Mark interviews Julie Bonser (Head of Youth Services) and Michelle Rutter (Teen Services Librarian) from Eastern Munroe Public Library in Pennsylvania.
Prior to the interview is an message about this episode’s sponsor.
You can learn more about how you can get your work distributed to retailers and library systems around the world at starkreflections.ca/Findaway.
In their conversation, Mark, Julie, and Michelle talk about:
- Julie and Michelle’s respective titles, the role each of them plays at the library and a little about their background
- The five different locations in Monroe County where Michelle provides the teen services programing
- How Julie is not typical as a librarian as a “book-centric” person
- An explanation of the designation of the term “librarian” what that means and how it differs in different states and the difference between “provisional” and “professional”
- The significant differences and focuses of public, academic, and school libraries
- What the average day in the life of a youth services librarian might be like
- Some of the strange and odd activities that a teen services librarian might find themselves doing
- Changes that Julie and Michelle have seen since the start of the pandemic
- Collaborations and sharing with different departments in the library
- Examples of some of the activities programmed for the library, such as a teen writing workshop
- The circulation of physical YA books as being the highest it has ever been at the library
- Platforms the library uses for book acquisition, as well as how they find out about and decide what books to purchase
- Preferences and biases that librarian curators might have
- Why a writer of books for younger readers might have a bigger challenge or more resistance to getting books into libraries verses authors of adult titles
- Librarians looking at holes in title selection as well as specific representation of indigenous voices, #ownvoices, etc
- Recommendations for how to contact and reach out to libraries to let them know about your book
- And more…
After the interview, Mark shares a couple of reflections about things the conversation with Julie and Michelle made him think about. He also thanks patrons and listeners.
Links of Interest
- Eastern Monroe Public Library
- An Author’s Guide to Working with Libraries & Bookstores
- Black History Month Organizations & Resources
- Findaway Voices – Royalty Bonus Opportunity
- Fear and Longing in Los Angeles
- Wide for the Win
- Wide Writer Survey
- Wide for the Win Submission Form
- Patreon for Stark Reflections
Julie Bonser graduated with a degree in Elementary Education but somehow ended up in libraries. She is currently the Head of Youth Services at the Eastern Monroe Public Library in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, but also has prior experience in circulation, cataloging, and adult reference. Serving kids and teens is her main passion, which keeps her energized, up-to-date, and endlessly entertained. Julie is a lifelong resident of the Pocono Mountains. She enjoys children’s literature, board games, Tetris, and strumming the ukulele.
Michelle Rutter is a Teen Services Public Librarian in NE Pennsylvania along with her skeleton assistant Bona Lisa. She is a lifelong bibliophile and has enjoyed teaching such a big word to little kids when she worked in school libraries. She has also worked in an academic library where she once cataloged a piece of heavy machinery as a joke because the facilities department parked it in the library for so long. When she’s not perpetrating benign mayhem at work or reading she enjoys dancing, yoga, and various creative pursuits.
Bona Lisa is a Halloween decoration given a greater afterlife as Michelle’s pandemic companion and trusty sidekick on the job. She’s a bit thin-skinned but her work ethic is hard to beat as she has worked her fingers to the bone.
Transcription of Interview
This transcription was auto-generated and has not been human verified.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Julie, Michelle, welcome to the Stark Reflections podcast.
Julie Bonser: Hello.
Michelle Rutter: Hi.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: So I want to start, let’s start with Julie, your title, your role at the library, and then, um, yeah, we’ll get into a little bit more right after the brief introductions.
Julie Bonser: Sure. I’m yeah, I’m the head of youth services at the Eastern Monroe public library in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.
Um, I’ve been at that library for homeless 19 years. Um, yeah, if you can believe that I started out actually as a circulation clerk and kind of moved my way up. So I have been in, um, I’ve been adult services librarian. I’ve been a catalog librarian. Um, but I’ve been in my current role for about 10 years now.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Wow, cool. Well, thank you. Uh, excellent. And Michelle, how about you?
Michelle Rutter: So I am the teen services librarian also at Eastern Monroe public library. However, my, um, job description is a little bit unique in that. It, it, it goes beyond just that particular branch. So Eastern Monroe has, um, two other branches besides the main one where I’m located.
But then within the County, um, of Monroe County, Pennsylvania, there are five other libraries, um, that I’m also servicing for providing programming for the teens of the community. Uh, and we’ve got kind of a. Wide variety of demographics from even though Stroudsburg is a small town, there’s a quite a diverse population.
