Readers’ Advisory: Supernatural Thrillers With Female Leads

A friend of mine texted me this very wheelhousey RA question a while back…and I was very very excited.

“Hey! I need a book recommendation and I figured you were just the lady I should ask. Do you know of any good thriller type books to recommend? Something real disturbing. Preferably with a kickass female lead. Maybe supernatural?”

I only sent her a handful of the books below, but I thought I would expand the list here! In addition to her female lead request, I also made all of my recommendations written by women as well. I’ve read most of these, and the ones I haven’t gotten to yet I have sitting on my bookshelves, waiting for me to dive in!

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Library Work: Helping Teens with Resumes

13903379490_e08650368b_bI’ve been slacking on my library posts. Last fall I submitted my last blog post to the Youth Services Division of PaLA. It discussed my particular approach to helping teens write resumes. I really loved doing that work when I was in my public library. Now that I’m in an academic library, they don’t really have much need for a librarian to do that. In fact, we have a totally separate career center in the basement of the library that is completely devoted to that work! Anyway, below is my blog post for those of you who work with teens and find yourself in a position to help them write their very first resume. This might be good for anyone to review who knows a teen planning to go job hunting this summer.

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Readers’ Advisory: Summer of SciFi!


Barbarella…I can’t help but love her and her sexy ways.

This was a readers’ advisory for me, myself. I declared the summer of 2018 the Summer of SciFi! I grew up loving science fiction movies and pop culture, but it took me a long time to actually start reading it. I’m still very behind on all the classics, but this summer for some reason, *ahem* escapism *ahem*, I really started to crave full scifi immersion. My goal is to catch up on the science fiction films and TV that I have missed over the past few years (Arrival, the new Lost in Space, Annihilation, the new Alien movie, etc forever) and enjoy some fun science fiction books! If you have any good music playlists or fun scifi-themed activities you think I should check out to help make my summer complete, please let me know in the comments!

Now to the books. For the longest time, I felt like I needed to read all the classics, but they’re all so long and kind of dry and very sexist. I’ve decided to throw that idea out the window. I’m super inspired by my new favorite book podcast from Bookriot, SFF Yeah!, hosted by Jenn and Sharifah Williams (who I honestly have the biggest crush on, she’s so cool and smart and nerdy and beautiful and a Slytherin). They talk about all things science fiction and fantasy in the book world, and they have mentioned some really amazing books that I either had never heard of or had heard of but kept putting off. Their discussion of these books has really made me want to read them like ASAP. So thank you Jenn and Sharifah :)


Below is my 12-book tbr for Summer of SciFi! I have been so excited about the books that I’ve picked that it’s all I’ve been talking about int our apartment. My fiance is surely tired of me sighing and saying, “I can’t wait to read my scifi books!” and then launch into a full summary of one of them. I chose mostly women authors and women protagonists, which is important to me (they’re also kind of the most interesting voices in scifi/fantasy right now), but I did add a couple gents in there because their books just sound amazing. There are wonderful science fiction authors from all walks of life! I have tried to provide trigger warnings where I can, but I haven’t read these yet so I can only go off of what summaries tell me. I will say that most of these seem dark/violent, so proceed with caution.

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No New Books, 2018!

fd8f06c5ecf895caced1fd4f6398163b--funny-reading-quotes-quotes-about-reading-booksSo, like many of my book lovers and librarians before me, I have fallen into a crisis situation concerning the number of books I have in my apartment and on my tbr list. My To Read list on Goodreads is over 2,300 at the time of this post, the number of books I have checked out from the library is currently about 60 (down from 87), I have hundreds of books in my apartment currently (but that’s hardly the total number I own…I have them stashed everywhere), and I buy at least two new books a month for my book clubs, not to mention my impulse emotional book buying (which I’ve been doing a lot of post-wedding dress shopping). This needs to stop. I can’t fit these books in my space anymore, and what is worse, I can’t read them all. Most of the books I own I haven’t read. So that is why I am going to take a bold step for 2018: I won’t be buying or checking out any new books to the best of my ability. Sure, I’ll have slip-ups, and for my one book club I’ll still be buying the book because sales are donated to Planned Parenthood, but this new rule will at least keep me in check.

