In December, Ryan Claringbole and I wrote a post about his library’s (the Chesapeake Public Library’s) sub-standard selection catalog from OverDrive: “OverDrive Has Different eBook Catalogs for Different Libraries.”  eBooks that I could see in my library’s OverDrive selection catalog to license were not available in his library’s selection catalog.

I decided to follow up and browse through his library’s OverDrive site and found that those very same authors titles that his library couldn’t even license back in December were in fact now in their catalog for the public to check out.

Kathryn Stockett

Stieg Larsson

Janet Evanovich

Naturally I was confused.  Something had changed.  So I contacted both the Chesapeake Public Library (the Library Director) and OverDrive (email was sent to several contacts).  Strangely, the Library Director never responded.  OverDrive responded (quickly this time) with the following:

At the library’s request, we recently met with an administrator at the Chesapeake Public Library to discuss the issues that led to the initial restriction on their catalog.  We don’t as a policy discuss publicly each partner library’s terms of service, but suffice to say we were satisfied by the discussions and have since enabled full access to the catalog.

What do we take away from this story? What do you think happened here?  Did the negative press and the library standing up for its users make a difference?  Did OverDrive change the terms of their contract with the CPL? Did OverDrive change their policies so that they don’t limit libraries’ access to selection catalogs anymore?  Did the publishers agree to new terms and change their contracts with OverDrive? Did OverDrive make an exception in this case?  I don’t know.  I have my guesses, but I’m more curious to hear what yours are.

So…what do you think  happened?

P.S. A Public Service Announcement: For public libraries, all of our contracts are public record by nature of being public agencies. So it’s fine that OverDrive won’t “discuss” terms of service — but here’s a reminder to everyone…you, as the library, can discuss them. You can share your contracts with the world unless you signed a non-disclosure agreement, which you can’t even legally do.

With yet another publisher announcing today that it’s dropping out of the library eBook market, I decided to put up a new sign in our library in a few different spots to raise public awareness.  The sign lists which publishers won’t do eBook business with libraries and provides contact information for the publishers in question.  I’ve posted about the issue on our library blog and pushed it out on our Twitter accountFacebook page, and Google+ page.  And here’s a direct link to a downloadable copy of my sign on Google Docs. It’s not fancy, but feel free to take it, modify it, use it. And if anybody has better contact info for these companies, let me know. This is what I could glean from Reference USA and the company websites. Update: I have since added a QR code to the sign at the suggestion of several people, pointing people to the library’s blog post with this information.

sign at the San Rafael Public Library

I know it’s a small gesture. It’s just a sign (although I did put three of them up).  I am also writing letters as the Library Director (in many cases, again) to the publishers on the list asking them to try to work with libraries…telling them we’re open to negotiation and suggestion, but that walking away the library market is damaging to all of us.

As a librarian and as a reader, I am tired of publishers walking away from the library table.  I have no problem with them walking away from a particular third party vendor, but only if they have a plan in place to offer up their own platform or be signed with an alternate vendor already.  Gaps in service, gaps in availability of their titles to our patrons equals stupidity in my opinion.  Walking away from the library eBook market makes no financial long-term sense, nor does it continue the positive relationship that publishers and libraries have cultivated for centuries to help bring information and entertainment to people.

I think it’s about damn time we, as library professionals, started getting the public riled up about this too.  We need legislation passed (or copyright law clarified) that states that indeed, libraries can license/purchase and lend out digital items just like they can with physical items.  Fragmentation and exclusionary business practices hurt the people we serve.  As a librarian I feel we must stand up, as a profession, and say “no more.”

As I was putting the signs up today, I got a few questions immediately from library users.  Within a half hour of the Penguin/OverDrive news being announced, I had three phone calls to my desk from concerned San Rafael residents about yet another publisher not being available through their library’s eBook collection.  Now, admittedly we have a mightily active and concerned citizenry here in San Rafael (I love you guys!), but I’m guessing every other community has a good base of people who would also think this is ridiculous and be willing to do something about it.  I’m encouraging users to contact the publishers and tell other book-lovers they know.  This is one of those issues we’ve been dealing with in the library vacuum–an issue 99.9% of the public has no idea exists, and an issue that would invoke at least 80% pissed-off-ed-ness if we tell people about it.

