Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Extra Ordinary Love of Reading

by TLC Nielsen
May 2016

I’d like to introduce you to someone I’ve known for over 30 years- fellow book lover and librarian Kristen Harvey, one of my amazing and talented offspring.  Now that she’s all grown up, I still love being part of her life, especially helping out with her school’s Scholastic Book Sales where I can tell students that even Mrs. Harvey brings her mom to the book fair. The excitement of the students coming to find new books that Mrs. Harvey recommends fills the school library…

Welcome Kristen!

Q) As a child, you loved books and writing. Did this influence your decision to become a library teacher?
A) My sister and I would play librarian as kids complete with check out cards and then software. I didn’t know I needed a lot of school to be one. I figured that out in college.
 Kristen (right) and her sister Sarah many moons ago

Q) What drew you to teach in an urban setting?
A) The first school I worked at was in Lake Forest where a lot of kids are privileged. This was an assistant library job. I thought this was a job you ended up in after you worked at a place where students’ parents couldn’t afford to buy them whatever they wanted.  When I applied for the position I now hold, I didn’t expect them to hire me right away, which is what happened. Many years later, I’m still here and enjoying it.

Q) So how did you end up book blogging?
A) The summer before my first library job, I became addicted to the GoodReads website. More social parts were added, including a discussion group on YA literature. One of the feeds was about people’s book blogs so we could follow each other. One of the girls I talked to frequently stepped me through it a bit and I started my very own free blog on Blogger – a free hosting site through Google.

Q) Your first book blog became popular and then your current blog, www.thebookmonsters.com, now has thousands of followers. How did this happen?
A) I spent two years on my own blog before I decided to join with another blogger, one I had co-hosted online book events with frequently and talked with nearly daily. We decided to join together since it was becoming hard to keep going for each of us.  We changed over to Wordpress for our joint blog and made it look a little more original. I used to spend hours networking on Twitter, GoodReads and especially other blogs. Our name was out there and things were going great. It has staved off quite a bit. I only post once a week if that and my partner is MIA, but I’m working on getting another partner up on the blog site.

Q) You seem to be good at getting “free” books and such online. How did that come about?
A) So I did a free blog at first on Blogger. That’s when the first publisher contacted me for reading books for review (soliciting.) So it all started because of GoodReads, a company contacted me about reviewing books and they sent me my first ARC – I believe it was called Candleman. As I blogged more, I found myself networking and ending up on lists. My favorite contact I actually met at a book event and ended up getting invited to a lot of publisher events. We just really hit it off! Since then, I can’t remember how I came in contact with other publishing houses, it just kind of happened. Netgalley also really did help in a way, which is a website that you can download ebooks from and the publishers can look at your contact information and ask you if you want physical copies of books for review as well.

Q) Where does your book blogging, reading and school library work tie in/connect?
A) I probably read more than anyone in the school or library. So because I was on the CYBILS first round panel, an online reading award, I have to read as many books as possible. I read on top of that for fun so I can tell my students what new stuff is coming out…I read for escapism, too. My job is sometimes stressful especially this year with students confiding in me because teachers no longer stay with their classes in the library anymore. I work in an area with underprivileged students.

Q) What are some of the enjoyable aspects to your work as a school librarian?
1) I love storytelling, which I didn’t think I would. 2) My students tell me they want to be librarians when they grow up. 3) I love finding students the right book, it’s really rewarding. I walk around and see what they’re reading. It is challenging to keep up with over 900 students in the school. 4) It’s nice to see them grow up from 1st through 5th grades, the 25% that remain. We have a 16% mobility rate in our urban area so over 4 years, we don’t have many left.

Q) What are some websites or blogs you’d encourage readers to investigate?
A) GoodReads is my favorite social media for books. I’m now also addicted to the #bookstagram tag on Instagram. Some of my favorite blogs are as follows:

Thanks for visiting the Extraordinary Ordinary blog, where ordinary folks with extraordinary adventures are highlighted.