V32#5 Reader’s Roundup: Monographic Musings & Reference Reviews

by | Dec 4, 2020 | 0 comments


Column Editor:  Corey Seeman  (Director, Kresge Library Services, Stephen M. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan;  Cell Phone: 734-717-9734)    Twitter @cseeman

Column Editor’s Note:  This morning when I took my dog Runyon for a walk, there was a definite chill as the sun rose to warm up Michigan.  It might have been the first thing in a while to indicate that Fall is approaching.  The one thing that is not helping is our efforts to get ready for students at our colleges, universities and other schools this year.  It will be strange…very strange.  

As we wrap our brains around what higher education in the United States looks like in September 2020, you will see some definite trends.  In libraries, our success is stemming from collaboration and technology.  Luckily, in these reviewed works, that is a theme that you will find over and over again.  But also critical is our ability to understand and learn from the past.  To truly understand the roles of libraries, you need to embrace where we have been and the roles that we have taken to provide communities with equitable access to information.  These ten works all tell part of our story or give you a sense of where we might go.  

Thanks to my great reviewers for getting items for this column.  I am thrilled to welcome my newest reviewers:  Jennifer Monnin, Sara F. Hess, Jordan Pedersen, and Brandi Tambasco.  They are joined by my returning reviewers:  Kathleen Baril, Julie Huskey, Amy Lewontin, Michelle Shea, Steven W. Sowards and Katherine Swart.  If you would like to be a reviewer for Against the Grain (and I can ever get back into my office), please write me at <[email protected]>.  If you are a publisher and have a book you would like to see reviewed in a future column, please also write me directly.

Happy reading and be nutty! — CS

Beaty, Bart H. and Stephen Weiner (eds.).  Critical Survey of Graphic Novels: Independents & Underground Classics, Second Edition.  Ipswich, Mass.: Grey House Publishing/Salem Press, 2019.  Three volumes.
978-1-68217-913-0, 1063 pages. $395.00.

Reviewed by Steven W. Sowards  (Associate University Librarian for Collections, Michigan State University Libraries, East Lansing MI) 

To promote academic study of comic art and graphic novels, Salem Press has published a four-title multi-volume series, the Critical Survey of Graphic Novels.  The first edition of these reference books appeared in 2012 and 2013: a second edition of the entire series is now complete with publication of this three-volume set, on Independents & Underground Classics.  The other sets in the series deal with Heroes & Superheroes (2nd ed., 2018);  Manga (2nd ed., 2018); and History, Theme & Technique (2nd ed., 2019).  eBook versions are available to purchasers of the hard copy.

As reference works, these books can support readers’ advisory, collection development, and orientation for research queries.  The audience for this guide will be librarians and scholars who are looking at noteworthy publications, either for acquisition or research.  The audience for the graphic novels themselves will include adults and young adults, but not children, given the recurrence of sobering themes that include genocide, racism, drug abuse, sexual identity, and crime. 

This guide covers graphic novels that typically are self-published or published by independent presses such as Dark Horse Comics, Drawn and Quarterly, or Fantagraphic Books.  Some titles come from DC Comics (a branch of WarnerMedia) and from Marvel Comics (acquired in 2009 by the Walt Disney Company), an indication of how the “underground” has entered the mainstream. 

The work includes some 217 entries covering individual works or related sets of titles, including such widely known publications as Maus, American Splendor, the Complete Fritz the Cat, Love and Rockets, Road to Perdition, and 300.  The graphic novels described here are in English or in English translation for the American market.  Many are widely owned by American libraries, both academic and public.  While most titles are contemporary, including some published as recently as 2018, the early origins of the form are acknowledged through articles about European publications such as the Asterix series (first published in France in 1961), the Adventures of Tintin (Belgium, beginning in 1929), and Passionate Journey (Belgium, as Mon livre d’heures, 1919). 

This second edition adds eleven new entries, for Anya’s Ghost, Boxers & Saints, Friends with Boys, Goliath, Home After Dark, Paying for It, Roughneck, Smile, Exit Stage Left (The Snagglepuss Chronicles), Summer Blonde, and Usagi Yojimbo.  These additions do not seem to be reflected in the index or the appendices such as the list of titles by publisher.  There is no change in the contributor list from the first edition: contributors are American, Canadian and British academics.  Bart Beaty, one of the editors, is a major Canadian scholar of comic art.  Stephen Weiner, the second editor, is the director of the Maynard (Mass.) Public Library, which hosts an annual ComicCon. 

