Dreaming of Idaho: Illuminating the Literature of Idaho through Zane Grey’s Thunder Mountain

Odds are that most Idaho writers did not grow up dreaming of becoming an “Idaho” author. Smart money would assume they simply desired to write, and be prosperous in writing, and geographic location played no part in their decision to put pen to paper. However, readers often like to associate authors with geographic regions. This is because the work either contains elements of that region within its content or the author has some connection to the area through birth or place of residence. Idaho readers are no different in that regard, embracing writers such as Vardis Fisher or Mary Hallock Foote. While “Idaho author” may seem like a simple concept to define, it is actually a nuanced literary construction. For example, Ernest Hemingway is often considered an Idaho author but he is also claimed by many other states and places around the world. This essay will examine what goes into making a writer an Idaho author. This undertaking will use Western genre novel writer Zane Grey’s 1932 novel Thunder Mountain which is set in Idaho to examine this literary exploration. Thunder Mountain is a fictionalized telling of the Idaho mining camp of the same name.

What is our collective fascination with the fictions and truths of the West and by extension Idaho? Robert Penn Warren tapped into something true when writing about a character briefly seeking solace in the physical and metaphorical West in All The King’s Men (1946).

“For West is where we all plan to go some day. It is where you go when you get the letter saying: Flee, all is discovered. It is where you go when you look down at the blade in your hand and see blood on it. It is where you go when you are told that you a bubble on the tide of empire. It is where you go when you hear that thar’s gold in them-thar hills. It is where you go to grow up with the country. It is where you go to spend your old age. Or it is just where you go. (p.286)”


But this Robert Penn Warren character is only a visitor to the West — an interloper or outsider — defining what the West is for us.

Zane Grey’s Thunder Mountain might certainly be viewed in the same way towards its description of Idaho. It is a fictionalized telling of the Idaho mining camp of the same name. The story centers on a rough and tumble cowboy from Missouri turned miner, who garnered his reputation in Montana. He takes under his wing a tenderfoot father and daughter from out East and helps interpret the wild west of Idaho for them. Ironically, this outsider interpretation for others of Idaho, its landscapes and experiences, is reminiscent of many writers who live in and write about Idaho. Grey was not from Idaho, nor did he live here. Thunder Mountain is his only significant work with a setting in Idaho. So then, is Grey’s interpretation of Idaho an accurate one? Is this Idaho literature?

Grey was known to write formulaic novels. Ronald (1975) describes the Zane Grey formula in this manner.

“An Easterner – that is, an innocent – arrives in the West. He, or she, has been a failure in the past and seems unprepared to meet the challenges ahead. The land at first seems harsh and unforgiving – the sun is too hot, the canyons too deep, the peaks too rugged, the rivers too swift. Problems are compounded by the appearance of evil, of men who live by their guns and who care nothing for the rights of others. Gradually, however, the neophyte becomes a man. Rather than be beaten by the environment, he learns to conquer the elements, and in doing so acquires a deep appreciation for the land. (p. 13)


Thunder Mountain definitely follows this familiar plot-line but Ronald also notes that “(m)ost important, the Zane Grey formula is an outgrowth of the author’s personal experiences, a reiteration of his own journey to the frontier” (Ronald, 1975 p.13). Grey did indeed experience Idaho as he journeyed to the remote area around Thunder Mountain on a multi-day horse packing trip. This trip served as the basis of inspiration for the rich descriptions he includes in Thunder Mountain such as this description along a canyon in the Salmon River:

“Somehow it had induced lingering hours of happy reverie, to which he had long been a stranger. The place was down around the bend from the valley, where a bench of sage nestled under a great wall. The melodious murmur of the stream came up; the warm sun beat down; the sweetness of sage almost intoxicating; the solitude was omnipresent; and across the canyon a tremendous broken slope as many-sided as that mountain could boast. Long glistening slants of talus, rugged narrow defiles winding up, grassy benches fringed with fir, huge sections of splintered cliff hanging precariously, and patches of black lodge-pole lines stepped endlessly to the blue sky (p.15).”


This trip has been documented in at least two articles (Kimball 1973; Waite 1996) and each approach this trip through the eyes of an Idahoan marveling at the otherness of Zane Grey with his fancy saddle and Japanese cook that accompanies him. Despite the otherness of Zane Grey’s camping provisions, it could be argued that Grey did indeed experience Idaho and this experience is found with the surprisingly descriptive prose of Thunder Mountain. Ronald (1975) notes that Grey had once stated “My inspiration to write has always come from nature. Character and action are subordinated to setting (p.14).”  Ronald concurs but suggests alternatively that “Character and action are not subordinated to setting, but rather are developed by it. The three work together, with setting providing the impetus for change (p.14-15).” As setting plays such an important role in the development of Grey’s work, it could then be thought that the setting of Idaho is the primary protagonist in Thunder Mountain since, as Ronald suggests, it is the vehicle which not only drives the plot but also initiates change in the characters. From this angle, Thunder Mountain is indeed a book about Idaho and should be embraced heartily as part of its literature.

However the geographic Thunder Mountain itself serves as its own warning against accepting Grey’s interpretation without considering some additional complexity. A historical treatise on the mining camp: “Many stories have been written about Thunder Mountain… most of them all too strongly embellished with fiction in an effort to make them more interesting, even though most of these (are) fictional efforts on the part of authors, (they) destroy the true concept this historical attraction (Willson, 1962, p.3-4)”. One wonders what these fictions of Thunder Mountain might inform about Idaho itself. How does Idaho fare as an attraction in the fiction of Idaho? How true… how fair… how real are these works to Idaho? Could the creators of these “fictional works” rightly be called Idaho authors? Or is Idaho simply a setting for these writers?

Another historical work frames Thunder Mountain in these terms: “Thunder Mountain had a romantic name anyway: acting as a sounding board for lightning which danced off nearby  Lightning Peak, that somewhat inconspicuous mountain offered legend writers a welcome opportunity to display their talents (Oberbillig & ISHS, 1966,  p. 8).”  While these historical works are referring to the mining promotional material regarding Thunder Mountain, they still ring true with the concept of Idaho and the West as places of both fictions and inspiration.

In suggesting that Thunder Mountain is Idaho literature, we must examine its reception in Idaho. Idaho libraries and their collections are potentially good barometers as to how to categorize various literature. Libraries require concrete definitions in order to catalog, shelve, and locate materials in their collections. These gray areas in the definition of what is an Idaho author, such as those presented by Thunder Mountain, present a challenge for libraries in collection development, presentation, and organization of materials. Patrons often ask for works by Idaho authors and good reader’s advisory practices would have libraries provide resources to identify such writers. In developing these resources, libraries have constructed definitions and subject headings as to what an Idaho author or work might be.

The Boise Public Library maintains an Idaho Room Collection that houses materials related to Idaho that is primarily non-fiction. A summary of their collection policy is that the Idaho Room Collection will contain:

“All published materials about Idaho in general are collected, with a specific emphasis in selected categories on material relating to Southwest Idaho or in some cases the Boise area only… With the exception of the works of a very few prominent Idaho writers such as Vardis Fisher and Mary Hallock Foote, fiction is not collected.”

It is very interesting to note that the collection contains fiction such as works by Vardis Fisher and Mary Hallock Foote. This indicates that there must be some additional Idaho criteria to make it into that collection as a fiction writer. Unfortunately, neither Thunder Mountain nor Zane Grey meet this criteria as the work is not found within the Idaho Room Collection. Ironically, a work about Zane Grey’s trip to visit Thunder Mountain (Waite, 1996), and another about Thunder Mountain itself (Willson, 1962) are both found within the Idaho Room Collection[1]. So perhaps Thunder Mountain makes the cut but Thunder Mountain does not?

Despite not being found in the Idaho Room, Thunder Mountain is available in Boise Public Library’s main collection as Zane Grey is a popular writer of the Western genre. Looking closely at the record in the catalog, one sees the subject heading “Idaho-Fiction” associated with this work[2]. This subject heading is also found in the Worldcat record for this work.[3] So on the one hand, Thunder Mountain falls under the subject Idaho-Fiction but on the other does meet the criteria of being authored by a prominent Idaho writer per the Idaho Room Collection policy.

This two-tiered collection of Idaho literature is very similar to that of Albertsons Library at Boise State University.  Alberstons Library maintains an Idaho materials collection. However instead of separating by nonfiction and fiction, Idaho works are gathered by author or content.

The library maintains a research collection of Idaho materials. This collection provides information about Idaho, and supports research for Boise State University faculty and students, as well as for the local community. Monographs of 49 or more pages, about Idaho, by an Idaho author, and/or published by a “small press” in Idaho, are collected, with these exceptions: documents, cookbooks, and genealogy and consumable materials. An Idaho author is defined as a person who was born in Idaho and/or is living in Idaho at the time of publication. The library also maintains a selective collection of State and Federal publications, compact discs and videos that are significant in documenting the history, culture and environment of Idaho. (https://library.boisestate.edu/about/colldev/)

Thunder Mountain is found both within Albertsons Library’s Idaho research collection, as well as in the main collection of circulating materials. So while Zane Grey might not be considered an Idaho author by birth or residence, Thunder Mountain still meets the criteria to be included under the subject heading of Idaho-Fiction, as well as found within the Idaho research collection at Albertsons Library.

