Author Visits from the Author’s Perspective, Part Two: Preparation and Promotion

Last month, I found myself wondering how authors viewed in-person visits, so I sent a survey out and heard back from eight authors. Last month’s post covered the demographics of the authors who responded, and logistical planning for an author visit. This month, we cover preparing students for author events, and promoting those events.

Preparing Students

“School visits work their strongest magic when students are prepared for the author’s visit,” states Kirby Larson. If an author is coming to visit your school, you want to prepare the students so they and the school can take full advantage of that visit. How do you do that? The type of visit will probably determine your preparation in terms of teaching the book(s) or doing read-alouds for younger titles, but you can prepare in many other ways. Dori Hillestad Butler suggests students engage in some writing or drawing to prepare, then post those writings/drawings as additional promotion. She says: “I especially like to see those on the walls—and I always take time to stop and read every one!” Martha Brockenbrough adds: “The more the kids know about the author and book beforehand, the better!”

Kirby Larson thoughtfully expanded her response to say: “Learning about me and my books ahead of time certainly strengthens connections between my writing advice/experience and the students’ internalization of that information. School visit prep provides context for the students. In addition, when teachers participate in the school visits (ie, do not bring their phones, laptops or papers to correct to the sessions), they are sending a strong message to the students about the value and importance of the information the author is sharing. And it is so helpful if the librarian/teacher tells kids in advance that I can’t sign bits of paper (or body parts); I do provide a book mark template with my autograph so every kid can have that.”

Asked for other advice on making sure a visit goes smoothly, most authors checked all the boxes: Make sure teachers/kids have the schedule; Double check on necessary tech; Have payment ready to go/already sent; Be prepared for book sales (contact vendor; get volunteers); Regularly check in to make sure teachers/students are prepared.

In the “other” column, Margriet Ruurs urges: “Share my books with students. I have been in schools where the students had no idea what was happening. If a librarian and teachers are prepped, it makes the impact of an author visit that much greater. We’re not just there to entertain for an hour but to leave a message of ‘books are important, and fun and interesting’!” Kirby Larson recommends that librarians: “Make connections between the author’s work and what the students are working on/learning about.” Kelly Jones advises that librarians “double-check that any substitute teachers know what’s planned—I once had a class miss a school presentation because no one had told the substitute.”

Promotion

Another aspect of preparing your students and your school community is to promote your author visit. How can you best do that? Any and all ways, from the author’s perspective! Mount book displays in the library and elsewhere, promote the visit on the school’s website, communicate with parents and students, post on social media, and do booktalks. Other suggestions included contacting local newspapers, creating a countdown bulletin board, and setting out a box to collect student questions.

Doing It Right

I asked the authors for examples of librarians who had knocked it out of the park in preparing for/promoting their visit, and here are their responses.

Martha Brockenbrough: “Terry Shay at North Tama in Traer, Iowa. …He really prepared the kids well at every age level and assembled a squad of cheerleaders for my paperback Cheerful Chick.

Margriet Ruurs: “A Kelowna, BC librarian approached me for her school, but I explained that travel is too much for one day. She then promoted a possible visit to all local schools. She did not just pass that on to me, but arranged a two week schedule for schools, in a logical order, and made sure all schools have all information on dates, times, equipment and more. It’s awesome when a local librarian coordinates all that.”

Dianne White: “When the kids are excited, I know teachers and librarians have been talking about the visit ahead of time. When that happens, kids are always going to get more out of the experience.”

Kirby Larson: “For a recent week-long visit in a school district near Houston, the hosting librarian asked me for particular photos from which she created an “About Kirby” slide show that was made available to all of the schools involved prior to my visit.”

Kelly Jones: “I remember one library’s display—they had a big posterboard with photos of students, teachers, and staff holding books they were recommending. The week of my visit, the librarian was holding my book—a proud moment for sure! She told me everyone really enjoyed recommending books and having their pictures taken.”

Lily LaMotte: “I did the summer reading program kickoff for the Olathe, KS library. I don’t have the details of her promotion but we had a full house in their auditorium. If you mean a school librarian, I’ve had so many wonderful visits with schools. Kids were prepared and many of them had read my books or were using them in their classroom. The cafeteria at a school in Lewiston, ME even made a recipe from my book for the students’ lunch the day of my visit. So amazing!”

Dori Hillestad Butler: “A librarian in Cedar Rapids, IA, painted HUGE (5 foot tall!) pictures of my books and displayed them ahead of time. A librarian in the Chicago area had worked with the kids to make posters that said: ‘Here is what we know about Dori Hillestad Butler, Here is what we don’t know about Dori Hillestad Butler, Here is our plan to find out more: come to her presentation!’ (That’s directly out of my King & Kayla series.)”

Next month, how to ensure that your author visit goes smoothly on the day.

Author Visits from the Author Perspective: Part One

Recently, as I arranged an author visit, I started wondering about how authors view those events. What advice might they have for librarians planning an in-person author visit? I put together a survey which I sent to a few author friends (and friends-of-friends), and though my sample size wasn’t large, the authors offered a lot of useful information for librarians planning author events.

Due to the survey’s length, I am breaking it into three posts. Today, I will cover demographics of responding authors, and logistics planning for visits. In April, I will cover preparing for and promoting an author visit. In May, I will cover making the event go smoothly on the day it happens.

Author Demographics

The kind souls who gave their time to answer my survey are: Martha Brockenbrough, Margriet Ruurs, Phoebe Fox, Dianne White, Kirby Larson, Kelly Jones, Lily LaMotte, and Dori Hillestad Butler.

I first asked what grades they generally wrote for. Most write for elementary school students as well as other grades (see chart), and Margriet Ruurs also writes for educators and parents (“other”).

Next I asked how many in-school visits they made each year. Most landed in the 1-10 range, though Margriet Ruurs makes over 21 visits a year, and Dori Hillestad Butler may make 1-25 visits, depending on the year!

Thirdly, I asked how long they’d been making school visits. Most have been doing so for eight or more years, and Dori Hillestad Butler estimates she’s been visiting schools for over thirty years!

Preparing for an Author Visit

Contact

What’s the best way to contact an author about a visit? For all surveyed, contact information on their website is the place to start, but other ways may also work. In the “other” category, Kirby Larson uses a booking agent, How Now Booking, and Lily LaMotte is also exploring that option.