Each entry notes the author, artist and publisher for a work, and the date of first publication.  Entries follow a format that indicates publication history (including translation history if relevant), a list of volumes in the case of series, plot summaries, characters, artistic style, themes, impact, notes about expression in other media such as movies, and suggestions for further reading including a bibliography of secondary works.  “See also” references point to related titles in all parts of the series.  Articles are three to five pages long, illustrated with photographs of authors or artists.  There are virtually no images of the graphic artwork itself – a Google search can easily turn up sample pages and panels, of course. 

Taken as a whole, no other work or set fills the niche occupied by the four-title Critical Survey of Graphic Novels set, or its separate parts like Independents & Underground ClassicsH. W. Wilson publishes Graphic Novels Core Collection (2016) covering more than two thousand comic art titles of all kinds, but that single volume has page space for only around a single paragraph about each work. 

ATG Reviewer Rating:  I need this in my library.  (I want to be able to get up from my desk and grab this book off the shelf, if it’s not checked out.)

Botticelli, Peter, Martha R. Mahard, and Michèle V. CloonanLibraries, Archives, and Museums Today: Insights from the Field.  Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019.  9781538125557, xxiv, 166 pages.

Reviewed by Julie Huskey  (Head of Cataloging, Tennessee State University, Brown-Daniel Library) 

Libraries, Archives, and Museums Today is a partly student-created textbook that explores the relatively recent thought that new technologies will unify libraries, archives, and museums.   Students and faculty in the Cultural Heritage Informatics (CHI) program at the School of Library and Information Science at Simmons College interviewed over fifty library, archives and museum (LAM) professionals (including a few who chose not to be named) at fourteen institutions.  This work sometimes involved multiple interviews over a period of years, as part of the CHI emphasis on learning by doing.  “This book tackles one of the most debated issues in the recent history of collecting institutions: convergence.  To what extent are libraries, archives, and museums (LAMs) converging in the digital age?” That convergence, the authors point out, is not always of institutions, but of models and systems.  Providing access to digital collections promised to be the common denominator among the three subdisciplines.

Peter Botticelli (who authored or co-authored nine of the fourteen chapters) and Michèle Cloonan are currently on the faculty of the School of Library and Information Science at Simmons CollegeMartha Mahard, formerly of Simmons, is currently with the Boston Public Library.  

The featured institutions range from a small, all-volunteer organization (The History Project) to a world-renowned museum (the Victoria and Albert Museum), primarily located in the northeastern United States.  Their long-term goals varied as well: from a more unified web interface to the survival of the institution itself. 

A few themes, most of which will be familiar to practitioners, emerged in this volume.  They include: the silo-ing of early small-scale digitization projects, the dependence on grant funding, which makes planning difficult, and technology that is sometimes obsolescent before a project is finished.  Nevertheless, the authors stress that with good leadership, most libraries can at least remain afloat and increase access to their collections

The authors conclude that most libraries and archives, given sufficient leadership and funding, and often with carefully selected partner organizations, can use new technologies to succeed.  A few case studies, however, were included because the library or archives had eventually closed.  Most case studies are of specialized units within a larger entity, which requires the reader to think about the relationships and the support, both financial and ideological, provided by the parent institution. 

The narratives of the case studies vary in detail, and they sometimes suffer from the same frequent obsolescence of technology of the institutions themselves.  Yet the volume delivers on its promise to explore the question of convergence; it does so primarily from the technical, managerial, and financial aspect.  Whether LAMs will merge in general, as they serve broader groups of patrons, is not fully addressed, but the authors indicate that the situation will continue to evolve.

Libraries, Archives, and Museums Today is most useful for students and other newcomers to the field, as both a survey of developments in the past two decades and to supplement case study methodology.  Case studies are familiar to most library and information science students; they are also frequently employed by practitioners in journal articles and conference presentations as well.  More experienced librarians and archivists will benefit from the broader treatment of LAMs, and they may find it a useful springboard for further research.  The list of questions asked in the interviews will be especially helpful to aspiring researchers.

ATG Reviewer Rating:  I need this available somewhere in my shared network.  (I probably do not need this book, but it would be nice to get it within three to five days via my network catalog.)

Coleman, Mary CatherineCollaborate (Shared Foundations series).  Chicago: ALA Editions, 2020.  9780838919156, 144 pages.  $54.99 (ALA Members: $49.49;  AASL Members: $46.74).

Reviewed by Katherine Swart  (Collection Development Librarian, Hekman Library, Calvin University) 

The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) introduced new National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries in 2018.  The standards comprise six Shared Foundations: Inquire, Include, Collaborate, Curate, Explore, and Engage.  In addition to a main text, ALA Editions has published separate books on each foundation, giving an in-depth look at domains and competencies.

