the conference floor.

Earlier this week, I described ALA as BEA for librarians. And it is. BEA is the industry conference for publishing and book-selling. ALA is the industry conference for librarians. It just so happens that both conferences have a lot to do with promoting new and upcoming books, so the best way to do that is for the publishers to give away Advance Reading Copies of the books they want to push.

And we all want to get those books because we want to read them. We love books, or we would have found something else to do with our lives. Scoring the tallest pile of books, books we might not even want to read, just for the sake of the score, isn’t supposed to be the point of the exercise. I’ll be posting more on this topic later this week.

So I limited myself to the books I could carry and pack. I did hunt for the titles that my fellow book lovers specifically asked for last week, and found two: Throne of Glass and Outpost. I’ll be sending those on, and they’ll be reviewed on their blogs. But the rest you see here. Series I’ve followed, authors I love, and finally, a copy of John Scalzi’s Redshirts.

From NetGalley:
The Black Isle by Sandi Tan (ebook)
Advent by James Treadwell (ebook)
Cast in Peril by Michelle Sagara (ebook)
God Save the Queen by Kate Locke (ebook)

For Book Lovers Inc.:
West of Want (Hearts of the Anemoi #2) by Laura Kaye (ebook)

For Library Journal Review:
Hidden Things by Doyce Testerman (print ARC)

Picked up at ALA:
The Cutting Season by Attica Locke (print ARC)
Still Life with Shape-Shifter by Sharon Shinn (print ARC)
An Apple for the Creature edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner (print ARC)
Lord of Mountains (A Novel of the Change) by S.M. Stirling (print ARC)
City of Secrets by Kelli Stanley (print)
Troubled Bones by Jeri Westerson (print)
Redshirts by John Scalzi (print)
L.A. Theatre Works Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare (full-cast audio adaptation)
L.A. Theatre Works Copenhagen by Michael Frayn (full-cast audio adaptation)
L.A. Theatre Works Photograph 51 by Anna Ziegler (full-cast audio adaptation)

As always, I’m curious. What’s stacking your shelves? Or, since those of us in the U.S. have that lovely July 4th Holiday in the middle of the week, what are you planning to take off your shelf and read this holiday week?


Everybody’s Wishlist

As you read this, I am probably standing, no, make that searching, the exhibit hall floor of the American Library Association Conference, trying to find hunting down last minute ARCs.

You see, the ALA exhibits are kind of like BEA for librarians. That’s not all ALA is, but that’s definitely part of what ALA is. And on Monday morning, as the exhibitors are starting to pack up their booths, that’s definitely what ALA is. Miles and miles of books.

My kind of place.

Since I was going to send myself a box (or two) of books from the conference, I asked some non-conference going book-loving friends if there was anything they wanted me to look for, you know, while I was in the neighborhood.

The Advance Reading Copy neighborhood, that is.

Even though we are book bloggers, and we get ARCs, there are still some books we’re all chomping at the bit to get, just that teeny, tiny bit ahead. If we can. If there’s a chance.

Here’s the “shopping list” my book loving friends sent me with.

Endgame by Ann Aguirre (Ace)
Precinct 13 by Tate Hallaway (Berkley)
Temptation’s Edge by Eve Berlin (Berkley)
The Space Between Us by Megan Hart  (HQN) (2 copies)
Burning Up by Anne Marsh (Kensington)
A Dangerous Liaison with Detective Lewis by Jillian Stone (Pocket)
Outpost by Ann Aguirre (Feiwel & Friends) (2 copies)
Onyx by Jennifer Armentrout (Entangled)
Cursed by Jennifer Armentrout (Spencer Hill Press)
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (Bloomsbury)
Riveted by Meljean Brook (Berkley)
The Care and Feeding of Stray Vampires by Molly Harper (Pocket)
Trapped by Kevin Hearne (Random)
Into the Woods by Kim Harrison (Harper)
Cherished by Lauren Dane and Maya Banks (Berkley)
Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews (Ace)

I was offered someone’s firstborn for the Kim Harrison. I’m not…interested. I’d rather have the book. But it says something about how passionate we readers are about getting our hands on new books. Especially ahead of schedule.

