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By the Book, News & Opinion

By The Book January/February 2017

by Catherine Hakala-Ausperk on May 1, 2017

Contributing Editor CATHERINE HAKALA-AUSPERK is the owner of Libraries Thrive Consulting. If you’d like to write a review or if there’s a new book you’d like to see reviewed here, please contact Catherine at chakalaausperk@gmail.com. Catherine is currently reading The Whole Town’s Talking by Fannie Flagg. Editor’s note: Public Library Association policy dictates that PLA publications not be reviewed in this column. Notice of new publications from PLA will generally be found in the PLA News section of Public Libraries.

The Power of Play: Designing Early Learning Spaces

By Dorothy Stoltz, Marisa Conner, and James Bradberry; Chicago: ALA Editions, 2014; 224p.; $55; ISBN-13: 978-0-8389-1255-3; LC: 2014021159

The last decade has shown a growing focus on early learning efforts. Laying the building blocks of learning into place before a child gets to school is no longer a recommendation but a necessity. And one of the best methods of supporting these efforts is through play. Where libraries fit into these efforts is often up for debate. Play is loud and it takes up space and means engaging more staff than just the children’s librarian, which means that resources and library policy will need to adapt to incorporate the play dimension into the library.

In The Power of Play, Stolz, Conner, and Bradberry seek to provide an introduction to bringing play to the library through play-and-learn spaces, dedicated library spaces expressly for those taking their first steps into learning. This book, featuring wonderful pictures and valuable appendices, helps to address the questions and concerns that arise when a library begins such play-driven efforts.

Particular attention is paid to large-scale story spaces, but the authors are always mindful of smaller efforts in libraries where construction is not feasible. For those libraries and librarians making their initial foray into early learning spaces, this book will prove valuable.—Crystal Faris, Director of Youth & Family Engagement, Kansas City (MO) Public Library

Digitizing Your Collection: Public Library Success Stories

By Susanne Caro, Sam Meister, Tammy Ravas, and Wendy Walker; Chicago: ALA Editions, 2016; 176p.; $55; ISBN-13: 978-0-8389-1383-3; LC: 2015032866

How do we prepare the library to serve patrons who are becoming increasingly accustomed to receiving and retrieving information from the Internet? It is a big question that Digitizing Your Collections: Public Library Success Stories helps to confront. One answer lies in digitizing collections. This ALA Editions book showcases the latest trends and figures for the future of digitization and is recommended for any institution, library or otherwise, looking for initial direction on digitizing collections. It would also be useful for those seeking persuasion, or advice on persuasion, on the significance of digitization.

Digitizing Your Collections establishes a comprehensive seven-chapter overview of just about everything you need to know when initiating digitization projects, from what to consider before digitizing, to digitizing copyrighted materials, to overcoming staff and funding limitations, to ultimately marketing the collections themselves. The articulation of best practices and examples in a clear, straightforward, and compelling manner is one of the strongest aspects of Digitizing Your Collections and, in hands less capable than Caro et al., could easily become confusing, complicated, and boring. Statements or recommendations are well-argued and supported with success stories or models.

In her introduction, Susanne Caro outlines the three main reasons why you should digitize: Expectation, Access, and Preservation (p.xii). In this respect, effective digitization is the natural, and expected, continuation of the central mission of any worthwhile library. Our role has always been about anticipating and providing for the needs of the public. Digitizing Your Collections offers the means and the methods to help ensure our responsibility to our patrons, and our future.—Gregory Stall, Adult Reference Librarian, New York Public Library

Inspired Collaboration

By Dorothy Stoltz, with Susan M. Mitchell, Cen Campbell, Rolf Grafwallner, Kathleen Reif, and Stephanie Mareck Shauck; Chicago: ALA Editions, 2016; 200p.; $50; ISBN-13: 978- 0838913963; LC: 2015036458

Dorothy Stoltz’s Inspired Collaboration examines the benefits of library partnerships and how to support and sustain them within the community. Written by Stoltz and a small group of librarians and community partners, the book draws on first-hand experience to suggest ways libraries can create a culture of collaboration within their organization and beyond. The book is divided into four parts, with questions and discovery points that encourage reflection. Appendices include worksheets, accountability tools, and suggested readings that can facilitate planning and inspire collaboration.

Part One asks the critical questions: Why collaborate? What is the essence of collaboration? And what is the library’s role in collaboration? The authors identify the purpose of libraries as providing a practical sense of enlightenment for communities. To achieve this purpose, one must consider how partnerships can add value to a library’s mission and how working together can benefit community organizations. The authors provide tips for healthy community partnerships, including sharing resources, building on existing relationships, and other practices that encourage collaborative thinking.

Additional sections highlight strategies for cultivating discernment and meeting community needs. These chapters draw on several public library programs that illustrate such strategies, including library café discussions and early literacy initiatives like Racing to Read and Every Child Ready to Read. Although the focus is largely on early childhood programs, the same methods can be used to plan other types of programs.

In addition to these programs, the authors highlight the accomplishments of leaders such as Andrew Carnegie, Fred Rogers, and Benjamin Franklin. Their accomplishments demonstrate the potential of collaborative partnerships and the recognition of community needs. Carnegie’s and Franklin’s work developing libraries and Rogers’s work with children’s television are just a few of the many examples the authors invoke throughout the book to inspire planning and implementation.