The book on the Shared Foundation Collaborate is authored by Mary Catherine Coleman, a Lower and Intermediate School Librarian at the Francis W. Parker School in Chicago.  With fourteen years’ experience, Coleman regularly presents at conferences on collaboration in school libraries.  She even won AASL’s School Collaboration of the Year Award.

There are a lot of aligning elements in the AASL standards, and Coleman looks at competencies for school librarians, learners, and school libraries along with the domains of Think, Create, Share, and Grow.  Organized into three parts, the book begins with “The School Librarian as the Architect of Collaboration.”  Here Coleman suggests that school librarians model the change they wish to see in their schools.  One way to encourage collaboration is to arrange for professional development opportunities, which give educators the chance to practice collaboration.  Coleman gives a detailed journey map and example timeline to simplify the process.  Another way to encourage collaboration is to become a “collaborative co-teacher with fellow educators.” Coleman shares different ways she has collaborated with educators in her school by expanding upon existing lessons and projects.  Lastly, Coleman shares ways school librarians can collaborate with others to align the library’s mission with the mission of the school.

Part two covers “Student Learners as Mindful Collaborators.” Coleman begins by sharing creative K-12 lessons that will develop the collaboration mindset in learners.  She arranges the lessons by the domains of Think, Create, Share, and Grow and then demonstrates how all of the domains work together in a lesson.  Next, she shares lessons that promote learner voice and choice.  These examples show the school librarian as co-learner, giving students a voice in how their learning products will be created and shared.  Lastly, Coleman talks about assessment tools that define successful collaboration across different grade levels.  Learning trajectories by grade level give collaborative mindset competencies and are accompanied by sample units.

Part three explores “The School Library as the Center of Collaboration.” In the same way museums are changing their outreach to guests, libraries are also becoming places of inclusivity and active collaboration.  Coleman details the renovation of the Francis W. Parker School and how it became a more collaborative space.  Then, she shares the story of a successful renovation at the Hubbard Woods School Library.  Lastly, Coleman challenges school librarians to think not just about the library as a physical space, but also about the time spent in the library.  She gives example lessons where collaboration and learner-driven inquiry are prioritized over deadlines.

Collaborate successfully blends theoretical discussion with practical strategies.  While dry in some places, the book’s implementation examples are vivid and worth reading about.  Each chapter in the book ends with questions for the reflective practitioner, encouraging the reader to take the next steps needed in order to implement the plans they have read about.  This is just the sort of encouragement school librarians need in order to implement the AASL standards in their schools.

ATG Reviewer Rating:  I need this in my library – if I am a school librarian.  (I want to be able to get up from my desk and grab this book off the shelf, if it’s not checked out.)

Hansson, JoacimEducating Librarians in the Contemporary University: An Essay on iSchools and Emancipatory Resilience in Library and Information Science.  Sacramento: Library Juice Press, 2019.  9781634000581, 208 pages.  $22.00

Reviewed by Jordan Pedersen  (Metadata Librarian, University of Toronto Libraries) 

As it always has been, librarianship is experiencing growing pains as the nature of the work and profession changes.  Librarianship is often positioned as synonymous to, or part of, information industries, a trend that is reflected in the increasing number of iSchools that are replacing traditional Library and Information (LIS) departments.  With these changes come an identity crisis, one that is exasperated by the complex relationships between librarianship and democracy, universities, capitalism, neoliberal politics and an emphasis on “innovation”.  In other words, while it may be politically expedient to align ourselves with the trendy, new emphasis on big data and information-as-everything, it also places the profession in an increasingly vulnerable position.

Written by Joacim Hansson, professor of Library and Information Science at Linnaeus University in Växjö, Sweden, this book provides international comparisons of librarianship, specifically focusing on the differences between Swedish and American universities and libraries.  Hansson brings thoughtful analysis of legislation and institutional mandates of each country, occasionally expanding outward to include other examples from the European Union, to emphasize ways in which capitalism and politics influence, and paradoxically undermine, the democratic goals of libraries.  Hansson doesn’t mince words when they say “there are overall three main obstacles for library development today:  economic cutbacks, political pressure, and ambiguity concerning the value and status of professional librarianship” (67).

The greatest value of this book is that Hansson does not stop at identifying the problems, but instead proposes clear options for creating a resilient librarianship education, and therefore a resilient profession.  For example, readers will be introduced to the theories of recognition and agnostic pluralism, measurements (and the danger) of the speed of capitalism and intellectual output, along with priorities for developing an education program for strong, self-assured, librarianship.  Hansson suggests that:

 “the focus should be on: (1) critical analysis of the fundamental concepts of librarianship with the goal of creating an alternative to the present discourse, (2) connecting librarianship and the education of librarians to discussions about the role of the humanities in society and the higher education area, and (3) creating an emancipatory narrative about the ethos of librarianship that will be strong enough to maintain its long-term social relevance” (160).

