Skip to content

ARC POLICY: Chronically Behind on Writing Reviews

March 15, 2012

Dear Publicists, Publishers, Authors and Generous Book People,

I am in graduate school, pursuing a Masters in Information and Library Science.

While the program is fascinating, the coursework and reading load are a little intense.

And I have fallen behind on book reviews. Please limit the books you pitch or send me to the following  categories:

  • Historical fiction
  • Foodie lit or foodie memoir
  • Historical mystery or forensic-based mystery
  • Extremely well-written YA  genre fiction (no vampire romance, please!)

I will still be posting book reviews here when I can. But I cannot guarantee a timely review of your book, though I will do my best.

Thank you so much for keeping me Surrounded By Books

- Elizabeth

The Librarians Week 2: Liveblog and Review

December 14, 2014

What a week it’s been! I’ve tried not to die. I’ve been diligently working on my cataloging homework and looking forward to watching The Librarians on Sunday night. It’s library related! This is practically homework! Or, at the very least, it counts as professional development. Even networking, thanks to the great fun and librarian chatter on Twitter. Hi @cincylibrary!

Tinkering with artifacts, surly librarian, Jenkins. That won’t end badly.

Tempted to figure out a set of metaphors on Drill Sergeant Eve’s emphasis on theory and training enclosed in the Library versus surly librarian Jenkins’ willingness to tantalize the Librarianettes with the magic clippings, and the call to gain practical experience in the world, as a construct or metaphor for different library science program practices. Classroom versus internship/practicum. Except with more mythological creatures and possible death.

Loving this episode. Nice teamwork between skill sets of thief, art historian, pattern-finder, and commander/hitter. Especially love how they’re navigating and negotiating, trading expertise and in their prickly ways getting used to each other’s skill sets and assumptions. I love that it’s not easy for any of them. This episode is doing a terrific job of letting different dynamics through- splitting the party. “Maybe the term you’re looking for is partners,” yes indeed.

My favorite might be Cassandra and Ezekiel- I wasn’t ready to like either of them in the first episode, too focused on Baird and Mr. Art History (who I need to stop calling Eliot-Farmboy.) In one scene, Cassandra and Ezekiel got a lot of compassion and trust done, plus nifty problem solving.

Hoping we see more of the transformation between mythic/ancient setting and its modern translation.

I giggled immoderately at the corporate babble spilling over and entwining with mythic jargon. Amortization and stock options and interns and minotaur sacrifices.

Also, I think I need to rewatch the episodes that have aired so far, because live-tweeting is great fun but I think I’m missing important details.

Oh my goodness, next Sunday’s episode is going to involve Santa? and Bruce Campbell? I’m so very there!

Here’s a funny thing: I don’t have much to say that’s mocking and snarky after a really solid hour of fantasy adventure caper cheese. And what I lack in witticisms of the 140 character variety, I think I make up for in delight and the desire to tune in next week.

I’ll take it.


The Librarians: Liveblog and Review

December 7, 2014

When the trailers for The Librarians started making the rounds, approximately 15 different friends sent me links to the preview.

My friends know me well.

The trailer looks like it has a lot of characteristics of things I love

  • Science fiction adventure cheese that knows how to laugh at itself. (I’m fond of Eureka and Warehouse 13)
  • Adventures with lots of planning of capers and banter (Leverage)
  • History and artifacts (Warehouse 13 and Indiana Jones.)
  • Ladies who kick butt and save the world (Buffy)

And the best part: They’re librarians.

Hey, so am I. By the time the second episode airs, I’ll have handed in my cataloging homework (she said guiltily) and will be a fully fledged Master of Library Science.

I have a few hesitations….

image of Christian Kane

Christian Kane in The Librarians. With terrible hair.

image of Christian Kane, actor in Leverage

Christian Kane in Leverage. Good hair!

I recognize Christian Kane, who played Eliot on Leverage. I am exceedingly dubious of the hair they’ve given his character. Some kind of faux-hawk pompadour monstrosity.  I’m also hoping they give him some good fight scenes. He was great on Leverage. Did his own stunts.


Series premiere completely unseen, is it too early to hope for a guest appearance from Aldis Hodge? He’d make a terrific librarian! He could even play Hardison again! Yes. That should happen. But I digress.