And then as you move out into the outer, uh, areas of the County, it becomes very rural. So, uh, there’s a lot of interesting. Um, differences in terms of, of what each library seems to be looking for. Uh, whereas Julie has a lot of experience at this particular, uh, in this particular system, I am a new hire and I started two weeks before the pandemic shut everything down.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: So, um,
Michelle Rutter: Yeah, it has made, uh, orienting to my job, particularly interesting. I, my previous library experience though, I was a library paraprofessional for two urban elementary schools in Allentown, Pennsylvania. And, uh, I did that for several years. And then, uh, for a couple of years, I was at a satellite campus for a community college, a local community college working in their library.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Cool. So I’m going to ask a lot of really newbie questions, cause I really want to understand some of the intricacies, but the very first one that I’m really, really curious about is do you guys consider yourself book lovers? Is that what drew you to the library world?
Julie Bonser: So I actually, I am probably not typical.
A lot of librarians that I’ve worked with are very avid voracious readers. Um, if you had asked me back when I was a teenager, would I be working in a library? I would have said absolutely no way. Um, I went to school to become an elementary education teacher and, um, you know, loved it, went through it, got to the end of my senior year and went, yeah, this is good.
But. Um, teachers work really hard and they have so many other things to do besides teaching, which didn’t really occur to me when I had just started out. And I thought, you know what? I like education, but I don’t think I want to go this route. Um, so now I have this degree and what are you going to do? An elementary education degree?
Um, so I started looking into libraries specifically. I wanted, you know, U services. And I just kind of, sort of started taking classes and kind of made my way in. Um, so yeah, I would not have, would not have guessed that I do like books, but I am definitely not one of those people that has to have a book.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Um, right. So we won’t find you at a book burning a camp out or anything like that, but books will be there in the first place. Right.
Julie Bonser: It was people, people was venturing in there.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Cool. Excellent. How about you, Michelle? Uh,
Michelle Rutter: for me. Yeah. I would definitely qualify as a book lover. Um, I I’m getting ready to move.
And I spent part of the weekend packing my personal library and I’m up to 23 boxes of books and there’s still quite a lot to go. So
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: it’s like one van for the books and then one van for all the other
Michelle Rutter: furniture pretty much, pretty much. Yeah. Um, however, I am similar to Julie in that I started out in education.
My degree, my undergraduate degree is in special education. And, uh, loved the kids, loved working with them and connecting them with literature and making things happen. Um, but kind of burned out on the bureaucracy in that particular field, but still wanted to be involved in the educational process somehow.
And during the years that I was an at-home mom, I became involved in the reading is fundamental program. There was, um, There was a lot of influx people moving into the area. So there were a lot of different schools being built in our area. And as one of the schools was built, they needed a riff coordinator for that particular school.
And so I took that on and. Kind of inherited piles and piles of books from other schools and other sources and had to be able to kind of sort through them and organize the chaos. And I found that I really enjoyed bringing that order out of chaos. And I really enjoyed being able to present all these books as an option to the kids.
Basically, the program allows for each school kid three times a year to pick a single book, to take home and keep. As their own. Um, and I really enjoyed the part of matching the reader up to a book. You know, the idea that, you know, we, we don’t all enjoy the same thing, but Hey, what, what do you dig? What’s gonna get you excited.
What can I connect you with that you’ll really enjoy? And the events were always held in the school library because that’s where there was space for them. And after doing that for. Two or three years on him continuing to do it. But after a couple of years, the school librarian and I had established a rapport and she said, consider working in a library.
And I was like, no, actually I haven’t talked to me about that a little bit more. That was kind of how I wound up going in that direction.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: That’s awesome. It’s funny that you talk about that. Um, the connecting the right book to the right reader because in my history as a, as a bookseller, that was one of the most enriching experiences when you can connect those people.
And I know that libraries actually connect people in ways. Well, beyond just a book, right? The right reader to the right book, they have become. That is one fundamental part of it. Maybe like Amazon started as a bookstore, but now it’s the everything store. And I think in many ways, libraries may have started as, as places, a book, repositories knowledge, but then they became so much more.
Now I want to first kind of go back to the designation of librarian. Isn’t just, you. You got a job at the library, right? There’s there’s some sort of qualification. Can you guys explain what that is? Because I can’t just call anyone that works at the library, a librarian, right?
Julie Bonser: I mean, you can, everyone does, but you’re right.
Like not everybody that works at a library is a. Like, as you say, in quotes a librarian, um, by definition. Yeah. There’s a whole bunch of different positions. Like, like I said, when I started, I was just a circulation clerk, you know, I was checking in books, checking out books, giving people library cards. I actually have, um, a master’s degree in library science, you know, for a position for department head.
