Fran Cannon Slayton - The Wild Ride To Publication (Children's Book Version!): July 2008

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Emily Platz is a Teen Services Librarian at Farmington Library in Farmington, Connecticut. Within the past year she has begun to use Facebook as a method of providing library services to local teens. I thought that was a simply brilliant idea, and asked Emily if she would mind being interviewed about it here on my blog.

Welcome, Emily!

Q: How long have you been a Teen Librarian?

Emily: I have been a Teen Librarian for 9 months.

Q: Why did you decide to use Facebook to promote programs at your library?

Emily: I decided to use Facebook to promote programs at the library for several different reasons. I have my own Facebook account and use it to stay in touch with my friends and family. I use my own facebook account to organize parties and trips with my friends as well. It has always been very easy to create an 'event' on facebook and let all of my friends know what is going on and where. I had also read a lot of literature about different libraries using social networking sites to intercept teens and introduce them to library services. I felt that it would be really easy to create a Library Facebook page, befriend the teens that are in the library already and use that medium to tell them about programs, events and special activities at the library.

Q: When did you start your library Facebook account?

Emily: I created my library facebook page about a month after I started working at the Farmington Library. I spent the first month of my job talking with the teens who use the library everyday and observing which sites they preferred to use. I noticed that the teens who used the library were on facebook and not on the other social networking sites so I decided to create a facebook account. I would have created an account with whatever social networking site they used most.

Q: What were your hopes and goals for your Facebook page?

Emily: My hopes in using Facebook to reach teens has expanded as new applications have become available to use. I started by creating my page and befriending the teens who were always in the library. I then expanded my network by befriending their friends and other teens from the local high school. I believe that many of the teens accepted my friendship because I had introduced myself in class visits and had told them to watch out for a friendship request from the Farmington Library.

Q: Can you describe exactly what you use Facebook for at your library?

Emily: Once I had built a large group of friends, I started using Facebook to post events which would inform the teens of different activities going on at the library. I found that this worked well to let them know when programs would take place and what to expect. As I had more programs and used Facebook more I began posting photos from the programs and events on my facebook page. I found that many of the teens loved to check my page and tagged themselves in the photos.

Through programs and personal interactions with the teens at my library I also let them know that they can Facebook email me any questions they have about the library. After spreading the word about 'Facebooking' me library related questions, I started to get all sorts of reference questions via facebook. I get 2-5 reference questions a day ranging from putting holds on items for teens to questions about homework resources. I was getting so many reference questions, that I installed the 'Social I.M.' application to add instant messaging chat to my Facebook account. Now I open my Facebook account when I am on the reference desk and can chat and provide reference services to teens via their Facebook accounts.

The final thing that I enjoy doing via Facebook is sharing book reviews with other teens. During the school year, I have several teens who enjoy sharing their opinions with others by making 3-5 minute videos about books, movies or cd's. We use Mac computers with built in video cameras to take the videos, we edit them using the Apple iMovie software and upload them to From there I can embed the videos on our teen blog,, on my facebook page and on our website. This has been a really popular way to spread news about great books!

Q: How have the students responded to your Facebook efforts? How have other teachers responded? Has it made your life as a librarian easier?

Emily: It has made my job as a teen librarian much easier! I find that I get the best attendance for events when I post them on Facebook. It has definitely saved me lots of time and effort when trying to let teens know about what is going on in the library. The teens have really responded to my Facebook account. Every time I log on to Facebook and read my notifications, emails, notes, see that I have been tagged in pictures or answer an I.M. I know that I am reaching a segment of the population of Farmington that might not be receiving library services otherwise.

Q: What’s been the best thing so far about using Facebook at your school?
Emily: The best thing about using Facebook at my library is that I am reaching new teens everyday that have never even set foot in the library. I have made many teen friends through facebook that had not ever used the library before I befriended them and after they started receiving news about library programs and other services they started using the library! That is what makes me most excited about using Facebook and other social networking sites, it allows me to reach many people who might not have known about my services otherwise.