While it is hard to say if the inclusion of Thunder Mountain in these libraries is due to its geographic setting in Idaho or because of the popularity of Zane Grey in general what can’t be disputed is that Grey experienced Idaho and attempted to reflect that experience within its pages. Experience should not be discounted and perhaps is one of the most important criteria to describing what Idaho literature is. In his book The Literature of Idaho: An Anthology, Maguire (1986) attributes a quote to author Wallace Stegner about what might make legitimate writing which is that those authors ”had one great virtue in common: they knew what they were talking about.” (p. 134). It could be argued that Grey ‘knew what he was talking about’ in his fictionalized story of Thunder Mountain because he translated his Idaho experience within its pages.

I would argue that the best criteria for someone to be considered an Idaho author or a work to be considered Idaho literature is experience. This is both a collective and individualized experience. Literature helps develop the identity of the reader, by the reader either accepting or rejecting each work as “Idaho” based on their own individual and complex notions of what makes Idaho… Idaho. Sometimes these notions are tangible experiences while others cannot easily be articulated; yet the reader can still distinguish the “Idaho-ness” of what they are reading through the reflection of their own lives.  An author not only reports in their work on a moment in Idaho but keeps and reinforces what Idaho is, and perhaps what it could be in a reader’s mind.

Blew (1999) writes about the community of authors in Idaho supporting each other through the common undertaking of simply writing in Idaho. For this community of writers there was no “aboutness” regarding their work only they shared a common understanding of what it was to be an author in the West.

This commonality, trust, and acceptance are also shared with their readers. You are a reader in Idaho; reading a book about Idaho; by an author with some tie to its content or place. Idaho is a land of communities, communities of writers, communities of readers, a community of literature, which all work to define what is Idaho. Book, author, and reader form their own community and the strength of this union depends on the common bonds and boundaries between all three. If Idaho becomes one of these bonds, or a bridge to mutual meaning, then a work, and its author should be considered “Idaho”.  This connection to Idaho is based on mutual understanding, experiences, and trust. If, for example, you read Anthony Doerr’s Boise-based short story “For a Long Time This Was Griselda’s Story” from The Shell Collector (2002) but did not trust the historical veracity of the material based on your own experiences and understandings, perhaps then the connection between author, reader, and work, is tenuous. There is little commonality for the reader to build from or categorize that work for the reader. Thus for that reader, the work is not Idaho enough to be included within the category of Idaho literature.

This sort of reader assessment is a perfectly acceptable criterion for what is Idaho literature, because like the West, the definition of Idaho literature remains slippery. Lyon describes “(o)ur image of the West was prone to a certain dreaminess (1999, p.1)”. Our certain dreaminess of the West, indeed… for perhaps it is our certain dreaminess of what is Idaho that is what we truly use to define Idaho, its literature and its authors. I have often heard it said, whether rightly or wrongly, that you cannot consider yourself a true speaker of a foreign language until you begin to dream in that language. Perhaps this premise is true also for Idaho authors (maybe even its readers too) – You can’t consider yourself an Idaho author until you begin to dream of Idaho or inspire others to dream of Idaho. That is what true Idaho author should be, someone whose work allows us to look and dream of Idaho in new and true ways through different eyes. To put it simply, Idaho literature is that which illuminates Idaho for the reader. The works that allow us to dream and understand Idaho in richer and deeper ways, are those of the true Idaho author.

So is Thunder Mountain Idaho literature? In my estimation it most certainly is. As such is the case then so can its author, Zane Grey, be counted as an Idaho author, for Thunder Mountain is a portal for the reader to dream and wonder and ultimately discover Idaho for themselves.

Rick Stoddart is a Reference and Instruction Librarian at the University of Idaho

Works Cited

Blew, M. C. (1999). Within the rough-edged circle. In Bone deep in the landscape: Essays on                  writing, reading, and place. University of Oklahoma.

Doerr, A. (2002). The shell collector: Stories. New York: Scribner.

Grey, Z. (1932). Thunder mountain. New York: Grosset & Dunlap

Lyon, T. J. (1999). Introduction: The conquistador, the Lone Ranger and beyond. In The literary               West: An anthology of western American literature. Oxford University Press. 1-18

Maguire, J. H. (1986). The Literature of Idaho: An anthology: selected and edited by James H.                 Maguire. Boise, Idaho: Hemingway Western Studies, Boise State University.

Oberbillig, E. & Idaho State Historical Society (ISHS). (1966). Idaho State Historical Reference                Series, Number 20: Thunder Mountain. Boise, Idaho: Idaho Historical Society. http://history.idaho.gov/sites/default/files/uploads/reference-series/0020b.pdf

Ronald, A. (1975). Western Writers Series, no. 17: Zane Grey. Boise, Idaho: Boise State                          University.

Kimball, E. (1973). Trail to Thunder Mountain – A packer describes the prelude to a Zane Grey                 book. True West. (March-April) 24-28, 42-?

Waite, R.G. (1996). Zane Grey and Thunder Mountain. Idaho Yesterdays. 39(winter). 18-23

Warren, R. P. (1946). All the king’s men. New York: Harcourt, Brace.

Willson, E. (1962). The Thunder Mountain story: Thunder Mountain “tome up”. Idaho: s.n.


[1] Search undertaken 6/28/2016 at http://www.boisepubliclibrary.org/

[2] Search undertaken 6/28/2016 at http://www.boisepubliclibrary.org/

[3] https://uidaho.on.worldcat.org/oclc/1279105?databaseList=638

Taking the Lead on ESSA: Three sentences you should repeat to anyone who will listen

The State Department of Education released their first draft of Idaho’s version of the federa Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) this Wednesday, the same afternoon the ILA ESSA committee met with representatives from the American Association of School Libraries (AASL) to talk over advocacy strategies for the implementation of the new plan. The timing could not have been better.

It was easy for this school librarian to feel hopeful when ESSA passed at the federal level. For the first time in more than 50 years, here was a federal education policy that specifically understood the importance of school library programs in student success. However, this federal legislation only authorized school libraries and librarians to have access to additional funding sources for their programs, there was no language that required, or really even encouraged, state education agencies to include school library programs in their revised education planning.

But a simple CTRL-F search of Idaho’s draft document was disheartening. The word “library” appeared only once in the entire draft, and in reference to public libraries, not school library programs.

There is still so much work left to do.

But it is important to remember that the purpose of so much education policy is to provide as much freedom as possible to local schools and districts so that they can be more nimble and responsive to their unique communities and student populations. In some ways, this distributed decision making feels overwhelming, but it also makes district decision-makers much more accessible to school librarians, their supervisors, and organizations like ILA.

The AASL guidance workshop provided three critical talking points for interacting with school staff, parents, students, administrators, and community members, each related to a major area of focus addressed by ESSA.

Improving Basic Programs

Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, of which ESSA is the latest iteration, focuses on those core programs that scaffold, support and shape students’ educational experiences. The message here is one we’ve been repeating for years:

“School Librarians and access to effective school library programs impact student achievement, digital literacy skills, and school climate and culture.”

Providing Effective Instruction

Title II addresses professional development and supports for teachers and school staff to increase the teaching capacity and effectiveness of all staff. This is an ideal opening to talk about the unique opportunities school librarians have both to receive and to lead professional development opportunities:

“School librarians share their learning with other professionals when they attend conferences and workshops, applying the benefits of new techniques, strategies, and technologies to the entire district.”

Accessing Funds

Title IV provides avenues for programs supporting academic achievement and student success. In ESSA, school library programs are specifically mentioned as eligible for these federal dollars, but we have to remind decision-makers of that:

“School librarians increase access to personalized, rigorous learning experiences supported by technology allowing equitable resources for all students.”

Memorize these three sentences. In any conversation you find yourself in, with fellow librarians, with your child’s teacher or principal, with other parents, with school and district administrator, and even in social media, find ways to put them in. Helping school decision-makers to understand these three key points is so much more important that any written policies.

Erin H. Downey is District Consulting Librarian for the Boise School District



Writing a Research Paper

Learning to research information is an invaluable skill. It is important to learn how to do quality research regardless of whether you are on the job and need to research something for your boss, whether you are working on a personal project that could benefit from the added value of research, or whether you are a student doing research for a class.  Learning this skill is worth the effort and will benefit you for years.

How to begin writing a research paper

First steps

The very first step in writing a research paper is to make certain you understand the assignment. Read through the assignment carefully making sure you understand it well enough to restate it in your own words.  Pay close attention to any instructions regarding the subject of the paper, the suggested length and any requirements regarding the sources you may use.

[Click on the link below and go through the three steps to understanding your assignment.]

Understand your assignment

Choosing a topic

Choosing a topic is a critical step in writing a research paper! What makes this so important is that you want to carefully decide on a topic that interests you.  If you take this advice to heart, then the work of research does not seem like work.  It is fun.

Consider this a good time to think about the subjects you are already interested in or the subjects about which you would like to learn more. Brainstorm a list of possible topics you might like to write about.  The earlier you begin this process, the better.