Determining Fit

When you contact an author, what should you ask to determine if they are a good fit for your school and your students? The authors offered varied answers, many of which boiled down to librarians being familiar with the author’s work, and knowing what they are looking for in terms of a presentation. As Dori Hillestad Butler says, “Not everyone who reaches out to me knows what they want,” which can make it harder to determine if an author is a good fit. While some authors list details of their presentations on their websites, that doesn’t necessarily mean they couldn’t tailor a workshop or presentation to a school’s needs.

In terms of more specific questions, librarians could ask what an author’s typical school visits look like, how many visits they’ve done, and the focus of their presentations. Kelly Jones recommends asking: “What will our students leave your presentation with that they may not have known before? What new tools might be in their toolboxes?” Practical details are also key, such as travel distances, number and age of students, and fees.

Deal Breakers

What might make an author turn down a visit? For most, it was scheduling issues, with too many sessions and too great distance coming in next, though as Lily LaMotte adds, “If the school is part of a larger trip to the general area or en route to somewhere I’m already going, then distance isn’t a factor.” Kelly Jones feels that “restrictions on what I can present that would negatively affect what I try to teach students” would be a deal breaker, and another author dislikes background checks, especially if she’s expected to pay. As she says: “It shouldn’t ever be needed because I shouldn’t ever be alone with students.” Margriet Ruurs stated, “I have never turned [a visit] down and worked through any concerns with the librarian,” so it’s always worth asking!

Time Frame

How far in advance of a visit should you contact an author? Answers varied widely, so it’s great if you know far in advance, but worth asking even if you don’t. Kelly Jones suggests: “If it’s coming right up, more date options make it more likely we can find one that works.”

Cost

How should a librarian approach asking about an author’s fees? Among the authors’ varied answers, several said their website lists their fees, or that a librarian should simply describe the number of students and number of sessions needed, and ask based on that. It would also help for authors to know your budget, if you have that available. Says one author: “This is a business conversation! I also appreciate knowing if you’re considering creative cost-saving measures like sharing travel costs with a nearby school or library.” Another author recommends that librarians also “touch base about how payments happen because that’s awkward to ask.”

What’s not okay is requesting free visits. As one author says: “Asking for free visits is never OK–it puts us in an absolutely terrible spot.” Says another: “What is discouraging on my side of things is when a librarian reaches out (expecting a visit to be free) and then never replies back when they learn that an author values their time as much as any other type of presenter would.”

Travel Needs

How does an author like to have their travel arranged? The answer varied, so it’s best to ask directly. Sometimes authors prefer the school make the arrangements, some prefer a travel stipend so they can make their own plans, and some prefer a combination. In some instances, for example, the school might have a connection with a local hotel and get a discount, so it would make more sense for the school to make that reservation.

Communication

There are many details to consider when you’re organizing an author visit. What sort of communication is most helpful for the authors before the event? I asked them to rank the importance of different kinds of information, and the many topics they ranked highly illustrate the value of clear communication!

Answers in the “other” category included knowing which of the author’s books the school has, directions and parking, goods/services tax, student safety rules (i.e., is the campus nut-free?), and whether translators will be present. Lily LaMotte likes to meet virtually with the event organizer beforehand to answer all of the outstanding questions.

Book Sales

Often, you’ll want to sell books at your event, so students can get their books signed. Asked where they prefer you get books for the event, the authors had different answers, so it’s best to check. Several said that whatever worked best for the school was fine, though Margriet Ruurs added, “Anywhere but Amazon!”

Extras

What else can happen on an author visit? Says Dianne White: “Basically, if a librarian has something in mind, they should always ask!” Several authors were enthusiastic about meeting students and teachers for lunch. Says Kirby Larson: “Those informal moments generate amazing conversations.” However, at least one author prefers quiet time during an energetic day, so ask before scheduling lunch sessions. Several authors also enjoy attending book club meetings.

Kirby Larson is “always happy to do interviews with student reporters, if the school has a newspaper/news program. And I know I can’t answer every question that comes up during Q&A so am happy to receive a list of student questions from the librarian following my visit that I can answer after I’ve returned home.”

Martha Brockenbrough enjoys “teaching teachers how to write/teach writing,” and Kelly Jones adds, “I’m also happy to talk to any available teachers or staff about how to follow up on the exercises I teach, if they have time and their students are interested. Often, I hear that the students who don’t already see themselves as readers or writers are inspired by what they learn, so it feels like a great moment to build on that excitement.”

Dori Hillestad Butler likes to do a “small group ‘critique the author’ session where I’ll read from my work in progress and ask the kids for feedback. I model how to give and receive constructive criticism and this is a great opportunity for me to connect with my audience before the work is published and see how it’s landing.”

Next week, I’ll cover preparing for and promoting your author visit. Thanks again to the authors for their time and thought!

Quiz Bowl Part II

Here’s the second part of my interview with my Overlake colleague, Kelly Vikstrom-Hoyt, about her Quiz Bowl experiences. Part I posted on February 14.

Rebecca: What’s a memorable success or achievement your teams have experienced?

Kelly: The Middle School team had just started competing in online tournaments through TQBA (Texas Quiz Bowl Alliance) in 2022. We did one tournament and entered the top division, and got 23rd out of 25 teams. The tournament director suggested that we enter the elementary bracket for the next tournament (because most of the kids were in 6th grade anyway), and we ended up getting second in the division. So for the next tournament, we moved up to the middle division and ended up winning and qualifying for nationals! Now we regularly compete in the upper division and usually place in the top 10.

Rebecca: How do you handle setbacks or disappointments with the kids?

Kelly: Quiz bowl is all in your head – literally. So it is easy for kids to get down on themselves or get psyched out by another team that buzzes quickly or knows more of the answers. I encourage the kids to get out of their heads and try to get them to be more playful. When I took the Upper School team to Chicago for nationals, we had a disappointing day with a lot more losses than we were used to. I knew we needed to shake it off, so we left the hotel and took the train to a pizza place, got Chicago pizza and took it to a park (it was a lovely day). Then the kids asked if they were allowed to go on the playground, and I told them they were REQUIRED to play on the playground. And after all the running and playing (remember these are upper school kids), they got out of their heads and were able to have fun and win more rounds the next day.

Rebecca: How do you foster a sense of inclusivity, teamwork, and participation among a diverse group of students?

Kelly: It can be really challenging because some kids are just fast and know a lot of random information. This can make the other kids feel as if they aren’t contributing as much. But since there are both tossups (which are answered individually), and bonuses (which are answered as a team), I try to get everyone involved in the bonuses, even if just as a sounding board to double check that answers are right. The other thing I try to do is encourage kids to take risks, including sometimes buzzing and getting it wrong, and praising them when they do. One of our strongest upper school players is also the person who gets the most wrong answers. And I point this out regularly so that students don’t feel embarrassed when they get something wrong.

