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BBAW: Second Treasure: Interview Swap

September 14, 2010 2 comments

For the second treasure of Book Blogger Appreciation Week, we get the opportunity to interview a fellow book blogger.  I was randomly assigned Courtney of Stiletto Storytime, and she was an absolute pleasure to work with.  She’s a 20-something children’s librarian, currently a stay-at-home mom.  Her love of encouraging a love of reading at all ages shines through on her blog.

Courtney the Book Blogger

I wouldn’t be interviewing you today if you didn’t start blogging about books.  When and why did you start book blogging?
I started blogging in December of 2007. I had just graduated with my MLIS and gotten a job with the Charlotte Public Library System as a Children’s Librarian. The library I worked at shared a main desk between children’s services and adult reference so I found myself really doing a little bit of everything straight out of library school. I also found myself reading voraciously to try and pump up my reader’s advisory skills. So I decided to start a blog about what I was doing at that time. It began with book reviews and storytime plans…and moved into a little bit of anything that interested me. Stiletto Storytime really began as a way for me to keep track of this new adventure I was beginning and also a way to record my reading and reviewing in a more personal and at the same time public manner. It’s now become so much more than I ever imagined.

Has it been what you thought it would be or something entirely different?
I have to say it’s been beyond what I imagined. When I began there weren’t nearly as many book bloggers out there as now. And the concept wasn’t even really something I was aware of. I was kind of doing my own thing and then found others doing the same. I had some inspiration in sites that I followed that were book related, I would have to say that my Jane Austen roots led me to sites such as Austenprose and that really inspired me. It was nice to find other people obsessed with “Masterpiece Theatre” and Jane Austen. I thought…wow..I’m not alone!  Now looking back I never dreamed of having my blog lead me into writing myself or of traveling to New York for a convention just for Book Bloggers. These have been things that I never could have imagined at that time.

What genres do you usually cover on your blog?
I cover a wide variety of books because I read a wide variety of books. I love classical literature but also am really interested in young adult, literary fiction and historical fiction. Gothic and dystopian specifically are some of my favorite genres as well. And of course children’s books. It’s hard for me to really limit myself to one area so I don’t.

Are there any genres you don’t like to read or review?
I read paranormal to a degree but I am not really into romance or really deep fantasy. I generally don’t read self help or non-fiction on topics that don’t interest me personally.

Say an author, agent, or publishing house contacts you about an ARC, book tour, etc…  How do you decide whether or not to participate?
Well first I ask myself if this is something I would enjoy reading and my readers would enjoy hearing about. Then I check my blog schedule to see if the date is open. Sometimes with ARCs I am really looking forward to, I will read and post in advance in order to cover more than one release on a certain day. I also try to keep track of what is coming out and when to get my ARCs and also manage my review dates, author guest posts and other content.

You’re participating in a few reading challenges, including, but not limited to, 2010 Debs, 2010 YA reading challenge, and A to Z challenge.  How do you decide what challenges to participate in?
The challenges are a way for me to have fun personally in my reading. Since I have become a reviewer, I always feel the need to be reading and reviewing new works but the challenges allow me to read what I want and to have some flexibility. I also really like completing challenges and reading towards a goal with other people. You’ll notice a lot of my challenges are Jane Austen related, classical literature or Young Adult since these are my personal favorites. .

Do you limit the number of challenges you participate in?
I try to keep it doable and make sure that I am not in so many that I am overwhelmed. I want it to be fun.

What made you decide to include the “Little Man Reads” page featuring photos of your son with books and his current read on your blog?  Or where did you get the inspiration for that page?
‘Little Man Reads” is just my way of trying to lead by example and remind everyone to read with and to their children. It’s such an important message for me. One that I based my library career on and I just think that I need to show that I practice what I preach in that area. I also love to show what books he “loves” at different times. Some times he doesn’t mind what we read but then at other times he has his favorites and only they will do.

What goals do you have for your blog in the future?
I just want to continue to help people find books that interest them and have fun reading along the way. I guess I’ve never really been in it for the number of followers or hits, I just want to connect with people about books. It’s kind of like being a digital librarian now that I work from home.

What makes you not only decide to subscribe to another book blog but stick around in the long term?
For me it has to have content that I am interested in and also have a special something that keeps me coming back. I also really like people who know their areas of interest. I like people who dig deep into what they love. Passion like that can be contagious and inspiring.