As a recent iSchool graduate, I found this to be an enjoyable read that has prompted ruminations about the future of the profession for me, as well as provided insight into some of the more frustrating aspects of my Master of Information education.  

This book will be valuable for anyone interested in engaging with librarianship as a profession, anyone who feels in need of some guidance to navigate the doomsday predictions of impending irrelevance and budget cuts, or to anyone concerned about the role of ethics in their daily practice.  If you don’t enjoy sweeping historical analyses, you can probably skip the first chapter.  And if you aren’t a fan of reading occasionally under-cited theory that reads as a conversational lecture, this book probably is not for you.

In conclusion, having spent quite some time with this book I’ve already started lending out my copy to friends, I would highly recommend it.

ATG Reviewer Rating:  I need this on my desk.  (This book is so valuable, that I want my own copy at my desk that I will share with no one.)

Johnson-Jones, Aisha M.  The African American Struggle for Library Equality: The Untold Story of the Julius Rosenwald Fund Library Program.  Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019.  978-1-5381-0308-1,
120 pages.  $70 (hardback)

Reviewed by Amy Lewontin  (Collection Development Librarian, Snell Library, Northeastern University) 

Dr. Aisha M. Johnson-Jones’ timely, important and unusual historical study of the development of libraries for Black communities in the early twentieth century Jim Crow South is well worth making the effort to locate and read.  The African American Struggle for Library Equality is a relatively short book heavily based on archival sources exploring the funding and philanthropic efforts of Julius Rosenwald, a wealthy businessman, born during Abraham Lincoln’s presidency.  Julius Rosenwald served as the President of Sears, Roebuck and Co. and gave the majority of his fortune to philanthropic activities.  He came to aid in early literacy efforts for African Americans, through philanthropy based around community outreach.  Mr. Rosenwald initially funded the building of over 5,000 schools in the rural south in the early twentieth century.  During the Depression years, he had an unusual approach to his philanthropy by encouraging local residents to make contributions of their own for schools and libraries.  Rosenwald did not make efforts to end segregated schooling but worked to improve individual lives as he found it.  Dr. Johnson-Jones refers to efforts such as Rosenwald’s as “social justice philanthropy.”

Dr. Johnson-Jones, a faculty member currently at North Carolina Central University, tells a tale that makes the library “user” central to her book.  African Americans had long been denied an education and literacy rates in the south as a whole were very low.  At the local and state level, the lack of books in schools became rapidly apparent to teachers, administrators and parents.  Support from the Rosenwald Fund for schools and then for libraries and library collections developed as a natural outgrowth.  As Dr. Johnson-Jones describes the efforts of teachers and librarians involved in developing book collections for children, young adults and college students,  she uses archival circulation and usage records to show that the rate of book reading between Black and white readers at the Rosenwald schools were comparable.  In the south of the 1920s and 1930s, more than 70 percent of the population had no library service at all.  Dr. Johnson-Jones creatively weaves her story and uses the archival records of the Rosenwald Fund Collection housed at Fisk University, to explain how truly underrepresented communities in more than 15 southern states began to see rising rates in literacy and the beginning of a library system, and library training programs for African Americans. 

While this book does not offer itself as a history of education of the south in the early twentieth century, it does provide a very focused exploration of the roles that libraries played in Black communities in the early 20th Century.  For a more complete understanding of the educational impoverishment of the period, the reader may want to supplement their reading of this book, with others, such as James D. Anderson’s study, “The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860-1935.”  This book should be in academic libraries concerned with issues of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion issues as well as racism.  

ATG Reviewer Rating:  I need this in my library.  (I want to be able to get up from my desk and grab this book off the shelf, if it’s not checked out.)

Kroski, Ellyssa, edThe Makerspace Librarian’s Sourcebook.  Chicago: ALA Editions, 2017.  9780838915042, 400 pages.  $85.00 ($76.50 ALA Member)

Reviewed by Brandi Tambasco  (Adult Services Librarian, Howell Carnegie District Library, Howell, MI) 

Library makerspaces are a thriving, popular movement within the profession at both the public and academic library space.  With the focus on STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) or even STEAM (STEM including Art) programming and initiatives for all ages, makerspaces are excellent options to support libraries’ efforts to maintain relevancy in our technology-driven world.  Open to use at varying levels by each library’s community of users, these spaces are typically equipped with tech such as 3D printers, Raspberry Pi, vinyl cutters, and the like.  However, not all makerspaces need to be technology-focused, nor do they even have to be spaces.