Rebecca: Have you observed any positive impacts on academic performance or enthusiasm for learning as a result of quiz bowl participation?

Kelly: These kids are already super academically motivated. But it is interesting to see them making connections between information they learned in class and questions in Quiz Bowl. When there’s a question about something they “just did in class that day,” they love it. Students will also let the younger kids know “you haven’t learned that yet” when they know a concept is taught later in the year in that grade. 

Rebecca: What advice would you give to librarians who want to support or initiate quiz bowl activities in their schools?

Kelly: We have a lot of random knowledge and information at our fingertips! This is a great way to market that and remind people that you hold the key to accessing that knowledge. I was afraid, at first, that I’d have to come up with all the questions – but there are so many resources out there already that I have literally never had to make up questions. But I do point out resources that will be helpful to kids who want to study or learn more about something. Start small – I started out with middle school just being a trivia club and we did lots of different activities related to trivia. But then they really enjoyed the more formal structure of regular quiz bowl, so we shifted to just that.

Rebecca: What has been the most rewarding aspect of running quiz bowl teams for you?

Kelly: It is another way for me to connect with kids and see them in a different way that they typically show up in the library. The relationship building is really what keeps me going, even when I sacrifice my weekend for a tournament.

Sources

“Quiz Bowl.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia, 31 Jan. 2024, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quiz_bowl.

“For an article aimed at librarians, I am interviewing a colleague who runs quiz bowl teams for middle and upper school, including weekly meetings and local, online, and travel tournaments. What questions should I ask her?” prompt. ChatGPT, version 3.5, OpenAI, 2023, chat.openai.com/c/dfd0c6bd-f1dd-4a59-aea9-98ffef558101.

Quiz Bowl Part I

My colleague at Overlake, Kelly Vikstrom-Hoyt, runs highly successful Quiz Bowl clubs for both middle and upper schoolers. I thought AISL librarians might be interested to hear more details, so Kelly graciously agreed to share her knowledge and expertise. Many thanks to her for taking the time, and for giving thoughtful and detailed answers in our interview. As the interview ran long, this is part one; part two will post on 2/21.

Background: Early radio game shows inspired a plethora of quiz-bowl type competitions in the US and around the world. While different iterations are easy to find, Quiz Bowl in the US usually involves four-person teams answering questions in mostly academic fields, in levels ranging from elementary through graduate school. Questions come in two different types, toss-up and bonus, and students use a buzzer system to claim a question. If students answer early in the question, with less information, they can earn additional points. Coordinators can purchase Quiz Bowl materials, including questions, from sources like NAQT (National Academic Quiz Tournaments, founded in 1996). Students ready to move beyond their school competitions can enter/qualify for local or national competitions and weekend tournaments, including online and in-person tournaments.

Rebecca: How did you get started in Quiz Bowl, and why?

Kelly: I participated in Knowledge Bowl in high school. Although my team was really strong, I wasn’t the best, but I still had fun. In my second year at Overlake a new student wanted to start a Quiz Bowl Team but there wasn’t a faculty advisor. When I saw that, I jumped all over it. I felt like it would be fun with my previous experience, and I was also uniquely qualified to find them all sorts of random sources of information if they wanted to study.

Rebecca: What is your role in Overlake’s Quiz Bowl teams, and what is your time commitment?

Kelly: I’m the primary faculty advisor for both the Upper and Middle school Teams. Upper School clubs meet every other week for an hour and Middle School clubs meet every week for an hour. We do about 5-7 tournaments a year for each team, and those are a full day on Saturday. Then, when and if we make the National Tournament, I travel to Chicago for three days in the spring with each team.

Rebecca: When do teams meet, and what happens at Quiz Bowl club meetings?

Kelly: Competing Academic Teams meet at various times. Quiz Bowl meets during our usual club blocks during the school day, but we also have after school practice on Fridays. During our meetings we primarily do practice questions and play as if it were a tournament. I will stop and offer advice and coach the kids on when and how to buzz, and when information is something that comes up frequently. I know that some teams do a lot of group studying, but I feel like doing questions is more fun and the students still retain a lot of the knowledge.

Rebecca: What’s the process for entering tournaments, and how do you choose which tournaments to enter?

Kelly: Tournaments are challenging. We started the team in 2019/2020 and Covid severely affected our ability to attend in-person tournaments (and there weren’t any in-person tournaments), but it also kick-started the idea of online tournaments. Knowledge Bowl is more prevalent in this area, so there isn’t a huge pool of other local teams to compete with in Quiz Bowl style. The University of Washington Quiz Bowl team puts on some tournaments, but that is all dependent on the club leadership, and some years they don’t do them. Basically, we look for local tournaments (on the NAQT website) and we look for online tournaments we are allowed to join. If it works with the students’ schedules, we sign up. You have to qualify for the national tournament by finishing in the top 10-15% of regular tournaments. 

Rebecca: What’s it like to attend a travel tournament?

Kelly: Traveling to tournaments is interesting because it is much more intense than rolling out of bed in your pajamas to compete, or just driving down to the UW. It’s especially true for this group of kids, who has mostly attended online tournaments. Somehow, the kids get much more psyched out by the competition, and hearing side chats or other teams studying. But it is super fun to be able to bond as a team, and eat meals and do things besides answer random questions together.

Rebecca: What are some challenges you face in running quiz bowl teams?

Kelly: The biggest challenge is time. The MS team meets during club time, and that doesn’t get interrupted that often, but the US team’s club meeting time frequently gets interrupted by other events, and many of the kids are on multiple clubs and try to split their time among them. In order for us to be really top notch, we’d have to carve out a lot more practice time. But the students are already so over-committed, there isn’t any other time to carve out. We did finally find a good after school time: Fridays, and this has worked well this year.

Sources

“Quiz Bowl.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia, 31 Jan. 2024, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quiz_bowl.

“For an article aimed at librarians, I am interviewing a colleague who runs quiz bowl teams for middle and upper school, including weekly meetings and local, online, and travel tournaments. What questions should I ask her?” prompt. ChatGPT, version 3.5, OpenAI, 2023, chat.openai.com/c/dfd0c6bd-f1dd-4a59-aea9-98ffef558101.