They want you to have that. But there are other, you know, there’s other avenues, other types of education that you can have. And maybe, um, Michelle can not actually add on that. I’ll let you
Michelle Rutter: talk about that. Yeah. Yeah. My job title is teen services librarian, and typically a librarian is considered a master’s level position.
You would have a master’s in library and science library, science or masters of library and information science. However, in different States, there are different credentials. And in Pennsylvania, you can either have your certification and your state certification as a librarian through having one of those master’s degrees.
Or in my case, I have a bachelor’s degree, plus a, I believe it’s at 12 credits, 12 or 15 credits in library science. And so that then gives you a provisional lights insurer. So I have the provisional licensure as a librarian rather than the professional licensure.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Now is there on the job experience that’s incorporated into that as well, because you’ve got this degree and you’ve got these credits, but then you also have to have on the ground experience or,
Julie Bonser: Oh, well, I’ll comment on that if you buy me.
So like officially, I guess you don’t really have to, um, we like it. Um, my personal opinion. So this is, you know, the powers that be, but I personally think any, any on the job experience is way more valuable than anything you will ever get, um, in, in the classroom and in a degree. And I kind of actually feel like that is more so, um, I don’t think having a degree makes you a good or a bad librarian and, um, I, I would, I would love to see, you know, the library world kind of embrace that on the job experience.
Maybe a little more so and less worrying about having a master’s in just, um, you know, you want to attract good people to this profession. So let’s, you know, make it accessible. I will add
Michelle Rutter: to that. I believe with the school librarian degree, they require like a, to get that degree, they require kind of the equivalent of a student teaching experience.
Okay. Right, right.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Yeah. And I imagine every state has its own legislature, just like in Ontario here where I am in Canada. There’s probably nuances. And that’s the thing I’m curious about is in your own experience, because I know you interact with other, other librarians and other things. Library texts and people who work in libraries and other, and other cities and States probably how similar can want assume that their local library and the way that they operate maybe similar or different from other libraries, or is it pretty much, uh, is it, is it a dog’s breakfast?
Michelle Rutter: It’s a dog’s breakfast from my experience. Um, I mean, I can. Julie, you may have something to add in terms of the public is specific to public libraries, but having worked in a school library, um, an academic library, and now in a public library, I have found pretty significant differences, um, from situation to situation.
Um, you know, with those three different types of libraries, there’s slightly different focuses. So in a school library that, you know, the focus is going to be, how are we supporting the curriculum that’s being taught? How are we encouraging? You know, it’s very specific to literacy. Um, and that sort of thing with an academic library, again, you’re still, your focus is still very much on supporting the curriculum.
But because you’re dealing with that older population in academia, there’s a lot more emphasis on research and making research available and, you know, so the databases and the resources available are going to be much more non-fiction based. Um, and the literature that’s available tends to be, you know, a classic literature, you know, and, and it’s a much smaller section, like for popular literature, whereas.
The public library is kind of this Jack of all trades. We’ve got a, you know, from cradle to grave and every interest that that could possibly encompass, we need to find a way to, you know, bring that all together.
Julie Bonser: Okay. Yeah. I mean, you, you pretty much said it there. I made, and of your scars, you’re talking about different States.
Was that your original question, Mark? Um, just that. Yeah. I mean, each state has different guidelines, different structures, um, us being in the Poconos, we have a lot of people, um, we’re very close to the border of New York and New Jersey. So we have people moving from those areas and they will have certain expectations about maybe how they’re.
Um, library was run. They probably have a lot more funding. The new jerseys is they are state workers. They are, they have really good funding, whereas Pennsylvania are, we are actually, we’re not a state or even government workers. We’re just a nonprofit, um, that we seed state and local County funding. Um, but that also means we don’t have, we didn’t have the big bucks, like some of those other States do.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Okay. Cool. Uh, thank you for, for just kind of giving me that lay of the land as I slowly zoom in zoom in a little bit more on your specific situations, what would a typical day in the life? Uh, okay. Pre COVID and, and I know Michelle, maybe you can only look at your previous library experience other than the one.
Now what’s a, what’s a typical day in the life, or even what is a typical day of a life, because I imagine some of the tasks are the same. You just not physically necessarily in the same location, right?
Julie Bonser: Oh, wow. Um, yeah, I mean, typically I know, I wouldn’t even say that typicals there isn’t typical. It’s, it’s different all the time, but just, um, we’ll say maybe average day, um, before COVID.
