Mary in the Library: Book Donations

I've talked about what I do in the library and what goes on behind the scenes of a book signing, but wanting some more inspiration for Mary in the Library, I took to Twitter to get an idea of what you guys want to know about life in a library. Today's question comes from Jaylee James

This is a very common question, but the answer is going to vary from library to library depending on system policies so I can only tell you what MY library does with donations. On paper, here's our official policy:

If you notice, it says in the very first sentence that "gently used" donations will "possibly" be added to the collection. A lot of people assume everything they donate will be available in the collection immediately. That's not how it works, and no matter what library you use, you should NEVER assume that's going to happen. Check the second paragraph. Reasons your item might not be added to the collection include "condition, need, or the item not falling within the collection development guidelines." Basically, the item might not be in the physical condition we require, we might not need a copy (Hunger Games, Divergent, Twilight, and Harry Potter and other movie adaptations are probably automatically not going to be added because the library already has a ton of copies), OR based on the selector of that collection, it might be turned down for another reason. Plus, most libraries receive a LOT of donations. Not everything can be added simply because there isn't enough space.

This is our donation station & it looks like this ALL. THE. TIME.

What is a selector? A selector is the person "in charge" of a particular area of the total collection. For instance, there are two of us at my branch who are in charge of the YA collection. My boss is the official selector, but she's so busy with higher job duties that many of the aspects of maintaining the collection have fallen to me. The other day someone donated about five of the House of Night books along with three Mortal Instruments books. They were all in decent collection, but none of them can be added to our collection. Why? We already have a ton of copies. 

This is a screenshot taken directly from our catalog page. The numbers on the right indicate how many of each item we have in the collection. While that number also includes any items that have been lost or withdrawn, we still have plenty, as you can see. This also doesn't include ebooks or audiobooks. 

However, Shadowhunters is picking up steam and maybe new fans are finding their way to the books through the show or because they have seen ads for Lady Midnight. So we decided to keep them to use for something else.

In comparison, House of Night is a 12 book series (with a few extras), and the final book came out two years ago. There is also no reason to add more copies to our collection. At this point, we probably need to start weeding out the extras. I withdrew a damaged copy just yesterday, and if we had needed to replace it, I might have used one of the donated copies, but at this point, it's redundant. While HoN is a bestselling series, vampire books have been on the decline for years.

Meanwhile, the other day a patron came in with an audiobook he'd been given for Christmas. It was by a popular author of adult fiction that even I could recognize as a major player with our patrons. I checked the catalog, and while we own many of this author's books (including this one), we didn't own a physical audiobook of this particular title. So I took it directly to the librarian in charge of the adult collection. She was thrilled to have it, and I'm betting in a couple weeks, that audiobook will be on our shelves after it has been processed.

So what will we do with the Mortal Instruments books we kept? What about the House of Night books we didn't? We have a staff member whose job it is to go through all the donations and keep them organized. Some he tosses immediately because of quality or item (VHS and cassette tapes do not make the cut, ever). Some, he gives to the selectors (like the books in question), and some he earmarks for sale. House of Night, along with any that he has already set aside, will go on to our Friends of the Library, who will sell it either in one of their large warehouse sales, at a cart sale they hold at our branch or another once a month, or go on a cart we keep at our location. This upsets people because they want to "support the library" better. Honestly, don't be upset if you find out your items went to the Friends, especially our Friends. They do a great deal for us, both financially and physically. Our Friends are the ones who finance programs like summer reading or purchase equipment and furniture. They often help us at author signings. They have provided amazing support for the North Texas Teen Book Festival, again through funding and volunteers. If your items go to the Friends, they WILL support the library, just in a different way.

Carts full of books for our monthly Friends sale last week.

As for the TMI books that our teens may want, they will actually go downstairs in our basement to a series of shelves full of YA books of all types. We have arcs, hardcovers, paperbacks, manga. Some are signed, even. What do we do with them? We save them. Hoard them like Scrooge McDuck and his vault of gold. And each summer and occasionally throughout the school year, we use them as prizes. 