While the general term “makerspace” is used to cover a multitude of high and low technology environments specifically geared towards making, creating, and innovating within a safe, educational place, the idea and implementations are not restricted to a single location or actual space.  Maker programming, while often held within a designated space designed and outfitted with equipment just for this purpose, can be conducted outside of a dedicated place.  Knitting classes, for example, can be held as part of a maker agenda, with simply the tools and supplies (needles, yarn, etc.) in any multipurpose room, without requiring a space solely dedicated to simply makerspace use.  So even if one’s library does not have a makerspace, librarians interested in maker culture can find useful information in makerspace handbooks such as this one.

Editor Ellyssa Kroski has an extensive background in libraries and technology with over 15 years in the library field.  Currently the Director of Information Technology at the New York Law Institute, she is an award-winning author and experienced editor with dozens of books to her name.  In this guidebook, she has collected essays authored by knowledgeable maker librarians from academic and public libraries and makerspaces across the U.S. and Canada.  Given this wide range of contributors, there’s something for everyone in this guidebook, from librarians wishing to start a makerspace at their library to those working in established makerspaces and anywhere in between.

For librarians in that first camp, for whom a makerspace at their library is currently a goal rather than a reality, the first chapter on starting a makerspace is a great resource covering necessary and useful topics like strategic planning, design, and funding sources.  Even better are the equipment lists included in the chapter.  It is easy to get lost in the plethora of new, shiny, innovative technologies, so having these lists as a guide can help focus not only the scope and purpose of a makerspace, but also the budget for kitting out the space.

Both new maker librarians and those with established makerspaces will find value in the discussions on transformative teaching and encouraging diversity in maker culture, each covered in its own chapter, as well as the practical information and project ideas for over 10 of the most essential and common maker technologies and tools found in makerspaces.  The chapter on Raspberry Pi, for example, not only introduces the technology, but also provides several program and project ideas that can be implemented individually or as a progressive series to teach patrons the basics and advanced uses of this clever small single-board computer.

Makerspaces may seem like a fad to some in the profession, the latest and greatest idea that will run its course in time and leave libraries with thousands of dollars invested in a space no longer used or even thought about by our patrons.  This is the fear for any new service or resource offered by libraries.  The last two chapters in this handbook address the future and sustainability of these innovative spaces and ways librarians can maintain the positive momentum of including maker culture in our libraries’ engagement with our communities, important issues librarians must consider for their current or potential makerspaces.

As a librarian working at a public library (Howell (Michigan) Carnegie District Library) without a makerspace (or any space in which to set up a dedicated makerspace, even), this book still provided great ideas for programming and projects to offer our patrons as well as food for thought about potential maker opportunities beyond the traditional makerspace.  If my library had a makerspace, I would want this book within easy reach for regular reference.  As it is, I am happy to at least have access to it from another library.

ATG Reviewer Rating:  I need this available somewhere in my shared network.  (I probably do not need this book, but it would be nice to get it within three to five days via my network catalog.)

Kroski, Ellyssa60 Ready-To-Use Coding Projects.  Chicago: American Library Association, 2020.  978-0-8389-1872-2, 432 pages.  $68.99 (ALA Member: $62.09)

Reviewed by Michelle Shea  (Education Librarian, Texas A&M- Central Texas) 

Coding in libraries has become the latest programming trend for public service departments.  As a result, creative librarians everywhere are increasingly hosting sessions that utilize laptops, tablets, and other mobile devices.  Some libraries acquire these gadgets through grant money or existing material collections, while others stick with low or no cost options.  Either way, this book offers librarians great suggestions for a range of technology budgets and circumstances.  With this book in hand, librarians are encouraged to think flexibly and adapt ideas to create programs for their communities. 

In this compendium of projects, split into five parts, librarians share coding programs that have worked in their communities.  Two-thirds of the book focuses on activities for kids and tweens, while the other sections handle young adult and adult computing sessions.  Each chapter identifies a cost estimate for implementation, a list of necessary items, lesson instructions, learning objectives, and future project connections.  For public, school, or academic libraries, the only requirements for success are open spaces, relevant technologies, and expertise or a willingness to learn. 