To add to your list of topics, begin searching the web looking at online news sources, encyclopedias and other websites to generate more ideas. Remember, you want to find a topic that interests you!  Select a topic that is narrow enough that you are not overwhelmed by all of the information available and broad enough to effectively cover the topic (this balance comes with practice, so give it some time).  An example: Picasso’s Blue Period (narrow topic) vs. historical paintings (broad topic).

There are some excellent resources that discuss the research process and have some suggestions for choosing possible research topics. Contact Buffy, the Reference Librarian at the Community Library, if you need help choosing a research topic.

[Click on the link below and review the article on choosing a topic.]

Choosing a Topic

If you are assigned a topic, try to find an aspect of it which includes some of your favorite interests.


Narrow your focus and turn your topic into a question

As a natural outcome of the research process, you will continue to refine your topic over time.   Once you have selected a topic, it is time to begin this focusing process.  Here are some ways in which you can think about your topic and begin narrowing its scope.

[Click on these three links below to learn more about how to narrow your chosen topic and formulate a research question.]


Usually the best research questions are “How?” or “Why?,” but you also need to think carefully about “Who?,” “What?,” “Where?,” and “When?” during this exploring process. Thinking about your topic in this way will help narrow the focus as well as help you define some key search terms.

Consider narrowing your topic by thinking about a certain time period on which you would like to focus; a certain region, country, etc. that is impacted by your topic; or a certain group of people (e.g. teenagers, college students, women) who are affected.

As you explore your topic, continue to make note of possible keywords you could use later when searching for information sources. Look for words used to describe your topic and also look for people, places, and events related to your topic.  (Keep this list of key terms as a separate list.)

This could also be a great time to write out what you already know about your topic. You can begin to identify gaps in your understanding; furthermore, you may even surprise yourself with how much you know.  This type of free writing can also be helpful because it gets you composing in your own words early on in the research process, and it can help ease some of the anxiety that naturally occurs for anyone working on a research project.

Eventually a thesis statement (what you will need to prove in your paper) will emerge out of your research, but don’t worry too much about that now. Later in this guide, we will define a thesis statement more clearly.


Choosing your search terms

Now that you have narrowed your topic and developed a possible research question, you are ready to begin finding information sources (answers to your research question). Look carefully at your research question and circle the main ideas.  You are looking for keywords and key concepts that describe your narrowed topic. Gather and collect as many keywords as you can.  This will significantly help you to begin your research.  Also consider using a thesaurus to help you think of possible similar terms for your keywords.

[Click on the links below to learn how to choose keywords in your search for information resources.]


Evaluating information resources

As you are researching your topic, you will want to be cautious about finding and using reliable and credible information. Regardless of the types of sources that you use, it is always a good idea to verify their credibility; but it is especially important when using sources you have found on the Web to carefully evaluate them before using them in your research.

[The link below will give you some pointers on how to best accomplish this evaluation.]

Evaluating information found on the Web

Remember, it is okay to use Wikipedia to learn more about your topic, but do not use it as a source that you cite in your paper. Wikipedia is good for broadening your knowledge base on your topic for your own purpose, but not a good source for a research paper.

Before moving on to learn an eight-step research process, here are some guidelines on note taking.


Taking notes

This section was adapted from Research Papers for Dummies by Geraldine Woods.

Note taking from the information resources you find is an essential component of the research process. Your sources will help you formulate an argument, document your evidence in order to prove your thesis statement, and find examples to support your information in your paper.  You will do this by using quotes from experts, statistics, and examples you come across in your reading.  This section is meant to help you develop an effective way to take notes as you research your topic.

To begin, keep a master list of all of your sources in one document and do this from the beginning of your research project.

  1. Keep a master list of your sources. Before writing any notes, take down the citation information you will need to locate the item again. It is also helpful to include the page numbers from which you are working for ease with citations later.

Here are 10 citation tools you can choose from to help you keep track of your sources.

The next step is to code each information source for quicker documentation and easier retrieval.

  1. Code each information resource.Give each new information source a code, for example: A1, A2, etc. for articles; B1, B2, etc. for books, V1, V2, etc. for videos; I1, I2, etc. for interviews, etc.As you take notes from a source, remember to use the code you assigned that source from your master list!

In the beginning of the research process, as you do general reading and start to learn more about your topic, you will want to record the citation information of possibly useful resources so that you can return to them again later, if needed. However, you will not begin taking notes at this point.  Rather, you will write a short description of what is covered in the resource instead.  In other words, you will create a mini index.  This is done to evaluate whether the source is one which is useful and will supply beneficial information.

For example, if you are reviewing a book that includes a small section about your topic, you will want to only write a brief description of what is covered in that section and where to find it (just like the index in the back of a book).
B1 – pgs. 150-155 – A history and description of Project Gutenberg; good bibliography

Another example, if you are reviewing a book about your topic (or a longer article), you may want to write a brief description of what is covered in each chapter of the book (or each subheading of the article). Below is an example of notes taken from a book about searching the Web.

  • B1 – Ch 1 – History of the Internet, includes a timeline (1957-2011), pgs. 34-45
  • B1 – Ch 2 – Description of Web 2.0 and social networking, pgs. 48-54
  • B1 – Ch 3 – Web finding tools: general web directories, web search engines, specialized directories (descriptions and when to use), pgs. 59-72.

[The “B1” refers to the code given to the resource from the master list and “Ch 1” refers to Chapter One of that source.]

Note taking is an interactive activity. It isn’t simply reading through a resource and highlighting (or cutting and pasting) as you go.  Instead you will want to engage with the ideas in a source and formulate your own questions and ideas.  Use a combination of indexing and highlighting to be an effective note taker.

How to take notes: As you are going through your sources, if you are reading from a book or an article that can’t be highlighted, use mini Post-it notes to mark the information you want to record and then go back and write up that information after finishing a chapter or the article.


If you are reading from a book or article that can be written on, highlight the information you want to record as you go. (Again, use the strategy of reading a chapter or an article at a time and then typing up your notes.)  You can also copy and paste into your notes information you want to record from digital resources, just don’t forget to include the code you assigned each resource from your master list of sources.


To avoid the risk of plagiarizing a source, use your own words when taking notes or use key phrases instead of full sentences.


Also read below to learn about when it is best to summarize, paraphrase or quote from a source. Taking the time to do this type of work now will save you in the long run.  The more time you spend writing about your topic using your own words, the better.


Before moving on, take a minute to learn about when it is best to summarize, paraphrase, or quote a source by reading this short article. To help you avoid plagiarism, learn how to paraphrase using your own words.


What to take notes on: After you have narrowed your topic, you will want to begin taking focused notes on only those sections that pertain to your narrowed topic.


For example, if you decide you would like to write about Pablo Picasso’s blue period, you would focus your note taking only on those paintings. Your notes could include information about Picasso’s life during this period, details about his painting style during this period, and even information about his paintings during this period.  Here are some notes from an article about Picasso’s blue period.


A1 – p. 33 – Picasso’s blue period 1901 – 1904

A1 – p. 33 – The blue period paintings are characterized blue or blue and green shades of color and only occasionally include warmer colors.

A1 – p. 33 – Picasso’s paintings from this time period are very popular, but during his lifetime he had a hard time selling them.

A1 – p. 33 – Prostitutes, beggars and drunks are common subjects.

A1 – p. 34 – Picasso sank into a severe depression.


[Notice how you will create a separate entry for each idea, fact, or quotation. This will make it easier for you later when you want to move these notes around, group them in a different way, or arrange them in a different order.]


After you have developed your thesis, your notes will become even more focused. At this point you will only record information or ideas that help you prove your thesis.  (Although, you will also want to take notes on ideas that conflict with your thesis so that you can refute them in your paper later).  You can probably see how the index of sources you created earlier in your research could really help you at this point.

Another benefit of using this highlighting and indexing strategy is that it gets you thinking about your information resources early on and writing about them in your own words. These steps take work, but it will save you time in the end.  Especially when you are in the midst of writing your paper and you need that one essential piece of information you read, but can’t quite remember where . . . .  Taking good notes and including page numbers will help you avoid this problem.


Finding information resources

The following is an eight-step research strategy recommended in The Elements of Library Research by Mary George.

1 – Begin your research strategy by reading general background information on your topic.

Read background information on your topic [Click on the link to learn more.]

To locate resources for background reading, use your chosen keywords and their synonyms to search online and via the Library catalog. [Tip: As you do your review of an information source, check the bibliography for other sources on your topic.]

2 – As you learn more about your topic, continue to add to your list of possible search terms. These search terms could include any of the following: other keywords used by researchers to describe your topic; library book titles, authors and call numbers; subject headings; major events and dates; scholarly journal titles; publishers that specialize in your topic; and related organizations (institutions, associations, societies or government agencies).

3 – Finding books – use the catalogs below to search for specific titles listed in the bibliographies at the end of relevant articles and books you discovered in your background reading.

When you find a title, take time to also review the catalog record for designated subject headings (see example below). Click on the subject heading links to find other resources categorized under these same headings.  Make note of the citation information for any of the resources that look pertinent to your topic and keep a list of the relevant call numbers as you move through this process.


4 – Use the call numbers you collected in step three to carefully browse the library’s shelves in these sections for other possible resources on your topic.

