Wednesday, November 16, 2011

FEATURED SWEETHEARTS: Patti Cook & Joanna Nigrelli

Today, we're thrilled to feature two fantastic librarians from right here in Texas, PATTI COOK & JOANNA NIGRELLI!

About Patti:
Patti is now an assistant branch manager in Austin after working for many years as a teen services librarian. She is very active with the Texas Library Association, serving twice on the Local Arrangement Committee (go Placement Center go!), she has served on the Tayshas High School Reading list in two different capacities and is currently Chair-Elect of the Young Adult Round Table.

About Joanna:
Joanna is a teen services librarian turned stay at home mom of two boys. She lives in Jacksonville, Florida where she can often be found visiting the local libraries and appreciating that they always have something fun for her boys to do. In her illustrious 9 year librarian career, she was active in the Texas Library Association (serving as Chair of the Young Adult Round Table), a SXSW Dewey Winburne Community Service Award Honoree, and a totally rock star NYT Librarian of the Year. (*high five!*)


TXS&S: What is your biggest surprise since becoming a librarian?

P: The Conferences! Who knew library conferences would be so incredibly awesome? You not only get the important professional development that you would expect, but there is a wealth of resources at your fingertips. Author panels, the publishers in the exhibit hall, your fellow librarians. We are especially lucky to live in Texas and be able to become involved in the Texas Library Association.

Becoming involved with TLA, and YART in particular really helped us both to grow professionally.

J: I agree 100%!

We were both able to find our own opportunities to pursue interests in literature, librarianship, and leadership that were beyond what we could at our jobs.

I would say that I had one other big surprise: the close community of YA - readers, librarians, authors, publishers, book sellers.

TXS&S: How do you see the future of reading changing, and how do you think readers and libraries can stay current?

J: The lines between genres and formats have blurred if not exploded. Also, there isn’t much of a distinction for “these are boy books and these are girl books.” If it is a good story, people will read it - be it on their electronic whatsit or with a bound paper version. Libraries are aware of what’s current and what’s coming. The problem is getting the money to be able to do it and then wading through government bureaucracy to get the green light.

P: Despite what the newspapers will have you believe, libraries are not some quaint notion of the past. We’re busier than ever with more people coming through our doors, using our computers, taking our computer classes, enjoying our varied programming for all ages, checking out library material, and basically taking advantage of everything a library card can get you.

TXS&S: Would your friends and colleagues consider you a Sweetheart or Scoundrel, and why?

Once a teen librarian, always a scoundrel!

TXS&S: Can you tell us what motivated you to start your blog, Oops…Wrong Cookie?

P: We started this blog in 2007 along with several of our colleagues as a way to continue the discussion of books that we were having in real life in a more public forum. It was a way for us to try to improve our writing skills (improved and still improving) and try out new things and share our love of literature with anyone who was interested in reading.

J: The blog became self-guided professional development. I am just one reader and YA publishes so much each year. Oops was a way to pool our reading resources and learn about books that maybe we wouldn’t read but would know a teen (or adult!) who would be interested.

P: We really love to talk about books and we really love to do live blogging during ALA award broadcasts. Our reactions are immediate and uncensored, honest, and we think pretty funny. We especially appreciate these posts because we now live in different states and we don't get to have these conversations in person any more. A couple highlights are:
Joanna and Patti the Youth Media Awards
Joanna and Patti Discuss...Mockingjay!

TXS&S: What or who keeps you both motivated?

J: I’ll admit I thought being at home would give me more time to blog. Sometimes there’s a great book that I just have to talk about. My 2 year old is a pleasant enough audience, but it’s more satisfying to shout my undying love for Gary D. Schmidt and the Red Blazer Girls to my friends through the blog. It’s out there... forever!

P: Its fun to share your opinion on things. You never know who you’ll run into online. Having Kathleen Duey comment on our blog was pretty fabulous and then we got the chance to meet her at TLA and she was so interesting. She doesn’t plot her books beforehand! We were blown away. If you’ve never read her Skin Hunger series you’re missing out (and you’ll be doubly amazed by the non-pre-plotting. How does she do it?!?).

TXS&S What are some ways you support each other?

J: Patti is my reading buddy. Not just that she reads voraciously (anything and everything where I tend to stick to certain things) but she’s also so willing to talk about what she’s reading and listen to me talk about what I’m reading. When you have someone like that, it makes it easier to, for instance, stay up until 2 a.m. reading the rest of Monsters of Men because you have to email Patti tomorrow morning and ask her a zillion questions about Todd and Viola and his mom and what-the-heck-The Mayor-omg! Plus, Patti mailed me ARCs from ALA so that I can keep up. She won’t let me slack.

P: It’s nice to have someone to share your enthusiasm with. Especially if you’re two different types of readers. Joanna introduced me to Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief and for that I will be forever grateful!

TXS&S: You are both not originally from Texas, where did you two meet?

J: I’m originally from Clearwater, Florida
P: I’m originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

P: We met in library school at the University of Texas and then were reunited when we both were lucky enough to get jobs when we graduated. We were both hired, coincidentally, by Jeanette Larson,one of the Texas Sweetheart authors.

