The Librarian’s Nitty-Gritty Guide to Social Media [Review]

reviewed by Rebekah Hosman

The Librarian’s Nitty-Gritty Guide to Social Media
Laura SolomonThe Librarian’s Nitty-Gritty Guide to Social Media
Chicago, IL:  American Library Association Editions, 2012
ISBN, 978-0838911600, paperback
224 pages, $52.00

Laura Solomon writes in the introduction of The Librarian’s Nitty-Gritty Guide to Social Media that “this book is my attempt not only to answer common questions libraries have about using social media but also to explain and demonstrate how libraries can be doing social media more effectively” (intro pg. ix).The best part about Solomon’s book is that she thoroughly accomplishes what she sets out to do–the book is chock full of effective methods to navigate the social media world, with the understanding of why libraries should be involved in social media in the first place.

Solomon includes a wide range of topics from Understanding Social Capital (which is a key concept that I hadn’t heard before), Fine-Tuning Facebook, Online Reputation Management, Social Media in the Long Term, and more. Each of the eleven chapters addresses a vital component in understanding and managing social media for a library. Solomon doesn’t just talk about how to participate successfully in the social media world, but she also gives references, resources and practical tasks for a library’s social media plan. There are many types of social media sites discussed in this book, including Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Google+, Instagram, YouTube, and blogging. It’s up to a library to choose what works best for their needs and patrons.

This book is a great asset for libraries wanting to start or advance their social media agenda. If libraries aren’t currently utilizing social media, this book will help you to understand and plan an effective social media campaign at whatever level will best suit your library. Whether you are the Library Director or the Social Media person, you will find practical applications in this book. At our library we have started using several social media sites; including Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook to connect to our patrons and be a resource for our community. After reading this book I realized that I’d missed some steps to be successful in our media plan. For example, we didn’t have a Social Media Policy, and Solomon explains why that’s important and directs readers to several policies developed by other libraries.

As the Library Director of a small rural library, I sat down to read the book and was excited to find a wealth of useful information I could use for our library. I ended up not only underlining the key tips that Solomon puts at the end of each chapter, but also wrote down a list of tasks for my library’s social media plan. We plan to implement a social media plan, poll our patrons to see what social media sites they use, and establish a social media team to help keep our sites current and updated. We especially appreciated the specific advice on how to effectively post on Twitter.

My library also appreciated the final chapters that talk about evaluating your social media plan and social media in the long term. Solomon helps readers to understand how social media is a changing system, but will continue to be around in some form. If you follow Solomon’s advice and direction then you will have a long-term effective plan for your library’s social media. She also provides encouragement by having real-life library staff give social media advice. For example, “Social media, just as the names implies, is social. No one person or department can tackle it alone successfully. It has to be a group effort. And, oh, yeah I almost forgot, not an afterthought to your other endeavors” (192).

When you are finished reading (and re-reading because the information is so relevant) the book, you will feel equipped and ready to take on the social media world. Solomon’s book is not only an effective guide, but in essence a how-to handbook for libraries using social media. I would recommend this book for libraries that would like to start using social media, and libraries that are having difficulty using social media effectively.

Rebekah Hosman is the Library Director at the Grangeville Centennial Library.


Complete Copyright for K-12 Librarians and Educators [Review]

reviewed by Kay Flowers

Complete Copyright for K-12 Librarians and Educators
Carrie Russell
Chicago, IL: ALA Editions, 2012
ISBN-13: 978-0-1083-2, softcover
192 pages, $50.00
eEditions PDF e-book, $40.00

Copyright is a complex subject, and practical books that address copyright issues in day-to-day settings are few and far between.  Carrie Russell’s Complete Copyright for K-12 Librarians and Educators, however, is one of the practical reads.  Written for K-12 teachers and librarians, and using a school as a backdrop, the book addresses many of the common and new copyright questions that arise in the K-12 setting in a light and engaging manner. In her conversation with the reader, the author acknowledges the complexity of copyright while offering evidence and suggestions on the best interpretations available.

Carrie Russell speaks from extensive experience.  She is the director of the Program on Public Access to Information in the Office of Information Technology Policy of the American Library Association.  As part of its concern with access to information, the Program monitors copyright and its role in providing public access through fair use.  In her introduction to the book, Russell mentions that many of the issues covered were originally questions she was asked in earlier presentations.