The gender breakdown of this team looks entirely unlike most of my library science classes. The last class where I had three male classmates (I’m including Noah Wyle in the tally), there were at least 14 other women with us.

Most of all: I worry that this is going to collapse under the weight of its own cheese. I hope it strikes the right balance to be funny and adventurous and goofy (see also: earlier seasons of Warehouse 13) and doesn’t go too far off the mythology rails (see also: later seasons of Warehouse 13).

Time to cast aside these doubts, stretch out on the couch with a cozy cardigan (yes, I’m a stereotype, don’t make me shush you!), my remote and my laptop, and see what the next two hours hold.

While there are very few spoilers in the following, there’s definitely some blither. So I’ll be stashing this behind a cut tag.

Read more…

Handout for Pratt LIS 660: Weeding Presentation

December 3, 2014

The following is a list of resources compiled by Rebecca Plock and Elizabeth Willse for a class presentation in Collection Development, Fall 2014, taught by Professor Barbara Genco.

These resources accompany a PowerPoint presentation which can be accessed in full here.

Weeding Books: Managing the Process from Planning to Repurposing


Presentation and Handout by Rebecca Plock and Elizabeth Willse

Collection Development LIS 660

December 3, 2014


An online version of this handout (with links) can be found at:


Slideshare PowerPoint presentation can be found at:


Weeding: the Basics


Gregory, V. L. (2011). Collection development and management for 21st century library

collections: An introduction. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers.

Johnson, P. (2004). Fundamentals of collection development & management. Chicago:

American Library Association. Chapter 5 “Weeding,” particularly p 193-207


When Weeding Goes Wrong: Common Themes

  • Sudden, large-scale weeding project
  • No public warning
  • Books treated as trash, not repurposed
  • Leads to public outcry, damages library reputation


To track current/ongoing news of weeding gone wrong, use search terms like:

public (or academic) library deaccession, weeding, protest, anger

Try Google alerts, as well as watching for stories on Library Journal or SLJ


Weeding Gets Emotional

  • Love of books gets tangled up in the discard process. Calling it “Weeding,” could be the problem, John Berry points out.
  • Librarians may hate weeding as much as patrons do, between love of books and balancing against other tasks.
  • Public outcry about weeding gone wrong doesn’t help.


Better Approach: Policy

Make sure library collection policy includes

  • Context for weeding in the library’s overall goals
  • Broad outline of weeding criteria/process including responsibilities
  • How gifts will be handled
  • Statements about where weeded books will go
  • ….. No surprises!


Better Approach: Practice

  • Make weeding an ongoing process
  • Weed: worn, outdated, unused. Remember MUSTIE
  • Train staff to pull items to be evaluated for weeding
  • Communicate with patrons
  • …. No surprises


Arguments for Weeding (to help persuade reluctant weeders)


Weeded Books: Where Should They Go?

Arrange a Trade

  • Trading books between libraries refreshes the collection with minimal expense
  • Sharing resources builds relationships
  • Works best for duplicates of new or recent books


Library Book Sales

  • Physical sales can create goodwill, publicize the library, fundraising for library programs. Volunteer organizations (Friends of the Library) can run sales, lessening staff burden
  • Alternately: books can be sold online. Monitoring sales and shipping books may be more labor-intensive.
  • Storage for unsold books can be problematic.


Book Donation Programs

  • Before sending books to charitable organizations, make sure donated books fit that organization’s collection development policy. Many charitable programs will not accept damaged or irreparable books.


Better World Books

Better World Books is a for-profit social enterprise that collects and sells books online with each sale generating funds for literacy initiatives in the U.S. and around the world.

No-cost program sells books across various internet channels (such as and EBay.) Libraries receive a commission from each sale and a donation is given to their chosen literacy partner.


Prison Book Program

The Prison Book Program, based out of Quincy, MA, mails books to prisoners to support their educational and personal development.


Artistic Repurposing of Weeded Books

  • Libraries can partner with local artists in their community who can utilize used books to create art.
  • Examples of artists who use books in their art:

Mike Stilkey

Ekaterina Panikanova

Alex Queral

  • Ask artists to create altered books from weeds to use in library exhibitions or to circulate amongst library patrons. See Maine’s Portland Public Library and the Maine College of Art’s “Instituting Art: Altered Book Project” (2005).