I live in a city in the DFW metroplex, and it's not one of the particularly wealthy cities in the area. We're lucky that our city maintains an excellent library system and supports NTTBF, but the families and individuals who use the library need us for very basic resources. Computer access, because they don't have internet at home. Help printing out resumes, help with job searches, ESL classes, literacy classes, basic Microsoft Word and internet classes. We participate in a snack program in the summer because local kids don't have access to subsidized school food during those months. So for us to reward kids and adults for reading with books they can take home and keep or sell or whatever they want is a huge deal. And not only do they get to to take a book home, they get to pick it out themselves, out of a massive shelf of really freaking good titles. They love arcs because, hello early books, and they also love signed books. 

One of the reasons NTTBF was created and why author events are so strong in my library is because it's a special experience for our community. Authors and signed books mean something extraordinary to our teens and tweens. They're celebrities, but attainable and real celebrities. Yes, they will also fawn over anyone who comes in town for Comic Con or concerts, but they don't always have the funds for those events. Author events are free. The books we give them during the summer are free. It may sound like a MasterCard commercial, but the feelings that they get from these books are priceless.

Once again, this is just MY library. If you want to know what happens to book donations at YOUR library, check their website or just ask a staff member. I worry the general public is afraid their library staff will bite. Even if the little old lady behind the desk looks like she belongs in Monster's University,

I promise we won't throw you through the window if you ask a question. And don't apologize for asking or for "interrupting" or "bothering" the staff. You're not. The library is providing a public service. It's literally our job to help you and answer your questions. :)

Have a question about life in the library? Let me know in the comments!

Mary in the Library: Anatomy of a Book Signing

As I mentioned in my first Mary in the Library post, one of the things we do a lot at my library is host book events, be they themed panels, book launches, or stops for publisher group tours or a single author. I have attended events of each of these types at my own library before I worked here and at other libraries and bookstores (both chains and indies) so I honestly think it's safe to say I'm a pro at bookish events. That's why I did a couple posts over the summer concerning event advice (part 1, part 2). That's not what today's post will be about. I'm planning on doing a couple more advice posts, but today will be a behind-the-scenes look at how to plan and execute an event.

Note 1: I'm skipping the part where the host (in this case, my library)/the author/the publisher agree to the event (usually takes several emails and/or phone calls) and going right to the fun stuff. This is actually a crucial part of the process, obviously, but I have only been an active participant in this particular part once, and that was not how it normally goes down so I'm not the best person to talk about it. I'll go step-by-step with all the important stuff, along with a general timeline of when we got it done.

Note 2: This is based on a recent signing event at my library for Marissa Meyer's Stars Above tour. 

First things first: major fangirling. It is ALWAYS an exciting day when a publisher and/or an author want to do an event at the library. It's absolutely an honor to be chosen to be part of a tour, especially a big one like Stars Above. It was the FINAL BOOK for The Lunar Chronicles (until the Wires & Nerve news), and we knew we had to do it right. So IMMEDIATELY after step one (like 30 seconds), we move to step two: total and complete panic. It's the FINAL BOOK. We HAVE to get it right! 

Step three is where things actually start to get productive, and it happens within minutes or hours, depending on what else is going on in the library and how long we have to the event. In this case, we had about 2 1/2 months to plan, but we knew we'd have to finalize a lot of logistics early so people could plan.

Step 3 is: How to make our event unique.
As some of you may know, I worked at a small science museum for two years before the library, and I worked both for about six months before I left the museum. One of my favorite programs at the museum was one called Starry Night. Basically, using a giant inflatable planetarium, you can have a stargazing experience at any time of the day, any day of the year. The starlab was sliiiightly out of our budget, but I convinced the museum to give me the former employee discount in exchange for some publicity and future business. As in any facet of life, negotiation and bargaining are really good skills to have.

Starlab all packed up
This is one of the films. Moon seemed appropriate for the event.