The strongest element in the book is the review of current uses of copyrighted material, from digitized books to downloading music and everything in between.  Every chapter is presented in terms of activities that are common in schools but can be murky in terms of copyright.  One example is the music video.  Many students enjoy making their own music videos, using copyrighted music and/or copyrighted images.  Such videos can be used as projects in classes, so understanding their copyright implications is essential.

Another strength of this book is that the author presents copyright questions in terms of a conversation between the teacher and the school librarian.  Both are encouraged to conduct a fair use evaluation of any proposed use of copyrighted works.  In this way, the librarian does not always say “no,” and the teacher is encouraged to examine her instructional goals as part of the evaluation.

The author places a strong emphasis on fair use and the practice of conducting fair use evaluations for any proposed activity involving copyrighted material.  This emphasis is in purposeful contrast to reliance on the guidelines that have directed copyright policies in the past.  In fact, the author notes that guidelines are not law and do not carry the force of law.  She also points out that though guidelines were written as a safe haven, and were never meant to represent the maximums allowed under the fair use doctrine, they have, nevertheless, been interpreted in that way.  Too many school districts and teachers are reluctant to test fair use beyond the guidelines, so the institution and its instructors have limited their teaching options.

The supplemental material in the book includes information on a 2008 copyright survey sent to members of LM-Net (discussion group for school library media specialists).   The copyright guidelines mentioned above are also provided as appendices.  There are several sets of guidelines that have been developed in the years since the Copyright Act of 1976, varying from interlibrary loan to multimedia projects. Regardless of the author’s emphatic support of fair use, the guidelines are part of the history of copyright policy, and teachers and librarians should be aware of them.

The only weakness in the book is the placement of information about copyright lawsuits so early in the text.  The complexity of copyright litigation is stultifying, and introducing it in Chapter 2 might discourage further reading.

Any library that provides support for K-12 teaching would benefit from acquiring this book.  School libraries are the obvious first choice.  Universities and college libraries that support departments of education should also consider including this work in their teacher education collections as a resource for pre-service teachers.

Kay Flowers is currently the Director of Academic Programs in the Student Success Center at Idaho State University.

Organizational Storytelling for Librarians: Using Stories for Effective Leadership [review]

reviewed by Laura Abbott

Organizational Storytelling for Librarians: Using Stories for Effective Leadership 
Kate Marek
Chicago, IL: ALA Editions, 2011
ISBN-13: 978-0-8389-1079-5, softcover
120 pages, $50.00

The children’s librarian should not be the only professional sharing stories in the library on a regular basis. According to author Kate Marek, a Professor at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Dominican University, those with library leadership positions will want to increase their organizational storytelling ability in order to more successfully communicate values and vision and to initiate change.  In Organizational Storytelling for Librarians: Using Stories for Effective Leadership, Marek points out that the power of narrative comes from the storyteller’s ability to tell his or her own authentic stories in order to create meaningful bonds and to inspire people.

Marek’s intent is to enable librarians to begin developing and utilizing leadership storytelling skills, and through her fluid writing style, solid content, and efficient organization, she succeeds with this endeavor. She writes, “You must engage a listener’s heart as well as his mind if you truly want to generate commitment for change or for a new idea.  Stories pull the listener in and make individual human connections that data and information alone cannot make” (9).

The author acts as a motivational cheerleader inspiring the reader to discover the simple power of story that is in each of us.  She divides organizational storytelling into four basic concepts that can be easily used by managers based on their library’s needs: communicating visions and values through storytelling, using stories to navigate change, using stories to build community, and telling stories through buildings.  An example of some of the useful advice Marek gives is “Telling your own personal story with honesty and humility, especially in terms of things you have learned along the way, opens you up to connections with others and at the same time provides a unique mechanism for them to understand your values and priorities” (22).

Marek sees the vital importance and potential power of libraries in the community and explains that “the library is the perfect place to facilitate sharing [of stories]. In doing so, the library expands its role from a community information resource to a key player in transforming community” (51). Throughout the book, the author gives real-life examples of library leaders who have used storytelling to improve their position and that of their library in the community. For those who need a little more confidence boosting in the art of storytelling, the last chapter includes practical tips on how to build and strengthen organizational storytelling skills.