So what does this mean? It means that I will actually be reading books I own! And then perhaps I’ll be able to get rid of a few of them. I’m sure I’ll really hate a couple…can’t love them all. So for Shameful Book Club I will only be selecting books I own, which adds another layer to my shame because I took the step of actually buying these books and yet still haven’t read them. For most of my other book clubs, I’ll have to just let go. This is going to be insanely difficult for me, because I’m a book club enthusiast and belong to five currently. I’m constantly looking to join more. But if they don’t read a book I own, I won’t be able to participate.


My bedroom.

While I’m going to hate this, I know it’s the right move. It will free up so much of my reading time and give me actual choice over what I’m picking up. My reading is so dictated by book clubs and library due dates that I hardly ever get to read spontaneously or catch up on personal reading. This is partly why I haven’t read most of the books I own. About 37% of the books I read last year were books I had to read for book clubs alone. That doesn’t include books for work or projects.


Shelves and boxes of books I own and a crate of library books in my office.

This also means I won’t be checking out books from the library. Since I work at a library and find it emotionally satisfying to check out arm fulls of books at a time, this will also be a challenge. Again, I’m sure there will be a slip-up here and there, but hopefully I won’t have more than two library books checked out at a time. My plan is to read as many of my currently checked out books as I can, and as I return them I won’t be replacing them. It’s hard for me to resist impulse check-outs, especially because I read so many book blogs and lists. I’m always snatching up the new best seller or forgotten classic that industry folks recommend. But if I’m doing that, I’m not reading my own books, and I’m filling up my living space with more piles.


Some of my library books.

What do I hope to achieve? A better understanding of my own collection, for one. I have such a random selection of books, and I’d like to see what it all feels like and looks like in terms of representing who I am as a person. I’ve been reading a lot about the art of book collecting and how crafting a personal collection is different from amassing a personal library. I will still have a library, but it would be fun to identify and build off of budding collections in my existing library.

I’d also LOVE an opportunity to weed my own library, but my anxiety and book obsession will not allow me to ditch books I haven’t read. I want to read them, assess them, and then either keep or dispose of them in some way. This ties back into the overall vibe of my personal collection and how I want to curate it. I know that seems a bit odd to think about curating your own books, but to me it seems like an interesting project and a cool way to express myself. Freeing up shelf space would also be amazing. Our apartment, while bigger than our last, lacks a bit on storage. Having shelves for things other than books would help with that. If I’m able to get all of my library books returned, that will free up an entire bookshelf. AN ENTIRE BOOKSHELF!!!


My “orderly” shelf.

Another interesting idea that I read about was buying books with specific reasoning in mind. I recently saw an article written by a young poet who discussed how she rarely buys books, but when she does it means a lot to her. She proceeded to go through and list every book she bought in 2016 and why exactly she bought that book. I know I won’t be perfect in 2018 when it comes to #nonewbooks, but if I approach it with this idea in mind, I will be working on good habits and have a really interesting collection to talk about at the end of the year.

What about you and your book buying habits? Want to join me on this foolhardy journey?

Reader’s Advisory: Native American and Indigenous Literature by Women


Joy Harjo, looking like the amazing badass that she is.

This RA was for myself. I grew up in the Finger Lakes region, right in the middle of Haudenosaunne (Iroquois) territory. The Onondaga Reservation is a bout 40 minutes from the house I grew up in. They are The Keepers of the Fire, which means that in the metaphorical longhouse that the Six Nations create together, they are the central group. Physically, they are in fact central. This means that when larger events happen that include other member tribes, they usually happen on Onondaga territory. The Onondaga Reservation more or less acts as the capitol of the Iroquois Confederacy. I had excitedly planned to run the Trail Run 5k they host on the res for Thanksgiving this year, but I ended up deciding not to go home for Thanksgiving all together. I will absolutely run it next year, however, because I don’t really go to the res that often and it would be nice to run through it. Also, the registration cost for the race goes to the reservation, as far as I know. And who doesn’t love running a 5k at the ass-crack of dawn in super cold Central New York in November while potentially hung-over?????????????

Being from New York, where the Iroquois Confederacy (the original democracy in North America) and the Six Nations are still very influential, I could find and experience native and indigenous culture pretty conveniently. We have amazing museums, reservations that do programming, people with native roots who are willing to teach and educate the rest of us…it’s great! Well, I took that for granted (understatement). Pennsylvania does things differently.