Put a sign up in your library.  Say something to people at your eBooks classes.  Do something.  Because nobody, including ALA, is going to do it for you.

Last night I was honored and privileged to attend the official White House State of the Union Tweet-Up. To read more about how that happened, see Part 1. I am so thankful to @ks44, @macon44, and @brianforde for organizing the event on behalf of the President’s staff and including regular folks in the State of the Union event.  It means a lot to those of us rather disillusioned with politics…gives me hope that things can modernize, change, and be just a tad more inclusive.

50 or so of us met up at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building and were escorted to a small auditorium where we watched the State of the Union address live (the super-awesome enhanced version with stats, graphs, etc.).  The experience of watching the speech live with a group of engaged, smart people was really great.  I think it would be spectacular for local libraries to hold SOTU Tweet-Ups (for other major local and national political events too).

The whole lot of us had our phones, tablets, and laptops out and were live-Tweeting the event.  You can see the #whtweetup Tweets. The live stream was fascinating.  The biggest laugh happened after the President made his pretty bad milk joke and was smiling big, and the cameras cut to a row of Republicans looking as sour as all get out.  Whoever was directing the cut-edits should get an award, because that was priceless.  Several of his comments got “oohs” and “aahs” from the audience, some elicited muttered grumbling, and others got full on rounds of applause (e.g. the statement that women should get equal pay).  I just tried to Tweet out what mattered to me, what stuck out in my mind.

After the State of the Union, Macon Phillips (@macon44) served as MC for the event. A dozen or so questions got asked and answered–sent in by either people online or asked by those of us in the audience.  Lots of interesting questions, tons of engaged people in that audience, and some good stuff from people online too.  The event was live broadcast on and you can see the archived version here (and below).  Although I never got picked to ask my question (I raised my hand repeatedly, as did many others), I did get on camera several times (inc. right around the 24 minute mark where the guy behind me asked his question).

If I’d gotten to ask my question, here’s what it would have been (cribbed in large part from the Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Susan Hildreth’s, suggestion):

The President mentioned in his address that local institutions like community colleges and schools are essential to training a successful future workforce for America.  Libraries are also critical to these local efforts because our entire mission is to democratize information and expertise. Nowhere else can anyone in any community get free access to books and periodicals, computers and the internet, and technology and skills training, to either pursue education or find a job.  We librarians have a lot of great ideas about how communities can support and leverage libraries to meet the administration’s goals. How can we best collaborate with you on this?

So hey, if anyone wants to answer that question we’re all still listening. 🙂

There are more live online events with Obama and his administration all week — see the schedule here. You can send in your questions too — so take this chance and participate!

I am writing from Washington D.C. where I just toured the White House and met with the U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra, and tonight will be live-Tweeting the State of the Union from next door to the White House and then having a Q&A session with senior officials from the Obama Administration.  You can follow the Tweets of our whole group all day at #whtweetup.  Our Tweets about the State of the Union tonight will also be tagged with #sotu.

A few days ago, I thought I’d be at my library today working on statistics.  Big thanks to San Rafael‘s City Manager Nancy Mackle for letting me take a few days off last minute! So, what happened?  Why am I not at my desk, drinking espresso, and looking at spreadsheets until my eyes cross?

State of the Union Tweet-Up: The White House Twitter account (@whitehouse) posted a contest of sorts for people to be selected to attend this official State of the Union Tweet-Up.  The contest was only open for 24 hours, and you just had to fill out a brief form and describe in 140 characters why you’d be a good people’s representative.  Because of the low barrier to entry for this once in a lifetime experience, I entered.  I wrote something about being a librarian and how libraries are centers for technology access and digital civic engagement.  And then a couple of days later–boom! In my inbox, a message with the White House logo and the following text: “Congratulations! You’ve been selected to attend the State of the Union Tweetup at the White House…” To be frank, I first thought it was spam.  I mean, really…the White House emailing me?  Those of us who were selected can find no common thread in why we’d be picked–different political beliefs, professions, ages, interests, etc. We’re guessing it was either random or that they were aiming for diversity, but in any case–who cares? I’m at the White House!