Written in a clear and straight-forward style, this relatively quick read is enhanced with chapter notes, a lengthy current resources list, and an index. I would recommend that any public, school, or academic librarian make room for it in the staff resource collection, especially if he or she wants to find new ways to communicate ideas and to build trust whether it is with coworkers, a library’s governing body, or with the public.

Laura Abbott is the Children’s Services Librarian at the Nampa Public Library.

True Stories of Censorship Battles in America’s Libraries [Review]

reviewed by Alex Kyrios

True Stories of Censorship Battles in America’s Libraries 
Edited by Valerie Nye and Kathy Barco
Chicago, IL: ALA Editions, 2012
ISBN-13: 978-0-8389-1130-3, softcover
200 pages, $50.00

Despite its title, True Stories of Censorship Battles in America’s Libraries isn’t full of tales of battle. Some of the brushes with censorship described are just skirmishes, or even cases of conflict narrowly avoided. The 31 chapters edited by Valerie Nye and Kathy Barco, of Santa Fe University of Art and Design and Albuquerque Public Library, respectively, cover an admirably broad span of topics, each a reflection of censorship in an American library. We may think of censorship as an issue affecting only public and school libraries, but there are also cases from academic libraries as well as a prison library.

These personal stories, which range from serious descriptions of heated community battles (such as “32 Pages, 26 Sentences, 603 Words and $500,000 Later: When School Boards Have Their Way”) to the lighthearted “The Princess Librarian: An Allegory,” will appeal to librarians, library staff, and readers with an interest in censorship issues. Readers will also find the discussion questions, related to some of the scenarios described in the book, a valuable resource. These questions, such as how a library can establish community ties, respond to challenges and appropriately classify materials, can foster important conversations in a library faced with book challenges—or better yet, before that happens.

One of the common themes in the chapters is the willingness of groups such as the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom to support librarians fighting censorship. Especially in cases where a loud or influential patron stirs up a media circus over a book, organizations such as ALA and the American Civil Liberties Union are willing to back up library staff and help them respond to challenges appropriately.

This book will be a valuable companion to libraries facing censorship attempts, but it may be more effective at preparing librarians and staff to deal with censorship issues before they happen. The authors stress the importance of libraries having a comprehensive collection development policy which can be referred to when library materials are challenged. The book’s stories prove that librarians and library staff who can specifically explain why a controversial book meets the library’s collection development policy are on much more solid ground than those who have to make ad hoc arguments with challenging patrons.

One of the more interesting sections is a pair of chapters addressing materials on Native American tribes, especially in cases where scholarly sources contradict tribal tradition or ignore cultural sensitivities. How should a librarian balance the cause of intellectual freedom with inclusion of minority groups? The book shows that sometimes there are no right answers.

True Stories of Censorship Battles in America’s Libraries includes something for librarians and staff in any type of library. Some of us may never have to talk to a patron who objects to a book, but we may have to deal with coworkers who want to censor objectionable materials. Any library employee who would have to answer a material challenge should read this—and if your library doesn’t know who that person is, that’s a problem! Libraries across the country have dealt with all sorts of challenges, and this book is full of accounts of triumphs and defeats to inspire and inform a beleaguered library. You don’t have to go it alone.

Alex Kyrios is a Metadata and Catalog Librarian at the University of Idaho.

The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror, Second Edition [Review]

reviewed by Lizzy Walker

The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror, Second Edition 
Becky Siegel Spratford
Chicago, IL: ALA Editions, 2012
ISBN-13: 978-0-8389-1112-9, softcover
184 pages, $48.00

Becky Siegel Spratford’s The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror, Second Edition updates the 2004 edition and provides librarians with valuable information on horror. The author specifies that she revised and reassessed the material, including “new authors, trends, annotations, and suggestions” (x). As someone who is an avid reader of the genre, it is refreshing to have a resource that not only provides great selections, but also discusses the sometimes unknown subgenres of horror.

The first thirteen chapter topics cover different aspects of the horror genre such as “A Brief History of Horror,” “Horror 101,” “Vampires,” “Zombies,” “Witches and the Occult,” “The Appeal of Horror,” “The Classics,” and ” Monsters and Ancient Evil.” The last chapter provides information on collection development and marketing in libraries.  In each of the chapters, Spratford provides an annotated bibliography as well as recommended reading. These resources are highly beneficial to the readers’ advisory librarian as well as to the patron. Patrons have the option to search for themselves or, if they need additional information, they may address the librarian who created the advisory list.