Before I dive in to this post further, hit play on this badass #FeministFriday playlist crafted by Spotify and populated entirely by indigenous female musical artists. It’s fucking amazing. Enjoy while you read:

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Readers’ Advisory: Fantasy for tween girls

pexels-photo-256546A skill that librarians must hone is Readers’ Advisory. This is, in simple terms, recommending books to people. But it can be a much harder job than it sounds. People will come up and ask things like, “I read a book recently about a beach. It had a red cover and I think there was a love story. I really liked it but cant’ remember the name. Can you recommend other books like it for me to read?” Obviously some follow up questions are necessary, as is making use of review websites, the library catalog and OPAC, and maybe even something a bit more intense (World CAT anyone?) to figure out what exactly they are talking about. You also have the, “I’m looking for more (insert genre) to read, any suggestions?” In this case, the questions you ask are really important. You need to know what about that genre the reader likes, what they have read in the past, any authors they’re in to, and even other genres they enjoy (because no genre exists in a vacuum). Readers’ Advisory can be so much fun, but if you don’t stay practiced in it, it can also be a horrible nightmare.

I read many books in a decently wide variety of topics and genres, but it is impossible for me to read or know of everything. In order to do RA well, I need to be using these different resources to confidently recommend books to patrons without knowing much about them myself. Another resources are my friends and coworkers, because they read stuff I don’t.

I don’t get to do a ton of RA at my current jobs, even though one is in a public library. And I’m moving to a new job soon where I probably won’t be doing any RA. This bums me out because I love RA and I need to practice RA regularly. Luckily, my friends have started to keep me busy. Recently I’ve had a few friends message me independently of one another, asking for book recommendations on one thing or another. I had so much fun filling their requests, and I thought I would post one of them here. I also would love to make this a regular thing on my blog, so if anyone has any RA questions, throw them at me! I’d love to give you a list of recommendations!

Ok, the question was from a friend asking on the behalf of friends of hers who said:

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Virtual Reality in Libraries

IMG_3890I’ve been working with virtual reality technology and equipment in my library lately, so I thought I would share some of my thoughts and experiences since it seems to be something many libraries are looking at or considering. As part of the Pennsylvania Library Association, I volunteer to write blogs for the Youth Services Division. Since only members can access the blog, I thought I would just copy and past what I submitted here.

Virtual reality is fast becoming more commercial and accessible option for programming within libraries. Libraries across the country are incorporating virtual reality into existing programming and developing specific programming around the technology for all ages. At the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, thanks to the help of an internal grant, I was recently able to purchase a variety of virtual reality headsets and content creation equipment. I used this equipment to develop programming that was deployed in multiple departments across multiple CLP branches for all ages.

So, what fun goodies did I decide to purchase for this project? After consulting with our digital technology department and other technology educators, I decided to purchase two Samsung Gear VR headsets, two corresponding Samsung Galaxy 6s phones, two Google Daydream headsets, two corresponding Google Pixels phones, two Google Cardboard headsets, a Ricoh Theta 360 camera for content creation, and a selfie stick and tripod to help gather content stylistically. Having this range has been greatly beneficial, because each types of headset has a different strength. If I had to recommend one, however, it would be the Google Daydream.

I have used this equipment for programming ranging from passive to intensive. On the passive end, we used the basic Google Cardboard headsets as a replacement for the popular jigsaw puzzles. We set the headsets out (in view of a desk) along with an instruction sheet that walks patrons through determining if their phone or device is compatible with the headset (most are), how to download Cardboard apps, and offering a list of suggested apps to start with. Staff does have to be able to get some patrons started on the devices, but others help themselves with no need of guidance.

We have also incorporated the Daydreams and Gear VRs into existing game night programming for teens and tweens, brought the headsets to outreach at local high schools, offered family friendly walk-in open play sessions for all patrons (with staff available to teach and supervise), and finally we have offered content creation workshops for teens in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University.