Courtney The Librarian

You, like me, are a librarian.  Do you see your book blogging as innately connected with your career or a separate hobby?
I have always kept my blogging separate from my career as a librarian. When I was working in the library, no one knew what library I worked at from my blog or even my first name for that matter. I just gave out my first name last year. I always wanted to keep in separate because my blog is based on my opinions and feelings and it’s a very personal space in a lot of ways. I don’t want to expose too much so I keep my last name to myself for the most part and my son is called “little man” whenever referred to.

Your area of concentration is public libraries’ children’s services.  What made you choose this area of concentration?
Well I thought after being a 18th-19th century British English major, that in library school I would go academic and keep the same concentration but once I got into library school I became obsessed with children’s services and the idea that you have to build a reader young. Yes, I want people to read classical literature but if I don’t help children simply like the act of reading in general…well that’s not gonna happen. So I started at square one. I may still be trying to lead them to classical literature, I am just sometimes only doing it in “baby steps”. Public libraries drew me in because that’s where I knew I could make the most impact. It’s where I could share my love of reading with kids who might otherwise never be exposed to books. My first library job was in a low income urban area of a large metropolitan city, I wanted to work with the kids that didn’t have books at home. I wanted to make a difference.

Currently, you’re a full-time mom.  Do you foresee going back to work at libraries?  Why or why not?
I don’t really see myself going back into traditional librarianship. First off, I want to raise my son and hopefully another child sometime in the near future. I want to be at home for them and be hands on. I want to take them to storytime and bake cookies in the afternoon or make a fort. I love being a stay at home Mom and feel blessed to do so. Secondly I have been very lucky to have opportunities in professional reviewing, freelance writing about books  and even the possibility of writing a children’s series come my way so I feel drawn to those areas now in my career. I see my future more in that sphere than back in the library setting.

Courtney on the Deserted Island

The classic, you’re stranded on a desert island and can only take 5 _____?

  • Books: The Bible, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen, North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, The Monk by Matthew Lewis, ,
  • Movies: You’ve Got Mail, Gone with the Wind, Steel Magnolias, Jane Eyre (Cyrian Hinds version), Pride & Prejudice (1995 Colin Firth version)
  • TV shows: True Blood, Masterpiece Theatre, Top Chef, The First 48, Intervention
  • Foods: Tacos, White Chocolate Covered Oreos, A Cobb Salad, A Turkey BLT with Avocado, Vanilla Ice Cream

Many thanks to Courtney for the wonderful interview exchange experience!  Please be sure to check out her blog, as well as her interview of me.

Friday Fun! (Announcements Galore)

September 10, 2010 5 comments

Hello my lovely readers! I actually have a few exciting blog announcements for you today!

First, I set up an aStore. An aStore is your own personal section on Amazon full of items you recommend. I have five categories: books, movies, tv shows, videogaming, and household. Every single item in my store is something I’ve personally read/watched/played/whatever and would give at least 4 out of 5 stars to. Since it’s just recommendations, you’re still buying the items from Amazon or a third-party seller, not me, but I do get a small percentage of the profit as a thanks from Amazon for referring you to them. There is a link to the store on the right sidebar of my blog, so if you want a centralized list of trust-worthy reading/viewing/playing recommendations with easy 1 or 2 click buying, please check it out! It’s good for me and good for you. It’s a win/win.

Next, I realized how embarrassingly odd and disorganized my categories were. I was still pretty much using the same ones I set up the first couple of weeks I was blogging before I really realized what I’d be posting on a regular basis. I didn’t even have genre categories for my plethora of book reviews. How annoying for you guys! I mean, say you like the dystopian reviews, but there was not category for that. Blergh. So, I totally revamped the categories. Not only did I add genres, but I also made these Friday Fun posts and Imminent Arrivals and TBR posts their own categories. It’s exciting and organized and it made me happy! Be sure to check it out, and please let me know if there are any categories that you think don’t make much sense. What makes sense to me might not make sense to people that aren’t me, after all.

Hokay, finally I wanted to give you guys a heads-up that next week is going to be a bit different as I’m participating in Book Blogger Appreciation Week (BBAW).  Basically, it’s a week every September since 2008 that exists “to recognize the hard work and contribution of book bloggers to the promotion and preservation of a literate culture actively engaged in discussing books, authors, and a lifestyle of reading.”  It consists of themed posts, visiting blogs new to you, and awards!  It’s an awesome idea, and major props to Amy of My Friend Amy for coming up with it.  I just missed it last year, and I’m excited to participate this year.  So next week in addition to my regular schedule of reviews there will also be the BBAW daily posts.  Each day will have a different theme like the first book blog you read, so it should still be interesting for my readers who aren’t book bloggers.