5 – Finding articles – search both general and relevant subject-specific databases to find articles on your topic.

[Go slowly here. Look for an advanced search option within the database you are using and begin trying combinations of different keywords.  Alternate searches will give you different results so be patient and try a variety of searches before you move on.  If you are not generating enough results, you can try changing the order of your keywords or try searching for keywords in different fields, such as the title or subject fields (or a combination of both).  See the examples below.]




[You can also try using OR to search with synonyms. See the example below.]


[If you are generating too many search results, limit your results to full text articles, peer-reviewed journals, and/or current publication dates. These search filters will generally be made available in most research databases.]


6 – Quickly review the resources you have gathered up to this point to determine if they could be useful in answering your research question, or if they could lead to other resources. Remember to check the table of contents and the index in the back of books and read the chapters that seem most pertinent to your topic.  For articles, read through the headings to look for sections that may be related to your topic.  This review process takes a little time to get used to, but keep at it.  You will get better with practice.  [Refer to the section on note taking again, if needed.]

7 – Now, look for any additional information resources you found in step six. As you learn more about your topic, you will eventually begin to see a way to develop your thesis and build a convincing argument.

[A thesis statement is the central argument of your paper spelled out in one or two sentences. It is the answer to your research question.  It is your perspective on your research project and where you show how you intend to prove something that is not obvious.  You can learn more about developing a thesis statement by reading this article.   And you can read this article for questions to keep in mind as you think about your thesis.]

8 – If necessary, repeat steps three through seven. You will want to keep going through these eight steps and review resources until your thesis starts to become apparent.

[Identifying experts on your topic could be helpful, too. You might consider interviewing and possibly quoting them in your paper.  Contact an author, teacher, museum curator, or someone else you have learned about during your research process.  To help you prepare for the interview, read “How to Interview an Expert without Looking Like an Idiot”.


Contact Buffy, the Reference Librarian at the Community Library, if you need help researching your topic or if you have any other questions.

Writing the paper

Source for this section of the paper: Heather Voss, English teacher.

If you have followed these steps offered in this guide, you have written quite a bit so far about your topic. Now we will focus on the actual writing of the paper itself.  But first you may experience writer’s block.  Even prolific authors such as Steinbeck occasionally faced this challenge.

“When I face the desolate impossibility of writing five hundred pages, a sick sense of failure falls on me and I know I can never do it. This happens every time.  Then gradually I write one page and then another.  One day’s work is all I can permit myself to contemplate and I eliminate the possibility of ever finishing.” –John Steinbeck

Hopefully, with the note taking you have done this far, you won’t experience writer’s block. But all writers have trouble with it sometimes, and getting stuck on a project is a normal part of the writing process.  Luckily, there are some helpful ways to deal with writer’s block.

Beginning can be the hardest step, so just get something down in writing. Don’t edit yourself too much as you are working on your first draft.  Judging your work in the beginning stages can slow your writing down and even be discouraging.  The poet William Stafford says, “There is no such thing as writer’s block for writers whose standards are low enough.”  Use this advice in the positive light and write something – even if it is truly awful.

You might also try verbally explaining your ideas to someone in order to begin. This strategy can really help you get started.  Or take a walk.  This can get the juices flowing and help you approach your writing with a fresh perspective.  Just be careful not to use this suggestion as a way to procrastinate.

Read this article (“Overcoming Writer’s Block”) for more suggestions on overcoming writer’s block. And, for help with procrastination you might also try reading The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield.


Writing an outline

Writing an outline before you begin to write your first draft will help you improve the quality and organization of your paper. An outline is a road map.  Just as you need a map to take you to your points of interest on a vacation, you also need an outline to help you follow your points in your paper in a logical way.  In an outline you will flesh out the main and supporting points of your paper.  This is also a great time to think about the flow of your argument and to check your transitions.

To begin, put your thesis statement—the central argument, the answer to your research question—at the top of your outline, then list all of your main points, their sub-points and so on. You should have three to seven ideas to support your thesis in the paper.  If you have less than three main points, you do not have enough evidence to make your argument.  On the other hand, if you have more than seven, your paper is probably not focused enough and your paper might seem too vague.

For a research paper, you also need a section where you refute the opposing side. Write your outline with these main points and evidence in mind.  Also ask yourself while you are writing your outline, “Does one idea logically follow the idea before it?”  That is, “Does your paper flow logically?” If it does not, then consider reordering or removing the point.  Remember, writing an outline is your road map for your paper, so please don’t skip this step.

Here is some more help as you work through the outlining process.

Now on to writing the paper . . .

As you write your paper, think of your reader as someone who is educated but does not know as much as you do about your topic. Keeping this type of reader in mind as you write will help you to write more clearly and carefully about your topic.  It will also remind you to explain and describe your ideas in a simple but clear and organized way.

[Here is a detailed guide you can refer to while writing the paper.]


Writing the paper’s introduction

Write the introduction to your paper last. In the introduction you will want to entice your reader to read your work, cover the main points of your paper and include background information.  After you have written your paper it is much easier to articulate these main points, so save this part until last.

When writing the introduction, it is important to capture the interest of your reader and explain the purpose of your paper. Capturing the interest of your reader can be accomplished with a hook – which is a specific example, story or problem that introduces your topic and provides relevant background information for the reader.  (If you are using a problem for your hook, then include an example that illustrates the problem in the introduction.)  The purpose of your paper is conveyed through your thesis statement.


Writing the body of the paper

The body of the paper is the easy part of your paper to write now that you have an outline. It is where you tell your readers about your idea and support this idea with reasons and evidence.

Always keep your audience in mind as you are writing the paper. Use many examples and make your points as clear as you possibly can.  Remember, you are trying to convey your idea to your readers in a way that interests them and is convincing.

Throughout the research process you have been thinking and writing a lot about your topic. Now is the time that you will benefit from all of that thought and writing.  In this main section of the paper, you will:

  • Explain to your reader your perspective on your topic
  • Give the reasons for that opinion
  • Provide the evidence that supports your case
  • Include the opposing viewpoints
  • Refute those opposing viewpoints

Your outline is your road map as you write. To begin, write out your answer to your research question – your thesis statement (remember you are saving your introduction until the end, so don’t worry about that now).  Now think in paragraphs.  Write about your first main point that supports your thesis.  To do this, include a transition sentence and then write your first reason for answering your research question the way you did.  Then include evidence for that reason.  This evidence can be a fact, an example, quote from an expert, or a comparison that you have learned from your research.  Now you will need to explain how this evidence fits into your thesis.

Take time to read this article on writing transitions and here is a quick guide to help you think of transitional words and phrases as you are writing.

Continue on to your second main point and do the same as you did above. Write out a transition sentence and then include your second main point that supports your thesis and include the evidence for that reason, again gained from your research.  Finally, explain how that evidence fits into your thesis.  Continue using this template for each of the main points you want to cover in your paper.

After writing out the three to seven main reasons that support your thesis, you will want to include the main opposing viewpoints to your topic. This refutation should include, at most, only two main points.  (You do not want to include too many arguments against your thesis because this can weaken your argument.  Instead, look for the main points against your argument and try to combine them.)  Then refute these claims.

Again, thinking in paragraphs, write a transition and an opposing viewpoint to your claim – what people might argue against your particular thesis. Using evidence from your research explain why they are wrong and then explain how that evidence fits into your thesis or proves the opposition wrong.

Now it is time to go back and write your introduction to the paper. See the section above for more details.


Writing the conclusion of the paper

To write the conclusion of your paper, you will want to include a transition sentence and then sum up the strongest points of your argument. In a thoughtful and innovative way, sum up the main points of your argument and leave the reader with a call-to-action.  This final punch can be something simple, but you want to leave your reader with the idea that your paper is important and they should take some kind of action because of its importance.  (Use these videos to help edit your paper for clarity and conciseness.)

Here is a completed research paper as an example.

Buffy McDonald is a Reference Librarian at the Community Library.


Nailing a Giant Jello® to a Wall: Issues in Electronic Serials Management

Tech Tools

by Tech Talk Editor Ellie Dworak

EllieSadly, this being the last issue of  the Idaho Librarian, this will be my last “Tech Tools” column. I’ve enjoyed exploring ideas in my quest to bring you a column that is both useful and interesting. Perhaps I will write this column or something like it elsewhere. Until then, salut!


Ellie Dworak
Tech Talk Editor

Last month, I spent some time with Nancy Donahoo the Library Section Manager for Serials Albertsons Library, Boise State University; and Nancy Rosenheim, the Library Head of Acquisitions & Collections, also here at Albertsons Library. Trust me when I say that these two know their stuff.

Thank goodness that I had only booked an hour for our talk – not because I was bored, mind you, but because the transcription software (to remain unnamed) produced a 35 page document of some pretty hilarious text.

For example, take this snippet from a section that didn’t make it into the article. Apparently that’s a good thing, because I made no sense:

Typically a stalker is proprietary of the content to do the copyright of them by the provider for these small but culture. Right now you would not disclose terms of the agreement right typically hum.

Am I right!? That said – the transcription hilarity was totally worth it. The conversation was both informational and fun, and I hope to have more in the future.

