Angie Manfredi

This is Circulating Ideas, I’m Steve Thomas. My guest today is Angie Manfredi. She’s the head of Youth Services for the Los Alamos County Library system in Los Alamos, New Mexico. You can find her blog at fatgirlreading.com, or follow her on Twitter @misskubelik.

Welcome to the show, Angie.

Hello, thank you for having me, Steve.

We were actually in the same room together at ALA at the Prince awards, but we did not meet and you, I was also rooming with a friend of yours, Thomas Maluck and yet we still did not meet [laughs].

That sounds like ALA to me [laughs].

Yes. So do you have that happen a lot when you’re at conferences? When you, people that you know sort of online and you know they’re around, but you don’t ever hook up with them?

Definitely and certainly as I’ve expanded circles. So, when you used to only be with the services people then it was easier to run into them, but as I’ve come to know more academic librarians and more special librarians and more school librarians, then it gets harder and harder to be in the same place at the same time. So, that’s always a downer, but it’s also part of ALA, that you are trying to get as much in as you can, but you just can’t always connect with the, the people that you get to connect with online, which is why being online is quite awesome.

Yeah, I was going to ask you about that. Do you find a lot, before Twitter, Facebook and all that stuff took off, blogs and everything, did you find professional development to be a harder thing to.

Yeah, so for me one of the things is I’ve been on Twitter since 2008, so I’m an early adopter. So, literally some of the first people I was friends with on Twitter were librarians. I joined Twitter because people were doing it in library world, specifically YALSA was really promoting it at their inaugural 2008 YA List symposium which I was a presenter at and that’s how I even really got on, on Twitter. So, that’s, for me always that’s been an integral part of my, of my professional learning network, is online and I think that really helps me roll with it and I, it certainly would have been more difficult because of my physical location, which is I live in a very large state, New Mexico, geographically large, where it’s hard to get together in person with other librarians and that, that’s difficult when you’re state is from end to the other, it’s eight hours to drive from one end to the other of New Mexico. So, that’s hard and the online element takes that, just completely takes care of that.

And are you able to attend conferences a lot? Do you attend, I know you were at ALA, I mean do you try to attend most of the conferences?

I do, I do. Even, I like to have a “reason,” I just made finger quotes, can’t see it, but I just made fingers quotes. I like to have a reason to attend, but even if I don’t, I still try to make it a priority because it’s, it’s really incomparable and it’s the best way to network with people in person and I’m, I’m lucky that my workplace lets me take it as work time, I don’t have to take it off as leave and before we had some budget difficulties, they would, when they could, they would pay for me to, they would pay for some of my attendance. But, even still, it’s a thing that personally I invest in, but I acknowledge that not everybody can do that, especially when. For me, from New Mexico it took me all day to get to Philadelphia and it’ll, it’s a long flight. I had to have a connection, it was a 6 ½ hour flight, round trip to get there. So that’s a significant, that’s a significant flight, that’s a significant time period. It’s a whole day.

Right. How far away is Las Vegas?

Oh that I can drive [laughs], which I might do, yeah, but it’s, it’s an hour flight which actually ends up taking five minutes because we change time zones. So you’ll leave New Mexico at 7.15 and get there at 7.45. That’s always.

It seems much quicker [laughs].

It is.

Yeah, it’s like my wife and I went to New Zealand and you get there the day before you left or something and it’s confusing, you cross the dateline.

Well that was a good part about coming back from Philadelphia. The flight felt much shorter, but on the way there it was, you lost two hours time zone wise and then the physical time of flying, so that is difficult. But, it’s a trade-off that every person has to make individually for themselves. But that’s why I like Twitter and Facebook and blogs, because if you can’t do that, that’s a way for you to see what happened there and to connect with the people who maybe can’t go themselves as well.

And is there a, are there times, is there something about Twitter in particular that enables a certain kind of conversation for you a lot of times? It’s very, it’s always, it’s educational and entertaining when I get to, when you get off, when you really get going on a good little snark filled rant and it’s, is there something about Twitter in particular that helps you express yourself that way? As opposed to going to your blog and writing a long blog post about it. What is it about Twitter do you think that.