Building Book Recommendation Lists

I’ve been compiling booklists since I started out as a librarian. Currently, the two biggest lists I work on for school are our Holiday Reading/Gift-Giving Recommendations, and Summer Fun Reading Recommendations. How I compile the lists has morphed over the years, and I thought I’d share how I do it now, and would love to hear about others’ methods, too.

We divide our lists into three levels. Formerly we used Middle School, Upper School, and Adult, but changed that to Middle School (grades 5-7), Crossover (grades 7-10), and Upper School/Adult (grades 9-12/adult). We further divide each level by genre/category, which can be somewhat flexible; for instance, one year I found so many wonderful new short story collections that I added that as a category. Sometime genres that fit well for Middle School don’t fit so well for Crossover and vice versa. I use “Romance” as a category only in the latter, along with “Supernatural.” “Humor” as a category I use only in Middle School. MS and Crossover have eight t0 nine genres/categories, whereas we divide the Upper School lists into Fiction, Nonfiction, and Graphica. MS and Crossover genres/categories include six books each; US lists can run longer in each category.

As to how I build the lists, I start with last year’s lists, and do my utmost not to repeat a title. I have a database spreadsheet with columns for genre, main character gender(s), and diversit(y/ies). For each genre, I strive to balance the genders of main characters, and make it at least half diverse, preferably more to reflect our school population. I also strive to ensure the titles represent a diversity of diversities, including religious, disability, race/ethnicity, and LGBTQ.

When possible, I prefer to populate the lists with new or new-ish books, starting with titles from our new books lists. When I’ve exhausted those, I move to my wishlist database, best-books lists, library catalog, etc. Sometimes I struggle to find good, diverse books in every genre, and I do end up re-using older titles—occasionally even old favorites still in print—if I can’t find newer books to fill the lists.

We post our lists on our LibGuides, in tabbed boxes. Recently we’ve stopped creating new guides each year, instead shifting the older boxes to a general “Reading Recommendations” page and building the new lists in the same guides. Using our judgement about what will circulate, we buy many of the titles in eBook format. We also display print titles in the library, and advertise the lists through parent and faculty communications, among others.

How do you build your recommended-books lists?

Blast From the Past: AISL Conference 1996

As I was thinking what to write for my December post, I thought back to when I was a baby librarian in my 20s, attending my first AISL conference. That was in 1996, when AISL was less than ten years old, and I was living in its “hometown” of Washington, D.C. As the conference also took place in D.C., that made attending it easy! At that time in my life, I wrote my grandmother long letters about everything I was up to, which included the conference. I dug up the letter that included my description, and what follows is a slightly-abridged version, with some added comments. I sadly didn’t find any photos I took at the conference, but here I am at my first school, Edmund Burke (rocking those 80s shoulder pads), along with a view of my library. Note the card catalog—it was the dark ages!!

April, 1996

The AISL (Association of Independent School Librarians) conference was a tremendous success; I’ve never had so much fun at a conference before! It began on a Wednesday at St. Alban’s, with continental breakfast in the library. At the local conferences I attend most people already know each other and don’t really talk outside their groups, but here, few people knew each other, so everyone talked to new people. People came from all over the country, and it was wonderful to discuss our libraries and find out we all have the same types of problems with students, faculty, teaching, equipment, budgets, etc. That’s the drawback of working at Edmund Burke as a solo librarian; no one really knows what I do so it’s rather isolating. I loved talking to people who not only understood but were interested in what I was saying! [2023 note: That conference, and the camaraderie, completely sold me on AISL, and I am so grateful I found the association at the start of my career.]

              The morning’s program focused on library facilities; planning a new one, moving, etc. An architect discussed the tendency of architects to ignore function in favor of looks, resulting in things like odd corners no shelves can fit in, solid railings behind which kids can hide, useless light fixtures, insufficient wiring, etc. They showed slides of lots of lovely libraries, and pointed out difficulties with all of them! Rather daunting, especially as the librarians who had undergone this process spent more time at their library than at home, and really immersed themselves in the project and the school. The dedication that requires!

              That afternoon we took school buses to visit some local school libraries. The first stop was Madeira. Their library is quite new and elegantly beautiful, though the lights are inconvenient. I spent much time talking with a local librarian about her automation system, which might work for Burke. I apprecited the chance to talk to someone from my local association without having dozens of other people clamoring for her attention! One thing I got out of the conference was many helpful suggestions and advice about CD-ROMs, automation, and technology in general. Since we’re just starting out with automation, I need to learn a lot more.

              Our next stop was an elementary school; Langley. They have a British librarian, and it was the only library we visited that had Enid Blyton books. Also, one of their librarians is a published children’s author. They have a wonderful story room; they painted all the walls as if you’re looking out over the parapets of a castle into a pastoral landscape. If you peer closely, you can even spot some unicorns. Apparently it was a real school community project, and took a long time (and some hair-pulling) to complete.

              Last, we returned to the cathedral and quickly glanced through the National Cathedral School’s library before heading to Georgetown Visitation, which has a spacious campus in Georgetown. They hosted dinner in the library, which used to be a barn. Again I was amazed that even though I was constantly talking to different people, everyone was pleasant and interesting and intelligent. [2023 note: I cannot imagine, twenty-seven years later, what on earth would have made me amazed to find that out! Now I just take that for granted with AISL!]

              The next morning we started again at St. Alban’s, with lectures on women characters in books for children, fiction and nonfiction. I heard the lectures on women’s history, women in music, women in math, and women in fiction. I was most impressed with the women’s history speaker; I guess I had never really understood before that women’s history was not just biographies of women, but the entire history of the gender, with entirely different landmarks from that of men. For instance, World War II was dreadful for men, but wonderful (in some ways) for women who were able to join the workforce. I’d never thought of it like that before.

              That afternoon included museum tours. As I live in DC I opted to go to work instead, but went out to dinner in Georgetown with several nice librarians from out of town.

              On Friday we left from St. Alban’s in busses and drove to the Library of Congress. After an orientation movie, we split into tour groups. My group visited the children’s section, located in an eyrie on a balcony above the incredible Jefferson reading room (circular). What an amazing place to work! The architectural details stand so close (arches, pillars, carvings), and bronze statutes perched on the edge of the balcony look out over the room. Michaelangelo and Bacon stood in the section where we were; larger than life. We discussed the children’s section and its various successes and problems (all LC has had funding problems like most government agencies), but I think the best part of the tour was simply the location.

              The children’s librarian had to take us back to the new building for our next tour, and to save time, we took the tunnels under the street. There were miles of them, all busy with people. We also saw a book tram–a tractor hauling bins of books on a special track.