Getting my California Self to D.C.: I scrambled to get last minute plane tickets and hotel reservations, and then submitted my information to get security clearance (I was a little nervous about that part).  Without even knowing if I had passed the security process, I boarded a plane from San Francisco to DC.  Weirdly, the other Bay Area representative (@darryl_davis from Oakland) was on my same flight (thank you Southwest for your comparatively cheap last minute seats).  Only three people that we know from west of the Mississippi were chosen and were able to come.  @brentpliskow made a nice map with everyone’s locations.  I love my fellow nerds and our use of technology to share information.

White House Tour: This morning we got a tour of the White House.  I’d never been before, so it was super neat to see the rooms and hallways you often see in photographs of official events.  It is indeed much smaller than one might think.  I got to see Bo (the first family’s dog) being brought in the front door (the front door!) presumably after a walk and bathroom break.  My favorite parts were getting to see the White House Library and seeing the hallway that you often see the President walk down before an address (you know…this one).

Aneesh Chopra and Mike Krieger: Soon after that, a smaller group of us got to have a meeting with Aneesh Chopra, the U.S. Chief Technology Officer, other technology advisor folks, and a surprise visit with Mike Krieger (@mikeyk), co-founder of Instagram.  Each of them spoke for a while (The administration is doing a ton of stuff with open government which is awesome, and Instagram is building an Android app, thank ba-jeezus), then they took our questions.  I jumped in with the second question and asked how the administration planned to address the failed system of copyright in a digital media age, particularly the restrictive DMCA, and cited how some vendors refuse to sell digital content to libraries.  Chopra’s practiced very political response was that copyright was a macro-policy issue, and then he talked about the administration’s work on sharing and open data standards through leading by example–their work on the Learning Registry and other open education and data initiatives (check out all the stuff at  He did use the phrase “metadata standards,” which literally made me shiver.  I guess I am a true librarian nerd girl at heart (as if there was any doubt)!  Other questions asked about healthcare records, open data standards, SOPA and PIPA, broadband, delegating some of the wireless spectrum to public safety officials, resources for primary education, and more.  It came across as truly practiced messaging.  I suppose that’s to be expected.  Chopra comes off as one of the most laid back, approachable, and excited government officials I’ve ever met.  If only I could muster that much jump-for-joy enthusiasm every day! We did get to hear more about what initiatives are being done by the administration, all good stuff and seriously a departure from the tech-resistant Bush administration.  Open government, open data, and open education are all important philosophies for libraries to embrace and share with their residents and users.

State of the Union: Tonight a larger group of us (we think 50 at this point?) will meet up at the White House Complex (the Eisenhower Executive Office Building to be exact) to watch the State of the Union address, and live-Tweet the SOTU and our reactions to it.  After the address, a panel of senior advisors in the Obama administration will do a Q&A session with all of us Tweet-Up folks, also taking questions via Twitter and Facebook.  Learn more about how to participate at the SOTU website.  I do have to give big props to the administration for using social media in a really useful way.  They’re taking questions via Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and YouTube, and having live interactions with not only the POTUS but also his advisors all week.  Really making themselves accessible is pretty commendable in my opinion.

I’ll try to write more when the SOTU event is over tonight if I am still awake 🙂  In the meantime, I want to say how thankful I am to those who have sent in questions for me to ask, and how thankful I am that I was chosen.  This is truly a surreal experience…just being near people with this much influence into the nation’s direction makes me giddy.  I know that sounds all stupid naive fan-girl and what not, but I’ll put aside my bad ass image for a moment and just admit it–whether you care about politics or not, whether you like this administration or not, being even marginally involved in the democratic process like this is pretty freaking cool.

Below are photos from today so far. I’ll be adding to the set later.

The SOPA and PROTECT IP bills scare the heck out of me.  They have the potential to allow entertainment companies to decide what information is okay to share and what information is not, which sites are okay and which are not, and popular sites like Facebook and Twitter could get completely shut down for a single infringing link (or, what a single judge decides is an infringing link).  Scare you?  Want to know more?  Watch this short video and get a brief education in the scary workings of SOPA and PROTECT IP.

PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

Send your own questions to me at [email protected]@TheLiB, or +Sarah Houghton.


Hi! Welcome to episode 7 of What Sarah Said.  This question comes to us from Aaron and he writes:

I have a two-part question: I have a large number of heavy history books that I have owned for more than twenty years.  Moving them to a new location, I noticed that the top edges have black spots that cannot be removed.  Fortunately they don’t as of yet penetrate into the face of the pages.  The books were not in a wet location, but humid summers may have had an effect.  I assume that these spots are some sort of living organism eating the books.  Do I need worry about the “spots” continuing to damaged my books?  The books have been moved to a much nicer location.