The following is a curated version of our conversation. The written word requires a narrative, while the verbal can traverse several at a sitting. I have done my best to use my editorial skills for good, and not evil, which is to say that my goal was to represent the truth within the narrative thread that I chose to weave into the account below.

Aside from interpreting the transcription software’s creativity and editing to create a readable text, I have used the language as spoken during the interview. I use the convention of square brackets to indicate blocks of texts wherein I paraphrased, summarized, or created context in my own words. I did not, however, use ellipses to indicate removed portions of verbiage. This was written not as a means of archiving history, after all, but as a column that I hope you enjoy, whether it’s all news to you, or you are nodding along as you read.

Nailing a Giant Jello® to a Wall:
Issues in Electronic Serials Management

 Ellie Dworak So tell me about issues in managing electronic resources.
 Nancy Rosenheim One of the biggest issues in electronic resource management are transfer titles. The transfer of titles from one publisher a platform to another and the transfer of the content and your rights and having to track that. So instead of just having to deal with title changes, which used to be one of the biggest problems of a serials librarian or [professional], there is the issue of title changes and title movement. (Looks to Nancy Donahoo) Do you have an opinion?
 c I agree wholeheartedly, that’s been particularly the case in the last 2 years as the small publisher has been eaten up by the big 6.
 Ellie Dworak Ah, so a lot of things transferred.
 Nancy Donahoo Yes, and it’s not just titles moving back and forth but the post-cancellation perpetual access which is supposed to be mounted wherever UKSG says it is. [UKSG,] the United Kingdom Serials Group started ETAS – Enhanced Transfer Alerting Service. The whole purpose of it was to identify when a title was going from one provider to the next and where the historical online access was going to be mounted, whether it would remain with the old or go to the new. And that’s important so that we know where to document that we are entitled to an early earlier content than the provider may think we do, and in some cases the buyout creates a problem.

My favorite one is Portland Press. They had a publication that ranged from 1947 to the present. We began getting it in 2010, so that means we were entitled to content from 2010 forward but out of the generosity of this publisher’s heart they gave us access to the historical content back to 1947 . . . Portland Press sold its holdings to a large vendor and when it went over, you only had access from 2015 to the present. You had to buy the historical content. So all of a sudden we lost this content.

And here’s the irony – we had subscribed in print up until the end of 2007 and then we stopped getting the subscription and we quit binding it. So we were able to prove to them that we had back to 2010 electronically, and we had in print to 2007. So that means now we do note have the whole run. The only way you can get that content is to buy the entire historical archives because they will not sell you year by year. That’s an example of the chaos that’s created.

 Nancy Rosenheim Nancy referenced the United Kingdom Serials Group, which has provided leadership in establishing the NISO [National Information Standards Organization] Code of Transfer Practice, which is great because there is now a standard which all publishers who transfer titles comply with the ETAS that [Nancy] referred to is the Enhanced Transfers Alerting Service, so we each get different emails that tell us when titles are transferring from one publisher or platform to another. Often the publisher will inform us, it is usually is at this time of year however sometimes they don’t tell you, and you find out some other way.

And there are some serious implications for the transfer in addition to tracking our holdings and making things available because there are budgetary implications. Right now we’re looking at different packages that we have and we have a title that used to be included in [one package] and it’s moving to another. It’s not huge but that happens all the time.

 Ellie Dworak And it’s something where you don’t want to have a hole in the subscription?
 Nancy Rosenheim Right, or you have to make a decision. Do we subscribe to something we haven’t had a discreet subscription to before or do we . . .
 Nancy Donahoo And some don’t give you choices . . . If you have an existing contract and journal titles move into these packages then you either pay an up-charge on the cost of your package – so you have your base and then you have an up charge because they know you had it before and for the life of your contract they’re going to continue to get money from you.
 Ellie Dworak Even though it may be a different price?
 Nancy Rosenheim It’s part of the contract.
 Nancy Donahoo Which makes it not very useful to have multiple year contracts because even though you might pay 6 percent instead of 5 percent, you pay through the nose for these individual titles that have moved into the database because you have to maintain them . . . some of them are less than $1000 and others are . . . $5000. We saw one that was $16,000 . . .  just the single title. So I mean we have no control over those prices.
 Ellie Dworak You can just wake up and the budget expense chart is totally changed?
 Nancy Rosenheim Different publishers, or different providers have different license terms . . .  it was a really hard concept that you have to retain a subscription and pay additional costs, because the whole point of [of these serials packages] was that you pay a flat rate and you get everything.
Nancy Donahoo Well, and we do for some. Project Muse is one of those that we pay a flat fee, and you see an inflationary costs, but you pay a flat fee and anything goes that goes into Project Muse you’re entitled to. The University of Chicago Press package is the same way. So there are still some of those out there.

The latest twist is that in the past we have had all the way back to some historical starting point and that’s been consistent.

Now [some publishers will] only provide a 20 year historical rolling wall. So that means that even though you’ve paid for all this content, and access to it, all these years . . . the very fact that we didn’t buy the archives means that they will start giving us 20 years rolling back. So if you start in 1997 now in 2018 year old I have as far back as ‘98 and the next year you only have back to ‘99.

 Ellie Dworak So it’s like a reverse furlough?
 Nancy Donahoo It is. It forces you, then, to go buy the historical archives.
 Ellie Dworak Were they always available at the time you started [subscribing]?
 Nancy Donahoo Most of our subscriptions began between 2006 and 2008 and most of them have been static with a historical starting point. They had the archives prior to that point but they never had a rolling wall on the back end. But now not as many people have money to buy it, or have already bought it if they want it, which means in order for them to make more money they are going to this roll, so that it forces you to buy it if you want that content.
 Ellie Dworak Tell me about leased collections. What are those?
 Nancy Donahoo Meaning that for your willingness to not cancel your existing titles and to continue buying them every year, or buying access to them, within 10 percent, meaning you might want to cancel one but to pick up another so there’s a little fluctuation, they give you the choice of buying what’s called their leased collection that has an untold number of titles in it. You don’t have post cancellation perpetual access but you’re not having to track those titles separately, you don’t have to worry about ownership of them. Students and faculty have access to them.
 Ellie Dworak I see, so for agreeing to maintain your core subscriptions, they throw in a bunch of other stuff for cheap.
 Nancy Donahoo One reason we make that distinction is because it has an impact on how we maintain our records and the level of documentation that we have to record.

When I took over in serials when Rose Marie left in 2014, the biggest thing she did for me before she left was basically tried to come up with a description of the types of purchases, leases, types of subscriptions that we have. She did a really good job, even s those, since she left they’ve changed and it’s – you know I think sometimes people think that this is very straightforward and there’s nothing straightforward to it, because as soon as you’ve got it figured out there’s a new spin on it . . . and then they make platform changes. Which makes it even more interesting.

 Ellie Dworak What does that mean?
 Nancy Rosenheim We talked about titles that transfer from across publishers or platforms, and now Nancy’s referring to the fact that we also have to track what platform they’re on. Sometimes the publisher is the platform like Elsevier, and sometimes the platform is the publisher, and that would be like Metapress. They published content from other journals on their platform, but they also published their own journals that were there too.

It’s an issue related to licensing because you need to be sure that you can have IP authentication when you’re reviewing the license for the resource and you might have to read a license for the platform. When we’re tracking usage statistics we have to track the usage statistics from the publisher as well as sometimes from the platform.

 Nancy Donahoo Every time [platforms changes happen], you have to change links; reestablish IP authentication; reestablish where you’re going to get usage statistics and if it complies with COUNTER 4; how they’re going to send it to you; if they’re gonna send it to you. So it’s like starting all over. There is no one point where you get everything done and it’s static. It’s very fluid and it’s like nailing Jell-O to a wall.
 Nancy Rosenheim While it is those would be among the bigger challenge is also part of what makes it fun.
 Nancy Donahoo Certainly interesting.


 Nancy Rosenheim It really interesting and keeps it from being just checking in issues of Time.  It really does require a lot of thought and a lot of tracking trends through literature and keeping up on where content is going.
 Nancy Donahoo So then you have people talk about open access. You can’t count on historical open access content to remain static and always be available. So, people are processing interlibrary loan requests and send links to the journal A-Z list with content identified by Serials Solutions as open access will get an email [from the patron] saying “I can’t access that.” And what it is, is that [the journal] went from Gold open access, which means that it was full-blown, to article level open access, which means you’ve got some paid content.

It would take an untold number of man hours and people constantly checking things to actually determine is it still the way it needs to be.

 Ellie Dworak Wow, I’m surprised everything works as smoothly as it does.
 Nancy Donahoo Be amazed, be very amazed.
 Nancy Rosenheim You know, I’m not surprised because we have really amazing people who are experienced and knowledgeable. But there are a lot of challenges.
 Ellie Dworak It must be a lot of work bringing somebody up to speed.
 Nancy Donahoo It takes a year. You have to go for the entire cycle to really understand the issue.
 Nancy Rosenheim Well, you know, there are a lot of published lists of competencies that are needed to be able to work with electronic resources. But it’s there’s always something to learn in a fun.