              Our next stop was geography and mapping, which takes up an enormous amount of basement space. Acres, literally! We saw all sorts of maps, and most interesting, a scanner that could take antique maps and reproduce them so exactly on a massive color printer that from a distance, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. We also saw old fire insurance maps showing every house and street and building in every town in America; not possible to do anymore because people are afraid to go to the inner cities to measure buildings. Apparently the maps are still useful in that people can research the locations of old chemical plants, because the maps always list the products of particular buildings.

              That afternoon we went to the National Archives. My group took the walking tour first, through many sections the public never sees. Their stacks are narrow and dark and well hidden, and the building is honeycombed with levels. Originally they’d planned to build an atrium under the dome, but discovered they needed the space for documents. Of course we also visited the Constitution and the Magna Carta in the main public area. The lecture covered some school packets of primary source material the Archives has gathered. They have one on Jacksonian America, and are just working on a Women’s History packet. The speaker discussed the power of petitions before women could vote.

              That was alas the end of the conference for me, but I had a truly wonderful time!

Back to 2023. After having moved home to the west coast almost twenty years ago, I wasn’t able to attend as many AISL conferences as I used to, but each has still been a wonderful experience. Thanks to all those organizers who pour their heart and souls and time into creating those experiences.

Connecting Outside Interests With Your Job

The other day, I was thinking about how librarians find ways to connect their outside interests and talents with their work, such as how I incorporate my love of writing into my career. Here are many of the ways I do that, and I would love to hear how others connect their interests and talents to their jobs!

Reviews

I review almost everything I read in GoodReads, both for my own use—remembering what I read—and for school use. I often add my GoodReads summaries to catalog records as a “general” note to offer more information about the book, and may also use those summaries in booktalks. As I usually summarize every story in short story books I read, I find those helpful when searching for a short story about something specific, either for a teacher or for an AISL query. The tags and stars I add to reviews also help when I’m looking for books to recommend or add to a to-buy list.

In addition, I write professional reviews for a couple of library magazines, which requires more meticulous work than a GoodReads review. It also gets me reading and thinking about books I might not have otherwise encountered, and helps me hone my ability to write concisely. And it’s always nice to open a magazine and see your own name there!

While I’m not sure if blurbs count as reviews, I write those as well, for our new middle school fiction. We paste them onto bookmarks that go into books on display, hoping to interest students in the books. My colleague also writes blurbs, and she captures the key, intriguing points of a book more concisely than I, I must admit.

Activities

For eighteen years at my current school (and five years at my previous school) I ran the middle school literary magazine. While I’ve given it up due to lack of student interest and lack of time, I always enjoyed reading student writing and finding unexpected literary gems.

I also run a “Writing Time” club for students who like to write, but can’t find a moment in their packed schedules. While some students occasionally share writing and ask for feedback, for the most part, we just write.

For ten years, a colleague and I ran a picture-book writing project for our school’s Project Week, and I’m considering reviving it this year. It’s based on the book Written & Illustrated by, by David Melton, and I always love helping students craft their stories and create their books. I also participated with the same colleague in a poetry-writing Project Week project, and learned how to write sestinas and ballads along with the kids. I wrote a ballad about a pony-riding mishap when I was a kid; the ballad was more fun than the incident, and kids always appreciate the chance to laugh at teacher mishaps!

I run multiple contests each year, as I wrote about in two AISL blog posts (Contests Part One, Contests Part Two), and many of those involve writing. It’s fun to think up things that require some creative writing and thinking, but in a one to three sentence form. While most entries are not winner-level, many always impress me.

I recently read a KQ article about a “Reading Quest” that motivated me to create my own version. The authors mentioned that students loved poking around in the quests to find the cute drawings the authors had done. Since drawing is not my strong suit, I peppered my quest with characters saying ridiculous things, instead. I tried this out with our 6th grade, and it went pretty well—though I don’t know if the jokes helped!

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed writing silly skits to introduce various contests, activities, and so forth. While I still do that, where I mostly flex my skit-writing skills these days is in scripts for videos my colleagues, students, and I put together to advertise my library’s eBooks. Writing about those videos was part of my first AISL blog post this year, and the skits are always such fun to write and film!

Other

For many years, I wrote articles on books and other library matters for VOYA magazine, which unfortunately appears defunct. That is one reason I’m happy to be able to write for the AISL blog!

For the retirements of two recent colleagues, I chose “patter” songs (such as the Major General song from The Pirates of Penzance) and wrote lyrics about my colleagues. I asked the choir teacher to perform them at the faculty end-of-year party, and she did a wonderful job. I had such fun writing these, and was especially proud that I managed to use the word “defenestrate” in one of the songs!

Though I quickly learned that the traditional publishing world is too rejection-heavy for me, I continue to write novels, both fanfiction and original. I’ve self-published a couple through Amazon so I could have a printed book to my name, and as they were YA titles, I donated copies to my school library. (Shameless self-promotion: Summergreen, and Tales From Camp Brightlake.)

Your Turn

How do you bring your hobbies, interests, and passions to your job?

Selecting and Familiarizing Ourselves with Books

Thanks so much to the 100+ people who filled out my survey about selecting and familiarizing yourself with books! Here’s the breakdown of respondents by grade levels, so you can see that most serve grades 9-12, followed by grades 5-8, followed by K-4. The “other” responses included Pre-K students.

Selecting Books

By Reviews

For selecting books by reviews, respondents most often use:

  • Print magazines
  • Sites that curate multiple professional reviews
  • Book-related websites
  • Online versions of print sources
  • Professional blogs.

Least used:

  • Online video reviews
  • Databases

Responses in the “other” category included:

Other Ways to Select Overall

In other ways to select books, almost everyone buys:

  • Books recommended by students or faculty
  • Books from popular series or books written by popular authors

Least used other sources include:

  • Sales reps
  • Bookfairs

In the “other” category, sources mentioned include:

Top Two Selection Sources

When it comes to respondents’ “top two” sources for selecting books, we are a diverse bunch! I parsed the responses, and the most frequent responses included:

  • Print magazines or other review sources/sites (cumulative or not)
  • Student or other patron requests

Top print sources mentioned, by frequency, are:

Top cumulative review sites were:

See the end of this post for a full list of specific sources mentioned.