I, I really enjoy the hundred and forty characters because I think, I’ve. First of all, of course I love being long-winded, I can do that for days, obviously. But for me Twitter is a way to really get to what you’re saying which, so my undergraduate degree is in creative writing and one of the things I really struggled with and my professors always used to say is, you’ve got to, the number one rule of creative writing is show, don’t tell.

Stop telling me about what’s happening in your story and show me what’s happening in your story. And so for me Twitter really allows me to show and not tell. This is exactly what I’m saying, this is exactly what I mean and even if I have to do it in a series of tweets, which I usually do, I think the flow of how your read Twitter really even encourages that. So for me it, I think it’s made me sharper and its also made me, I come up with the larger statement of what I want to say and then I structure around that. So, I think it’s in a way helped me do what I never could do in undergrad, which is get to it. Where as opposed to being, “I’m going to tell you this story and oh here’s 20 pages about how her dress looked.” No, no time for that. Get to why she’s wearing the dress. So, that’s been helpful.

Well it seems like you, from looking at your blog you generally use it a lot more for writing book reviews and talking more about specifically books.

Indeed and the other thing too is sometimes even with all my blurbs, I want to cover something a little more in depth and so that is what my blog is good for and I’ve had it for several years, two, three or four, but there have been periods when I’ve been really inactive with the blog, but that’s never really happened with Twitter, I’ve been, I’ve maintained that and I think part of that is tied to the, the 140 limit. Even though I have made an effort in the past year to really keep up with my blog, I post at least a couple of times a month, just because I felt like I didn’t want to live in a world where I was only a blurb, so. I’ve tried to do that, I’ve had some issues hosting it, I’m switching hosts which has been nightmare time, so that, it kind of went inactive again, but my goal is to get back to it and get myself that other outlet as well.

Well the thing that’s nice about Twitter I think too is that you get instant feedback cause you’re, you can start saying something but it turns into a conversation and that can really, that can be, make it a much more meaningful conversation than even what you had started.

It’s true and I use that to deal with one of my frustrations which is such a, such a weird creepy person thing to worry about, but I’m always. I’ll say five things that are all related to one conversation and a person will retweet one, or favorite one and I’m, “You’re missing the entire context of what I’m doing here. It’s a much larger picture.” But, that’s one of the things that I think that you learn about Twitter is that it’s a lot about letting go of how you want to interact to the platform and understanding that other people interact with it in their own way, which has also been good for. That was another lesson I needed to learn [laughs] about. You can’t make everybody read what they want to read, so yeah and they can’t make me, so that’s, that’s been beneficial as well.

Yeah, it gets a little confusing sometimes if you’re using the official Twitter client because of the way they do the threading of conversations. If you’re responding to one comment and keeping up with the comments now, but.

Well and then it will say see 25 and you click on that and you get to see two. You’re, “This feels like not complete.” So.

[laughs] It doesn’t quite work as well.

Yeah, I thought you said 25! So that’s more of Twitter’s glorious design, so.

Are you the same way in person? I mean do you have the same sort of conversations with people and just.

I think so. I would like to think so. I’d like to think I, I would like to think my online persona translates pretty well to my real-life persona. If anything I think probably I am, I am calmer in real-life because I’m unable to use caps lock as much as I wish. And the, the person who lives with me, my roommate, she’s lived with me for about two years, we met originally online years ago via personal blogs and then we met in person actually at ALA New Orleans and she’s a school teacher, so then we, she moved, she came to visit me and she ended up moving out here and getting a job. So, I always tell people clearly my online persona, our online personas meshed well and then our real-life personas seemed to be very similar. So I think that’s a pretty good evidence that the person that I am online pretty much is the person I am in person.

Yeah I think the most interesting people to follow on Twitter especially is if you’re being authentic. I mean you don’t want to have somebody who’s just, like the accounts that are just tweeting out boring information, that’s not. And then that’s why when you go to official library’s accounts or tweeting things out, you don’t just want to hear, “Oh look, we’re closed today. Oh look, here’s a book that we just added to the catalog.” I mean you want to have a conversation and.

You do or else Twitter gets boring really fast.

Yes.