The content creation programs are a wonderful way to incorporate the ideas of STEAM into your teen programming. It helps them develop soft skills like project management, teamwork, communication, and delegation, and it promotes creative and technical skills. We were fortunate to be able to have access to a simple drag-and-drop program from CMU called Social VR. This program allows you to create a navigable virtual reality experience using still 360 photos and audio. You can create a virtual space with a 360 photo and then annotate it with additional audio and still image pop-ups. You can then string a number of these virtual “rooms” together so users can move from one to the other.

While Social VR is still at a developmental stage and not yet available for consumer use, another option is Audiovista, a CMU offering that is incredibly simple to create and free for anyone to use. You can find out more about what an Audiovista is and how to make one online here ( or by searching online for Audiovista CMU. Their project page offers video tutorials for creating content using both iMovie and Windows Media Maker.

Content creation programs work best with small groups of teens working together on a single project. We also tend to break up the program into two or three sessions. The first is to decide what they want their project to be about and then go collect that content using the 360 camera and an audio recorder, which can be as simple as a cell phone or as advances as a Zoom recorder. The next day we teach them about how to save and label files properly for a digital project. I’m always looking for ways to teach good digital file management! We then go about actually building the Audiovista and uploading it to YouTube. Sometimes we’ve used yet another day to show off their project to parents. One branch within the CLP system is planning to use their Summer Reading kick-off event as a way to showcase what the kids have created.

When I first started thinking about purchasing virtual reality equipment, I had it in mind that my department (which specifically focuses on job and career development) could use them to help develop soft skills in patrons. I fast learned that the content was not yet available for that kind of work, but there was a lot of potential for using it in teen programming. That being said, the virtual reality programs work well for almost every age group. Some individuals react better to it than others. Make sure to warn patrons and users of the health and safety risks before they put on the headset. People with epilepsy should not use the headsets, and people with extreme motion sickness or vitigo should be aware that their chances of discomfort are very high. While headsets like these are recommended for 13 and up, the only risks that I have found for children using them are the same as other types of screen exposure. You just want to monitor how long they are using the headset and keep those screen time limits in mind.

Are you interested in more information on how to implement any of these programs in your library? I would be more than happy to help! Please email me for more content, such as program sheets, a sample budget, and a list of program ideas. I’m always excited to share ideas and collaborate. I hope you were inspired by this post!

If you have any questions or want to chat about VR programming and its potential, comment! I’d love to get into it!

Exploring Unseen Libraries of Pittsburgh

IMG_1885As was expected, I’ve been dreadfully bad at this blog since school. Let’s be real, I was bad before. My graduation resolution will to not be bad. I’ve said that before, so let’s just accept that I’m terrible at blogging and move on.

Grad school and diving into all things library has been incredible. I’ve been enjoying my classes and the new things I’ve been learning, despite my being completely overwhelmed and overworked (my own fault, as is the norm). A very cool event that I was lucky to attend last month was a small tour of usually unseen library and special collection spaces in the Oakland area. We started off in my University of Pittsburgh’s School of Information Sciences building. We have an interesting media commons on the 3rd floor that includes collaborative work spaces with large flat screen TVs, hookups, and comfortable seating. The space also accommodates quiet study and large events such as speakers, classes, and colloquiums.After refreshments and some chatting, we migrated across the street to CMU’s Mellon Library. The Mellon Library has been featured in several films (remember, Pittsburgh is a pretty big film city), most notably The Mothman Prophecies and The Dark Knight Rises. Richard Gere discusses some paranormal happenings with an expert in the reading room. And while their paranormal collection isn’t really existent, CMU does have a very valuable industrial hygiene collection that dates back to the 1930s. Librarians didn’t realize what they had on her hands until pieces started going missing. Lawyers were stealing them to help with cases dealing with asbestos and the like. They now keep the collection under lock and key, and if a lawyer calls to request the materials they are redirected to CMU’s legal team.


Researching precognition (or industrial hygiene)? This is the place to do it.

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Library School: Sucked Down the Hole

books-20167_640It’s only been two weeks since my graduate program started at the University of Pittsburgh, but I already feel completely immersed and totally sucked in. That is the nature of fast-paced graduate programs, and mine is only a year so we really are moving at warp speed. Since I’m incredibly busy and don’t have quite as much time to devote to writing or watching Hitchcock films or reading books for the Shameful Book Club (still trying though), I really want to try to at least write about my LIS experience.

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