Second question: Do you have recommendations for affordable shelves to hold heavy books that perhaps have the strength found in a library?  All my old shelves have warped.  My current solution is to use metal utility shelving, which doesn’t look proper for my beloved library.

All right! So the first part of your question: the spots.  I had to hearken back to my training in library school.  I started out wanting to be a rare books librarian so I took lots of classes in preservation and book restoration.  And my first thought was: Oh god, it’s black mold.  And I think that’s right.  Without seeing a picture of what you’re describing, this sounds like black mold to me.  Depending on where they were they could be insect droppings of some sort.  I looked on some preservation websites and found a few that pointed to, you know, spots of that nature, if they really are just on the top of the books, that could be coming from cockroaches, from silverfish, even from deathwatch beetles although it’s unlikely, carpet beetles…it could be a lot of things.  I guess I have more questions. Were you finding insect casings or larvae or droppings of any kind around these books?  Or is it truly just little spots?  And what do the spots look like?  Are they big?  Are they tiny?  I’m going to assume that they’re tiny, and while not uniformly distributed, somewhat–you know if you look at the whole.  And in that case I think you’ve got a case of mold.  It could be mildew, but if they’re spots it’s usually mold.  So that’s bad.

Yes, that’s going to continue to eat away at those books.  Don’t put them near other books…anywhere near any other books, because it will pass instantaneously to whatever’s next to it.  You’re in pretty big trouble.  The only way to treat mold that I’m aware of, and that my research showed me with paper, is to actually use bleach.  And the bleach does have damaging effects on the paper long term.  So while you could bleach it to stop the progression, there’s no guarantee that it’s not going to create more or equal damage as the pages start to get brittle and fall apart from the damage of the bleach itself.

If it was mine, I would probably do a bleach and water solution, 50/50, and then using probably a cotton swab or a ball, depending on how thick and large the books are, and I would just dab a light solution of the bleach along the top of the pages where you do see the spotting and dry them out and see if that makes a difference.  I don’t know if you’ve seen the spots progress…there’s a lot of questions.  But that’s my answer at first blush and if you have more information feel free to follow up via email and I’ll try to do better.

And in terms of shelving.  This is hard.  There’s a lot of library shelving out there from companies like Highsmith and Demco, Gaylord, and some other vendors.  And library shelving is expensive.  So I don’t know much shelving you need, linear feet wise.  If it’s not very much and you want to get a really attractive, nice bookcase that is really sturdy and can hold those heavy books, that’s what I would look at, one of those vendors, and I’ll link to those in the show notes.

But if you’re just looking at something larger like maybe you need a ton of book shelving that all matches together, I wouldn’t look to formal library shelving for that because it is super, super expensive.

I’ve got some pretty heavy books myself that I’m just storing them on standard book shelves that I purchased through regular stores that aren’t very expensive like Target, IKEA, or other places like that.  I do have friends who have some very attractive shelving that they had a local cabinetmaker make for them.  And while it was probably double what you would pay for something that you’re getting at Target or IKEA, you get to pick the wood, you get to pick how big it is, exactly the dimensions.  So you may want to look into local artisans and see if there is somebody who could craft something to specifically meet your space needs and your weight needs, as it sounds like these books are really heavy.

So thank you so much for your question! And tune in next time for the next episode of What Sarah Said!

Send your own questions to me at [email protected]@TheLiB, or +Sarah Houghton.


Welcome to episode 6 of What Sarah Said.  Today’s question comes to us from Linda and she asks:

If I have bought a Kindle book and want to lend it to a friend, can I send it to her Kindle to read with the assumption that she will send it back to me when she’s finished or delete the book from her Kindle?

Well Linda, no you can’t do that.  There’s digital rights management in place, as long as it wasn’t a free eBook that you got through another source.  If it’s a Kindle eBook that you purchased, no, you can’t do that.  The digital rights management won’t let you.  The same thing though, the digital rights management, will actually let you lend it, maybe, under certain specific circumstances.