Is there anything on this wishlist that you’re waiting for with the proverbial bated breath? What books are you on “pins and needles” about?


Notable Books and Advance Galleys: It’s so much fun to say “We knew you when”

I’m so very pleased (actually giddy) to say that this post will appear on April 6, 2012 as the first of their “Librarian Voices” columns at NetGalley.

It can be fun to look at someone famous and say “I knew you when…”, particularly when that “someone” is a book, and the “when” in question is waaaay back before that book came out, and no one knew the book was going to be as hot as it turned out to be.

Or when you’re looking at the ALA Notable List, and remembering when you picked up the ARC at a conference, or got the egalley from NetGalley, because you thought it might be good, and, lo and behold, there it is, an award-winner.

Sometimes, you read a book, and you know it’s special. Then you tell everyone you know until they’re sick of it, and you. Unless you’re very lucky, and it’s your job to help people find their next perfect read.

The ALA Notable Books List is always interesting and useful, because as soon as I see it, I look at it and go, “oh, that one was popular”, “oh, that’s an interesting choice”, or “mmm, I can see why that got picked.” In collection development, it always made for a list of titles to check, but they were usually ones the library already owned. We’d miss one sometimes, especially on the poetry portion of the list!

Maybe it’s because I’m  personally a genre fiction reader, but the ALA Notable Books List always seemed like the “big books” list, Not big in the sense that they’re long books, but big in the sense that they’re literary, at least on the fiction side. These are “important” books, even when they are also very, very popular. Tea Obreht’s  The Tiger’sWife was one book that we just couldn’t get copies of fast enough. I remember seeing it in NetGalley before the pub date, and I wish I had snagged it then! Then I would have known in advance it was going to be big!

There’s another ALA list, one that reflects what people read for pleasure, instead of the important books. It’s The Reading List that RUSA CODES publishes. This list has categories for genres like “Science Fiction” and “Mystery” and “Romance”, you know, the good stuff. (I’ve never been so sure about that “Adrenaline” category.)

Genre fiction sells, and genre fiction circulates. That’s what circulation statistics show, and publishing numbers and everything else. The books on this list are the ones that people will enjoy.

And they’re fun.

The trick for librarians is picking out which one, or ten, are going to stand out from the crowd. It’s hard because the genre field is crowded and very diverse. Each genre can feel like its own little planet, and the galaxies can seem light-years apart. Lists like this are great navigational tools.

Each title on the fantasy list this year is absolutely marvelous. One of my favorite books of the year, The Magician King by Lev Grossman, is on the short list. The short list! It’s not even the winner! I knew when opened the first page of that egalley from NetGalley that it was going to be one of the big books of the year. But as far the winning title is concerned, as soon as I saw the NetGalley description for this title, it was clear that Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus was something special.  The circus arrives and it brings magic.
On the 2012 list, one of the shortlisted titles in the romance category is Kristan Higgins’ My One and Only. I resisted the impulse to get an egalley last year, but Higgins new book, Somebody to Love, is available now. And I have an egalley from NetGalley.

Maybe Somebody to Love will be on the RUSA CODES Reading List in 2013. And I’ll be able to say that “I knew it when…”


Impossible Mission

I plan to carry out an impossible mission in this post. Not the kind where the “Secretary will disavow all knowledge of my actions,” although there will be some “Secretaries” involved. So this mission will not involve either Peter Graves or Tom Cruise. Nor will there be any spies.

By the time you read this, I will either be flying between Atlanta and Dallas, or already in “The Big D” and in the midst of the madness that comprises the American Library Association Midwinter Conference. A madness that is only exceeded by the insanity of the American Library Association Annual Conference, which will be in hot, dry Anaheim California, in June. Look out, Mickey Mouse!

ALA Midwinter originally came into being for the Association to conduct its business. And there are a LOT of committee meetings. But since everyone was there anyway, the vendors who sell to libraries also come to the conference to exhibit their latest and greatest. The publishers come to promote their new books. There are usually LOTS of Advance Reading Copies free for the taking. Stacks and stacks of them!

About that impossible mission? Attempting to make my ALA Midwinter Schedule sound interesting. Please don’t stop reading now!