So, and that, I think that’s very similar for authors, that’s a thing we talk about a lot, about following authors. You don’t want to follow an author who only ever talks about their book, even if it’s literally the greatest book ever written! If JK Rowling was on Twitter and all she ever talked about was writing, I would be bored because I want to know about what are you doing with pie? What are your feelings about television? That’s, to me is a really important part of Twitter, is that it’s more than just one thing, no matter what that one thing is. You want to hear the full and I’m, I don’t follow, I don’t follow people I don’t think are interesting regarding of if they’re the most important author in the world, I am just not able to do that. I have too many other people that I want to have interesting dialogue with, so.

Well and if there’s something important about that author that comes up, it will come up through your stream anyway.

Right, right. Instead of hearing them endlessly promoted in one circle, you know, so. It’s just not relevant to me [laughs].

So, you talked about this a little bit, but do you find social media’s more important for a librarian who’s in a rural area, who doesn’t have opportunities to meet in person that you really need? Cause I feel like that conversation with other professionals is very important to keeping our energy up for the profession.

Oh definitely because and even that’s how I discovered at the time Cory Eckert who now works in Houston, but at the time she worked in Gallup. We had had, which is about four hours from me in the other, in New Mexico, but until we had met online, we had no opportunities to actually meet in person and we really became friends and became colleagues, New Mexico colleagues, online first before we met in person, before we had ever met because there’s just, you just don’t have the opportunity to do that and I’m friends with other librarians in New Mexico that I met on Twitter, that we’ve only met in person once or twice, not that many because there’s, New Mexico is poor and rural in many places. But, if it wasn’t for that I think it would be extraordinarily difficult to connect as often and on the level that you want if you are not in a branch. If you’re not in a system with branches, if you’re by yourself in the middle of nowhere, you can befriend anyone, you can befriend any colleague on Twitter and say, “How do you do this where you are? And how can I do this where I am?” And it’s hard to, it’s hard to explain that sometimes to people who are, “There’s 15 youth librarians in my system.” And I’m, “I don’t even, I don’t have a system, so there’s me and my colleagues.” So, without that networking, both through Twitter or through blogs and through Facebook, I think a rural librarian’s job would be much more difficult.

And do you think on national level that rural libraries are kind of given the shaft a little bit? That they’re not thought about as often as the, as the libraries that, I mean they’re all getting their budgets cut back, but still the larger libraries that have a little more of budget to do things.

It’s true and I, I know that within, I think within PLA there’s the Rural Library Association and they’re really dedicated to that and some of the divisions really concentrate on what they can do to support small and rural libraries, but it’s hard to conceptualize what it’s like when you go somewhere and you hear about a program, or we’re all going to have iPads and we’re all gonna. Sometimes I’ll look at other libraries like Salt Lake City about how many copies of the Hunger Games they have and they’ll say, we have 141 holds on 90 copies or whatever and I’m, that’s just like mind-boggling to me. So I think it’s difficult to understand the stages and sizes and I, and even the travel part is difficult. Explaining on how much it takes me to get where most things are, the Philadelphia element of how long it took me to travel to Philadelphia and then how long it took me to travel back from Philadelphia. That’s a significant investment, I had to skip the Morris and the non-fiction reception because I had to get a plane back, or it’s another day of work, I take off another day of work, I’m gone another day. So, I, I think it’s difficult to contextualize.

And also, an example I mentioned in the email I sent you was the things where a lot of libraries in New Mexico are one room libraries that are often managed by staff and how are you supposed to conceptualize for these people what, how to be a youth services librarian, how to present a story time, how to present, how to do teen book talks when you’re working in a rural one-room library that’s open four days a week. So that’s I think an element that I think librarianship as a whole needs to address as their future, cause we can’t all live in Chicago and New York and LA.

Right. Well, which again is something how social media can help out. That, that can bridge that gap there that. Help learn how to do things, I mean see the storytime underground stuff, find and see videos and see how people are doing things and figure out how to do this stuff.

Absolutely, absolutely. And also I think you can say all you want this is my situation and it’s out into the void until you actually ask someone straight up, “Look I saw how you did this program in your library serving 47,000 people, can you talk to me about how you think I could change it in my library serving 47?” And at that point, when that connection is made, the 47,000 person will be, “Yeah, I totally can. Let’s discuss it.” As opposed to just who’s listening to me. And to me I think that’s a huge bonus of all of that. Someone says I am and I want to talk about it.