That’s it for announcements!  I hope you enjoy the store, the categories, and the BBAW posts next week.  🙂

One Lovely Blog Award

August 31, 2010 17 comments

Tea and roses.Kinna of Kinna Reads was kind enough to pass on the One Lovely Blog Award to me.  Thanks, Kinna!

Now, as per the rules of the award, I need to pass it on to 15 new to me blogs and comment to let them know they’ve received it.  If you’re on the list and choose to accept, please do the same.

  1. Alita Reads
  2. Amy Reads
  3. Book Addiction
  4. Book-a-rama
  5. Caroline Bookbinder
  6. Dollar Bin Horror
  7. It’s All About Books
  8. The Literary Omnivore
  9. Park Benches and Bookends
  10. Presenting Lenore
  11. Too Much Horror Fiction
  12. Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Books
  13. Wag the Fox
  14. Write, Meg!
  15. The Bookworm Chronicles (ok, not new to me, but I ran out of blogs that are new to me, and Jessica’s blog is a hidden gem–always a delight to read!)

Friday Fun! (My Dad, Amazon Associate)

June 18, 2010 6 comments

Hello my lovely readers!  The invasive species removal on the Charles last Sunday was lots of fun!  It was overcast, so we weren’t sitting in the direct sun for hours, and the river was so peaceful and beautiful.  Removing the water chestnuts wasn’t so hard, but it did give me some splinters and blackened my fingernails, so I wound up with manicured fingernails for once this week to cover it up, haha.

The rest of the week was a bit rough for me.  My dad had a triple bypass last year, and when he went in for his annual cardiac check-up they decided to check him in as an in-patient.  He had a bit of an angina and other symptoms they were worried about.  They put a camera in his leg up through to his heart (a procedure he’s had many times) and checked out his heart.  Apparently some of the arteries that used to be completely blocked up now are losing blockage due to the bypass, so they put in stints.  After that, they adjusted his meds and warned him he needs to quit his job as it is bad for his heart.  He’s now home on short-term disability and trying to figure out if he can get long-term disability or change to a type of job that wouldn’t be bad for his heart.  He’s spent his whole life doing machine tooling/carpentry/construction all of which is too stressful for his heart, so it’s unlikely he can find a job that won’t be bad for him.  Although it all turned out well, the original phone call from my brother certainly sent me into a panic as we only knew that he’d been checked in, and the last time that happened he wound up getting the triple bypass.  Given my mental issues, it takes me a bit to calm down and return to normal functioning after being that level of worried.  I’m still a bit off today, but I expect the weekend will smooth the last bit of anxiety over.

In other news, I have a brief blog announcement.  After a lot of consideration, I’ve decided to become an Amazon Associate.  I waffled on this for a while until I saw that several book bloggers I highly respect are Amazon Associates.  Additionally, if a reader decides they want to buy whatever it is I have reviewed, it will be easier for them to do so with one click than by opening another tab and going off to wherever they buy from.  My reviewing style will not change beyond adding a link to buy the item.  My reviews will stay the honest, cheeky style they’ve always been, and I promise to keep any Amazon links as unobtrusive as possible.  I hope you all understand my decision and will still respect me as a blogger.

Happy weekends all!

I’m on the Kindle!

June 17, 2010 2 comments

Hand holding a kindle.

If you have a Kindle or the Kindle app for iPhone/iPad, you may now download my blog directly to it to read at your convenience, just like a newspaper or magazine!  You may subscribe by going here.  Excitement!

Note: If you do subscribe through your Kindle, I will receive a small percentage of the subscription fees, but I’m not offering this for the money.  I just thought it’d be convenient/cool for those of you who enjoy eReaders.

Prolific Blogger Award

February 3, 2010 10 comments

Cartoon character sitting at a computer typing.One of my fellow bloggers, Jessica of The Bookworm Chronicles has passed the Prolific Blogger Award on to me.  It goes to those bloggers who “read voraciously, blog tirelessly and have made the blogging community such a vibrant place,” according to the creator of the award, Hazra of Advance Booking.

I am pleased and surprised to have won my first blogging award, and I feel honored that it comes from one of my most loyal commenters!  I do put quite a bit of effort into this, so the recognition feels good.  Thanks Jessica!