Book editor Ellyssa Kroski has written extensively about technology and libraries.  As an author, she has contributed to published works on escape rooms, cosplay, makerspaces, and other popular programs for youth.  Ms. Kroski has also written many blog posts for respected educational websites and library journals.  In those mediums, her primary focus is on digital tools that help with social media and e-resources in school, law, and business settings.  As a presenter, she has spoken at conferences and continuing education workshops for over a decade.  Currently, she serves as an IT Director at the New York Law Institute, where she provides electronic resources and reference help for its library members.  Cumulatively, this knowledge base lends the book added credibility.

Most librarians who are interested in coding should find at least a few projects to suit their target audience.  Specifically, this book balances between unplugged and plugged activities that bridge the gap for new learners.  Students can create step-by-step recipes, give visual directions, make binary bracelets, and use storytelling structure to build on the fundamentals of computer-based programming.  There is a clear progression from basic block-coding to line-scripted programs, although learners may fluctuate between the two modes depending on their experience and project focus.  While languages such as HTML, Python, and JavaScript are given some attention for moderately challenging programs, most of the chapters are focused on visual coding aimed at beginners.  Libraries may also explore robotics, video game design, music making, application creation, and circulating kits by using the recommended projects in this book.

As a minor criticism, there is some repetition concerning the tools used for library programs.  For example, the “Code-a-Pillar” toy is mentioned in at least four different narratives for very young children, while the popular “Scratch”/ “Scratch Jr.” programs are highlighted a whopping twelve times.  Even so, each variation does help the reader develop an awareness of coding logic and activity modification, so that seemingly complex concepts are made much more approachable.  A good library program builds on background knowledge, allows for hands-on involvement, and challenges participants to stretch their understanding.   The computational thinking of coding centers on algorithms and sequencing, variables, conditional statements, and loops which can be linked to everyday activities for learners.  Throughout the text, these important takeaways are indicated as bolded key words, which are repeated for emphasis.  A useful index that cites chapter titles, coding platforms, programming languages, and participating libraries is also included.  Readers with a specific goal can flip to relevant sections with little effort, making this book useful for quick reference when brainstorming project ideas.

Overall, this book is a fantastic purchase for librarians who are interested in technology-based programming.  With that said, the focus on coding is somewhat narrow, which limits the intended audience.  Public and school libraries would benefit from purchasing this item, while academic libraries might do best with an interlibrary-loan.

ATG Reviewer Rating:  I need this available somewhere in my shared network.  (I probably do not need this book, but it would be nice to get it within three to five days via my network catalog.)

Long, Dallas.  Collaborations for Student Success: How Librarians and Student Affairs Work Together to Enrich LearningLondon: Rowan and Littlefield, 2019.  9781538119075, 191 pages.  $85.00

Reviewed by Kathleen Baril  (Director, Heterick Memorial Library, Ohio Northern University, Ada, Ohio) 

Although academic libraries have worked extensively with faculty to provide information literacy instruction to students, their collaborations with other campus offices and entities have been limited.  As academic libraries move from a collection-centric to a service-centric model, they have updated spaces to add entities such as learning commons, group spaces and makerspaces.  Many academic libraries have also branched out into new areas of support by adding data services and publishing.  One area though where academic libraries have made less progress is in reaching out to new partners beyond the academic realm to residence life and student services.  Dallas Long, in this new book examines whether or not collaborations between libraries and student affairs are happening and if they are feasible or possible.  

The author of this book, Dallas Long, is well-versed in the areas of libraries and student affairs as he previously served as the residential life librarian at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  While at Illinois, he was embedded in the Division of Student Affairs and collaborated with student affairs professionals.  Currently, Mr. Long is the Dean of Milner Library at Illinois State University after a stint as associate dean.  

This book centers around a study that Long completed in which he conducted focus groups of librarians and student affairs staff at five universities ranging in size from 5,830 to 17,052 students.  He begins his analysis by looking at the core values of each profession to see what their commonalities might be.  The library values reviewed by the author will be familiar to those in the profession but the examination of student affairs values is informative to the typical librarian.  Long discovers that libraries and student affairs hold core common values in service, community development and social justice.  

The most interesting observations and information in this book come from the interviews themselves and, for this reader, provided the most insights into how differently librarians and student affairs personnel work with students.  The authors interviewed groups of librarians and then groups of student affairs staff at each institution and the observations and comments were extremely enlightening.  Librarians tend to have short interactions with students through instruction and reference with longer relationships developing with library student workers.  For librarians most of their interactions occurred in the library.  Student affairs staff, on the other hand, did not feel bound by specific spaces and, although interactions sometimes were brief, felt very strongly about the teaching roles they inhabited through their work coaching students.  None of the library or student affairs professionals in any of the focus groups collaborated much with each other or even seemed to know what the other group did.  Since most of the professionals interviewed were at institutions that were midsized, it would be an interesting follow-up study to see if collaboration were greater at smaller institutions where individuals are more likely to know each due to the small size of their workplaces.  