And one of the things that you mentioned and you talk about a lot on Twitter is your, you’d like to promote and spotlight diversity. Why do you think diversity is so important, especially in children’s and teen books?

Well, because the other thing is that the community that I live in is an exception in New Mexico. We have a high international population because of the lab located, the national lab located in our town. But at the same time, what is not an exception to us in New Mexico is that we have a high population of native American and Hispanic children and teens and people in general, they’re a high part of our population. So if we’re not offering things that reflect those, those groups lives and if we’re not demanding that people publish more things that reflect those groups lives, then what are we telling those people why they should come into our library. And in New Mexico in particular, if you can’t say to this group that makes up almost the majority of our state, “Yeah we have things that are in your language, we have things that reflect the life that you’ve lived,” I’m, why would I, I’m not interested, I’m not going to go in there, I , you’re something that’s having a different cultural conversation than me. So especially in children’s and teens because that’s the time when you are, I think, particularly looking to identify yourself in literature. It’s, it’s our job, it’s our, it’s our moral responsibility and I believe that deeply, it’s our moral responsibility to accurately reflect what this country and what our population bases look like and contrary to what publishing has you believe of the all being white people who are straight, they’re wrong. So, it’s our responsibility to make them be better, for our patrons.

Right and I think as a, it’s just as important for not only, to make, to give something for those kids to identify with, but to show the white middle-class heterosexual kids that there are other things out there. I mean that seems to be what most, in most prejudice breaks down into I don’t understand that, I’ve never seen that before and so it’s a fear of the unknown. So you, if you get this in their face and say look this is normal, this is, there are people like this out in the world that is part of that moral imperative as well I think.

Well and that’s, that’s an excellent point, because one of the things we talk about a lot is you never hear kids say, “Look, I’m not a wizard so I can’t read Harry Potter. I can’t believe in wizardness. I myself am unable to do spells, so I can’ really relate to Harry Potter.” You never hear people say that because through literature we allow ourselves to experience worlds different than our own and it’s easy. I’m personally not a vampire so I can’t understand what vampire world is like. We never say that. So, we should never say, “My readers are African American kids so they won’t read about African American kids.” Really? Well they’re not wizards either, so I think that’s something worth looking at as well. That literature lets us experience that and so we have to be brave enough to say, “Look, here’s, here’s a story that doesn’t involve shape-shifting demons. But maybe you could relate to it too.”

Well you do a lot, I think, like I said those little snark-filled rants you, are on Twitter are often about this subject of something that someone is just saying something insane about [laughs] diversity in the, the lack thereof. But, one of the things I think is a hard issue that I know you, you’ve struggled with and I struggle with and I think it’s just, you have, to being heterosexual middle-class white people is how. What are your thoughts on how people like us who are white middle-class white people can be good allies and support diversity, while at the same time recognizing that we have this privilege that a lot times we don’t. If you know it’s there you can see it, but a lot of people just don’t realize that it’s even there. How can we use that and still be supportive, without being patronizing?

I think, and that’s the constant struggle of how to be an ally, although a lot of times now even that word, ally, is like a dangerous signal, cause that sounds like somebody who wants a reward for being a human. So, “I don’t want ally cookies, I don’t want a pat on the head for I being a good white person.” That’s not how it works. So even that word I tend to, at this point through what I’ve learned and as my activism has grown, I tend to shy away from that. I think the most important thing is, I think it’s twofold and one of them is, our number one goal is to understand not every conversation requires our input, but we can still listen and learn from it. So, not every conversation requires my cis hat, white woman input, I don’t have to in, I don’t have to interject what a great ally I am at all times, but I can still listen and learn, that’s really important. And I can let people have conversations that don’t revolve around me. And tied into that is boosting the signal, which is the most important part, I think, especially in the library world, is to constantly be saying, “These are the people that are talking about this and I’m, I’m not going to butt in on the conversation, but I’m going to boost the signal of these people talking about it and also I’m going to listen to what they say and I’m going to constantly purchase these books and talk about them to my teenagers and talk about them on my social media feed and talk about them to publishers and talk about them to readers and I’m gonna constantly get the word out about that material.”