Um, so for myself, so I’m so much children’s librarian, so we depend, um, it could be, um, like you would start off in the morning. We’d have, um, our preschool story time, um, followed by our lapses or, um, since the Storytime for the little toddlers, um, if you’re expecting libraries to be quiet and you know, like maybe some people have that impression.
Yeah. If you had come to our library right after the programs had led out, you would have seen mass chaos in a really good way. Um, you would literally, you would walk through our children’s department watching your feet. So it was to not step over our baby, you know, crossing your path, um, kids playing, reading, um, you know, just really excited about libraries.
Um, I hope we get to that once again. Um, but you know, you’re answering, um, Reference desks. So you’re helping people answer questions. So it could be anything from like where’s the dinosaur books to, um, school assignments just to, Hey, can you recommend a really good book? Um, you never know what kind of questions you’re going to get, so that is always very interesting.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Okay, cool. Thank you for sure.
Michelle Rutter: Sure. And since I’m a programming library and my primary job is to come up with. Programs for the teams that they might be interested in. Um, and I do have those desk shifts where I’m going to be encountering the activities that Julie just described, but, you know, a typical day is going to kind of vary to your job title.
So a cataloger, you know, they’re going to spend their day doing a lot of data entry and a lot of processing of physical materials and that sort of thing. You know, a reference librarian is going to spend a lot of time at the desk, dealing with the public and the various questions they have, which may be, you know, where do I find this book?
Or how do I make this computer work? Or can you help me fill out an online job application or whatever, and a programming like librarian? I dunno. I kind of feel like we have this really strange job that we, we may be doing activities that people are looking at and going. That’s library work. You know, for example, last week, my desk was full of balls of yarn because I’m putting together, taken, make, um, projects for the teams, you know, as we’ve been in the pandemic and people are just looking for activities and we can’t have these in-person gatherings, obviously we’ve done a lot of zoom pro programming, but we’ve also had these.
I’ve I’ve started doing these taken makes where they’re, you know, like a little craft kit or something that they can pick up, take home and do it at their leisure. So for December I punched holes in 1,009 ounce solo cups so that they can make a sparkling disco dome for new year’s. Now I’m, you know, winding a thousand balls of yarn for, you know, next month.
So. There can be some really strange things that don’t look quote, unquote, library ish.
Julie Bonser: We oftentimes say, I can’t believe we get paid to do this, so, yeah. Yeah. That’s
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: fantastic. How, um, how much would you know children’s services and programming, would you interact with other. People from the library. Like when I, when I worked in a bookstore, for example, if I was in charge of the children’s section or in charge of the fiction or in charge of whatever, um, we used to have specialists who would oversee areas of the store.
Um, but we interacted a lot. Like there was a lot of crossover, there was a lot of cross pollination and sharing. Is that the same thing in a typical library or at least in your experiences?
Michelle Rutter: Yeah, I would say so go ahead, Julie, you have probably
Julie Bonser: more to say. I mean, I think you have to, I mean, as far as like different, if you’re talking about different departments, um, so why would we ever serve so main departments are our circulation department, so they’re checking things, checking out.
Um, you know, we don’t have to necessarily confer with them so much on programs, but as far as, um, You know, maybe making sure people have access to materials or we may for warn them if, Hey, we’re about to have a program with a magician and 200 kids are going to come, you know, be prepared. You’re going to be really busy.
Yeah. We do a lot of collaborations too, with just an Michelle’s job by nature. She does service our five counties, but um, other librarians do that too. We often confer and, you know, get program ideas from each other. So I think that’s really important.
Michelle Rutter: Yeah, there’s definitely a lot of idea sharing. Um, you know, Oh, Oh, that’s a great idea.
How did you do that? Give me the directions. I need to do that with my kids or adapt it or, you know, something like that. Um,
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Cool. Yeah. So I’m want to go, Michelle, I want to talk specifically about some of the programming that you’ve done, because I’ve been as an author, I’ve been fortunate enough to get to participate remotely.
Cause you know, I don’t live close to that. I could potentially drive there in a day, but I, uh, I got to participate in one of your team, uh, programs. Uh, could you talk a little bit about what that was and what it brought for the teens in the, in the local community? Yeah.
Michelle Rutter: So you were our culminating activity for a five previous to your week.
We had sound important or
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: something.
Michelle Rutter: Again, previous to when you joined us, we had five weeks of a writer’s workshop for our teams and it was an adaptation of a program that’s been presented by a couple of community members for Julie. What about 10 years? Oh, yeah, 10 years, um, that they’ve been running an in-person workshop writers’ workshop and.