So instead of trying to paraphrase, I’m going to read to you what the Amazon page for Lending Kindle Books says.  And I’ll link to this in the show notes.  There’s a lot more detailed information as well.  So they say:

Eligible Kindle books can be loaned once for a period of 14 days. The borrower does not need to own a Kindle — Kindle books can also be read using our free Kindle reading applications for PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android devices. Not all books are lendable — it is up to the publisher or rights holder to determine which titles are eligible for lending. The lender will not be able to read the book during the loan period.

And if you actually look on the product page for the Kindle book that you’ve purchased and you want to lend to someone, under Product Details there is a field for “Lending” and it will either say enabled or disabled.  If it’s enabled then you can do this one time 14-day thing.  If it says disabled, then no you’re out of luck.  This page also details how to go through the lending process.

So you might be able to.  It depends on the title, the author, the publisher, the other rights holder involved…may decide that you can’t lend it at all.  And quite a few of the books on my Kindle are not lendable  (technically).

But if it is lendable, you can, but the digital rights management will enforce that 14-day limit.  So on day 1 it disappears from your device and shows up on your friend’s device.  On day 14 it disappears from your friend’s device and shows up on your device.  There’s no overlap there.  There’s no ability for yo uto say “Sure, you can keep it an extra week–that’s fine with me.” Because the rights holders and publishers have decided it’s not okay with them.

And so it’s very limited.  And a lot of people got really excited when this was announced, that you could finally share something with a friend or family member.  But most people take longer than 2 weeks to read a book, and the publishers and Amazon know that, which is why they made it 2 weeks.  Most people would want to be able to lend it out, and be able to, you know, lend it for whatever period of time they choose…which we can’t do.

So there is a limited capability to lend, sort of, depending on whether or not the title is lendable at all.  The best thing to do is just check.  Check on your title, see whether or not you can.  Otherwise, no, you can’t lend Kindle books to anyone.

And I hope that that answers your question Linda.  And thanks for tuning in, and we’ll see you for the next episode.

Send your own questions to me at [email protected]@TheLiB, or +Sarah Houghton.


Welcome to episode 5 of What Sarah Said, I’m Sarah Houghton.  And today’s question comes from Amanda.  She writes:

OK, I know this may be forcing you to speculate a bit, but honestly, where do you see the line being drawn for most libraries when it comes to this ridiculous drama over eBooks and publishers, concerning limited copies and accessibility in particular.  We really aren’t good at standing up for ourselves but this is getting insane.  I looked at our OverDrive account the other day and it was very common to see 100-200 holds on 10-20 eBook copies of a particular title.  Unbelievable.  And off of that, okay, it’s a two part question–is that acceptable?  [of course it is]  If we don’t draw a line, how badly are libraries going to suffer from being eBook/publisher roadkill? Are we really just going to let our customers and organizations become victims of greed and lack of forethought?

Wooooow!  OK.  You guys know, you get me started on eBooks and I can go on for an hour, but I will make this as brief as possible.

Where do I see the line being drawn over access to eCopies in terms of them being limited numbers of copies and accessibility.  I agree with Amanda that we’re not very good at standing up for ourselves, but I do think that we’ve gotten a little better in recent months about standing up for accessibility of titles based on ADA standards, based on cross-device compatibility.

In terms of the limited copies, you know the one copy/one user model.  I don’t know that that’s necessarily that that’s the wrong model. It’s one that harkens back to the print, but there are things we’re asking them to adhere to as well, so I don’t know.  This is the wild west time for eBooks so I’m not going to rule out the one copy/one user model as not working yet.  I think that remains to be seen.

However, what you mention about it being very common to see 10 holds on every single copy of something.  Well, that’s a question of allocation.  So, I know in our consortium we have automatic holds fulfillment at 5 holds per copy.  And that means we’re spending a lot of money on holds fulfillment.  But that also means that we’re buying lots of copies of things that people want a lot of.  In our old consortium that we belonged to it was common to see titles with 1-2 year waiting lists for a popular title.  And that’s not meeting user demand.  It’s not meeting user needs for these titles.

So I think you have to ask: How much are you allocating to purchasing digital content vs. physical, and what’s the return on investment?  And if your holds lists really are that long, that means there’s more demand than you’re able to meet with your current budget allocation.  So it does warrant another look.