So I’m not going to say that I have a special insight, but I’m gonna continue to let people know that it exists, particularly people who might be in my same demographic. So, who might not have heard about it and I’m gonna point out the diversity and I’m gonna say, “This is a really great book with an African American lead, this is a really interesting book with a Native American lead and I’m gonna make that the part of the conversation.” So I think it’s those two elements. Its understanding not every conversation requires your input, but that it’s still important for you to listen to and then when the time is right, boosting other people’s voices and the material that they create in a variety of ways from the social media aspect of it to literally in your library being, “I’m committing, that when I book talk books I am going to include books that have characters of color, that have not-straight characters in them. I’m going to do that when I talk to my school outreach, when I talk to my clubs that, at the library, when I create booklists, when I create displays.” So that to me are, those are the two elements of how you deal with that and don’t expect to be, don’t expect medals for it. Like I said, it’s a huge thing in the online activist community, like what do you want cookies? Do you want allied cookies for being such a good ally? Don’t expect that you’re going to get lauded for that.

Well and I and you can also use that opportunity to, not only when you’re talking to kids, but when the parents are usually there right next to them, that you’re being a good advocate there for the parents as well to show that that’s really important for their kids to be reading.

Yes, yes. And, and parents are usually very receptive to that and I. A good example for this is always Little House On The Prairie which is controversial for a variety of reasons. One of the main ones being that repeatedly throughout Little House On The Prairie, the entire series, they say the only good Indian is a dead Indian. And so, I often get asked for that book because of course it’s a book that everybody remembers and is a classic and had a TV show to go with it and so I’m always happy to take parents over to where it is, but when I do that I also say, “You know, a great book that I think you should read in conjunction with this is the The Birchbark House by Louise Cedric. Let me tell you a little bit about it. It’s about a native, it’s written by a Native American woman and it’s about a Native American family throughout many generations in this same period and it talks about what life was like for Native Americans in that era and it’s a great book to read with your kid with Little House on the Prairie and talk about some of the problematic things that are in Little House On The Prairie that your kid is going to ask questions about. Cause if you think a kid isn’t going to ask the only good in, why does she say the good Indian is a dead Indian? You are vastly, vastly underselling your child.” And when I explain the Birchbark House and talk about it and talk about how it’s a national book award finalist, it’s written by Louise Cedric, it’s in a whole series and it tells about how they lived, this tribe lived and parents almost always take them together. And that, I think, is a really important thing you can do instead of saying I’m just not going to have Little House In The Prairie in my library and I’m just not going to, I’m just not going to talk to people about it. It’s saying, “Did you know this exists?” and it’s my job to be able to do that. It’s my job to be able to know about The Birchbark House and to be able effectively book talk it, whether I’m doing that with the Little House On The Prairie or not. And a parent or kid can say, “Nah, I’m not interested in that,” and I can’t make them check it out, but I can, I can let them know there’s something else out there and it’s part of the conversation too and it’s here in our library too.

Yeah, I wonder sometimes, I think people in their heads are getting the Little House books and the Little House TV series mixed up sometimes, cause the TV series is much more sanitized than the book series is, but they’re all, “Oh Michael Landon, we love you and Little Half Pint.

Oh yeah, oh yeah, I agree, I think that all the time too. I, and I’ve had parents bring it back to me and be, “Wow, this was was not what I.” And I’m, “I know, yeah, I know.” And when they say it’s not what they remember, what they mean is it’s not what the, it’s not the TV show, which is what they remember. And so that’s a thing, then it is totally up to the patron and the patron can say no, I only want the and that’s fine, but like I said, if you think your kids not going to pick up on why aren’t more Indians dead. You know [laughs] they are, cause kids are very clever, you know and also it’s the year 2014, so.

Right, so and you can use that book as a learning [laughs], as a learning tool of this is how people used to think of that and that’s not how, that’s obviously not the right way to do it and so. As a bad, as an example of bad behavior in the past.

Well then you have to be prepared too, that’s what I tell parents, you have to be prepared for when your kids says why would Ma say that? Ma’s a good character and why would Ma say that? And a lot of times parents are caught off-guard by that and, “I just, um, ah, I don’t” and if you have the Birchbark House there you can be, “You know, we’re going to read about next that talks about,” so I think that, that’s the, that’s key, so. The year 2014 is an important part, whether you like it or not, and hopefully you like it, your kid lives in a multicultural world where a guy who’s hopefully going to be drafted by the NFL came out as gay, Michael Sam yesterday, this is the world we live in now so get ready, get ready [laughs].