Collaborations for Student Success is very thorough and contains a lengthy literature review.  The literature review chapter was hit or miss for this reviewer as research about libraries and student affairs is fairly sparse.  A good deal of the research pertained to more general areas of research such as collaboration in higher education and student affairs professionals’ collaborations with other areas in higher education.  Also, a lot of the literature (as is a problem in the professional literature) centers on specific projects conducted at the authors institutions.  This chapter was less informative more because of the relative dearth of materials and not due to a lack of diligence on the author’s part.  

Overall, this book is a nice addition to the library literature especially regarding a lesser-explored topic.  This reviewer hopes to continue to see more collaborations between libraries and student affairs areas in the future.  

ATG Reviewer Rating:  I need this available somewhere in my shared network.  (I probably do not need this book, but it would be nice to get it within three to five days via my network catalog.)

Reed, Sally GardnerThe Good, the Great, and the Unfriendly: A Librarian’s Guide to Working with
Friends Groups
.  ALA Editions: Neal-Schuman TechSource, 2017.  9780838914984, 168 pages. 
$57.00 (ALA Members: $51.30)

Reviewed by Jennifer Monnin  (Scholarly Engagement Librarian, Health Sciences Library, West Virginia University Libraries, Morgantown) 

Libraries and library friends groups go together like Ironman and Captain America:  both parties ultimately want the same thing but often disagree on the best way to accomplish their goals.  When everything is going well, the friends groups advocate on behalf of their library in their communities, raising much needed funds for library programs, services, and various other needs.  However, these relationships can often be strained, whether a director inherits a poor working relationship with their friends or trouble arises later by other parties involved.  Tensions rise, money gets hoarded instead of shared, the ability of these groups to function adequately is diminished, and the community is adversely affected as a result of the apparent civil war. 

Sally Gardner Reed brings her experience as the Executive Director of United for Libraries and the former Executive Director of Friends of Libraries U.S.A. to bear in this book.  Her decades of experience as a liaison between libraries and friends groups means that little if anything surprises her.  She has experienced firsthand how well these groups can work together and how tragically the working relationships can fall apart.  She has counseled library directors on how best to make use of their friends and foundations, and counseled directors on when it is time for a library to “divorce” its current friends and establish a more effective group in the future. 

This book is especially useful for library directors who are looking to establish a friends group at their library.  The “How-to” for building a library friends group is a clear, informative roadmap that will help all involved avoid common pitfalls along the way.  The Appendices are useful tools to take and apply to your library.  Reed supplies a sample Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the library and the friends.  Appendix D: “Working Together: Roles and Responsibilities Guidelines” provides a helpful side by side comparison between the roles of the library director, the library board, and the library friends group on various issues.  In chapter 6, Reed provides readers with numerous examples of successful friends’ group membership drives, fundraising and programming ideas, and advocacy strategies that are great ideas for already functioning friends groups to capitalize on. 

Given the inclusion of unfriendly friends groups in the title of the book and Reed’s years of experience as a liaison between libraries and friends, I was surprised at how few practical strategies are presented for dealing with unfriendly groups.  After reading an overview of some common issues between the two parties, I was left with the impression that if you do not currently have a MOU with your friends there is little to no hope for fixing problems after they arise.  For example, the sample MOU states that the director will supply a “wish list” to the friends each year detailing anticipated financial needs for the library that the group can fulfill.  This provides the friends guidance as to what the library actually needs as opposed to coming up with ideas when funds are available to donate.  If no MOU is present and tensions are already high between the library and friends, I imagine a director suggesting the first yearly “wish list” to the friends may go over poorly.  I understand that each situation is unique and it is hard to provide advice which can be applied broadly, but given the prevalence of tension between libraries and their friends, the inclusion of more advice would improve the book and potentially, outcomes for libraries. 

Despite some misgivings, this work is still recommended to library directors and development officers who rely on friends groups for financial support.  They will certainly find value in the practical tools and wise advice available within. 

ATG Reviewer Rating:  I need this available somewhere in my shared network.  (I probably do not need this book, but it would be nice to get it within three to five days via my network catalog.)