While each chapter has its own appeal, there are a few chapters that are particularly informative and thorough. In “Monsters and Ancient Evil,” the author focuses on novels that were influenced by H. P. Lovecraft and Richard Layman. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos has made a resurgence in the horror community in various forms, including games and film. This chapter would be valuable to the readers’ advisory librarian who wants to stay abreast of trends in horror fiction.

“The Classics” contains a necessary reading list for anyone just getting into the horror genre and is especially useful as a reference tool. It was disappointing to see that Guy de Maupassant was not on the list, but there were plenty of other essential authors included such as Horace Walpole, M. R. James, and Shirley Jackson. Spratford also provides useful tips and guidelines for creating a classics list, such as finding titles published before 1974.

In “The Appeal of Horror,” Spratford clearly defines horror as “a story in which the author manipulates the reader’s emotions by introducing situations in which unexplainable phenomenon and unearthly creatures threaten the protagonists and provoke terror in the reader” (14). She also discusses what horror is not. This may seem trivial, but to horror fans who may be picky or who want more horror reads, it is essential.

This book is a valuable resource for readers’ advisory, general librarians in public libraries, or for anyone interested in the horror genre.  This book will assist unfamiliar librarians with the genre, as well as librarians who know the genre inside and out, providing renewed enthusiasm and marketing tips.

Becky Siegel Spratford served as a reader’s advisor at the Berwyn Public Library in Illinois. She currently teaches classes on Readers’ Advisory Services at the Dominican University where she earned her MLIS. She is the author of the RA for All: Horror blog, which may be found at

Lizzy Walker currently works at Boise State University’s Albertsons Library as a Library Assistant 2. She earned her MLS with the SWIM cohort through University of North Texas.

Multicultural Storytime Magic [Review]

reviewed by Erica Littlefield

Multicultural Storytime Magic 
Kathy MacMillan and Christine Kirker
Chicago, IL: ALA Editions, 2012
ISBN-13: 978-0-8389-1142-6, softcover
256 pages, $47.00

In Kathy MacMillan’s and Christine Kirker’s new book Multicultural Storytime Magic, the authors encouragelibrarians to include cultural diversity in their library storytimes. The premise of their book is that multicultural elements should be included in every storytime, not just special storytimes that occur around cultural holidays.

MacMillan and Kirker are no strangers to library storytimes.  They are also the authors of Storytime Magic (ALA, 2009) and Kindergarten Magic (ALA, 2012). MacMillan and Kirker start out Multicultural Storytime Magic with a short introduction that presents facts and figures on cultural diversity in the United States. After the introduction, the book is broken down into 44 chapters, with each chapter about a common storytime theme. The themes are listed in alphabetical order, and include fun themes such as “Bedtime,” “Forest Animals,” “Shoes,” and “Winter.”  For each theme, there are multicultural book suggestions, flannelboard stories, fingerplays and songs, and crafts.  The flannelboard patterns, craft patterns, and worksheets, which are shown in miniature in the book, are available in full size on the ALA Editions website.  The only thing that would enhance the book’s content is pictures of the finished craft projects.

The stories, activities, and songs in the book represent many countries and cultures throughout the world.  For example, there is a flannelboard version of “The Seven Chinese Brothers” in the “Brothers and Sisters” chapter, and there is a song called “My Boat is Going” from Lebanon in the “Transportation” chapter.  Many of the themes include Spanish language or American Sign Language elements.

One of the book’s greatest strengths is its organization.  The 44 chapters are easy to follow, and there are three appendices and an index of names and titles.  Appendix A: Culture Notes and Index of Entries by Culture is especially useful when looking for materials on a specific culture.  Also, materials and activities that are suitable for two- and three-year-olds are marked with an asterisk.  This is a useful feature because libraries offer a variety of storytimes for different ages and the asterisks allows librarians to quickly see which materials are appropriate for the younger age group.

The content, organization, and resources included in Multicultural Storytime Magic make it a useful tool for youth services librarians in public libraries or school librarians who serve preschoolers and kindergarteners.  It will help librarians incorporate multicultural touches into their regular storytimes or put together an entire storytime dedicated to a specific culture or country. Highly recommended.

Erica Littlefield is the Youth Services Department Head at Twin Falls Public Library. A native Idahoan, Erica recently completed her MLIS degree online as part of the SWIM Cohort through the University of North Texas.