I got an interesting phone call yesterday from a SLIS student. She’s taking a summer course on children’s literature and was looking for information* about librarians using children’s lit blogs as part of their collection development tools.
Well, yes, of course I use blogs, I said. There are so many goods ones out there! She seemed surprised and rather dismayed (at least, that’s how it sounded to me), which made her reaction stick with me. And since this is my own little soapbox, I get to elaborate here.
As I’ve addressed in a couple of articles recently, my primary resource is the professional journals to which my library subscribes. This includes Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, School Library Journal, Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, andVOYA. There might be others but that’s all I can think of/find on my desk right now. Those reviews go through editors, are recognized throughout the industry, and can be a line of defense should something get challenged.
But that doesn’t mean that’s the only place I find things. I get publisher catalogs in the mail regularly, get emails daily, have wide eyed and eager or subtly shy kids making requests, parents leaving me formal acquisition request slips….and I read blogs, browse bookstores, and look for books wherever I can.
The student was concerned about the quality of blog book reviews. I said I can usually tell the quality based on the overall quality of the blog, which usually is pretty apparent if you read five or ten posts. If someone is caustically slamming everything they read, then yes, I’m going to be a little suspicious. If they are only ever staunchly cheerleading every bleeding title, also potentially suspect. I know Tasha Saecker only publishes reviews of books she enjoyed (her policy) but she’ll also note if there are weaknesses in those books and I know what her policy is. It’s my job to evaluate information and that’s something I do every day, so wouldn’t it be reasonable to say that after reading quite a lot of them, I have a pretty good idea which kid lit blogs have usable reviews on which might I rely? And while a blog is someone’s opinion, so is a review printed in a journal. For example, Madame Storyteller reviews for School Library Journal. Her reviews are absolutely her personal, informed opinion–they just happen to go through an editor and into print rather than cross my eyes via Blogger. Why wouldn’t I trust another informed librarian who chooses instead to blog?
I referred the student to Kids Lit and Fuse #8, pointing out that Betsy Bird made Forbes this year, so it’s not like children’s lit blogs are running completely under the radar. I suggested that she email ALSC-L and ask for opinions there. I hope she does, though I’m sure they’ve had the conversation before, it would be interesting to have again and see what new additions I can add to my blogroll.
So yes, kids lit blogs are an important part of the collection development toolkit.
Unfortunately I didn’t get the student’s name and email. I wish I had–I’ve thought of five other blogs she should look at, two other mailing lists, and had three interesting conversations about it. Oh…and now it’s documented on my blog….
Those other blogs:
Zooglobble (Children’s Music–I get TONS of great indie stuff here)
*I think she was hoping I’d say “ah yes, there was a recent study in Peer Reviewed Journal by Most Highly Respected Children’s Lit Professor entitled How the Reading of Blog Reviews Led to the Downfall of Children’s Fiction Collections.”
Thank you so much for mentioning me in your post. I’m honored to be included alongside Betsy. 🙂
It was my pleasure! I always enjoy your posts and news
Abigail, I am the librarian that called for information. You are correct I was taken aback by your prompt response to the usage of blogs. During my research, I have discovered a whole new world of chldren’s literature discussions. Thank you for being so forthcoming about how you use blogs and what the advantages are in using them. I didn’t end up using the ALSC list_serv, I tried but wasn’t sure where to go. I did send my questions out on LM_Net and got some good replies back. I also visited the blogs you recommended along with many, many others. (You could spend days browsing the different blogs). It seems to me that using blogs is very popular in public libraries but I am not sure it is as prominent in school libraries around LaCrosse. When school is back in session, I am going to take a poll to see how many use blogs. Maybe I will be surprised. : – ) Thanks again for your help!
P.S. Where is that article you refer to at the end of your posting? jk
You certainly could spend days visiting blogs! So many to pick from…. Glad I was able to send you off into a new and interesting directions 🙂 Cheers
I’m a librarian at a joint public/K-12 library in a tiny town in Wyoming, and I also use blogs. To Abigail’s excellent list, I’d also add Educating Alice, which is actually a blog by a 4th grade teacher and which doesn’t focus exclusively on book reviews but has a lot of good, thoughtful writing about books for children and children and books.
Agreed–Educating Alice is definitely a good one!!
Agreed! Book reviews, whether on a blog or in an industry magazine, are always subject to the author’s opinion. I’m glad that you not only pointed this out to the student, but offered her some great resources as well. I wonder if you only read other librarian’s blogs or do you read other book blogs as well?
I mostly read librarian blogs–and insofar as youth services I’m getting a little away from that now that I’m not actually ordering chapterbooks these days. I do read a few book blogs and author blogs. I really enjoy Maggie Stiefvater’s blog, even though I have only read one of her books–she never fails to make me laugh.
Other ones include Shannon Hale, Lois Lowry, Mad Woman in the Forest, Neil Gaiman, In the Pages, Mishaps and Adventures, Smart Bitches, Illona Andrews, Shanna Swenson, My Weblog (joint by several mystery authors including Donna Andrews), and so on….
I don’t read that many that are just book reviews–but I’m not adverse to adding them to the feed.
Thanks for responding (and emailing your response) to me, Abagail. I can understand why you might be getting away from reading youth service-related blogs – whether by librarians, authors, etc – if you’re not ordering chapter books anymore. Yes, it’s true – Maggie Stiefvater’s blog is quite funny, and I love the book trailers she made for the books in her Wolves of Mercy Falls series.
Mad Woman in the Forest is one that I really like too, but I haven’t checked out all of the blogs that you mentioned, so maybe I’ll make an effort to do so.
Are really a lot of book bloggers who writer reviews exclusively? Personally, I can’t imagine doing that on my site. It’s definitely nice to have a mixture of content because I’ll admit that I usually skim the reviews of books I haven’t yet read. Sometimes there are spoilers and no one wants that! 🙂