A couple weeks before the event, my boss had the idea to use a wedding photo backdrop she saw on Pinterest (Pinterest is an AMAZING source of event ideas!). We then had to print the moon (it took a couple tries to get the color right) and adhere it to cardboard backing.


Step 4 (as soon as possible): Promotion
As soon as you are able (you usually have to wait for an official announcement), promote promote promote. Tweet every couple days at different times of the day. Use Facebook. Make connections with local news outlets to include it on their calendar of local events. It helps to have an official landing page for the event and since Marissa is such a big author and we were becoming inundated with calls, we also set up an FAQ. I would tweet about the event on my personal account every few days, as would the official library account, the city account, and the North Texas Teen Book Festival account (and obviously Marissa and Fierce Reads would occasionally tweet about her tour or RT the rest of our tweets). While I have more followers than the rest, the rest tend to have more local followers. It made for a nice balance. We also print up fliers and create a digital slide that runs on the library's tvs so that our patrons can see what's coming up at the library. Occasionally we'll also send fliers to local schools or even go and do a short presentation so local middle and high school students will also know about the event.

Here are some outside organizations that helped us spread the word: Coppell High School Sidekick article | Guide Live | USamPM | Facebook event

Step five (start one month out, usually continues until the event): Swag production.
This kind of goes under step three since one thing that makes events at my library is the swag we pass out, but this is the part where we actually make it. Since we were stop 5 on the tour and we knew people would have already bought copies, one thing we offered was a free gift with purchase, to encourage attendees to buy during the event. The gift we offered was a pack of three Stars Above buttons. So my boss designed the buttons, I cut them out, made them, and packaged them. It took me a couple weeks because cutting out over 450 tiny circles takes a LONG time, and then I had to make them. (fun fact: I can make a button in less than 30 seconds)
Here's the nine buttons we made

Button production in progress


Finished buttons!

In addition to the buttons, we also make cupcake
toppers that dress up our refreshment table.
Step six (week of): tickets & staff info
The week of the event we printed out the tickets for the signing line and sent out an email with all pertinent information to our staff. Certainly we're on hand for any questions, but the basic info is something everyone should know at a venue (true for bookstores as well: one or two point people, but all staff should be In The Know). We also printed out an FAQ and kept it at the front desk so that staff could help people who came in for the tickets. We had started suspecting that this would be a big event, but within two hours, we had passed out 100 tickets (and this was two days before the event). We also contacted the city police and asked that they send an officer down to help control traffic and assist with parking since we don't have very much in the library's lots.

Step seven (day before/day of): set up. My boss typically draws out a rough sketch of what the room will look like so we have a general idea of the set-up, but it always changes a little bit. We have four rooms that can be opened up, but this time, even expecting such a large crowd, we had to leave one of them mostly blocked off due to the planetarium. We leave two tables for book sales, one for refreshments, one for extra swag (if we have it), one for the signing, and one for NTTBF info. One of our lovely coworkers scales a ladder and hangs our lights, and the rest of us set out chairs. Depending on the event, we sometimes get really specific with the chair colors and make a pattern because we are fussy like that.
...this was one of those events.

We called it a night after setting up the chairs and went out for Mexican food. You know. To keep our strength up for the next day. The day of, we enlisted the help of our teen volunteers to set out the food, organize NTTBF info and swag, and flap all the books Barnes & Noble brought. We also spent a little less than an hour finalizing the moon backdrop and getting it set up in our lobby. One thing I always do a couple hours early is make sure I have the author's biography and a list of announcements so that when I'm emceeing, things run as smooth as possible. And when the author and the publicist arrive, I always double check it's correct.
My niece & I tested out the backdrop. Success!

Step eight (THE EVENT!!!): problem-solving + event stuff. The major problem we ran into this time was simply people. Our space can handle a few hundred people, but this crowd was bigger than that number.

This was our lobby before the event.