Rainy Day Ready: Financial Literacy Programs and Tools.  Edited by Melanie Welch and Patrick Hogan.  Chicago: ALA Editions, 2020.  9780838946312, 159 pages.  $59.99 ($53.99 ALA Member)

Reviewed by Sara F. Hess  (Business and Entrepreneurship Librarian, Pennsylvania State University Libraries, University Park) 

Public interest in topics related to financial literacy such as  income, spending, debt, and credit  has led libraries of all types to work to increase and strengthen this programming in recent years.  In 2014, the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) of the American Library Association (ALA) adopted Financial Literacy Education in Libraries: Guidelines and Best Practices for Service, a set of guidelines that is the product of a SPARKS! grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

Rainy Day Ready: Financial Literacy Programs and Tools presents descriptions of the development and execution of 16 financial literacy programs across 13 public, tribal, and academic libraries.  The program descriptions are preceded by three chapters discussing financial literacy in libraries; gaps and biases of popular personal finance literature; and partnerships with local businesses and community resources.  The final part of the book presents a brief overview of the development of the Financial Literacy Education in Libraries document followed by the text of the guidelines.

The book was edited by Melanie Welch, a project director in the ALA Public Programs Office, and Patrick Hogan, an editor with ALA’s publishing imprint.  The authors of the individual chapters in the first two parts of the book are librarians who are engaged in financial literacy programming at their libraries.  The guidelines and best practices presented in the final part of the book were authored by a working team consisting of three members of RUSA’s Business Reference and Services Section (BRASS) as well as an independent consultant serving as the project director.  They worked closely with an advisory group consisting of librarians and personnel from nonprofit and government organizations, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The 13 authors of the programs section of the book represent libraries serving a range of communities.  10 of the authors hail from public libraries, including one tribal library; two work at four-year academic institutions; and one works at a community college.  While this range is excellent for a book covering programming useful to and utilized by patrons of all ages, I found myself wondering if the diversity of patron needs related to financial literacy were represented adequately in the programs discussed. 

Ash Faulkner, Ohio State University’s chapter in the first part of the book establishes that popular personal finance literature is biased toward those with an existing degree of financial privilege, which includes a steady income and access to a bank account.  Although there are notable exceptions, many of the programs were held at libraries serving middle class populations.  Those exceptions include Anne Heidemann’s chapter on Money Smart Week at the Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Library in Mount Pleasant, Michigan;  Andrea Fisher’s chapter on programming for recent immigrants at Lakewood Public Library in Lakewood, Ohio;  and Priscilla Dickerson’s chapter on Money Smart Week at the Atlanta Technical College Library in Atlanta, Georgia.  The book may have benefited from additional chapters on programs developed for specific populations as well as programs run at libraries serving more heterogenous communities.

Program descriptions range from an in-depth discussion of the development, planning, and execution of a single program or series of programs to a more general description of the library’s programming for Money Smart Week, a national program run jointly by ALA and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.  Chapters focused on a single program or series were the most compelling in this book and include Katie Moellering’s chapter on a Harry Potter-themed series of financial literacy programming for young adults at the Emmet O’Neal Library in Mountain Brook, Alabama.  Moellering shared how the series arose from the ideas and work of the library’s teen advisory board.  While the chapters with a more general focus on a library’s Money Smart Week programming are certainly informative, the specificity of the narrowly focused chapters better prompted me to think about how I might develop or implement programming for the communities I serve.

Finally, the inclusion of the Financial Literacy Education in Libraries shows how the described programs bring the guidelines and best practices to life.  The best practice of taking particular care to protect the privacy of patrons seeking reference assistance and attending programs related to financial literacy, however, is not addressed in the rest of the book.  The book would have benefited from an illustration of how to ensure privacy and anonymity in practice, particularly in a program setting.

Overall, this book is tremendously valuable as an introductory text for library staff beginning to learn about the role libraries can play in the development of financial literacy in the communities they serve.  The program descriptions — coupled with the introductory chapters and the guidelines and best practices — provide an excellent road map for those beginning to plan their own financial literacy programming.

ATG Reviewer Rating:  I need this available somewhere in my shared network.  (I probably do not need this book, but it would be nice to get it within three to five days via my network catalog.)  

Guide to the ATG Reviewer Ratings

The ATG Reviewer Rating is being included for each book reviewed.  Corey came up with this rating to reflect our collaborative collections and resource sharing means and thinks it will help to classify the importance of these books.  

I need this book on my nightstand.  (This book is so good, that I want a copy close at hand when I am in bed.)

I need this on my desk.  (This book is so valuable, that I want my own copy at my desk that I will share with no one.)

I need this in my library.  (I want to be able to get up from my desk and grab this book off the shelf, if it’s not checked out.)

I need this available somewhere in my shared network.  (I probably do not need this book, but it would be nice to get it within three to five days via my network catalog.)

I’ll use my money elsewhere.  (Just not sure this is a useful book for my library or my network.)


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