The authors draw upon similar methods of motivation. Chapters describe the need to spark curiosity amongst staff and the community as well as to overcome adversity. Several programs address the notion of the library as an incubator for new tools and technologies. These technologies offer new learning opportunities for professionals, students, and families and can serve as the basis for new partnerships.

Inspired Collaboration is a timely book as many libraries are now turning outward based on the Harwood Institute’s model of community engagement. The book offers various resources that can assist libraries in this process, from preliminary steps to meeting challenges and celebrating success. All the questions, comparisons, and practical examples blanket the text with points of insight and reflection.—Michael Cherry, Teen & Youth Librarian, Evansville Vanderburgh (IN) Public Library Digital

Photo Magic: Easy Image Retouching and Restoration for Librarians, Archivists, and Teachers

By Ernest Perez; Medford, NJ: Information Today, 2016; 186p.; $49.50; ISBN-13: 9781573875134; LC: 2015031259

In high school, I took a photography class and learned how to make photos come to life in a dark room. It was hard work that required hours of labor to get the desired effect. Today, photos can be snapped, edited, and shared in a matter of seconds. Digital Photo Magic is all about fast and easy ways to do this on a Windows PC using free or inexpensive software.

Perez is an academic librarian with a background in journalism and is a self-described “amateur photographer” (p.181). True to his academic roots, Perez has written a well-researched and extremely detailed book, the crux of which is detailing how photographs can be improved with different editing techniques like cropping, resizing, rotating, and applying color filters. Perez also covers more advanced techniques like smart removal, which permits editors to alter unwanted aspects of a photograph, such as removing a person blocking a clear landscape shot of the beach, clearing up someone’s skin if there is a blemish, or colorizing an old black-and-white photograph.

This book is a good introduction to photo editing for those with little to no previous experience with a computer, and it may also generate some ideas and inspiration. For example, after learning about smart removal technology, I searched some apps on my phone that let me selectively remove people from my photographs without leaving a trace. Twenty years ago, my mother would have loved this when she was editing out her ex-husband from family photographs the old-fashioned way—with scissors.

In truth, the average teen has already mastered all the techniques in this book and more with their smartphone. The book does not discuss apps in any way, despite their being, arguably, the epitome of the idea behind digital photo magic. This is definitely a major shortcoming. There are so many apps that make it even easier than ever before to enhance photographs. Apps like “BeautyCam” instantly apply a flawless skin tone and glamour magazine effects, thus precluding the need for editing on a PC.

Despite its limitations, Digital Photo Magic is worth skimming over for those of us who can still reminisce about the dark room days. At the very least, the author maintains a website with a huge bibliography of online resources (450 links), which is sure to make any librarian drool. Modern technology, isn’t it magic? —Kacper Jarecki, Manager, Queens (NY) Library at South Hollis

Real-World Teen Services

By Jennifer Velásquez; Chicago: ALA Editions, 2015; 136p.; $50; ISBN-13: 978-0838913420; LC: 2015004192

Jennifer Velásquez has written a practical, no-nonsense manual for teen services librarians. This is no idealized presentation of picture-perfect teen programs: Velásquez has real-world experience in serving teens, and she aims to impart the knowledge she’s gained to libraries and librarians who work with this unpredictable population.

Defined as ages thirteen to eighteen, teens are a difficult group to serve. There is no single reason for the difficulties because, like teens themselves, providing services for them is complex. Public librarians already prepare for the onslaught following the school dismissal time. While young children receive smiles and welcomes when entering a library, the response to teens is often different. Gone is the old model of teens coming into the library and sitting quietly while conducting research or completing their assignments. More than likely, teens will be a bit noisier than the average adult patron. Even so, they deserve and expect a good experience in the library.

Velásquez offers six practical chapters: “Teen Library Space,” “Teen Library Programming,” “Crafting Service Dynamics and Modeling Service Strategies,” “Rules, Conduct Code, and Behavior,” “Access, Control, and Privacy,” and “Lightning Round: Addressing Common Issues and Concerns.” Each chapter proposes a common-sense approach to dealing with teens. Sage advice from Velásquez encourages teen librarians to shy away from trends and to move toward service.

“Service” is the key word throughout the book. Caution is given to librarians who plan without input from their patrons. Velásquez cites an experience when an enthusiastic teen librarian spent time and energy on a program that no one attended. The planning for the program was done in isolation, without suggestions from the teens themselves. When teen patrons are included in the planning, they develop a sense of ownership, and the likelihood of an event’s success increases. Above all, Velásquez encourages flexibility when dealing with teens. There is no predicting how they will respond to various programs.

Perhaps the most important piece of advice is for librarians to be teen advocates. It is not unusual for professional librarians and paraprofessionals to feel intimidated or overwhelmed by a teen audience. Velásquez encourages librarians who work with teens to set the tone of their interactions, modeling respect for the young patrons.

This book is not full of gimmicks. It presents a positive image of how the library can serve a specific population. Every youth services librarian can turn to this book for a philosophical understanding of working with teens. It is easy to feel isolated and to forget what to do. Read and reread this book. It has pearls of wisdom, and the practical conversation it promotes will come in handy when serving teen patrons.—Ellen Hunter Ruffin, Curator and Associate Professor, de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection, McCain Library and Archives, University of Southern Mississippi



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