We talked a little bit of we talk about the transfer titles which is a huge thing and actually documenting perpetual access is the challenge that we’re coming to you now because we had a big package, which we don’t have any more. So our serials unit will go back, because we actually own access from 2008 to 2013 for a select group of titles. We need to be able to document those because it’s almost the same as having print.

 Ellie Dworak So you just have to dig through things like the old invoices and licenses?
 Nancy Donahoo You know when we first started getting into electronic content, I don’t think anybody could have ever imagined how very different it was from documenting paper subscriptions. I mean, you know, it’s on the shelf or it’s not on the shelf. You checked it in or you didn’t check it in.

You know, we thought “oh this is going to be so much easier.” Well it is easier in the sense that you don’t have to worry about it getting mailed to you and checked in and down on the shelf and somebody can walk out the front door with it. But it brings its own set of problems and part of that is the historical documentation. What license entitled you to what, and at what point did the license change. We find ourselves constantly going back and reading those things.

Even a new subscription you have to look at indemnification and where the government jurisdiction is because of the implications for Idaho law. We’re not attorneys but there are key things we have to look at. We can’t automatically renewed something. We can’t be in a position to not be able to cancel, so we have to have an out clause. If we lost our funding we have to have the ability to get out of the contract without going the court.

 Nancy Rosenheim When we are licensing things, there are issues that have to be resolved, and it really is a two woman job. We’re not attorneys, but the responsibility to review the licenses and be sure that we’re in compliance is ours. It’s something that we take really seriously, and we worry, but then again, we try to be decisive and move on.

Who Inspired Us to Read

Carol Robinson:

What person ignited a love for reading in you as a child and how?

 Have no recall of this

What book ignited a love for reading in you as a child and why?

 Island of the Blue Dolphins as I could relate to the loneliness of the girl in the novel.  I too felt like I was all alone. Books became my friends.

What book would you recommend to a new or reluctant reader and why?

It would be reader specific.  If they like Sports it might be The Blind Side.  If they like music it might be a music biography.  If they like the Civil War it might be My Brother Sam is Dead.

David Townsend:

What person ignited a love for reading in you as a child and how?

My Mother, Bonnie Townsend. 

What book ignited a love for reading in you as a child and why?

 “The Wind In the Willows.” It’s one of the first books Mom read to me and inspired a lifelong love of whimsy and fantasy.

What book would you recommend to a new or reluctant reader and why?

“A Canticle for Leibowitz” by Walter M. Miller, Jr. Sci-Fi stirs the imagination of young readers by taking them to worlds beyond their own. I read this the first time when I was in junior high.

Crystal Miller:

What person ignited a love for reading in you as a child and how?

 My Grandma. Starting from a very young age, I would sit in her lap and she would read to me during every visit. It’s something I can always remember looking forward to.

What book ignited a love for reading in you as a child and why?

 “Where the Red Fern Grows.” I read that book in elementary school and it was the first book that made me cry. It made me realize just how powerful reading a book could be.

Kim Bryant:

What person ignited a love for reading in you as a child and how?

Two people: my mom and my childhood librarian. Books were around the house growing up and my mom shared with me her love of libraries very early. I distinctly remember the day she took me to get my first library card,  at age 5, in Blackfoot, Idaho. Once my siblings and I had our own library cards, we were allowed to walk to the library without Mom and I quickly became fast friends with Lisa Harrell, who worked at the children’s desk (and 30-odd years later is now Blackfoot’s library director).

What book ignited a love for reading in you as a child and why?

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  We purchased a copy from a Scholastic Book Order when I was in the third grade.  I still own it (sans the back cover, but does that really matter?) and re-read it at least annually.  There is something so magical about your own special space, where you can pretend your worries and trials don’t exists.  It’s also a story about two things kids crave: independence (Mary grew up with a bevy of servants but now must learn to entertain herself) and attention (Mary develops her first real relationships with Martha, Colin, Dickon, and Ben Weatherstaff).

What book would you recommend to a new or reluctant reader and why?

I would recommend A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz to a reluctant reader. It’s bloody. Really bloody, with a snarky narrator. While not for every reader (some kids tell me it’s too gross for them), we have a hard time keeping our six copies on the shelf -which is unusual for a book that’s been around for 6 years.

Kathleen McVey:

What person ignited a love for reading in you as a child and how?

My mother was the one who was always reading- to herself, and to me and my siblings. Our most cherished birthday or Christmas gift would often  be a new book, and we always had bookshelves by our bedside. Reading before sleep- whether a nap or at nighttime, was always the routine.

What book ignited a love for reading in you as a child and why?

The Nancy Drew series is one I remember most vividly. I could not wait to read each new story and would stay up late at night with a flashlight under the covers- I’m sure my parents knew- and allowed me to “secretly” read…

What book would you recommend to a new or reluctant reader and why?

Of course, it would depend on the particular interests and aptitude of the reader, but I think the new series, The Eighth Continent, is a great recommendation for its energetic pace and the imaginative characters that keep kids’ interest. Series are a great idea for reluctant readers since there’s a logical next book to read right away.

Kasi Allen:

I don’t have the answers to these questions for myself because I’ve always been a voracious reader, but I often anecdotally share my husband’s experience with reading to parents of young patrons, so I’ll give you those.

He had immense troubles with reading. In first grade, his teacher recommended holding him back because of how poor his reading abilities were. He wouldn’t read for pleasure, he wouldn’t read for class. His mom had him doing phonics exercises after school, but he just wasn’t interested. For his 8th birthday, his uncle gave him some comic books and that changed everything. He read every comic book he could get his hands on, and then moved on to books. His grades improved, he began enjoying school. It is often referred to in the family as “the comic book miracle.” A man who was once placed in special education courses because his teachers just didn’t know how to help him learn now has a master’s degree and is absolutely what we call a “lifelong reader.”

I urge parents of children who have the same relationship with reading that my husband did to try graphic novels. Of course, it may not be the miracle answer to everyone else that it was for my spouse’s parents, but it can’t hurt to try!

Holly Jackson:

What person ignited a love for reading in you as a child and how?

 My Mother. She read to us every night for as long as I can remember so it was just a natural progression that I developed a love for reading.

What book ignited a love for reading in you as a child and why?

The Magic Attic Club Books. Because they were books about girls just like me that got to go on these fantastic adventures.  

What book would you recommend to a new or reluctant reader and why?

Poison Study by. It has a little bit of everything right from the get go. Magic, Fantasy, Adventure, Fighting, Romance and Intrigue. 

Gregory Whitmore:

What person ignited a love for reading in you as a child and how? No one that I can think of. My mother probably read to me when I was young, but as soon as I learned my ABCs and began reading at 4 or so, I became voracious.

What book ignited a love for reading in you as a child and why? As funny as this is going to sound, it wasn’t a single book, it was  television and movies. I was three or four when I first saw the original Batman television series. Within a few days, I discovered his adventures in comic books at the local grocery store, along with tons of other costumed adventurers. I begged and pleaded with my parents to buy me some. What they bought, I read, re-read and re-re-read– cue the voracious reader again. Even though I couldn’t understand all the words at first, the art, the sense of adventure and the idea of doing good while hidden resonated in me. I read, collected and indexed (think surrogate records here) comics for the better part of 45 years. I also discovered comic strips about this time, including “Peanuts”. I’m still addicted to the daily funnies to this day.

Movies like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Disney’s the Jungle Book—as well as their versions of Peter Pan and Dr. Syn alias the Scarecrow– , 1940s serials (Zorro, Tarzan, Flash Gordon), Robin Hood, the Three Musketeers, various science fiction/Universal monster movies and numerous Warner Brothers cartoons led to my reading Ian Fleming, Rudyard Kipling, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Howard Pyle, Alexandre Dumas, anything on magic (illusionists and mages) and books starring Flash Gordon, the Shadow, Zorro, Tarzan, Doc Savage, John Carter and Sherlock Holmes. My fascination with disasters like the Hindenburg crash, The 1920 Wall Street bombing, the Chicago Fire of 1871, the War of the Worlds radio scare, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse in 1940, and the Tunguska explosion in 1908 among others led me to read the newspapers daily for a long time.

What book would you recommend to a new or reluctant reader and why? Collection of comics strips, comic books and graphic novels are very easy for non-readers to get into. Complete stories, great art, continuing characters, and full of adventure. What’s not to like? I also used to read dictionaries and encyclopedias, as well as tons of other non-fiction books. Some readers don’t like fiction, so these are some options. The first prose book I can remember reading beginning to end was in second or third grade: “Sprockets” by Alexander Key.

Rubie Gallegos:

My mom gave me a love of reading even though she did not like to read I can remember sitting on her lap while she read Mike Mulligan’s steam shovel and The Little house to me, I still love these books.  My aunt was also instrumental she was a reader and encouraged me to read everything there was no “reading levels” I would sit by her and she would tell me all the words I didn’t know.  

I struggled to learn read but always loved it, as a 4-5th grader I loved Little house on the prairie and Island of the blue dolphins

I recommend books to students everyday lately I send a lot of reluctant readers to Geronimo Srtilton, and Who was biographies 

Tania Harden:

What person ignited a love for reading in you as a child and how?

 It was more circumstances than a specific person.  I grew up in rural Indiana in the early 70’s.  We had no cable and only got ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS on TV.  I had no siblings close to my age and no friends who lived close.  I learned to entertain myself by reading and playing by myself.