Part of receiving the award is passing it on to 7 others.  So without further ado, here are my nominations:

  1. Meghan of Medieval Bookworm.  Although she now lives in Britain, I first met her in undergrad.  Reading her thoughtful reviews of literary fiction, historical fiction, nonfiction, romance, and more make me wish we’d known each other better then.
  2. Debbie of Different Time, Different Place.  She’s one of the few book bloggers I’ve stumbled across who predominantly reviews nonfiction.  Her reviews give you enough of a taste of the style and content of the book without trying to tell you everything you’ll learn from it.
  3. Katie of Read What You Know.  She’s a fellow librarian, and her blog reflects her enthusiasm for the ya lit she encounters in her day to day work as a teen librarian.  Her reviews take into account the perspective of adult and teen readers of ya lit alike.
  4. Ana and Thea of The Book Smugglers.  They not only take turns reviewing books, but also do joint posts.  I like that in the posts you can see the interaction and learning that comes from sharing a reading experience, plus they’ve added to my scifi tbr pile quite a few times!
  5. Nymeth of Things Mean a Lot.  She reviews an eclectic mix of books, but my favorite are her reviews of graphic novels.  She includes shots of the art, and her reviews were a part of what spurred me on into the very enjoyable graphic novel land.
  6. Helgagrace of Title and Statement of Responsibility.  Another blogger I know in real life, due to the fact that we’re both Massachusetts librarians.  I enjoy sharing reading stats with her.  Her reviews read like a conversation, and I’m not just saying that because I’ve actually spoken to her. 😉  She also talks about life and library issues.
  7. Last but not least Rob of Books Are Like Candy Corn.  He’s based in Hawaii, so his blog is kind of like a tropical vacation for a frozen New England gal like myself.  His reading choices broaden my horizon, as he is not only older and at a different stage in his life than most of the book bloggers I read, but also is male.  (We are a predominantly female group).

It’s kind of odd to me to have the power of bestowing an award, but there you have it!  At the very least, if you’re named above, you know I’m a loyal reader of your blog.  If the above-named recipients choose to take part in the award, please go check out the rules.

If you’re a reader of my blog, but not the type to comment, please let me know if you have your own blog.  I’d love to check it out!

The Library as Virtual Place

Last week, a patron walked through our library door and excitedly exclaimed to us, “I haven’t been here in forever! I’ve been living electronically.”  He went on to explain to us that he’s been conducting most of his research in his office via our library website.

In my graduate classes, we often talk about the library as place.  By this the professors mean establishing the library building as a place the community thinks about.  “Let’s go to the library” should be as natural a thought for a group of friends as “Let’s go to Starbucks.”  Yet a library doesn’t only possess a physical space, they also possess a virtual space patrons frequent.  Often far less, if any, thought is given to branding the library’s virtual space.

Most libraries have some sort of home page in addition to the online catalog (OPAC).  Many also have a few pages directed toward certain patrons, such as a teen page in public libraries or research help for the humanities for academic libraries.  The more cutting-edge libraries might also have a blog and a link to a twitter account.  In my exxperience, there is no cohesiveness among these pages.  There is no clear brand that this is Noname Library’s virtual space beyond perhaps a bar across the top of the page with the library’s name on it.  Although I know a lot of effort is usually put into designing these pages, they often seem haphazardly thrown together.  There is no cohesiveness.  Worse, especially for a public used to the cutting-edge of technology, many libraries are using old, out-dated, and even proven inadequate website design theories.  It’s like the designer has paid zero atttention to the research conducted in the last decade showing what works best for making a website browsable.

Thus, while Noname Library may have the most up-to-date chairs and the best seating arrangements at the actual library, their website screams the 90s, and most likely turns off at least a few users from coming back.

Libraries should think about themselves the way social networking businesses do when it comes to their presence online.  There should be a symbol that automatically makes the user think of the brand, like Twitter’s bird.  Although pages may look different from each other, they still should be recognizable as belonging to the same website.  There should be space on the library’s website for patrons to socialize with each other, even if it was something as simple as a blog members of the book club were given guest accounts for so they could blog about the current read.  Finally, and probably most importantly, the library website should consistently be assessed for browsability.  Outdated web design ideas should be cleared out from the website, leaving clear, modern space.

While the library as physical place is important, the fact of the matter is, most of our patrons do not solely live their lives in the physical space.  They also have virtual lives, and libraries should be a go-to place in that area of patron’s lives too.