And your second part, in terms of how badly are libraries going to suffer from being eBook and publisher roadkill…  I don’t think we are.  I think that just as we saw with the PATRIOT Act, we’re just starting to see libraries and librarians stand up, do a little fist pump, get angry, get excited, say “This is what we think the future looks like, and we want you guys to be a part of it with us–publishers, and authors, and vendors.  Let’s  come together and find a solution that works for everyone.”

And so I don’t think we’re going to be roadkill.   I think if we continue to accept products that are locked down from companies that are not transparent or outright lie to us.  Or we continue to accept content that doesn’t work across platforms, that has tons of digital rights management laden inside of it, I think that’s where we veer off into roadkill territory.

So as long as we continue to stand up for the ethics and principles that librarians hold dear: open access to information for all,  long term preservation of information, accessibility to information.  As long as we listen to those core values that were created, you know, a hundred years ago or more, I think we’re in good shape to be able to move forward in a positive way with digital content.

It’s not all doom and gloom.  There are positive models being created.  And one I often point to is the Internet Archive’s Open Library project, and I encourage you all to go take a look at that as one possible model of a successful future for digital content for both libraries and consumers.  One that is transparent, one that is open, and one that is user driven instead of corporate greed driven.

So with that, thank you so much for your questions Amanda.  And I hope you all will tune in for our next episode of What Sarah Said.  Thanks for tuning in to this one!

Send your own questions to me at [email protected]@TheLiB, or +Sarah Houghton.


Welcome to episode 4 of What Sarah Said, a podcast where I, Sarah Houghton, will answer your questions.

Today’s question, uhh rather questions, come from Johan, and he writes:

Ten questions for you from a fan.  Quick. Rapid fire.  Don’t think.

So to honor that I will ask each question and give my answers as rapidly as I can.

#1: What is your favorite band?  The Cure.  You know, a little competition from The Smiths or Siouxsie and the Banshees or bands like, you know, Crystal Castles or other bands I’ve discovered recently.  But man, heart of hearts, Disintegration–best album ever.

#2: Who is your favorite living author?  Neil Gaiman, hands down.

#3: Who is your favorite not-living author?  I just love the way that was phrased.  Easy answer there too as well–Philip K. Dick, who is actually local here to San Rafael and I moved here without even knowing that and that was pretty neat.

#4: What is your favorite movie?  The Piano.  Watched it in high school, fell in love with it, still love it, think it’s the best film ever made ever.  Go Jane Campion. Yay!

#5: What did you eat for dinner last night? I ate a homemade vegan pot pie.  It was frozen.  I had made a big batch about a month ago, but it was homemade to begin with so I think that still counts.  And as I recall, 1 1/2 glasses of a very thick merlot.

#6: What did you do for prom?  I did not go to prom.  So what I did for “not prom” was that I bought about $40 worth of dessert items, so this would be like ice cream, and cookies, and cake, and I remember there was some kind of big container of chocolate mousse.  I’m really not sure how that came to be. And then I also bought about $40 of illicit alcohol and locked myself down in my parents’ basement and watched Clockwork Orange over and over and over again while drinking alcohol and eating mass quantities of sugar.  So that was my prom. Not something I wished to repeat.  However, at the time it seemed like a good idea.

#7: Who is your biggest inspiration?  My maternal grandmother who passed away last year continues to be my biggest inspiration.  She faced a lot of obstacles in life, and a lot of difficulties in her private life, but always made sure in her interactions with other people–either her family, her friends, people through organizations that she was a member of–that she was always making their lives better, happier.  That she was helping them feel more empowered, stronger.  And making them feel special, making them feel loved.  That’s something that I aspire to do but I can never do it as well as she did.  But that selflessness and the kindness that she showed other people continues to be an inspiration to me.

#8: What is your favorite store?  There is a store called Stop Staring online. They’re based out of Southern California as well with a physical shop.  And that is where I buy most of my dresses.  And I love them.  I love them.  I love them.  Everything fits perfectly.  The dresses are beautiful.  Some cross between like ‘20s to ‘40s couture and gothy punky goodness.  So I love their stuff.

#9: What’s your favorite restaurant?  That would be Millennium, in San Francisco, which is a gourmet vegan place with great cocktails and even better food.