My understanding had been that it was a pretty popular program. So, you know, given that I already have a lot of the wheel to reinvent with, with the pandemic. I thought, Hey, if there’s a something in the past that has worked and people look forward to it, let’s see if we can adapt it to the zoom environment.
So I reached out to the folks who had instructed in the past and I said, Hey, you know, would you be willing to work with me to make this, um, You know, possible in the zoom environment, they were really, they were thrilled to be asked very enthusiastic about it. And so we worked together to come up with a format and a plan and they presented it and the kids were really, we had a good, good feedback from the kids.
They were so excited to have it happen. It was a, it was indeed a popular program and I. Well to give credit to you, Mark, you, you listened to you. We’ve been friends for a long time and you listened to me early in the pandemic. Just kind of having a meltdown over the fact that I started this job two weeks before everything was shut down and Oh my God, I’m supposed to connect with all the deans of the Calfee and I’ve never even met any of them.
Face-to-face I can’t do this. I want to do this. You know, you, you were very encouraging if you said we beat our blogs. Yeah. You know how to create compelling and interesting, um, programming, even if, if we’re not meeting face to face. And I was like, Oh, okay. And you said, Hey, I also do programming. And I said, Oh my God.
Yes. I kinda, you know, stuck that in my hip pocket. To think about, you know, where it would work best to utilize your skills and your offer. And it was a really great dovetail to have you kind of round out our series for the teen writers. And I know the kids who attended were, you know, really tickled to kind of hear.
What you had to say. And I remember particularly the young lady who had questions about poetry because the workshop was definitely geared more toward fiction writing. So I know she was in particularly, um, I’m encouraged by, uh, some of the direct, um, responses that you gave to her questions.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: And so thank you.
Uh, and, and so basically the F the foundation was instead of what had been meeting on a weekly or bi-weekly basis in, in, in, in one of the branches with the two instructors. Um, but then you just integrated that to online, which did that allow it to expand, like w were more people able to attend because of that?
Or did you try to keep it a tight knit group?
Michelle Rutter: We made it open to whoever wanted to come. And we were hopeful because my understanding is that in the past transportation was an issue for some of the participants. And so we were hopeful that maybe it was going to attract some of the people who’d had difficulty with that before, since they wouldn’t actually have to hop in the car to get there.
And, um, that did not really seem to be the case. However, Um, participation since the pandemic has been way down in, in programming, um, for teens, however, our circ stats have shown that the teens are still the teen materials. The young adult books are circulating. They have a higher percentage than anybody else, any of the other stuff, physical,
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: physical,
Michelle Rutter: via books.
Yeah. Books. Um, the circulation of physical WIA books has at the last check was the highest of all the different groups in the library population. Um, but the, the programming they’ve dropped way off that said our writer’s program. Had the best response, um, the most consistent response of pretty much any of the programming that we’ve had.
So even though it didn’t necessarily expand to be a bigger group than it had in the past, it’s still, you know, was successful in that standpoint.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Probably had a lot to do with the fact that you had consistent instructors that have been with the program for a while and
Michelle Rutter: yeah. Yes, there were definitely some repeat participants.
There were some new participants, but there was a core of repeat participants who were really glad to see that that program had continued.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Cool. So I have to explore a writerly questions for my audience. And so one of the biggest questions writers have, especially, uh, in, in the spaces I operate in, there’s a lot of eBooks and digital selling.
I’m going to ask you how you acquire digital books, but I want to ask you, uh, acquisition in general, because they’re oftentimes like the poet. Uh, the young poet is left out of everything. It was called the excitement and all the buzz. Oh, you left out of that because poetry is a different thing, right? It doesn’t work here.
It works here. And so, um, what I’m curious about is there’s a lot of folks who’ve written children’s books at their Britain, uh, young readers and young adult books and the, that hasn’t migrated to digital nearly the way that, well, why has an adult content. But I’m curious as to the acquisition process, uh, so authors can understand how to best make the work, obviously resolve the problem.
The library has of great books to put in the hands of the right readers, um, and, um, uh, remove as many paths of resistance that will block you from being able to acquire something that looks intriguing because there’s a, there’s something that you, you find there. How does that whole process work?
Julie Bonser: So, um, yeah, to people who actually don’t, we don’t directly purchase e-books ourselves.