Thanks, Emily, and thanks for sharing your innovative way of reaching teen readers!

If you’re interested in seeing Emily’s work firsthand, pop over to Facebook and send Librarian Emily a friend request:

Happy Reading (and Writing!)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Okay, here is PART I of my report on what it was like to attend my very first ALA conference. This post answers (or starts to answer) the following question:

Q: For a debut author, is it worth it to attend ALA a whole year before your book even comes out?

A: Absolutely, positively, and without hesitation: OH YEAH!

First off, I was able to spend more time with my editor than I ever expected. (Note: I had contacted her ahead of time to see if coming would be okay, which was an important thing to do. It gave her a heads up that I’d be there and allowed her to find time in her schedule for us to meet. Plus, I was able to ask her opinion on whether going would be a worthwhile thing to do before I made the decision to spend the money to attend.)

Anyway, my editor – Patti Gauch -- was so wonderful. She scheduled time to show me around the Penguin booth, and introduced me to Eve Bunting and several editors, authors and amazing Penguin marketing gurus, all of whose names I immediately forgot because I couldn’t believe that I had just met Eve Bunting! It was quite the out of body experience – looking at myself from the outside, seeing myself meet Eve Bunting, and thinking “wait, is this really happening to ME?”

In my defense, let me say two things about my being a bit star struck: first, I am normally horrible with names, even on a non-EveBunting kind of day. And second, I am normally not a star struck person at all. We see famous folks in my hometown all of the time and they don’t usually make me look twice. They’re just people, right?

So what made this so different for me at ALA? Well, for starters, I don’t really watch TV all that often, so regular “celebrities” just don’t usually push that “wow” button for me. But at ALA, these people were all authors and publishers of BOOKS, and let’s face it, THAT is exciting!

But the real reason (if I’m brave enough to admit it to you) is this: my dear editor said a couple lovely things about my writing. Out loud. To other people. Truly, I was not prepared for the possibility of this. Much less its emotional impact. (I guess I should mention that at times I am still a little star struck by my editor!) It was exciting. It was terrifying. I felt like jumping up on one of the tables and just screaming at the top of my lungs – WoohooWoohooWoohoo! And then I just plain forgot the appropriate way to receive a compliment. I suddenly didn’t know what to do with my hands. Or where I should point my eyes. I feel sure I blushed. Heck, I was lucky I didn’t pass out! It was a little like being in seventh grade again.

So here’s what I learned from that: there is some emotional territory that comes with being a new author that I haven’t really anticipated until now. When my book comes out, it will be reviewed. People will talk about it. People whose opinions I respect. And I’ll read and hear what they are saying. And it may be that they are saying “this is the best thing since sliced organic baguettes.” Or they may say “this is worse than reading the ingredients on the Wonder Bread wrapper.” The emotional and psychological landscape surrounding either response to my writing is fraught with danger as far as I’m concerned. Relying on praise from others is dangerous: besides making a person forget what to do with her hands, it can cause a swelled head, writer’s block, fear of failing, or an unhealthy reliance on the opinions of others. On the other hand, internalizing too much harsh criticism potentially brings on other issues: feelings of defeat, desperation, dejection; anger; depression; angst.

What’s a new author to do?

Here’s the deal, I think: I’ve gotta learn to detach myself from both praise and criticism before the time comes for either. I need to center myself before the emotional storm is upon me when my book is released and reviewed. I need to make a quiet place for myself to be recollected to something greater than both praise and criticism. A place of shelter. A place of reason. A place of peace with my own abilities, weaknesses, hopes, and dreams with regard to my writing.

And here’s the real deal: I can only find that place inside myself.

I’ve found this place before in other areas of my life – when I was a prosecutor and then as a legal publisher. I’ve also done it regarding my personal value system and my own spirituality. But I haven’t done it yet with my writing. I guess the time has come – I need to.

I don’t think I would have ever thought about all this right now, this early, if I had not gone to ALA this year. We go through a lot as authors. ALA helped me see some of the things I’ll be facing in the future. One very good reason to go a year early.