So and another thing that you talked about that’s related obviously is that you have a real passion for middle grade fiction specifically?

Indeed.

And just for the listeners, the people who don’t, maybe do not know what exactly, how is middle grade specifically defined for you?

Well that’s one of the things I think is great is about middle grade, it doesn’t have a specific definition. But, I think, middle grade is really up and coming right now and it’s a publishing category that’s books that appeal to ages 10 to 15, 14, kind of low-ball and that’s the great thing about it for me, there is not really one defined age group. It has to be 8 to 9, there’s a, it’s a larger group, but it mostly focuses I would say 10 to 14 which as I say often about that, I know that that seems like a narrow publishing group, but that’s really when we start to see a decline in readers, so I’ve never met, I’ve never met a little kid that hasn’t had, I love reading, he loves to have books read to him and yet that starts to drop off the older they get, or they become teenagers who come into the library and check out 45 books at a time.

So, how do they go, what’s the, what’s, what makes the difference? And I think middle grade is what makes the difference. If you can keep them engaged in that period of reading, they begin to keep it as a lifelong habit, so that’s one of the reasons I’m really into it [laughs] is because I think it can be a good gap for when we start to lose readers and I also think that there is an extraordinary amount of talent happening there right now. I think that there is a lot of really amazing writers working in that genre and so those things connected, just make it a really interesting and awesome place to be doing readers advisory and to be promoting books and, and reading books and then sharing them with kids.

And do you have any particular authors or books that you really are excited about? I mean is this the category, this is the Diary of the Wimpy Kid books would be in this?

I think Diary of Wimpy Kid is a good example. Yes, sometimes they, they grade a little up from that, but right about at that level, which. Diary Of A Wimpy Kid is, you’ve seen, of course you see seven year olds reading it, but the humor in it, which is often vulgar, is funnier when you’re a little bit older and get all the jokes. And originally Jeff Kinney wrote those as an adult series, before they were sold so it does have a little more, I don’t want to say sophisticated, god forbid I go on record saying it’s sophisticated, but it has jokes you get more when you’re 13 than when you’re 7. So I think that’s a good marker of middle grade too, which is that a seven year old could read it and enjoy it, but it has a particular resonance for older kids. And I think a great example of that is, for instance, the, a Newberry book this year which is Doll Bones by Holly Black and that, that’s a, you could read that as a kid, but as a middle schooler it’s, it’s especially important and it, it feels different and to me that’s what marks middle grade. So I think Doll Bones is pretty, which is exciting to see it as a Newberry book because it was acknowledging that there’s, there is really great merit in this title, it’s very firmly middle grade. I think middle grade does fantasy very well, as well which I think is something that often gets not enough credit for, but I think it does fantasy very well because middle school is perfect for the fantasy metaphor of you feel like you’re very different, you’re the chosen one, so I think that middle school is really great for that. The Real Boy by Anne Ursu came out last year, that’s a hallmark middle grade title I think. It deals with a lot of elements through the fantasy view so that, that was one of my favorites probably and I think there’s a lot of really funny stuff being written in middle grade. There’s a series [laughs] there’s a series called Timmy Failure Mistakes Were Made is the first one and they’re very, they’re sort of like mysteries and they’re very funny, I like those a lot. The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander which is where a kid solves mysteries, then you come meet him in the fourth stall of the bathroom and he takes care of your problems and it’s, it’s almost written like detective parody, but not and kids really like that and that’s a series that I think those are, it takes middle school seriously, which is an important, a really important thing and for the diversity element. Last year by far one of my favorite titles of last year that I think deserves way wider readership is If I Ever Get Of Here by Eric Gansworth and it’s about a Native American boy in the 70s and it, it’s amazing and it’s hilarious and it’s about being a nerd in middle school and how that’s much more complicated if you’re, if you live on the Rez and you’re poor.

And, and I just, to me I think everybody knows Diary Of A Part Time Indian, but first of all that is definitely a high school book and if I Ever Get Out Of Here is very much a middle school book. And it also deals with this how do you fit in on top of, that you have living on the Rez and being poor, how do you fit in with those, with that as well? And that came out last year, it was, it’s by far one, it was one of my favorite books of last year and it’s another one that you don’t have to live in 1976 and be a Native American kid to relate with this story. So, I always include it when I talk about it and I tell people, “Diary Of A Part Time Indian is for high school people, but If I Ever Get Out Of Here’s for middle school readers so give it a shot.”