  • Books that cannot be donated or repurposed can be recycled.
  • Paperback books are 100% recyclable and can be added to “mixed paper” recycling.
  • Hardcover books are more difficult to recycle due to their binding glue. The inside pages should be removed from the spine/cover and recycled.




American Library Association (2014). Sending books to needy libraries: book donation

programs. Accessed November 6, 2014, from

Annoyed Librarian. (2013). Weeding woes in the prairie state. Retrieved from


Berry,John N., I.,II. (1997, 05/15; 2014/11). Making space for real weeds: “weeding” is the wrong metaphor; we planted those books there.122, 6.


Berry,John N., I.,II. (2013, 11/01; 2014/11). The weeding war: “if you must] weed, do it sunday, after midnight”.138, 10.


Better World Books:

Colangelo, L. (2010, October 13). Jamaica library tossing away books like jules verne classics and unworn harry potter paperbacks. New York Daily News


Dilevko, J., & Gottlieb, L. (2003). Weed to achieve: A fundamental part of the public library mission? Library Collections, Acquisitions, and Technical Services, 27(1), 73-96. doi:


Earth911 (2014). How to recycle books & magazines. Accessed November 8, 2014, from

Fenner, A. (2005). Library book sales: A cost–benefit analysis. Library Collections, Acquisitions, and Technical Services, 29(2), 149-168. doi:


Gregory, V. L. (2011). Collection development and management for 21st century library

collections: An introduction. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers.


Hill, D. S. (2003). Selling Withdrawn and Gift Books on eBay: Does It Make Sense?. Journal Of

Interlibrary Loan, Document Delivery & Electronic Reserves, 14(2)


Hogan, C. (2008). Library book sales: Cleaning house or cleaning up? Searcher, 16(3), 36-46.


Larson, J. (2012). Crew: A weeding manual for modern libraries. Austin, Texas: Texas State Library and Archives Commission.


Johnson, P. (2004). Fundamentals of collection development & management. Chicago:

American Library Association.


Library as Incubator Project (2014, Oct. 14). Featuring: Mike Stilkey. Accessed November 8,

2014, from

Metz, P., & Gray, C. (2005). Public Relations and Library Weeding. Journal Of Academic

Librarianship, 31(3), 273-279

Mandel, L. (2007, 04/01; 2014/11). An essential practice.132, 59.


Manley, W. (2014). Treasure or trash heap? American Libraries, 45(1), 80-80.


Manley, W. (1996, 03/01; 2014/11). The manley arts: If I called this column ‘weeding,’ you wouldn’t read it.92, 1108.


McColl, L., & Penniman, S. (2008, September 15). Green weeding: promoting ecofriendly options for library discards. Library Journal, 133(15), 32+. Retrieved from


Nectoux, T. (2013, June 13). “Do you ever read any of the books you [weed]?”. Smile Politely Retrieved from:


Oder, N. (2007, 02/15; 2014/11). Weeding puts fairfax under fire. Library Journal. 132, 17+.


Prison Book Program:


Saricks, J. (2011, 09/01; 2014/11). The lessons of weeding. Booklist 108, 43.


Smith, J. L. (2014, October 19, 2014). War of words: Book purge called necessary, but pains chattanooga public library supporters. Times Free Press


Sutherland, A. (2006, April 23). Wear this book (but bring it back Friday). New York Times.

Accessed November 25, 2014, from

St. Lifer, E. (1997, 05/15). City rebukes philadelphia library on weeding practices. Library Journal. 122, 12.


Weeding books. (2014, 11/19;). Baker City Herald (Baker City, OR)


Young, D. J. (2009, 11/15). Get to effective weeding. Library Journal. 134, 36.



Millennials and Libraries

September 12, 2014

Interesting research from Pew on Younger Americans and Public Libraries.

I’m pleased that they split the Millennial “generation” into three separate cohorts, rather than lumping Millennials together as 1980 and younger:

One “generation” is comprised of high schoolers (ages 16-17); another is college-aged (18-24), though many do not attend college; and a third generation is 25-29.

Also of interest, the number of similarities to older adults, including parallel numbers of books read, an overall increase of e-reading, the use of multiple devices… and the head-on-the-desk moment for me:

Some 43% report reading a book—in any format—on a daily basis, a rate similar to older adults. Overall, 88% of Americans under 30 read a book in the past year, compared with 79% of those age 30 and older.