Familiarizing Ourselves With Books

Familiarization Methods Overall

When it comes to familiarizing ourselves with books, top methods included:

  • Using new books in displays
  • Reading book jackets and back-of-book summaries
  • Skimming new books
  • Reading new books

Least popular included:

  • Reading reviews on social media/ blogs/ YouTube/ etc.
  • Reading social media posts

Answers in the “other” category included:

  • “We get 30+ books on a biweekly basis so that simply isn’t possible!”
  • “Read the ones that don’t seem like they’d be popular so I can \”sell\” them!”
  • Give books to students and request feedback
  • “Read specific ones with an eye toward adding them to the HAISLN list.”

Top Two Familiarization Methods

The most popular methods for familiarizing ourselves with books include:

  • Reading
  • Skimming
  • Reading book jackets
  • Reading summaries

Interesting answers given by one person each included:

  • Watching author videos
  • Reading ARCs
  • Social media
  • Ingram Advance
  • Checking trigger warning sites

Selected comments:

  • “An interesting follow-up survey could be about people’s feelings on paying for acquisitions services. Ingram is coming out with a paid service that will supposedly select books for your school.”
  • “I familiarize myself with books as part of the evaluation process.”
  • “I’m a slow reader so skimming is as good as it gets unless I think the book will be popular or if it’s a book we’re choosing for book club.”
  • “I just look at the covers. 🙂 I know what I’m ordering and know what to expect when those boxes arrive; I read summaries as I order and listen to from webinars; I have lists ready of who requested what and I set aside those titles I know I should read for readers’ advisory.”
  • “I read a lot! And I skim the ones I don’t fully read. I handle every book I purchase.”
  • “I catalog all of our new books; Follett’s cataloging often leaves much to be desired, so I usually do a little digging with each book to create a good record. I also do weekly book talks during our all upper school gathering where I promote new books in the library and our new books libguide weekly.”
  • “I use the 10-minute read technique. Secondly, I enhance the resource records when processing, during which I read the entire cover information and perhaps the first few pages.”
  • “When I order them I familiarize myself with what they are about. I read some, but there is no way to read them all!!”
  • “I use Titlewave, especially Kirkus Review that usually includes information such as “characters cue white” or “protagonist is Southeast Asian.” I also like that it has multiple reviews that include age ranges. Reading the books is also helpful although I’m a slow reader and there are many books! I tend to let the popular books sell themselves and read or read excerpts of the books that might not be as popular but that I know will be good.”
  • “Read the book. If I like it, I read the entire book. Otherwise, I stop when I know enough to book talk it to students.”
  • “Sadly I do very little of this, other then trying to match the titles with the content I saw when reading the reviews.”

Resources Mentioned

These are resources mentioned in the survey, as well as resources from an earlier query by Sarah Davis of Viewpoint School (CA), who compiled this list.

TypeResource
ARCsNetGalley
Edelweiss
Awards/Best-Of ListsYALSA Awards
Pulitzer Prize for Literature
 National Book Awards
 Carnegie Awards
 New York Times Best Seller Lists
 Capitol Choices
Book WebsitesRead Aloud Revival
Redeemed Reader
Book Riot
 Read Brightly
 Fiction DB Book Release Calendar
 The Graphic Library
 We Need Diverse Books
 Epic Reads
 YALSA Teen Book Finder
 Shelf Awareness
 LitHub
 Indie Next
 Reading Middle Grade
BooksellersBarnes & Noble
Bookshop.org
Amazon
Local Independents (Indie Bookstore Finder)
Powell’s
Titlewave (Follett)
Ingram
Crowd-Sourced ReviewsTikTok/BookTok
Crowd-Sourced Reviews/SummariesGoodReads
Cumulative Prof/Non-Prof ReviewsAmazon
Novelist
Cumulative Professional ReviewsIngram
 Mackin
 Bookshop.org
 Titlewave (Follett)
Magazines for ReadersThe New Yorker
 Bookmarks Magazine
 BookPage
 New York Review of Books
Professional Reviews/SummariesHorn Book
 Kirkus Reviews
 School Library Journal
 Bulletin from the Center for Children’s Books (BCCB)
 Library Journal
 New York Times Book Review
 Book Pulse (Library Journal)
 Booklist
 Publisher’s Weekly (PW)
 Choice Magazine/Choice Reviews (ACRL)
Publisher NewsletterLibraryAware
Recommended Reading ListsHAISLN Recommended Reading Lists
 Bank Street College of Education Summer Reading Lists
 ALSC Summer Reading Lists
 YALSA Great Graphic Novels for Teens
Review/Read-Alike DatabasesNovelist
 TeachingBooks
Social MediaInstagram
 BookTok
 Facebook
VideosTikTok/BookTok
BookTube
WebinarsSchool Library Journal
Book Riot

Webtoons

I’ve been wanting to write about Webtoons for the blog, since I started reading Webtoons webcomics a few years ago and now follow multiple series, but have held back for a couple of reasons. One, the world of webcomics is enormous, with a multitude of sites around the world hosting many thousands of series, but I’ve pretty much stuck to Webtoons so can’t comment on the others (except I know that sometimes series/episodes too racy for Webtoons end up on Tapas). Two, I haven’t really found a good way to translate my love of Webtoons to my job, except to post a list of the series I’m following, and to add some to our catalog if they are available in book format or were adapted from books. I’d love to hear other ideas for how to use them at school!

Webtoons is a South Korean company that’s gone through a few iterations since 2004. Originator of the scrollable-comic format that works well for the web and mobile devices, Webtoons now publishes original webcomics, has a self-publishing platform called Canvas, and is also associated with the writers’ site Wattpad. Though Webtoons is free, readers can choose to support their favorite comic creators, and some comics are offered on a “daily pass” system that allows you to unlock one episode a day or use virtual “coins” to unlock other episodes. Many Webtoons series are in progress, updating at different intervals or on hiatus, so don’t expect to read a story all the way through like a novel unless the series is marked as completed. Finding new Webtoons to follow can be frustrating, since the subject search is unfortunately minimal.

For the most part, Webtoons are aimed at YA and adults, though many are fine for grades 7+. A select few are appropriate for younger kids, though I wouldn’t recommend the site to younger students. More mature YA/Adult webtoons can have significant “R-Rated” content, though not generally above that; obviously that’s subjective. I’ve encountered a ton of LGBTQ representation and a fair amount of other diverse representation, which is always a plus! I also enjoy reading the comments, which has introduced me to more current slang, and let me see how other, probably younger readers connect with the material. Often people will tell how their own situation or personality mirrors something happening in the comic, such as autistic people seeing their experiences reflected in the experiences of Extraordinary Attorney Woo. I also learn things I never suspected; for instance, from reading comments on the trans comic Hyperfocus, I learned that people can identify as multi-personality “systems,” or as “non-human entities.” Windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors are well-represented in webcomics!