I said that ALA conducts a lot of its business during the Midwinter conference. I am proud to say that I am part of that business. This year, I am the Chair of the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services Affiliate Relations Committee. Whew, that’s a mouthful. It’s abbreviated as ALCTS ARC. You can imagine why.

Being Chair of an ALCTS committee means that I go to the ALCTS Board meeting on Friday afternoon and Monday afternoon. This year, ALA is promoting the theme of “Transforming Libraries” and a big part of that theme is “Transforming Collections”. ALCTS, well, remember that word “Collections” in the name? We’re all over that “Collections” thing. So we’ll be talking about our role in ALA’s initiative.

The Affiliate Relations Committee is something different. We gather information about continuing education that happens all around the country, and distribute it to everyone. So that folks in California know what’s going on in Maryland and vice-versa. You might think that’s not all that relevant, but with webinars, location is not quite the factor it used to be. And if someone in Oregon knows of a good speaker on a hot topic, the speaker might very well be willing to travel to conduct a similar workshop. Networking is everything!

(I’ll be doing two webinars for the Maryland Library Association, one on genre selection on Jan. 31 and one on Ebook Collections on Feb. 9. The webinars are from Maryland, but I’ll be in Atlanta!)

What else will I be doing in Dallas? Seeing colleagues I only see at conference. Going to sessions on topics that interest me, like ebooks and collection development.

And oh yes, I’ll be walking the floor. Not like that. The exhibit hall floor. A chunk of the publishers I regularly cover in Ebook Review Central will be at the Conference. Kristina from NetGalley will be there. And I want to visit all the print publishers and get on their lists to get review copies, too.  There’s miles of walking in my future, but it will be so worth it.

I just have to restrain myself from bringing home too many ARCs. Those suckers are heavy.

The conference halo effect

There’s a phenomenon that I call the “conference halo effect”.  I think it happens to most of us, or at least I certainly hope so. The alternative would be unbearable.

While I’m at the conference, I’m energized. This is in spite of the fact that my feet are usually speaking to me, and what they are saying translates into “expletive deleted”.



The panel discussion that I participated in on Leading Technical Services in 2011 was very well attended. The room held 150, and we nearly packed it, but didn’t overflow. It was just right. The audience laughed in all the right places, and asked great questions. And if the person in the second row on the right with the wonderfully encouraging face is reading this, my heartfelt thanks. I had practiced one last time while sitting somewhere in the conference center and the gentlemen in the chair next to me fell asleep while I was practicing somewhat sotto voce.  Having someone in the audience who looked eager to hear me was a much better confidence builder!

My fellow panelists, Anne McKee and Peggy Johnson, were terrific. Peggy even acted out her slides when the PowerPoint gave up the ghost. Her performance was truly inspirational in more ways than one. Peggy didn’t just talk about leadership, she demonstrated it right there. And the coverage by American Libraries in their blog was awesome.

But every moment in the conference presented opportunities to see or hear something new – be it in the form of workshops, stalls or pull down banners, or if it was something to take back and work on, or a commitment that needs to be met in the days and weeks ahead.

At the time I was in New Orleans, every time I was in a meeting, or right after I finished a meeting with someone, I would send myself an email labeled “note to self” with the action item in the email. The joy of a 3G iPad is that I always had connectivity. (My hotel room wifi was iffy at best) Because of the “halo effect” energy of the conference, everything seemed both easy and possible while I was in NOLA.

And the biggest problem with actually being on a committee (I’m incoming Chair of the new ALCTS Affiliate Relations Committee) is that I didn’t get to half the places I wanted or needed to get to. My list includes a lot of entries that say “find out what happened at X session” that I wasn’t able to attend. But it’s all part of the ALA experience–except for the no conflict times, every time slot has 3 things you want to go to, and they are generally as far apart as geographically possible.

Now I’m back, and that mountain of “notes to self” is in my inbox. The halo has worn off. Those things don’t seem so easy anymore. But they are still possible. Even more important, they are still necessary. They are commitments I made to myself, and to others, of things that need to be done.

Time to dig in. I think I see a LOT of Diet Coke in my future.



What does it mean to miss New Orleans?