A book? Singular? As in one? The percentage implies people who don’t read any books at all. Which I just can’t get my head around. Clearly, I’m reading their share.

And then we come to actual libraries.

Apologies for the impending wall of text… I’m still trying to decide how to unpack what these statistics actually mean for how professionals need to think about libraries. Would welcome your ideas in the comments. More from Pew

As a group, Millennials are as likely as older adults to have used a library in the past 12 months, and more likely to have used a library website. Among those ages 16-29, 50% reported having used a library or bookmobile in the course of the past year in a September 2013 survey. Some 47% of those 30 and older had done so. Some 36% of younger Americans used a library website in that time frame, compared with 28% of those 30 and older. Despite their relatively high use of libraries, younger Americans are among the least likely to say that libraries are important. Some 19% of those under 30 say their library’s closing would have a major impact on them and their family, compared with 32% of older adults, and 51% of younger Americans say it would have a major impact on their community, compared with 67% of those 30 and older.

As with the general population, most younger Americans know where their local library is, but many say they are unfamiliar with all the services it may offer: 36% of Millennials say they know little or nothing about the local library’s services, compared with 29% of those 30 and older. At the same time, most younger Americans feel they can easily navigate their local library, and the vast majority would describe libraries as warm, welcoming places, though younger patrons are less likely to rate libraries’ physical conditions highly.

Things I wonder in the above: How is library use distributed across the three stages of the Millennial cohort, especially with regard to school-related or free library usage? What are the communities like, in terms of urban or suburban, big or small libraries?

And what can be done by librarians to make those numbers higher? Is it a question of improving outreach? Improving opportunities for access? Changing services?

And even more interesting to see how various newsblogs approached it:

 Millennials Are Out-Reading Older Generations, crows The Atlantic. So far so good. Subhed a little worrying “But younger Americans value library services less than more senior cohorts, study finds. “

While the lede goes for the easy-problematic “much-maligned Millennial” trope and cutesiness about selfies, it levels out, to say the point that Millennials are buying more books than they borrow, and valuing the library as a space, rather than a source of books. And it makes the point that library use is high among underserved populations.

OK, as a budding librarian, I can go for that. I can rise to that occasion and see it as a call to do better outreach, to make sure people know about the place and its resources. I can be inspired by the public library as a place that closes digital divides and information gaps (if you will permit me my jargon.)

The headline on the HuffPo piece puts a tackier tabloid spin on the story “Millennials Are Actually MORE Likely To Read Books, Study Finds.” I can’t tell whether they’re trying to convey surprise or create clickbait. HuffPo covers similar territory to the Atlantic, with, happily, less winking about “selfies.” While The Atlantic draws the distinction between library use as a place and library use as a resource, HuffPo conflates avid reading with use and visits to the library as a web presence or as a physical space. HuffPo leaves the numbers out of its assertion that younger people feel they would be less impacted by the closing of a library, and doesn’t touch on the economics of library use by job seekers, or those bridging information/technology gaps.

With its breezy tone, few numbers, and mentioning that younger people might not feel the impact of library closures, I worry that the HuffPo piece implies a stance that libraries are on their way out, aren’t cool, aren’t worth defending for the younger generation. Which worries me. And not just for my future job security.

Still, I’m not going to up and say “save libraries,” because that kind of rhetoric becomes too easily shrill and easy to ignore. Instead… discover libraries. And I’m hoping to help that happen.



Librarian Stereotypes

August 28, 2014

The semester seems to be off to a decent start (except I have a cold, boo!). I’ve had my two classes. (More on those, after I’ve digested at least some of the readings.) I’ve got a decent schedule working at the library.

Last night, my professor for Collection Development had us divide into pairs to interview each other, and introduce one another to the class, to get to know each other. She gave us a list of questions to ask, including what you’d expect: what had we studied so far in the program? What were our future plans? What library experience did we have?

And one of her questions was terrific:

How do you violate the librarian stereotype?

I saw that in the list of questions, looked at my partner and said “Librarian stereotype? she said, wearing a black cardigan and glasses, with her hair in a bun.” True story.

The answers from my classmates were great:

“My hair’s too short to put in a bun!”

“I don’t like cats.”