English-language YA titles that have been adapted as Webtoons (I’ve starred ones I’ve read):

Webtoons I’ve read that have been/are being released as graphic novels:

Webtoons I’ve read that have been adapted for Netflix or vice versa:

Though I have a long list of my favorite Webtoons, here’s a list of my top ten favorites for grades 7+, along with a summary copied from/adapted from the official Webtoon summary:

Nothing Special. Katie Cook. Fantasy, Humor, Romance, Adventure

Callie thinks she’s nothing special. With the unexpected addition of friendship and adventure (and dead radishes) into her life, she’s about to find out that she was very, very wrong! [On hiatus]

Space Boy. Stephen McCranie. Science Fiction, Adventure, Romance, School Story

A girl who belongs in a different time. A boy possessed by an emptiness as deep as space. A story about an alien artifact, a mysterious murder, and a love that crosses light years. [In progress]

Raven Saga. Chihiro Howe. Fantasy, Adventure, Romance

When her grandmother is taken by a mysterious boy, Wen must travel to the outside world to save her, but the world isn’t as magical as she once thought, and danger lurks around every corner. [On hiatus]

Cursed Princess Club. LambCat. Fantasy, Humor, Adventure, Romance

Gwendolyn doesn’t look like a fairy-tale princess, but she’s got a big heart and a loving family. When she accidentally stumbles upon the world of the Cursed Princess Club, her life will never be the same. [In progress]

Heartstopper. Alice Oseman. Romance, Realistic Fiction, School Story, LGBTQ+

Charlie, a highly-strung, openly gay over-thinker, and Nick, a cheerful, soft-hearted rugby player, meet at a British all-boys grammar school. Friendship blooms quickly, but could there be something more…? [In progress]

Brass & Sass! Antlerella. Romance, Realistic Fiction, School Story

What Camilla lacks in musical ability, she makes up for in passion – especially when it comes to Victor, the handsome musician who’s caught her eye. Will love rule the day, even when your crush-of-choice is a real brass-hole? [Complete]

Miss Abbot and the Doctor. Maripaz Villar. Romance, Historical, Humor

 Dr. Marino loves his quiet life, and when the strange Miss Abbott arrives in his town he decides he doesn’t like her at all. Unfortunately, she’s funny and quirky, has an uncommon past, and seems to enjoy getting him in trouble. [Complete]

The Witch and the Bull. Moonsia. Fantasy, Adventure, Romance

King’s royal advisor Tan hates witches, making him prime target for a curse that turns him into a BULL! The only way to undo this hex is to rely on the beautiful and kind witch, Aro. [In progress]

Night Owls and Summer Skies Rebecca Sullivan/TIKKLIL. Romance, Realistic Fiction, Camp Story, LGBTQ+

When her mother dumps her at Camp Mapplewood, Emma tries to get kicked out. But when she gets to know Vivian, a gorgeous assistant counselor, she might just change her mind. [Complete]

Acception. Colourbee. Realistic Fiction, School Story, LGBTQ+

With his rainbow-colored hair and love of all things fashion, Arcus is anything BUT your average teenager. But like the rest of us, he’s just looking for a few friends to call his own. [In progress]

Sources:

 “Webtoon (platform).” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia, 7 Aug. 2023. Web. 12 Aug. 2023.

Thumbnail images from Webtoons.

Oxbridge Teacher Seminars 2023

Happy August, all! As we return to our schools and our jobs, I’m thinking back on the wonderful professional development trip I took this summer to Oxford, England. Oxbridge Academic Programs by Worldstrides has been running student programs for thirty-five years, in locations including Oxford, Cambridge, Paris, New York, and Barcelona. An offshoot of that is the weeklong Oxbridge Teacher Seminars, this year taking place in Oxford and Cambridge. This is my third time joining these programs, and the second time in Oxford. Each year the programs offer several different tracks, which in Oxford this year included: Literature and the Fantastic (about the Oxford fantasy writers like J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Philip Pullman, etc.), The Library and the Academy, Shakespeare in History, and Leadership Challenges in Contemporary Education. As I had previously taken the Literature and the Fantastic course, which I loved, this year I chose Shakespeare. My AISL colleague Jennifer Lutzky, from Campbell Hall in California, chose the library track. She contributed all information related to that, as well as contributing to the details of the program overall.

The programs take place at one of the thirty-nine colleges included in Oxford University; this year at Worcester College. Program days start with breakfast in the college dining hall, seminar meetings in the morning, a tea break at eleven (because, of course), then further seminar meetings or local field trips with your seminar group until lunchtime. Lunches are on your own in Oxford. Afternoons include plenary (all-group) sessions that could be lectures, workshops, walking tours, college tours, or local activities. Dinner is also in the college dining hall, and can be followed by optional excursions to pubs, concerts, plays, etc. And of course, there is lots of time for connecting with your fellow course participants over meals, at meetings, and in your free time—network away! 

There is also plenty of time for exploring Oxford and souvenir shopping. Oxford is a highly walkable town, with something new and photo-worthy around every curve, narrow alleyway, and corner. Our introductory walking tour, through the lively river of summer tourists and students, touched on all the main sites, such as the Radcliffe Camera, Ashmolean Museum, Bodleian Library, Sheldonian Theatre, etc. Despite its historic buildings, Oxford is no museum; it’s a living, active host to hundreds of years of scholarship and shenanigans. 

Here is a daily schedule of the 2023 program, for the Shakespeare and Library tracks: 

Day One: Arrival at Worcester College 

Welcome: Group meeting to go over the program and make introductions 

Plenary Session: Walking tour of Oxford 

After dinner: Optional pub visit to The Rickety Press 

Day Two 

Discussion Groups: The Shakespeare group, led by Dr. Kim Sturgess, discussed Shakespeare in general, and teaching Shakespeare. One suggestion was treating it like a video game, with many different levels of expertise. We then took a “field trip” to the college lake, overhung by willows, for a reading/discussion of Ophelia’s death in Hamlet.  The library group, led by Steven Archer from Trinity College Cambridge, discussed “Libraries and the University”, an overview of how the Oxford and Cambridge systems work and how their different types of libraries integrate into the institution as a whole. Then we visited Merton College, established in 1264, and their library, which was built in the 1370s. It is the oldest continuously-operating university library in the world.