What book ignited a love for reading in you as a child and why?

 The first book I remember learning how to read was “Little Red Riding Hood” Golden Books.  I was about 4 yrs old and had the mumps.  I was bored and taught myself how to read while I was sick.

What book would you recommend to a new or reluctant reader and why?

It depends on his/her interests and age.  My son was crazy about trains when he was little, so we read every Thomas the Tank Engine book we could find.

Sharla Jensen:

What person ignited a love for reading in you as a child and how?

My mother. She read books to us, took us to the library, kept many books on various subjects in our home, and read voraciously herself. When she read a particularly good book she would share it with us to read too, and then discuss the book with us.

What book ignited a love for reading in you as a child and why?

There were a few books that stand out. When I was first learning to read, I loved Go Dog Go. As I got older, I think the Chronicles of Prydain series and the Narnia Series really helped me learn to love to read.

What book would you recommend to a new or reluctant reader and why?

Some of my kids were a little reluctant to read as they got older. The books that they all enjoyed and couldn’t hardly put down were the Ranger’s Apprentice series.

Kristi Haman:

Growing up, I watched my father read history books so I did the same. I still love history and select all of the nonfiction books for Ada Community Library.

My love for reading and poetry was ignited by Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. I still have the old beat up copy that my little sister scribbled in. This book inspired me to create a new version of the book with my own poems and cartoons.

I would recommend juvenile nonfiction books to reluctant readers. The reader can select subjects that they are interested in (Legos, animals, Star Wars, biographies, Minecraft, gross science, silly jokes, How to draw, etc.) and the pictures reel them in every time. Suddenly, they forget that they hate reading!

Christine Hoxie:

What person ignited a love for reading in you as a child and how? 

My mother:  bedtime stories, and school librarians because they were passionate about their job

What book ignited a love for reading in you as a child and why? 

Madeline L’Engle was introduced to me through the library , the diverse, weird , twisted writing of hers really sparked my imagination and took me to another world, probably because I couldn’t handle all the changes of 9/13 year old girl : puberty, relocating, the list goes on

What book would you recommend to a new or reluctant reader and why?

 I would recommend a humorous author only because it might grab attention more than guessing on a reluctant readers preference in reading material, also a shorter story. Perhaps start them with a series and see where it goes from there. I love Junie B. Jones for a boy perhaps diary of a wimpy kid

Carly Finseth (@drcarlyfin):

@idaholibrarian @BSULibrary “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle. It was magical and let my imagination run wild.

George Williams:

What person ignited a love for reading in you as a child and how?

I’d give my entire family the credit for my love of reading.  My family was very messed up.  Going to the library and reading were escapes from my drunken father, codependent mother, and bi-polar brother.  The library in Idaho Falls was a safe place I could go to sit quietly in a corner and read so I could get away from my family.

What book ignited a love for reading in you as a child and why?

There was no single book that ignited a love for reading in me.  I was particularly fond of the STAR TREK novelizations by James Blish and Alan Dean Foster and I also read the LORD OF THE RINGS books when I was in the third grade.  I also enjoyed Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke and Ray Bradbury – almost everything I read by them was good.

What book would you recommend to a new or reluctant reader and why?

My readers advisory experience tells me that I don’t have an answer for this question.  I find that finding the right book for someone is so individualized that I don’t have one or two titles that I pull out of a hat to recommend to everyone who wants a recommendation.  It’s better to have a dialogue with a patron to find out what they’re interested in and then find the book that fits their interests.  Nancy Perl’s “Doorways” concept is not a horrible way to start out with adults and teens, but for the age group that you seem to be interested in, I’m not sure I would have a strategy beyond talking to the child and pulling a bunch of books off of the shelf with them and looking at a bunch of stuff.

Shelly Doty:

What person ignited a love for reading in you as a child and how?

 My 9th grade English teacher, Ms. Katherine Krueger. She encouraged having our own opinions about what we read, not the standard or acceptable opinions. We were free to think whatever we wanted – and write about it the same way.

What book ignited a love for reading in you as a child and why?

 I Will Fight No More Forever by Merrill Beal. It was due to Ms. Krueger. She let us discuss our thoughts openly in class with no repercussions due to our own language use or differing opinions.

What book would you recommend to a new or reluctant reader and why?

Harry Potter series. My daughter was not interested in reading. She learned in first grade she didn’t have to read because the computer told her what to do. She truly believed that. In fifth grade she picked up the first Harry Potter book – and read every single one. Since then she has been hooked on reading.

There are other series that would be good for younger readers like Hank the Cow Dog. Finding a good series is great because it allows the child to continue on with characters they enjoy instead of stopping and not being able to find another book.

Vampire, werewolf, zombie or hero series are good. The House of Night series, Mercy Thompson series,  Hunger Game series, Alex Rider series, John Sandford Prey series, Abigail Roux series, C.J. Box series, Stephanie Plum series, J.D. Robb series. 

I’ve read more teen and adult series than younger child series.

Carol Mayer:

What person ignited a love for reading in you as a child and how?

  My passion for reading was ignited by my mother and father.  I do not remember how other than they read to me or listened to me read.

What book ignited a love for reading in you as a child and why?

  I do not remember the first books I read.  My mom and dad said I started to read when I was 4.  I do not remember a time when I wasn’t reading.

What book would you recommend to a new or reluctant reader and why?

Any Dr. Seuss children’s book because they are simple and fun.

Patricia Rose:

My mom ignited my love of reading with her passion and dedication to sharing it’s importance. We grew up with regular trips to the community library (which at the time was located in our local high school). She read to us every night, and made sure we were always stocked with new and exciting books to read. She is still a strong member of the community and donates her time to the library, the schools, and the Veterans Home on top of holding full time employment. She sits on the library board, and has even had a therapy dog (until he passed) who made regular visits to participate in the Tails for Tales program and assist children who struggle with reading aloud. My mom is an incredible lady. I aspire to be just like her.

The books I am most passionate about are the Little House on the Prairie series. They sucked me in, and I find myself returning to them like an old friend every couple of years.

Any book can help suck in a reluctant reader, if it is something that interests them and is presented with passion. Find out what interests a kiddo, and then honestly and enthusiastically give them a couple of options. Follow up. Sometimes having an interested adult can make all the difference. Not everyone naturally loves reading, but everyone can have a warm and meaningful relationship with books if presented by someone who sincerely cares.

Ann Misner:

As a child I had a difficult time learning to read, as we were not taught phonics and had to memorize thousands of words by sight. I became very ill when I was twelve and spent the summer in bed.  We did not have TV and the only entertainment was reading.  I began to read the Black Stallion series and the Secret Garden.  It was not until I began to teach phonic and  understand the structure of the written word that reading became as necessary as breathing.  I love to read as often as I may and always carry a book where ever I go.

Sandy Evans:

  • What person ignited a love for reading in you as a child and how?

My Mom and older Brother. They read to me a lot.

Also, my folks had a mini family library, and a bunch of bean bags that stacked on top of each other, to sit on by the book shelf with good lighting. It was called our reading corner.

  • What book ignited a love for reading in you as a child and why?

Dr. Seuss books.  Because I had some health issues; “Sam I am” was read to me a lot and it was an encouragement to help me eat.

  • What book would you recommend to a new or reluctant reader and why?

It depends on the age.

Any colorful books, then add a word here and there for 0 to preschool.

Dr. Seuss, Marc Brown, Bernstein Bears, for the preschool thru 1 or 2nd grade (they are good ones for learning to read and any phonic books).

Any humor books like Amelia Bedila, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, Hank the Cow dog: to 3/4 grade thru middle school. (When my son was in 3 or 4th grade I was struggling trying to find a type of book or series for him to like. A substitute introduced Hank the Cow dog to him. That was a hit.)

In High School most of the students have found a certain series they like in- Mysteries, Romance, Thrill, Army base, Science Fiction, etc

Shasta Bolduc:

What person ignited a love for reading in you as a child and how?

 My Kindergarten teacher – she would use puppets and make up different voices for each character which made it seem real.

What book ignited a love for reading in you as a child and why?

 Pollyanna was the first chapter book I remember reading all the way through and then feeling so good about both finishing it and enjoying the story.

What book would you recommend to a new or reluctant reader and why?

Science Fair by Dave Berry and Ridley Pearson – It’s a chapter book but not lengthy and it’s funny story for all ages to enjoy

Kathy Callahan:

It was me that ignited a love for reading in me as a child merely by learning how.  I remember when I really “got it,” when reading came easily to me and how happy and proud I felt.

There were many books, Nancy Drew, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Adventure of Huckberry Finn, but one memory stands out:  Reading A Secret Garden early in the morning while still in bed and eating Junior Mints.

I retired from Boise Public in June 2015 after 16 years as a librarian.

Carolyn Todd:

1&2.       My mom and dad always read to me, so I was eager to start reading on my own. Then, the summer between first and second grade, I had to rest in my room after lunch. My mom gave me the Nancy Drew “Clue in the Crumbling Wall,” and told me to read it during rest time. I never looked back. Nancy Drew books weren’t in public libraries back then, so most of my allowance went to purchasing new mysteries.