And then lastly Johan’s question #10: Why do you like libraries so much?  To me, libraries are the cornerstone of any civilization.  And I don’t say that lightly.  I actually believe that.  We level the intellectual playing field.  We democratize information and expertise, so that anyone can learn anything anytime and we will help them.  And as I often say when I speak to groups of library professionals, that is the most noble goal I can think of.  And that tells me I’m in the right profession.  I’m very happy with what I do every day.

So thank you, Johan, for your ten questions.  I hope you guys learned something about me.

We’ll see you next time for episode 5 of What Sarah Said.  Thanks for tuning into episode 4.

Send your own questions to me at [email protected]@TheLiB, or +Sarah Houghton.


Welcome to episode 3 of  What Sarah Said.  Today’s question comes from J.R., and J.R. is an author.  I get a lot of questions from authors so this is a good one.  He writes:

I am in the process of publishing my first novel, a YA fantasy.  Anyway, my larger vision for myself is playing a role in improving
teen literacy in my region…and beyond.  With my soon to be published novel, I believe I will be able to have more credibility with respect
to this endeavor. I know you are not in the Pennsylvania area but would love any suggestions you may have on where I can look to begin this process. As exciting as the publishing process can be, I’m even more excited about the potential of using it as a vehicle for helping others.  My book
has a male protagonist, which, I believe given the trend of YA novels leaning more and more toward the female reader could be both an
advantage and disadvantage. When it comes to teen literacy, I believe this is an advantage because of what the statistics say about boys
versus girls and reading/literacy. Do I begin with the library system or would you recommend looking elsewhere? On a more self-serving note, in your opinion (being an expert), what is the most effective way to reach 12-22 year-old males? Online? Somewhere else? I’d love to connect with this elusive age group but struggle to find a good place to start.  They simply don’t seem to congregate like females of the same age online.

All right.  So…congratulations on being an author!  I don’t know if you already have a publishing venue, if you’ve got a publisher lined up.  If not, consider self-publishing.  More and more people are doing that and finding it is a very valid way to get your information and your stuff out there.  The main thing you want is people to read your stuff, right?  That’s the main thing you want.  You’re not doing this because you expect to make a million dollars off of your first book. And if you do you’re delusional.  I love you J.R., but I don’t think you’re going to make your first million here.  Having not read the book…I could be wrong, I could be wrong.  You could be the next J.K. Rowling.  I could be totally wrong.  But I do think the key to your question is that your focus isn’t on your book, your focus is on your desire to improve teen literacy.  And the book is second to that.

So whether you’re in Pennsylvania or any other part of the world, really, I think libraries are a great place to start to ask them if they would welcome an event where you’re promoting literacy, you’re inviting teen boys.  Have some kind of a pre-canned program ready to go where you say “Oh yeah, I’ll bring them in and I’ll have them write, and I’ll have them talk about the book, or read a chapter at a time…” or however you want to set it up.  I would also recommend contacting literacy programs in your area.  Many of these have become underfunded due to state and national budget issues, but I do think there are still enough of those around that it’s worth looking to see.  Now is there a literacy agency that would appeal to or attract this particular age group?  And then also the schools.  Talk to the schools.  Again, come to them with your pre-planned canned event of what you would like to bring to the table, what you can do for them.  That’s what they want to hear.  And show them how you can help boys in their school become excited about reading or writing again.

And then finally, you talk about what the effective way is to reach 12-22 year old males.  I gotta be honest.  I’m not an expert on that.  When I was 12-22 as a female, I didn’t know where to find these boys.  So definitely not an expert now as a 30-something.  Look everywhere you can–online, offline, places in the community where they tend to congregate.  I know that in the past the library has left marketing materials for middle schoolers of both genders all over the place–in pizza shops, at skateboard parks, at coffee shops, wherever you see people of this age group.  And this is a very wide group.  12-22 is huge.  I mean, that’s very different from one end of the spectrum to the other.  So think about…are you really trying to target one particular part of that segment?   Are you really trying to get 12-15? To me that’s a little bit too broad to give you one answer.  But look in as many places, be in as many places as you can and you will have the most success.  And as a library person who has tried to market to this age group for years, I’ll say that there’s no magic bullet that I’ve found so far.  But again, really diversifying that reach and hitting as many points as possible is probably your best approach.

And I just want to say good for you J.R. for being interested in improving literacy, particularly among teenage boys.  I applaud you for that and I wish you luck with your writing.

Thanks for tuning in and we’ll see you at the next episode.