TXS&S: To what do you attribute your passion for young adult literature?

J: I interned at the public library after graduation hoping that would lead to a reference job, but completely fell in love with working in the youth/teen department. Being a teen librarian in the early 2000’s meant inclusion into this exciting, growing library movement dedicated to services for teens and providing a library experience tailored for their needs - developmental and recreational. I became a youth advocate and part of that meant advocating for what young people liked to read... which easily became what I liked to read.

Plus, there’s living in the city of Austin, a city with a passion for YA. The vibrant author community, several yearly author visits at Book People, the delightfully fab Forever YA blog, the Texas Book Festival which started a teen program in the early 2000s, and now the fantastic Austin Teen Book Festival coming up October 1.

P: I don’t have much to add to that, that seems pretty comprehensive! I will say that serving on the Tayshas committee helped me a lot as a reader. You have to read every book nominated to the list which can mean you’re reading about 200 teen books a year. It really knocks down a lot of your pre-conceived notions of what you think you’ll enjoy. That sort of experience pays dividends in readers advisory.

TXS&S: Thank you so much for joining us!

Thursday, November 10, 2011


John Schumacher (MrSchuReads) isn’t your average elementary school librarian. In fact, he was recently touted as a 2011 Library Journal Mover and Shaker for all the amazing work he does promoting children’s literature in and out of schools. When he isn’t at Brook Forest Elementary craftily getting kids into books, he’s blogging, Tweeting, or traveling the country to meet new characters and greet old favorites. His devotion and appreciation for children’s literature (and children themselves) is why Mr. Schu is our Featured Sweetheart!

TXS&S: You have an amazing web presence (two blogs and a VERY active Twitter account), on top of being a K-5 librarian AND traveling to publishing events throughout the country AND having a goal this year to read 2011 books!
How do you find the time?

JS: It is easy to juggle multiple roles when you love what you do. I feel passionately about libraries and literacy. I’ve always been an avid reader, but I’ve gotten better at managing my time and prioritizing.  I schedule reading time into every day. I read picture books, beginning readers, middle-grade fiction, graphic novels, and young adult fiction. I tend to read more picture books than any other format. I set up a general formula that works. My monthly goal is to read 150-200 picture books, 10-12 novels, and at least one young adult selection. I like to read in the morning before heading to school, and I always have two or three audio books in my car. Most importantly, I only watch television on Tuesday. :) 
I’m usually juggling 6-7 books (just look at my Goodreads “CURRENTLY READING” shelf.) If a book gets a lot of buzz, I’ll put the one I’m reading aside and start a new one. I jump from book to book.
Sadly, I neglect those “small” things like grocery shopping, dropping off dry cleaning, and other "fun" tasks. 

TXS&S: You’re a big proponent for innovation in publishing, even going so far as to teach students how to use QR codes to promote and learn about their favorite books. What’s next for you?

JS: My students are wild about Picture Book Month. They are connecting with schools in  Budapest, CaliforniaIllinois, IowaMassachusetts, MichiganMinnesota, and Wisconsin.
They will :
-discuss picture books via Skype
-communicate with their virtual friends through a Google Form
-motivate each other to read picture books
-serve as Ambassadors for Picture Book Month
-Skype with picture book authors
-write essays about the importance of picture books
-read, read, read, read, read, and read picture books
-participate in a bookmark exchange
-explore iPad storybook apps
-meet Kate Messner and Linda Urban

TXS&S: What are your top three technological ways (website, device, application, etc) that parents and kids can connect with books?

JS: 1. I teach a popular unit during which first graders explore characters and series websites. They try to outrun Babymouse’s locker, travel with Jack and Annie, and color with Charlie and Lola.
2. trailers. My blog is dedicated to them. Book trailers are one of my favorite ways to connect kids with books.
3. I have friends on Goodreads who share an account with their children. I love when families write reviews and reactions together.

TXS&S: What are your top three non-technological ways that parents and kids can connect with books?

JS: 1. A child should read with an adult at least twenty minutes a day. Richard Peck says it best, “Read to your children. Twenty minutes a day; You have the time, And so do they.”
2. Children need to see that authors are real people. Take your child to author and literacy events at local bookshops and public libraries. Sometimes this gives them the confidence they need to become active readers.
3. Model good reading behaviors.  Explore different formats, such as magazines, comic books, graphic novels, recipes, and newspapers. 

TXS&S: What aspect of your job is the most rewarding? The most challenging?

JS: The most rewarding aspect of my job is chatting with kids about books.  There’s nothing better than when a child stops you in the hall, or comes running into the library, shouting, “OH MY GOODNESS, MR. SCHU! YOU WERE RIGHT! THIS REALLY IS THE BEST BOOK EVER WRITTEN.” 
The most challenging part of my job is convincing parents and teachers that graphic novels are real books.  They are! Please respect readers.

TXS&S: Thanks so much, Mr. Schu! The world can always use more librarians like you. :-)