So that’s actually handled, um, our adult services do it. We have several ebook platforms that we use. Um, uh, overdrive is probably, you know, the big one that everyone’s heard of. Um, So they can purchase various titles. One of the challenges with the ebook platforms as librarians are finding, um, in, and this is kind of the debate in the ebook world right now is some.
Publishers will limit the number of times they book is sort of an essence checked out. So, whereas you’re buying a print book and you’ve got it until either it gets lost or gets destroyed or whatever you buy this ebook. And publishers will say, okay, it can be checked out, let’s say 30 times or whatever, whatever they set.
And then that’s it. You have to like repurchase it again, um, which you can imagine that can get really. Expensive in the long run. Right. Um, and it depends too on when it’s, if it’s a more current release, they may have limited versus something that’s been out for like, you know, 30 years. Um, you may have limited.
That’s probably one of the biggest challenges I would say that we face as far as, you know, libraries go. Okay. Yeah. And as far as like the picture books and things we have, um, and it’s escaping me right now, Michelle, can you think of, um, did the shop I have TumbleBooks TumbleBooks thank you. Yeah. That’s something that we do through Pennsylvania has the power library, which you can get different platforms for free.
You have a Pennsylvania library card. Cool. Yeah. And, um, so there’s a lot of eBooks on there, but TumbleBooks is something we have. And, um, that one has like storybooks and nonfiction and chapter books and things for younger kids on there.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Physical. What about physical? And, and I know you guys don’t do acquisitions, but I, is there a central repository in Pennsylvania?
Do you buy them from larger wholesalers, like Baker and Taylor or Ingram? Or how does that, how does that usually
Julie Bonser: work? Are you talking eBooks now or print I’m talking print now. Yeah. Well, I do acquisitions for print materials
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: too. Oh, then you know that really well.
Julie Bonser: I, I, yeah, well, I do purchase all my children’s materials except for, um, the e-books.
Um, yeah, we, so, um, Baker and Taylor, uh, a big retailer and Amazon are the two
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: primary for Amazon. So you actually purchase right off of, uh, right off of
Julie Bonser: the website. Yeah. So they have business accounts. I probably pretty much mostly use it for, um, like DVDs, audio, visual material. The prices tend to be a little better.
And sometimes, honestly, Amazon has good deals and library binding. So I won’t go and like look for the really inexpensive Markdale things there, but Baker, and Taylor’s probably the primary book vendor we use
Michelle Rutter: also junior library Guild.
Julie Bonser: Yes. So I have a standing order with junior library Guild.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Is that a distribution facility or is that a curation facility?
Julie Bonser: I have no idea what I was junior library Guild. Junior library Guild is, um, no, they, they, they, they aimed to issue, um, very well, well reviewed high quality children’s literature, so they will have different categories. So I have a standing order. So you can choose your categories. Let’s say, um, beginner, readers, fantasy for teens, high insurance.
I mean, there’s, there’s tons of categories.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: So you put an order in for this category and they go, Hey, I got, I got you covered. Here’s a bunch of good stuff.
Michelle Rutter: Yeah. You don’t order by title, you order by category. Yeah. So
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: that’s, that’s like they do the curation. So there’s, there’s millions of things to choose from.
And they’ve done research and say, Hey, here are the award winners here. Like we have the silver Birch awards here in Canada. You know, it’s a silver Birch nominee. Therefore it’s probably worthwhile that kind of thing.
Julie Bonser: Just, just the opposite. A lot of times junior library Guild will pick the books and then they’ll end up being like, actually they’re about to do these media awards, like Newbury Caldicot.
Right. They often end up being, yeah, just the one that,
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: okay, excellent. No, I’m just curious about that. Cause because authors are always curious about how do I, how do I get into library interest in, in my, in my books? And then how do I make them available to libraries, both for prints as well as free book or even, even audio books.
So with audio book, um, digital audio again is probably not your forte, but I know overdrive, uh, is like overdrive hoopla. Some of those. Other, uh, platforms you mentioned there were a few other platforms. Do you, besides the overdrive?
Julie Bonser: Um, right. Hoopla hoop was the other one. Um, Oh my gosh. I’m drawing a blank here,
Michelle Rutter: digital, but that just got.
Absorbed by what overdrive?
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Uh Biblioteca Odello maybe, um, I’m trying to think of some of the other platforms. There’s many there’s many of them, unfortunately, but,
Michelle Rutter: okay. Yeah. Overdrive and hoopla are the main ones for our library.
Julie Bonser: If you are wondering how you, so what you want to know is how authors can get libraries interested in their thoughts.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: How do they.