The crowd filled up every available space inside our program room and spilled into the lobby. Sadly, there aren't too many ways to solve this admittedly delightful (delightful because yay! people!) issue, but we did end up opening the wall between the event and the planetarium and kept the doors open to get as much air flowing as possible. After we filled the room to capacity, I introduced Marissa and let her do her thing. Then, she took some questions from the audience, and then it was time to sign. Our team split duties so someone checked the line ticket numbers, someone called groups of line numbers, someone passed out post-its and pens to expedite the line, someone took pictures, someone refilled the refreshments until they're gone, and someone (me) worked the planetarium.


The event took just over four and a half hours from start to finish, and Marissa was a trooper through it all, as were all the fans who came out and waited so patiently for their opportunity to meet her and get their books signed.

Final product!
(photo credit to these Twitter/Insta users)

Here are some amazing posts with pictures and videos and recaps of the event:

And these are more events at the library that I attended and/or helped with 
(before I started working here)


Blog Tour: Remembrance by Meg Cabot

title crop

Rating: 4 stars
Pub Date: February 2
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: new adult paranormal romance
Format/Source: drc/publisher & arc/borrowed from a friend
Status: book 7 of the Mediator series (the rest are all YA)

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review as part of the blog tour, which was organized & hosted by Me My Shelf and I Tours. The full tour schedule can be found HERE. Please go give my fellow tour hosts some love!

In Remembrance, the seventh installment of the Mediator series, all Susannah Simon wants is to make a good impression at her first job since graduating from college (and becoming engaged to Dr. Jesse de Silva).

But when she stumbles across an ancient murder, old ghosts—and ex-boyfriends—aren’t all that come back to haunt her.

Remembrance will be the first ever adult installment of the Mediator, published by William Morrow, the adult division of HarperCollins, the company that brought you the YA books in the series.

Mary in the Library: Not Actually a Librarian...But Here's What I Do

Let's kick Mary in the Library off with a little unknown information: I'm not actually a librarian. Hence why this is "Mary in the Library" and not "Mary the Librarian." This sometimes surprises people when I correct them. I DO work in a library so why am I not a librarian? It's pretty easy, actually. A librarian is someone who actually has a degree in library sciences, specifically a Master's (MLS). not. I'm simply a person with a passion for books and some very odd skills and experience that made up for the oddly perfect combination to work where I do. Thus, I am what my library calls a Senior Library Assistant (oooh, fancy, I have a three-word title AND the word senior).

So what is a Senior Library Assistant and what does she do with her time? A LOT! 

Desk shifts: 
This is the aspect of libraries that most people know about. I spend usually 2-5 hours of each of my shifts working "on desk." When you're on desk, you're in the business of customer/patron service. My library features four desks: circulation, reference, children's, and book drop. Book drop is checking books in, processing holds, and answering the library's primary line. It's actually really busy most of the time because there are two book drops, and since people can check out up to 50 items, you might get up to 50 items at once per drop.

The circulation desk is where I spend most of my hours. We do a lot of checking in and checking out, help patrons use the computers, and do all the account stuff (new cards, card renewals, etc). We get a lot of questions about printing, copying, tax forms, computer sound (or lack thereof), and a few reference questions (like "Do you know Divergent?"). This desk is fun because I get to see a lot of patrons, and this is where I do a lot of my reader's advisory aka recommendation magic (I'll talk more about reader's advisory in another post). Also this is where I pimp out I mean encourage patrons to attend our various events and programs.

Reference and children's are very similar. Mostly it's helping patrons find a book by [X author] that the "catalog says is in." We reorganized our adult fiction shelves by subject (general fiction, christian, romance, fantasy/sci-fi, mystery, etc), and it still takes patrons by surprise. Especially when they find out [X author] is shelved in three different sections due to their varied bibliography (for example, Steven King is located in general fiction, horror, and mystery/suspense). Sometimes I get asked actual reference questions ("I need a book on English history from 1550-1650" or "I'd like to learn about construction").

Children's involves a little more help with the computers and making sure everyone isn't causing TOO much of a ruckus back in our play area, plus finding books to help children increase their reading level or find books for a school project. I also love giving recommendations at the children's desk because there are so many beloved series and titles from when I was a kid. Adults are usually hard to recommend to because so many of them have their own bookish tastes (and will scoff at your suggestions), but children are more open to finding something new.