I didn’t hear live jazz playing in New Orleans on this trip until Tuesday morning. The playback in my mind is of jazz spilling out of every open doorway in the French Quarter, usually accompanied by a street corner barker trying to hustle the crowd into his joint for a girlie show. Times change.

That memory is indelibly etched, but it was a long time ago. Anything pre-Katrina is a long time ago now. But for me, those memories represent a different watershed.

I was 19, and the week between Christmas and New Year’s, my parents took me along on a trip to New Orleans. Another couple went along on that trip, I don’t know why. But having them along changed everything.

When we arrived at the hotel, I asked at the desk if I would be able to go into the bars to listen to the music. The desk clerk looked at me and said, “you’re old enough”. For the first time, I was treated as an adult. Suddenly, instead of being on a trip with my parents, I was one grown up on a trip with 4 others. The difference was incalculable.

I’m aware, looking back, that I never went out alone. But on the other hand, I was treated as someone whose preferences mattered as much as anyone else’s. I was, and am, a night owl. My mom is not. My dad tried to stay up 20 hours a day, I swear, but that was pretty normal for him. The other couple were both night owls like me. I spent more time out with them because my schedule matched theirs. In retrospect, my mom was the odd one out.

I went everywhere. I was never carded. And yes, I ordered drinks if I wanted them. Hurricanes of the alcoholic variety in NOLA are infamously watered down. The music was amazing. I recognized absolutely nothing, and I didn’t care. Every bar had a band, and if it sounded good from the street, we’d just wander in and sit for a while. It was the way the players would play together, then solo in the middle, and then pick up the piece as a group that astonished me again and again.

But in walking the streets of the Vieux Carré, window shopping and music sampling, the seamier side of Bourbon Street was also on display. I may have been 19, but I was well read. I could see, even then, that every sin that mankind had invented, or possibly would invent, was for sale somewhere in the alleys of the French Quarter. That darkness was part of the gumbo that made New Orleans what it was, even though the city fathers and mothers tried to pretty things up for the tourists.

That trip was the last vacation I ever took with my parents. That winter break during my sophomore year in college was also the last time I ever went home to my parents’ house.  There is a saying that there are two things you need to give your children, that one is roots, and the other is wings. That trip was one of the times when I very much felt the wings more than the roots.

When ALA went to New Orleans right after Katrina, I did not expect to see much of the NOLA I remembered. The hurricane had been devastating, and the boarded up windows bore mute testimonials to that devastation. The anti-FEMA t-shirts were less mute but just as devastating in their own unique way.

I wondered what the city would be like this time. The Creole flavor that was New Orleans took multiple cultures a few centuries to simmer just right. Five years isn’t long enough to bring it back. But there was a jazz band at Jackson Square that had a good start.

Opening day at ALA

No matter where it is the American Library Association conference always feels like librarian’s old home week. All the people look vaguely familiar, convention centers all look alike, and even the signs are pretty much the same from one year to the next.

Some of the content is even repeated. RDA has been a topic for several conferences in a row, and probably will be for several more. The budget squeeze on libraries has been an unfortunate ongoing theme for too many years. “Doing more with less” is a refrain that is heard over and over.

Moving right along, I spent most of the day in a truly fantabulous pre-conference– “Assembling your consulting tool kit” by Nancy Bolt and Sara Laughlin. For me, the topic was relevant and timely, and the presenters did a bang up job. Setting up as a consultant is just something that goes against the grain of us librarians, we’re all used to thinking of ourselves as publiic servants and not as businesspersons marketing a product, particularly not when that product is ourselves. Nancy and Sara made it sound imminently doable, and their tips from the pros were very much appreciated by this newbie.

When the exhibits opened this evening, there was one book that I was more than willing to carry home  in “dead tree” form, if I could get one. Penguin was supposed to have advanced reading copies of Lev Grossman‘s The Magician King, the sequel to The Magicians, in their booth. I beat a path to their proverbial door as soon as the crowds were let in, and managed to worm my way through the crush to get one. Score!

And ByWater Solutions had a “booth babe” that proved me wrong about the exhibit halls all looking alike. This particular lady could only have appeared in New Orleans.