Unfortunately, your access has now expired. But there’s good news—by subscribing today, you will receive 22 issues of Booklist magazine, 4 issues of Book Links, and single-login access to Booklist Online and over 200,000 reviews.
Your access to Booklist Online has expired. If you still subscribe to the print magazine, please proceed to your profile page and check your subscriber number against a current magazine mailing label. (If your print subscription has lapsed, you will need to renew.)
Free Trial, activate profile, or subscribe
Find more Notes from the Field
Lesa: I moved to Evansville, Indiana, in January 2013 to accept the position of public services officer with the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library. What does that mean? That means I supervise the staff working directly with the public, the supervisors for all the public departments here at the Central Library—Circulation, Youth Services (called READ), the Popular Materials Center, Reference, the Tech Center (our computer lab), Talking Books, and the Bookmobile—along with all the branch managers. I serve on hiring teams and chair or attend a number of committees. As an administrator, I spend a great deal of time in meetings, both group and one-on-one with staff, and I love it. It’s the first time in almost 30 years that I’ve worked for a library system that wasn’t part of a government body. That means every meeting I attend in the library pertains directly to the library; no sitting in meetings that deal with police, fire, city, or county government. It’s wonderful! I’m also lucky enough to work with the staff to evaluate programming, and in some cases, I do a few programs myself. I see communication as the most important function of my job, as I work with administration and staff to offer exceptional customer service and programs to the community.
Over the years, I’ve written reviews or columns for a number of different publications. I started out reviewing young adult mysteries and fantasy for VOYA. For the two years I was a branch manager on Captiva Island, I wrote a weekly book column for the local newspaper. Now, I occasionally review women’s fiction for Library Journal or VibrantNation.com. I review mysteries for Mystery Readers Journal and ReadertoReader.com. And, of course, I review books almost daily for my own blog. I specialize in traditional mysteries, and I wrote the chapter “Mystery Fiction” for the latest edition of Genreflecting: A Guide to Popular Reading Interests (2013). I consider myself lucky that I’ve been on panels at BEA and Bouchercon to discuss mysteries and blogging. I’m honored to be on the panel “Doing Time with Sisters in Crime” at PLA this year. The panel is made up of authors who have served as president of Sisters in Crime and two other women who have made enormous contributions to the mystery and library field, Joyce Saricks and Diane K. Kovacs.
Rebecca: Tell us a little more about the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library.
Lesa: No matter where I’ve worked, I’ve been proud to work with library staff members who care about their community and the library. When I was interviewing for jobs, I felt as if I was looking for a library where I fit, and where they felt I could make a contribution. There’s a Central Library downtown and seven branches in Evansville. I was so impressed with the staff and all of the facilities at the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library. The director, Marcia Au, is forward-looking and believes in a strong library system that serves the needs of the community. The library system continually evaluates itself to determine if we’re offering what the residents of the community want. And it’s a library system that believes in staff education. Staff members attend conferences, go to workshops, serve on committees, and make presentations at conferences, including ALA. This library system doesn’t only send administration to the conferences. It’s not only admin that goes through leadership programs. The system developed an in-house leadership program to encourage younger staff to develop ideas and work on projects. There is even an Innovation Team to encourage staff to dream and to speak up with their ideas.
Because I work with the staff, I’m lucky enough to get to hear their ideas and watch how they develop those ideas. We have exciting projects happening throughout the system. I’ve been part of revamping our entire reading program for adults this year. We’re going to focus on four books during the eight weeks and then program around them. One book is Beth Hoffman’s Looking for Me, and she’s coming to the library to speak. During the two weeks that we highlight Kristin Kimball’s The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love, we’ll have more than 25 programs. There will be programs presented by the local food co-op and a program on seed banks. I’m excited about it.
When I went through a leadership program here, we had to come up with a personal mission. Mine really hasn’t changed—I want to share my passion for books. When I bring in authors such as Ashton Lee, Libby Fischer Hellmann, and Beth Hoffman, I can do that. And I share it with children, too. One of the women I met in the leadership program is a second-grade teacher here. Once a month I go to her class to read to them. I love it. She called me recently to say that when her students go to the school library after I’ve been there, they look for the books I’ve read. If they find them, it’s as if they discovered gold. One girl checked out three Pete the Cat books so she can show them to me the next time I come to the classroom. That’s really why I’m a librarian. I’ve worked in libraries for 40 years because I’m passionate about sharing books with people.
Rebecca: What kinds of things do you find your collection is in need of most right now?
Lesa: “More, please.” Like all libraries, we could always use more money. But this library system has always been a good steward with the citizens’ money, and we try to have everything our customers want. Who ever has enough DVDs or e-books to meet their needs? But we carefully evaluate our collections, trying to buy what our customers want and use. I’m sure our customers would like us to offer some sort of movie streaming service, but the library products aren’t really ready. We haven’t seen anything that offers enough of the popular movies or TV series. Maybe someday. What always impresses me here is the careful evaluation and reevaluation. Should we offer this? Or is this a fad?
Rebecca: You’ve been a library director for most of your career. How has your career changed over the last 30 years?
Lesa: I started working as a page in my hometown library when I was 16, and I’ve worked in public libraries ever since. I’ve gone from a time when we checked customers out with a pencil and inked stamp pad to computers and self-check machines. The last 30 years have probably seen the greatest changes in libraries since any period before that. And, of course, the atmosphere in libraries has changed. Buildings are no longer quiet. Instead, they’re often the center of a community where people come to meet. I know I’ve worked in libraries that hummed with excitement, where programs were right out on the floor where everyone could see and hear them. (My late husband told me I never ran a quiet library.) I’ve always had a job in which I had the chance to work directly with the public. If I didn’t, I made that opportunity, as I do now by reading in a classroom. My career is still about working with people and books.
Rebecca: You’re also a prolific blogger. Tell us about your blog. How did you get into blogging?
Lesa: I just celebrated nine years of writing Lesa’s Book Critiques, so I’m going into my tenth year. I focus on mysteries, but I also review women’s fiction and anything else I want—a memoir, a juvenile book, an urban fantasy. If I go to an author’s event, I’ll write about it. I give away advanced reading copies of books. Once a month, I do a book chat that focuses on cozy mysteries from Penguin’s Berkley Prime Crime and from Obsidian. It’s a video summary of their forthcoming books. It’s been popular. Naturally, though, it’s most popular when Jinx, one of my cats, shows up in the video chat. He’s a ham. The heading on my blog says, “Sharing Books and Authors, with an Emphasis on Mysteries.”
Nine years ago, I hadn’t read a blog, but I thought it was fun when I learned how to do it. I told a previous director, Rodeane Widom, that she sent me to a boring workshop for three days, but, boy, did I learn to blog! For me, it was one more way to share my passion for books. I didn’t care if my family members were the only people who read it. I wanted to talk about books. Because of my blog, I’ve been lucky enough to make wonderful friends throughout the U.S., Canada, and even Europe. It was syndicated for a while, so it appeared in newspapers. Publishers and authors read it, and some of the authors have been kind enough to write guest blogs. I’ve met fellow bloggers, readers, authors, and others associated with the book business because of Lesa’s Book Critiques. We’re all sharing a passion for books, in whatever format.
Unless I’m on vacation, or at a conference, I write every day. It may say 3 a.m. on my blog, but I actually write around 8 in the evening and set it to post early the next morning. Usually, the post is a book review. But if I don’t have time to finish a book, I’ll ask readers what they’re reading right now. We all want to talk about books.
I really can sum up my entire career, including my blog, with that personal mission statement. I want to share my passion for reading and books.
Free Trial, activate profile, or subscribe