3.            Are you my mother? By P.D. Eastman (Dr. Seuss). Easy to read but still manages to be hilarious.

Jean Hauritz:

> What person ignited a love for reading in you as a child and how? My

father. He read and wrote poetry to my sister and I as young children.  My favorite was Mullga Bill’s Bicycle.


> What book ignited a love for reading in you as a child and why? The

> Wind

in the Willows. My mother read and reread this to my sister and I until I finally read and reread it to myself and my own children.


> What book would you recommend to a new or reluctant reader and why?

Funny poetry. Poems can be short or long, funny, sad and much more.  My favorite for kids would be Alan  Katz’ I’m still here in the bathtub.

Jennifer Hills:

What person ignited a love for reading in you as a child and how?

I was lucky enough to have parents and grandparents who were readers – though each in their own way. My Dad was a voracious reader, reading anything – fiction, nonfiction, magazines, cereal boxes – whatever he could get his hands on. My Grandmother was a big romance reader, and she was never without a book in her hands. My Mom didn’t always read for pleasure, but she loved to read to me, and she was great at creating different voices and expressions. And, my Grandfather read the newspaper – back to front – every day. With those four as role models, it’s no wonder I love to read!

What book ignited a love for reading in you as a child and why?

I don’t remember a specific book when I was really young, but we had a collection of the Golden Books. I loved the Poky Little Puppy, The Saggy Baggy Elephant, and anything with Mother Goose rhymes. I think I still have a couple of copies – and they’re probably older than me!

What book would you recommend to a new or reluctant reader and why?

Books with rhythm and rhyme are always great to start with. Music and repetition are great learning tools, so I think I’d try something along those lines to draw them in, like Chicka Chicka Boom Boom or Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Books that have a twist are also fun – like There’s a Monster at the End of This Book or My Little Sister Ate One Hare. I think children will respond to anything that gets them laughing, dancing, or repeating – and adults, too. (Of course, I’m an Adult Librarian, but I do have a niece and three nephews that I constantly experiment with…)

Vivian Milius:

Both of my parents read aloud to us.  All of my grade school teachers read aloud to us.

My parents did not take me to the public library.  When I was in 5th grade we moved to a small town in which the library was within walking distance for me.  That is how I discovered the OZ books by L. Frank Baum and Ruth Plumly Thompson. When I began junior high school in a larger town I used the school library.  

Two of my six children were reluctant to read.  I found out later that one of them observed that I read aloud less to older siblings who were reading and this child did not want to lose that one-on-one time together.  Through her I learned how children cope with SSR (Silent Sustained Reading time at school) when they are not yet proficient at reading.  This child made it a summer project to get her youngest sibling to read.  The youngest child was in 5th grade and not reading.  What the older sibling did was to check out five very different books, one of them being Artemis Fowl.  Well, that was the book that turned my youngest into a reader.  I might add here that the first reluctant reader is now a college graduate and the youngest reluctant reader was on the high school honor roll and is now attending college.

I have a friend who suggested that reluctant readers (especially boys) find a younger person to read aloud to — either picture books, beginning readers, or comics.  

One of my children struggled with dyslexia so she read books while listening to audio books.  She got all her “AR” points in this way.  She too is now a college graduate.

My child who was our best reader had a third grade teacher who gave a sticker for each book read.  Even though she was in third grade a fully capable of reading more difficult books, she read hundreds of emergent readers either to herself or to a younger sibling.  She felt very successful and was recognized for all the stickers.  I am so glad this teacher did not demand that she read books on her reading level.  She was soon reading on grade level and more!

Another one of my children was in fourth grade and still reading (and loving) the Magic Tree House series and then The Secrets of Droon series.  I thought she was missing out on so many good books and in parent teacher conferences brought this up with her teacher.  He assured me that she would move on soon enough and told me not to worry.  He was right!  By the next year she was reading more substantial books.

Kath Ann Hendricks:

What person ignited a love for reading in you as a child and how?

  My mother.  She was an avid reader and would not only  bring home stacks of books to read herself, but took us to the library, which was about a 30 minute drive from our home.  We lived in the Santa Cruz Mountains and our closest library was the Felton Branch of the Santa Cruz Public Libraries in Felton, Califormia.  It opened the year I was born having been converted from a Presbyterian Church to a library.     http://www.santacruzpl.org/branches/8/   

What book ignited a love for reading in you as a child and why?

Probably my all time favorite book was, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle .  I’m sure it wasn’t the first book I read, or the  one that ignited a love of reading, but it sure helped.  I thoroughly enjoyed science fiction/fantasy, historical fiction and mysteries (Phyllis Whitney  and Nancy Drew mysteries being favorites).

What book would you recommend to a new or reluctant reader and why?

I cannot think of one book in particular to recommend to a new or reluctant reader because I like to tailor my recommendations to the individual.  I work primarily with teens and I find that encouraging a reluctant teen reader involves finding a subject that draws them in.  Often it will be whatever their friends are reading, or books that were made into movies that caught their attention.  I have no problem recommending books that others might consider fads or poorly written because I feel that gives me a chance to encourage other books of the genre that might be better.  Draw them in with whatever they are willing or hungering to read and go from there. 

I go to the middle schools just prior to our summer reading programs to share our plans for the summer and some of the books I have read and enjoyed.  I encourage them to keep reading throughout the summer, even if it means reading the newspaper, magazines, graphic novels, or …..cereal boxes!  Because, reading anything will exercise their minds and make learning easier for them in the next school year. (and, yes, I tell them to read cereal boxes!)

Linda Pullicar:

What person ignited a love for reading in you as a child and how?

It was my mom, no doubt about it.  She took me to the library to check out books and also enrolled me in a children’s book-of-the-month club.  I vividly remember how thrilled I was to get Frederick by Leo Lioni in the mail.

What book ignited a love for reading in you as a child and why?

I can’t name a particular book, but there was always lots of reading material around and I dove into all of it.  I do remember hearing my three older siblings talking about Lord of the Rings and wanting so much to read it.  I did when I was in 5th grade and became such a Tolkien-head that I read them at least once every summer during my teen years.

What book would you recommend to a new or reluctant reader and why?

It depends on the child.  For parents of children just starting to learn I often recommend Bob Books.  It is such a thrill for kids when they learn those first few letter sounds and then can read a whole book!  For children who don’t like to read I try non-fiction about whatever they’re in to.

Cathy Butterfield:

What person ignited a love for reading in you as a child and how?

 Definitely my mother, who began teaching me the basics of reading by reading to me and with me when I was four.  I think I was let loose on my own by the time I was five.

What book ignited a love for reading in you as a child and why?

The first book I remember reading and re-reading is Wynken, Blynken and Nod, a pre-1960s issue of the poem with wonderful illustrations. 

What book would you recommend to a new or reluctant reader and why?

Classic Marvel comics.  Action, plot, and great vocabulary.  Granted, the artwork is sexist and skewed, but you do want a springboard for reluctant readers, and the engagement of the reading brain is more important than the content.

Lori Bonner:

What person ignited a love for reading in you as a child and how?

                An Aunt. I did not see her often as she lived in the mid-west and abroad for most of my childhood. She always gave books for birthdays and holidays. While some of my siblings and cousins thought the books were nerdy, I loved them. One holiday when I was about 8, she sent me the EB White trifecta (Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, and Trumpet of the Swan). Charlotte’s Web was the book . . .

What book ignited a love for reading in you as a child and why?

            . . . that ignited my love of reading. When I finished this book, I knew I wanted to spend my life with books and print, to what extent I didn’t know. Charlotte brought several very memorable revelations to my young life.

I had a profound fear of spiders as a child and Charlotte brought that fear into perspective for me. She was kind and wise and resourceful—I liked her. Her personality, and of course EB White’s writing of her characteristics, helped me take a more rational view of my fear of arachnids. I still freak out about spiders but Charlotte made a palpable impact on that fear.

I also loved that she used her web to communicate very simply. This instilled in me a respect for the written word. I recall thinking how powerful her word(s) were to those who read them.

The story also instilled in me a sense that friendship is not always perfect or easy, and that we find friendship in unexpected places—a lesson that has served me well in life.

I still remember the feeling when I finished that book—‘I want to read, read, read.’

What book would you recommend to a new or reluctant reader and why?

                Answering this would require a reference interview with the reader. I would not recommend the same book to every reader.

Randy de Jong:

I am sorry that I am not an Idaho librarian yet, but simply a lurker from CA. My dad ignited my love of reading. We went to the library every week from before I can remember what age I was. I was always allowed to check out any book and as many as I was allowed. the first story is my choice of The last of the Mohicans in about 3rd grade. My dad and I struggled through about 30 pages together and then I struggled a bit longer. In fifth grade I checked it out again and read it alone and loved it. what a great war story. I was to young to realize the super romance that was included. I remember many books. Curious George was a favorite and the first chapter book I remember was called Three Stuffed Owls. I have not been able to locate it since becoming an adult. My recommendations for reluctant readers are Wild Things by Carmichael, Bluefish by Schmatz, and World Afire by Janeczcko (sp?). For reluctant readers that are progressing in their skills, the Bluford High series is a winner and gets read. This may be because of the demographics of my kids. Hope this helps.