Plenary Session One: Dr. Mark Hammond: “Exoplanet research, Education, and Outreach.” 

Plenary Session Two: Prof. Patrick Porter: “Blood and Iron: Ukraine, Taiwan, and the West.” 

Day Three 

Discussion Groups: The Shakespeare group read aloud from and discussed Romeo and Juliet, and ways to approach it with students, mostly by knocking it off its pedestal and connecting students with the universal emotions and experiences at its center. At our second session, we talked about the lyric poem Venus and Adonis, one of the few pieces published in Shakespeare’s lifetime. The library group discussed theories about what makes a library a library, and got an overview on the history of ancient and medieval libraries. Then we had two library visits! The first was with the curator of medieval manuscripts at the Bodleian Library, where we got to see an array of manuscripts, including one scribed in the 1180s and the first bible translated into Middle English in the 1430s. Next we visited the Lincoln College library, which moved into a beautiful church in the 1970s and has exquisite Georgian ceilings.

Plenary Session One: Charlie Gilderdale: “Experiencing Learning.” In this session, we spent forty-five minutes on a math problem, and forty-five minutes discussing our experiences as students. 

Plenary Session Two: Punting on the Thames, unfortunately canceled due to rain. 

After Dinner: “Optional drinks with the faculty of The Oxford Tradition and The Oxford Prep Experience at Corpus Christi College.” Worcester College Cellar Bar also open. 

Day Four 

Discussion Groups: The Shakespeare group read from and discussed The Tempest, and some of its problematic aspects, such as the treatment of Caliban. Dr. Sturgess tried to frame it with an Elizabethan consciousness to help us understand how its original viewers would have responded to it. The library group learned about the early history of printing, and then discussed cataloging and item access. Today’s library visits were to two particularly impressive libraries, Duke Humfrey’s Library in the old Bodleian, and the Radcliffe Camera. Both are places typically restricted to Oxford students and faculty, without any public access, and both were extraordinary to see in person. The library group was especially awed by Duke Humfrey’s library, with all its 15th and 16th century splendor, and amused by the juxtaposition of centuries-old volumes and bookcases with power strips and USB ports.

Plenary Session One: Gabriel Sewell: “Visit to Christ Church’s historic Upper Library with the college librarian.” Discussion about the library system at Oxford. On display: a 14th century copy of The Canterbury Tales, among other wonders, and a beautiful exhibition devoted to Lewis Carroll, who was both a student and mathematics tutor at the college.

Plenary Session Two: Dr. Sally Bayley: “Books have the power to change your life. Performed readings from Dr. Bayley’s new book, The Green Lady.” 

Day Five 

Discussion Groups: The Shakespeare group discussed The Merchant of Venice and its controversial aspects, as well as how it would have been viewed by Elizabethan audiences. The play does feature some wonderfully strong and intelligent women, who found ways to have power in a society that allowed them few choices. The library group discussed library spaces and how they have changed, and talked about ways that libraries can engage and serve their users. We then visited the library at Queen’s College, which has three floors with three distinct atmospheres, built in the 17th, 19th, and 21st centuries.  

Optional Bodleian Library Tour: Thirty minute tour covering the history of the library while visiting the oldest section, the 15th century Duke Humfrey’s Library, then a brief visit to the Divinity School with its fantastical fan vaulting. 

Plenary Session: Eleanor Townsend: “Re-discovering Women in Art: the making of the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Medieval and Renaissance Galleries.” 

After Dinner: Walk to the nearby Norman-era Oxford Castle for an outdoor performance of Romeo & Juliet

Day Six 

Discussion Groups: The Shakespeare group discussed last night’s performance of Romeo & Juliet, as well as reading from and discussing Henry V, and watching video clips from the Kenneth Branagh version. In the second morning session, we watched an episode of Michael Wood’s In search of Shakespeare, a documentary exploring Shakespeare’s lifetime. The library group talked about library services and the broad spectrum of what libraries do for patrons. Then we again fit two libraries into our field trip schedule. First we were off to the Oxford Union, the iconic Oxford debating society, to hear about their history and see their library (including a ceiling painted by William Morris). Next we explored the library at Trinity College, which is over 600 years old and houses everything from 10th century manuscripts to a collection of rare erotica to limited editions of Winnie the Pooh.

Plenary Session One: Choice of walking tours, one for architecture, one for literature. 

Plenary Session Two: Punting on the Thames, starting from Magdalen Bridge. 

After Dinner: Optional concert at the Sheldonian Theatre: “Shakespeare in Music; Oxford Philharmonic.” 

Day Seven 

Free time: With a free morning, some new friends from the Shakespeare group hopped on a local bus to visit Blenheim Palace, the vast and lavish estate that’s the seat of the Dukes of Marlborough, and birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. The library group snuck in one last field trip, a visit to St. Edmund Hall (“Teddy Hall”) and their libraries. Another library housed in a church, the College Library building dates from the 12th century and is one of the oldest churches in Oxford. There is a tomb nestled among the desks in the reading room, a crypt underneath the floor, and students regularly lean against the gravestones outside to study on sunny days. The Old Library, in a separate building, was constructed in the 1680s and was the last Oxford library to keep their books chained to the shelves to prevent theft.

Plenary Session: Tour of New College (founded 1379). “A visit to this 14th Century college to explore the magnificent chapel, hall, quads, and gardens.” 

Drinks Reception: Presentation of certificates. 

Formal Dinner 

Conclusions

Rebecca: I think I could happily spend part of every summer in Oxford, and I highly recommend the Oxbridge program, though it is rather pricey as far as professional development goes (I paid for it myself). Please feel free to contact me for any more information, and you can read an expanded day to day description of my experience here. If you’re really interested, you can also read a way-too-long travelogue of my experience with the Literature and the Fantastic course in 2011 here. That course is still being offered, and while of course it would be different, the travelogue could give you an idea of the type of thing likely to be covered. 

Jennifer: For the library group, just to be admitted into so many very old and very beautiful library spaces, and surrounded by the sheer volume of rare and many-centuries-old books and manuscripts, was overwhelming and awe-inspiring. Those opportunities, paired with engaging discussions about libraries and library services, made this seminar both worthwhile professionally and delightful personally. I hope to repeat the experience, perhaps the next time it is hosted at Cambridge!

Composite of photos taken around Worcester College. It is enormous, including a small lake, multiple academic and dorm buildings, a library, a chapel, a dining hall, a pub, a Henry Moore sculpture, ancient trees in luxuriant gardens, walking trails, and a vast athletic field.