Book people are some of the best people, and NetGalley members are in a class all their own. Our community is rich with reviewers, book trade professionals, librarians, booksellers, educators, journalists and members of the media who excel at helping books succeed and promoting a love of reading. Each month, we like to take a moment to highlight these members and share their stories, tips, and recommendations with you.
This month, we’re pleased to introduce Beth, a reference assistant at the Milwaukee Public Library!
Fictional Library: Whit’s from Brazen and the Beast by Sarah MacLean. His library felt like a true reader’s library: books piled everywhere, some shelved, some left tipped over to mark a page. Pristine collections have their place, but not in one’s personal reading space (IMO).
Fictional Character: Roland Deschain from Stephen King’s The Gunslinger
NetGalley Discovery: I definitely remember screaming out loud when I was approved for Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater.
Romance Novel: One!? Impossible. I’ll choose my current favorite which is Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn, which is also related to my current favorite word:
When (and how) did you decide to work in a library?
I’ve had a long, strange road to my current position as an Adult Services Reference Assistant. I studied history and have a BA and MA in Modern European History. I am not technically a librarian by degree, but am considering going back to school for an MLS. I’ve been a library person for as long as I can remember, going every week as a kid, tracking down my local public library once I moved out on my own in college, and basically living in the basement of the academic library with the microfiche machine during graduate school. I love working with people and have had many, many jobs working in customer service: Highlight reel of my jobs includes Dairy Queen, Whole Foods (deli), custodian, the Harley-Davidson Museum Group Tours Coordinator, and for one hot summer, a public Water Utility employee (I flushed dead end fire hydrants and tested the water for chlorine). When I saw this position open up, not requiring an MLS, I jumped at it! Best decision of my life.
What is your favorite aspect of your job?
Well, besides the obvious answer (BOOKS), I absolutely love the variety. The “other duties as assigned” part of my job description is no joke.
What are your favorite genres to read and review? Are there any books on NetGalley that you’re excited about recommending?
I’m a romance reader through and through. HEA (happily ever after) all the way! I read over 200 romances in 2019, both for my own personal reading pleasure and as a NetGalley and Library Journal reviewer. I do also enjoy the occasional horror, science fiction, or young adult novel, and will read nonfiction if it is of a topic of high interest to me.
I just finished reading and reviewing Hearts on Hold by Charish Reid (out on February 3 from Carina Press) which everyone should pick up for Library Lovers’ Day on February 14! A librarian and a professor agree to a “torrid affair” but catch feelings! Besides the romance, Reid explores the racism and sexism Black women in academia face.
Keeping on the library theme, I adored Jenny Holiday’s Mermaid Inn (out on January 28 from Forever), which also features a librarian main character! To be fair, I did help the author with some library job questions. If you love a wonderfully slow-burn but steamy second chance romance, definitely pick this one up.
When it comes to motivating your patrons to read and enjoy reading, what techniques or strategies have you found to be most effective?
I personally strive to be enthusiastic in talking about the books I’m excited about and that others are excited about. I also strive to embrace and promote all types of reading tastes. The public library isn’t and should never be a place of judgement and condescension. You’re excited about that new James Patterson? Awesome! You need erotic literature to read out loud to your lover (a real Reader’s Advisory question I have actually been asked)? Amazing, let’s find it. While I can’t possibly read all the things, I can hear what people are asking for, keep up with what is being published, and use the many tools I have available to me to help find books to match each reader. I also put up interesting displays featuring a wide variety of book choices and run programming to talk up books to be excited about. I’ll be hosting a “Library Lovers’ Book Buffet” at my location on February 11th!
You also run a Book to Art Club at your library! Can you tell us more about the program?
Book to Art Club is my absolute favorite program I run. It started five years ago as part of the slate of new programming we were offering at our newly built and better-than-ever branch I work at. The Milwaukee Public Library Programming Librarian brought this model of book club to my attention and we thought it would be an excellent fit for patrons at the branch. The Book to Art Club model was created as part of the Library as Incubator Project, which has now sunsetted, but there are still chapters going strong throughout the state of Wisconsin.
The concept is simple: add an art prompt or project to your book club discussion inspired by the book you read. The point is not to create beautiful art, but do something creative and to express your feelings about the work. I am definitely not an artist, and I try to pick projects that are simple, budget-friendly, and accessible to all. We have had so much fun throughout the years. An added bonus is those natural lulls in conversation that can occur during a book club discussion are almost non-existent as everyone can quietly work on their project until they are comfortable to share!
If I had to pick a favorite session, it has to be The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. We created ripped book page art with glitter (I know, library taboo), paint, and all other sorts of things. So much fun!
Is there anything that your library does especially well that you’d love to continue and possibly expand?
Three years ago, I joined a committee to start a Summer Reading program for adults, and we’ve been continually growing the program and slowly trying to align the Milwaukee Public Library’s overall Summer Reading program into Summer Reading for everyone! Why should kids get to have all the fun? We have to do a lot of work to hand-sell the program and to secure prizes (all donated by the community). I’m hopeful 2020 will be another great year! The program started as a bingo-inspired challenge, but we’ve simplified it into reading five books, logging them, and turning in a completed log sheet.
What is the most requested title in your library right now?
How has being a NetGalley member impacted your role as a librarian, and the books you’re able to recommend to patrons?
I’ve been a NetGalley member about as long as I’ve been a library worker, about 7 years. NetGalley has been an absolute boon to my Reader’s Advisory skills, almost a super power really. It is so amazing to be able to see and read what is coming out before our patrons can, so when they are able to put these books on hold we’re already familiar with the titles and authors.
Do you use NetGalley to nominate books for LibraryReads?
I do, and NetGalley makes it super simple to click that nominate box. I’ve also had some of my NetGalley reviews featured on the official LibraryReads lists, including The Kiss Quotient, The Wedding Date, Josh & Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating, and Not the Girl You Marry.
How does being a librarian impact your own reading habits or behaviors? For example, do you find yourself being more strategic with organizing your personal bookshelves?
My personal bookshelves at home are pretty messy. I feel like I expend most of my organizational energy at work and leave my home book collection to be the chaotic good I naturally veer towards. I try to organize my ARC reading by publication date, but am thankfully a quick reader so I can also pick up titles as my emotions move me.
What’s the first book you remember borrowing from a library?
I was definitely “that kid” who needed their own library card, which meant I had to learn how to spell and write my full, legal name small enough to fit on the back of the card. Let me tell you, there’s a reason why I changed my last name when I got married. But, 6-year-old Beth perservered (I really needed to prove to my 1st grade teacher Sister Paula that I was ready to read chapter books) and eventually I checked out the first chapter book I ever independently read: Emily’s Runaway Imagination by Beverly Cleary. It changed my young reader life.
Thanks for chatting with us, Beth!