“I don’t own any cardigans.”

“I don’t like working with people. I’d rather be in the back office.”

“I like football!” offered our instructor, who happens to be a Bills fan.

“I’m more interested in art than in books.”

“I don’t read fiction!”

There are two guys in the class, both of whom offered wry grins before answering. “I’m a metalhead,” said one. And I didn’t catch the other’s answer. (He’s on the quiet side in general, and once told me a joke: “What’s the definition of an extroverted librarian? They stare at YOUR shoes.” Sigh.)

The answer I came up with, after some thought about the many, many ways I fit the stereotype perfectly:

My bookshelves are horribly organized. I claim I have a system, but, really? Yeah. Bad librarian, no biscuit.

Booking Through Thursday 8/28/14: Enmity

August 28, 2014

Booking Through Thursday asks

Any books or authors you hate? Why? Is it the writing? The stories? The author’s personality? And—would you read their work anyway?

Good question. I can think of a few. The Magicians by Lev Grossman. I hated it because the main characters were whiny and disaffected, so that I thought they squandered their opportunity to go to a magical school and didn’t deserve access to a fantasy world.

Twilight. I only got through the first book, and that was a struggle. In addition to being poorly written, I think the construction of Bella and Edward’s relationship as a romance is problematic at best, dangerously abusive at worst.

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick. I read it under duress, at the insistence of a college boyfriend. I disliked the sparse writing style and I think I also hated the main character.

Those are the ones that I can think of where it’s pure hatred. And then, there are a few others, where most of my experience was ire and dislike, but it was tempered by something else.

I remember hating Pride and Prejudice because I remember wanting to reach into its pages and throttle Mrs. Bennett. But, that was tempered somewhat by the fact that Elizabeth and Mr. Bennett likely shared my opinion of her.And I could appreciate how well Austen captured the awfulness of Mrs. Bennett’s  shallowness and social aspirations. So, mixed feelings there.

I remember seething with annoyance at Holden Caulfield’s character when I read The Catcher in the Rye, also in high school. But at the same time, I can look back and appreciate that it was beautifully written. I would read something else by Salinger, with a less irritating narrator. Suggestions?

But I think my all-time favorite love-hate of a book was when I read The DaVinci Code. I knew at the outset that I was probably going to hate it. But I read it because everyone was reading it at the time. And also because I read it in tandem with someone who had completed almost all of the studies necessary to become a Jesuit priest before doing a 180 and pursuing a career in law. We shared the cost of a used copy. I read it first, and wrote critiques in the margins, annoyed at the terrible writing and stupid plot twists. “Author badly wants to be Langdon. And/or Harrison Ford!” I seethed. “Oh, of course there’s a stupid albino villain!” Then I handed it off, and had a great time watching as the normally fairly composed law student fumed and waved his arms, outraged at all the Church history, symbolism, and canon law that had been butchered in service of the plot. I really, really enjoyed the rants. There was scowling and wavy arms!. There was the night where we parted company and he called me to continue his tirade on the drive home because he really hated the book. It might be my very favorite memory of book hatred.

That was fun.

Blogging at the Burke Library: A Summer in the Archives

August 25, 2014

As I’ve mentioned here, I spent the summer discovering that I find archives fascinating, and getting acquainted with the archival collections at the Burke Library up at Columbia, as well as working on the social media. I learned a lot this summer, about the theory and practice of processing archives. It’s making me think about my studies differently, and want to read, learn, and work more in the archival world.

It’s also been a summer of thinking and learning about spirituality, and how it’s expressed in missionary work, past and present, and in theological library collections and academic communities.  I read an article from Christianity Today, called The World The Missionaries Made” that I found tremendously helpful in orienting me to the academic research about missionaries, and contemporary theological discussion. The article itself is behind a paywall, but here’s the gist on The Emerging Scholars Blog.

In chronological order, the blog posts I’ve done for the Burke Blog and my own blog that capture my summer internship.

My First Day at the Burke: So much to learn!

Debugging and Debugging at the Burke

Millions of Books! Field trip to ReCAP

Testing a Scavenger Hunt

Last Day at the Burke

And another interesting tidbit: In my Collection Development class, I learned that Union Theological Seminary, the home of the Burke, is used as a location for college scenes on Law & Order. Who knew?


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,181 other followers