So what is it about middle grade fiction that appeals to you as an adult reader? What do you get out it that you enjoy reading it? I mean is it, I know a part of it is going to be, “Oh I can, this is going to be a great thing for kids to read.” But, is there anything in particular that you think is really appealing to you as an adult?

Yeah, as I, as I alluded to, I think it’s, it’s, not to say that YA isn’t, but at this period it’s going through a real renaissance, so there’s a lot of really great craft in it. So, a lot of really great writing that can be more subtle than YA and can be more emotional. So, and also I think that it allows itself a wider range, so not that there’s anything wrong with YA romance, cause I love it. But, sometimes at middle grade you don’t have to worry about are they going to, is this going to turn into one of those, “Oh my god, we have to be together forever, but we can’t be together because we’re in love, we’re not in love.” So I think that’s sort of a relief after really going through that with Young Adults. And it is just, I think some of the writers like the ones I mentioned, like Anne Ursu and Holly Black and Eric Gansworth, these are incredibly talented writers and as an adult I appreciate craft and all three of those books, the ones by Chris Rylander, so many middle grade novels are well crafted and I really appreciate that as an adult reader.

I know, part of what you, you told me that you did do as part of your job is you supervise a lot of the student workers that work at your library.

Indeed.

Do you see that as a good way of doing community outreach to get then in the library and working in the library?

Well they’re my best promoters, those kids, they’re, and I say that all the time about your teen employees. If you have teenage employees, or even if you have college age employees, they’re the best promoters you’ll have because they will, if they enjoy working at the library, which you can make them enjoy as their supervisor, if they enjoy working at the library, they’re going to tell every person they know, they’re going to tell every kid they know this is a great place to be, you should come hang out, they’re so cool here. The two students that I have working for me right now, they’re both college freshman, but they’ve been working for me since they were juniors in high school. There’s a community, there’s a two year community college in our town and they stayed to go there and they’re amazing to have on hand because even when they’re there working, I’ll be trying to tell a kid about a book and they’re on the fence and I’ll call one of my student workers over and I’ll be, “Hey Jared, you’ve read this book, is it great?” And he’s, “Oh my god it’s so good, I loved it, it’s amazing.” They’re, and they’re effective in the community too cause they’re always telling their people. Just last week, something, a woman from the community college who teaches English 102 called me and said, “Can you come talk to our class about how you use writing in your job?” And I said, “How did you get my name?” And she said, “Oh one of your students is in my class. She talks about you all the time.” so, I think that’s, that’s a really important thing.

That’s great.

Yeah, so, I was, “Sure, yes, I’d love to come talk to a college class about how writing is important.” And they would have never have heard of me if it hadn’t been for my student worker saying. So, and I’ve had three, I have, I’ve had three student workers go on to get their MILS degrees because I think it’s, it’s a thing that when they work at the library you can make them think, “Wow, this is, this is cool, this is fun, this is something I want to do, this is a relevant profession to my life.” So.

That’s awesome.

My goal is. I tell them all the time if I get two more I get a toaster, so. Pretty psyched!

[laughs] Almost there.

So close, gotta turn two more.

So you also, do you present programs a lot for your teen customers? Or are you just doing it for your patrons? Or for your, or just the younger kids?

No, so our teen group actually meets today, this afternoon so that should be fun. We have a, we have a teen program once a month. If we try to have it more often they don’t really come so a lot of it is hands on, but we do have a once a month teen program which is our teen advisory group and they get a look at all the newest books and we talk about what we’re reading and I, that’s when I really get a chance to target book talk, which is. It takes us back to the diversity element of. When I’m doing this book talk I have to, I always make sure that I’m going to talk about some books that have some non-white, non-straight characters in them while I have a captive audience of anywhere between 7 and 15 kids who are going to listen to me and take my recommendations. And we’ve also really developed the teen collection, so it does a lot of circulating out of our site, we hope that it speaks for itself. So that if you come in and don’t really want to talk to us, hopefully [laughs] you are talking to us by checking out the books.