Julie Bonser: That’s a different question. So for, okay. So again, my experiences from children’s and teen’s perspective, so there’s really two different things. So we’ve kind of talked about the indie publishing and their traditional publishing. Well, I’m looking for, when I add a book to my collection, I’m looking for, Hey, just, you know, best-sellers things that are high interest, people that are requesting, I’m looking often, you know, the major publishers will be the first thing that we’ll look for for us, but, you know, we’re open to other things.
So if I had stayed, I actually, I, I, I can give you an example. There is a woman. Uh, lives in our area. She got published for picture books through holiday house, and she didn’t even ask me actually to add her books. She just said, Hey, I got this book published. And of course we want to support local authors.
So I said, Oh my gosh, that’s great. You know, we, we bought one for every, every branch. I think the tricky thing comes in with the indie publishers because, you know, especially with the kids books. So, so I feel like there’s a difference between adults. Versus children. What I’ve had the experience with is, is children’s authors that maybe have not done their homework.
Haven’t done the research and they’ve written this book really quickly and they say, Hey, add it. And I think they have, sometimes they just think that all they have to do is have spoken the library and all of a sudden everyone’s going to want to read it and buy it. And when, if you’re going to write for kids and youth, you have to do your homework.
It has to be well-written this, this is the introduction to a child’s, you know, grammar. They are learning. Everything has to be perfect. If there are any. Errors. I’m not going to add it because we need to demonstrate Greek literature to children. Um, you know, so which is why I’m AMA little reluctant to add indie published books, especially, um, you know, longer ones too, because they haven’t necessarily been read or edited and not, I’m not going to read your 300 page novel to find out, you know, if there are, you know, errors.
So I will be more receptive to youth. That has been traditionally published. Now, as far as an adult goes, now, I feel like you’ve been adult grown. I, you know, you should be able to distinguish at this point, you know, is this a good book? Do I like it? Yes or no. You know, you might have an easier time as an adult author.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: there something that an author who is with a really small traditional publisher, who is nowhere on your radar, typically, or an indie author who has done their homework and has maybe some accolades or some amazing reviews on retail sites, because. They actually have gotten great feedback and done their homework.
Are there ways that they can, um, float above the slide? It would be, it’d be a little bit more visible because I understand you’re looking at this giant minefield of a lot of anyone can push a button and publish. I get that having. Having been a bookseller dealing with that before, uh, before, as it exploded in the way it has, are there things that authors can do to help a library with the curation process to understand the quality or there’s like Kirkus reviews or are there other resources you use?
Michelle Rutter: say, even though I don’t have the purchasing authority for acquisitions, part of my job is to give recommendations for why acquisitions to all the libraries in the County, because. You know, I am the teen services librarian for the entire County, so they don’t all, you know, all the directors and with, you know, some of the libraries are very small and they just don’t have time to kind of weed through what’s available.
And one of the things just in the short time that I’ve been in this position that I have looked at in terms of giving those recommendations are where are the holes in our collection, where. Where do we need to beef the collection up, you know, ABI, Julie mentioned, you know, what kind of requests are we getting that we can’t fill?
That’s one example of a whole, another one that’s become really obvious, particularly in the past year is representation. And, you know, are there other books from certain marginalized groups by authors, from those groups that are speaking to that experience? And so some of the books that I have recommended, um, have come from, you know, smaller presses because they fill that void.
Um, so for example, I, you know, I was kind of, um, Analyzing the collection for black lives for Latinex, um, voices, and then also for indigenous voices. And I found that our collection of indigenous people, it was almost non-existent right. Um, you know, and, and in the it, you know, there are some of the, the hot authors in, in the traditional publishing world, but in doing some of the research, I found different.
Different websites and different sources that were kind of, um, coalescing, a lot of different books and authors that I, you know, they did provide reviews, whereas like Kirkus didn’t um, and I could kind of look through those and I was able to, you know, come up with a nice list that way, because I was specifically looking for information about that.
And so people naturally Rose to the top in that way.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Okay, thank you. I’m going to take this from the perspective of an author who is either traditionally published. So the books easily available through major channels, or if it’s a self published, then it may be available through some of the channels. Eh, not as easy to find potentially an author who’s interested in approaching whether they’re a local author or they have maybe something that could be of value.
So for example, um, somebody from an own voices. Uh, that says, Hey, I represent this community and I know there’s not a lot of representation, so they may not be local, but maybe they have something through a traditional press or, or through one of the other channels. What are ways you would recommend that an author get in touch with the library that reduces the amount of work you have to do and makes your job easier?