Off desk:
Think there's a lot going on on desk? You're correct, but working in a library is like an iceberg: 90% is in the part you DON'T see. So in my hours spent off desk (and occasionally it bleeds into work that happens at the desk), I usually...

Plan programs. I am in charge of three programs at my library (and I'll talk more in-depth about all of them in later posts). Gaming Marathon is a program for teens and tweens that incorporates video games. Kids' Corner is a program for 3rd-5th grade kiddos that features our nonfiction collection. Picking Up STEAM is a STEAM-based storytime for families of all ages. I also help my boss work on other teen programs like our monthly book club, DIY programs, classic lit series, etc.

Plan author panels and events. I've spent a little bit of time the past couple weeks working on a recent author panel at the library that featured five amazing authors. Time was spent making swag, writing questions, working on the flyers, etc. Some panels are more involved and require craft supplies and decorations. It's still winter, but pretty soon we'll have to get started on our summer reading panel.
I make a LOT of buttons at work
(and sometimes I take a machine home with me)

Do social media/NTTBF festival work. Yep. I get to tweet at work. Mostly I just keep track of the Twitter account and answer questions. Right now we're also working on the NTTBF author reveals so we've got to find high-res book covers and write out the reveal mashups. Creating these is surprisingly hard.

Do random jobs. When I moved up to full time, I inherited a couple of responsibilities that the person before me did such as schedule meeting rooms and keep our office supply machine stocked so I have become well-acquainted with spreadsheets and calendars. I'm now in charge of all the tax forms and stocking the display during the spring. I also make the desk schedule one day a week, and either do the cash report or open the library that day as well. One night a week I close the library.

Develop the YA collection/purchase books (!!!). This is my favorite part. I get to order all the YA ebooks and e-audiobooks for our system. This is super a lot of fun. I keep track of a lot of spreadsheets and title lists (, Goodreads, and YA blogs that keep track of monthly releases are my big helpers for this). This is where it really helps to have a passion for books and being part of the YA community because I'm in the know about what comes out when, what's listing, what's winning awards, what special topics are being published, etc.

keeping track of what I buy when & from which service

Part of developing the collection includes creating a monthly newsletter of YA titles to help point patrons toward books that are maybe a little bit older. Sometimes I have a theme (December was "books in space") or feature books by authors who are visiting the library soon (I'll do NTTBF lists in February and March). I also maintain the displays (themed and new books) so that as many books get face time as possible, and process the new books when they arrive (which is why I have so many NEW BOOK!!! tweets). Library fun fact: sometimes our new books arrive early, just like in bookstores. That's how I got to read Fairest like a week early.

Unfortunately, maintaining the collection also mean weeding books, which is when the collection gets too large and has to be cut down. It's sad, but it also helps create room for the new books. We never get rid of titles that have been checked out in the past 1-2 years, and we always start with duplicates (we're cutting down on our Hunger Games collection now since all the movies are out & it's basically hit maximum reach; "cutting down" means going from 15-20 copies of each book maybe to 3 each). Also, I have to process the damaged books and determine if they simply need to be doctored or if they have to be withdrawn from the collection. This especially hurts my heart when a new book is damaged. :(

Things I don't do at work:
Read all my emails. Who has the TIME??
Clean my desk. Ditto! Also, my desk is basically a dumping ground for everyone else. There's literally always program supplies littering every flat surface.
Read.....sorta. While I'm at my desk doing all the above, I usually have an audiobook or some music going, but rarely do library staffers actually read at work. We have other work to do, and reading is still a hobby.
Shush people. My library is a bit on the loud side because of our large youthful patron base. We do a lot of work with kids, tweens, and teens, and our library sounds like it. I'm also a very loud laugher, and my coworkers and I always find something to laugh about.

Any questions about my job? Anything you want me to talk about in future Mary in the Library posts? Let me know in the comments!