[laughs] Right.

Yeah. You are liking what we’ve, what we’ve created even if you’re not coming and speaking with an adult.

And of course the summer reading program is rapidly approaching. Do you tend to do a lot for teens in that, in that as well?

Oh I can’t yet. It’s really happening. We try. I definitely would say that’s something we struggle with because it’s harder to get them in the library in the summer because they’re not already going to school. They’re on vacation, they’re working jobs, so in the summer we try different things. We had film series this summer and we, we try to have things a little more rate, a little more often than once a month in the summer. But, the real thing in summer is a lot of our kids who, we have a lot of college students come back so it is, as with all the business of teen services, it’s difficult to have to start to tell 21 year olds you can’t come to this program. But, and that is something that I think library services are going to need to address soon, that we’ve raised a generation of kids who believe that the library is there to provide them with endless entertainment and fun. Yet I can’t have 21 year olds come to program with 13 year olds, I just can’t do that. They’re at very different maturity levels. So, what am I going to offer for the 21 year olds? And if I personally am, if the youth services department isn’t going to offer something, adult services needs to be ready to step in because these kids expect. They come back from college and they tell me, “I went to the public library and I didn’t know what.” “Well of course, course you’re an 18 year old trying to crash a 15 year old event, of course they looked at you funny.” So, what is there going to be to supplement that older teen demographic? So that’s who we get a lot of in the summer, but summer reading for teens is constantly, for me, a challenge and I think this year we’re going to switch to doing registration online, which I’ve heard and I hope will make kind of a difference. But, it is important to have a program for them as well. I say all the time, even if 40 teens register for something, we’re not going to say, “Yeah we don’t really do that.” We’re going to say, “Yay 40 teens! Wooo.” [laughs] “Let’s make it 50. Yeah!” That’s just an important thing, you can’t judge it by the standards of your other programs, so.

Right. So, Angie where can people go to find out more about you and your work?

Well, as we mentioned a lot I’m, Twitter [laughs]. I’m very active on Twitter. And so you can follow me on Twitter and again as I mentioned at the beginning I was an early adopter of Twitter so I used one of my online aliases which is the name of my all time favorite film character, film is my favorite hobby. So I’m and I use the name of my favorite film character from my favorite film which is Miss Kueblik, which is from The Apartment by Billy Wilder. And that’s Miss, M-I-S-S-K-U-E-B-L-I-K. And had I known that Twitter was going to become so professional, I, I might have chosen something else. But, at, in 2008 who could have foreseen? So that’s me on Twitter. And my blog is Fatgirlreading.com and you can also Google my name and a lot of stuff will, those two links will come up first and foremost and the blog is transitioning at this period to a new host, so it’s been on and off, it’s been spotty. But, I hope that within the next week or two it will resolve and I’ll be able to start posting again on it cause fat activism is my other big thing. I’m fat in case you have never seen me or don’t know that. I’m fat, I weigh like 250 pounds, I don’t know and that’s a big part of my, of my online existence, so. Hence the name and it’s easy to remember [laughs], so.

Well, it’s also part of what we talked about earlier of being true to yourself online and.

Yes, yeah. That you’re not going to see me and be, “Whoa, I did not see that coming.” [laughs], so. And I’ve never, online I’ve never tried to, I’ve been online active for years and I’ve never, ever tried to hide it and as I got more involved with body politics and body activism, it became even more important in my online presentation, so hence the name.

All right, well, Angie thank you again so much for being on the show with me today. It was a pleasure to finally speak to you one on one and I, again I’m sorry that we didn’t get to meet in person, but we will some day at a conference.

I have a feeling, I have a feeling. Thank you for having me, I love, I love your show, I love everybody who’s been on and I’m excited to be part of it, so thank you.

Oh thank you. All right bye bye.

Bye.

 

***

There’s always a pause when people try to figure out how to, “Man-free-day?”, yeah, so.

“Manfredi”

“Manfredi.” That always pause at the F and the F is the trip up point. [laughs]

I think it’s the pronunciation that E where you get to the point, is it.

And you panic at the F. Yeah you’re like oh no I’m going to have to say this.

[laughs] And you’re stuck at that point too, you got to go forward, but.

Yeah, you have to push through.