Because I think if they can have the right thing and reduce the amount of work you have to do, are there things you would recommend that you would prefer to see or not see maybe.
Julie Bonser: Um, I think if you can, and I honestly, I realized this is not realistic for everyone. If you can, you’ll get the best response.
If you can talk to them in person, I think, um, versus an email, we get so many emails. It’s easy for us to just ignore, um, phone call, you know, I think if authors, especially if it’s your local library, if you’re you, like, if you’re an author and a writer, you should go to your library, you know, get to know your librarian.
Um, if you can build up a rapport with them, um, you’ll get, um, I think you’ll get a good response. You know, we do know, I can think of some, some indie authors who have things. That are being added to our collection and they do programs at the library and we see them, um, you know, we chat with them and I think that’s really, really helpful.
You’ll, you’ll get a good insight too, as to what’s going on at the library. Um, what kind of books people are looking for, which would maybe give you ideas of things, maybe, Hey, I shouldn’t have you write about this, but yeah. I mean, um, you know, sometimes yeah, people come in and we’d never seen them before and we never see him again, you know, Um, just, I think too, the other thing is just to approach it.
Um, Hey, I have this book and, and just consider it, you know, I don’t, you’re not really neither one of them putting pressure or anything. Would you be interested in, you can leave your name, leave the book with them, give the librarian a chance to look it over, you know, don’t, you know, so they have time to, to think of it.
Oh, we’re not be put on the spot by that. Yeah.
Michelle Rutter: Yeah. And without that feeling like an overwhelming thing, like, Oh my gosh, I have to go build relationships with two dozen different libraries. Now you really don’t. I, I would say because if you’ve built a good relationship with the libraries that you use.
That’s a starting librarians talk to each other, you know, I was like, you know, so when I come, come across something really great or somebody else comes across something really great. They’re like, Hey, this is really great. Let me tell you about this. And you’ll kind of get that free word of mouth. You know, and it goes both ways.
You know, if it’s, if it’s crap, they’re going to tell each other that it’s crap.
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Which is, I think is critical. So to, so to that end, if I’m a local author and I have experience in maybe an area I’ve researched. ’cause I, I knew, I knew it was something really interesting that I had used in my book, or I’m a nonfiction author.
Obviously the book is about how to do something, could be useful for programming, or maybe even how to write, how to write, how to find a publisher, how to, how to go through the process. Uh, if an author has skills like that, is that a valuable thing where they, they reach out and say, Hey, I’ve, I’ve done these books.
Um, this is what I specialize in. I’m more than happy to help you. If you need any help with. Uh, a class or a course or content, is that, is that a useful thing that authors can do to, to, to develop positive, relate, hopefully positive relationships, if
Julie Bonser: everything goes well. Um, that’s actually a really great approach to do it.
Um, actually, if you do have that and you would have that ability to do a program, I would say that’s probably one of the best ways to, to kind of get your foot in the door. We have done that actually. Um, we’ve done per we had one actually before the pandemic. They wanted the, these, we had, um, some, some local people and they wanted to just kind of add their book as an author.
And then when I found out the book was about, um, uh, she was, she was, I can’t remember exactly where she worked. She worked in a hospital, she worked with kids who were sick, like cancer and things, and she was finding ways to reduce their stress. And I was like, well, that’s your program. I was like, you need to, you know, you can talk about your book, but let’s, let’s teach these kids ways to cope with stress.
Um, you know, I think that’s, if you have a skill, a special skill and you can use that to help your community, I mean, why wouldn’t you?
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Cool. Awesome. Well, I, uh, unless there’s any last bits of advice you can offer to authors out in the world, um, is there, are there any sort of last thoughts that you’d like, I just like to leave them with.
Michelle Rutter: Well, they always say that to be a good writer. You got to read a lot, get a whole library full of reading material, visit your local library. Great way to build those relationships too.
Julie Bonser: You know what that’s, that’s a, that’s a good one. Yeah. Ask you, ask, find out what the, the best sellers are. What’s hot right now and read and read those.
That’s a good,
Mark Leslie Lefebvre: excellent. Yeah, that is true. I think it was Stephen King that said, if you want to write, you’ve got to read a lot. Well, many, many successful renders have said that, ladies, thank you so much is so insightful. So informative, so inspiring. Uh, I’ve gone back and taken all kinds of learnings away from this.
And I know. I know my listeners are gonna love it. Thank you so much for taking the time to hang out with me.
Michelle Rutter: tonight so much for having us.
Julie Bonser: Yeah. Thank you.