Reference and Book Awards

Interview: Kay Ann Cassell and Uma Hiremath update their benchmark reference text

An integral resource for students and working professionals alike, Reference and Information Services: An Introduction has served a generation of reference librarians. But authors Kay Ann Cassell and Uma Hiremath aren't resting on their laurels. We spoke to them about the brand new fourth edition which has just been published, discussing their collaboration and why reference librarianship is more important than ever.

How would you describe your collaborative process?

Harmonic! When we are beginning a new edition, we talk about the whole book and the changes that we want to make and then we each work on specific chapters. With Kay as an academic and Uma as a practitioner, we have mutually exclusive areas of expertise that makes it easy to segment the research.

Were there any surprises working together this time around?
Nah! After more than a decade of working together, we share an easy rhythm. Our conversations help photo of the stacks at a library by Benjamin Hofurther ideas, challenge or strengthen assumptions, and clarify doubts.

How has virtual reference made things easier and how has it made things harder?

Entire books have been written on this. Suffice to say, the very factors about virtual reference that make things easier tend to make them harder as well. It is easier since the user and librarian can be anywhere and still able to communicate about both the question and the answer.  Anytime/anywhere access to information, at the point of need, is certainly the defining advantage of virtual reference.

Virtual access, however, has an abracadabra quality. The user learns less about the incremental steps to finding an answer provided in face-to-face interactions so that, in effect, for every research question the user starts from scratch. Anytime access also requires the reference librarian’s constant attention to connectivity issues so critical to its success.

What are some suggestions for keeping up to date on reference sources, both as an individual and an institution?

There are many ways to stay up to date, both formal and interpersonal.  Let us count the ways.

  • Habitual reading of professional literature
  • Attending conferences with exhibits by vendors
  • Participating in webinars
  • Routinely discussing information on new resources with colleagues
  • Being alert to feedback from users
  • Joining listervs that discuss reference materials
  • Following pertinent blogs, twitter accounts, newsletters, websites
  • Being an alert member of professional associations

Trustworthy, fact-based reference materials are more important than ever. How would you ethically book cover for Reference and Information Services: An Introduction handle a situation if you discovered that a library user was relying on sources that were questionable?

The use of questionable sources by users is something reference librarians face every day. It is, in fact, what makes reference librarianship so integral to good research! Reference librarians have always combated it by providing considered alternatives. Talking to users about the value of vetted resources and helping them understand the difference in authority and accuracy between a vetted resource and unfiltered Google results or social media discussions, is par for the course.

A more intractable challenge is the viral spread of misinformation in a hyper-networked world. Proactive measures to encourage digital literacy and critical thinking in users, such as those parsed so effectively in the Information Literacy poster available at ALA, is essential.

If you could give today’s LIS students one piece of advice, what would it be?

Kay Ann Cassell: Always be sure the information you use online is accurate and up-to-date.  That means that if it is the first time you are using a site, you must evaluate it.

Uma Hiremath: Reference librarianship is a way of life. You never stop learning and you never stop finding the next best referral for your users.

Learn more about the new edition at the ALA Store.

Finding answers to legal questions: an interview with Virginia M. Tucker and Marc Lampson

More people than ever are using the library to obtain legal information and legal research advice, and library staff need to be able to serve these users efficiently and confidently. Veteran law librarians Virginia M. Tucker and Marc Lampson just published an update of Finding the Answers to Legal Questions, their benchmark text. We caught up with them to hear their perspective on what's new in the field and to get some handy reference tips.

About seven years elapsed between the first edition and this new second edition. When it comes to legal information, what do you think have been the biggest changes in the landscape?

It appears to us that all law libraries - academic, government, public - continue to cut back on subscriptions to hard copy resources, so people with limited resources for paid, online research are left more and more out of the information cycle, at least for value-added secondary sources. On the other hand, "free" online sources from the federal and state governments have continued to improve in terms of availability, timeliness, reliability, and to some extent, searchability.

In many ways, a legal reference interview can be one of the trickiest interactions library staff can face. Can you offer some tips that staff can use up front to smooth the way for a successful encounter?

Often people think they have a legal problem, in part resolvable by finding the law, when in fact they don't have a problem for which the law can provide a remedy. Conversely, people often do not recognize that at example of an internet search reult for legal resourcesthe root of a life problem is a legal problem. We think this is particularly true in health care sorts of problems. So the first and perhaps trickiest question is to try to verify that the problem the patron is presenting you with is in fact one that can be researched in the law. Once that question is answered, the sailing should be smoother.

In your book, you make it a point to differentiate legal advice from legal information. Why?

The book is directed, at least in part, to librarians or students soon to be librarians. Traditionally, librarians have been prohibited from providing legal advice. A librarian can lead a patron to the source, but not interpret or advise on how to use that source. Therefore, when helping someone with a legal question, a librarian has to keep in mind the distinction between advice and information. Often, the line is clear. Sometimes, it is not.

Marc Lampson: My position as the Public Services Attorney at a public law library was designed to overcome this conundrum because as both lawyer and librarian I could help people not only find the law but work with them, for instance, in finding appropriate documents or forms and filling them out and telling them how to proceed.

Sometimes library staff will realize during an interview that the patron is going to need assistance that’s beyond the purview of the library, such as finding a lawyer or free legal help. What advice can you offer about connecting a patron to these resources? And how can libraries familiarize themselves with the organizations that exist in their communities?

The safest, surest path is to find out if your county has a bar association. County bar associations, at least in more populated areas, will frequently provide free legal clinics for people and will also provide lawyer referrals. These referrals are fairly reliable because they are not motivated by the organization's profit motive, of which there usually isn't one, because these organizations are usually nonprofits. If the county does not have a robust bar association, the next possibility is the state bar association. There will be one in every state. These will not always have lawyer referral services, but will often have searchable lists of active attorneys, sometimes book cover for inding the Answers to Legal Questions, Second Editionsearchable by legal specialty or legal focus of the attorney or firm. A library can familiarize themselves with these organizations through good online searching, but also a number of the legal services organizations in the community may list various agencies in the area that can provide legal assistance. These organization often maintain a website with "Law Help" in the name, often preceded by the name of the state, e.g., Washington Law Help, or just to be contrary Law Help California. If you cannot locate one of these sites for your state quickly and easily, you can track one down by going to Pro Bono Net..

What are some ways librarians can keep up to date with changes in legal information and sources?

Other librarians, always. And any law library/librarian organizations, local and national. Join them. For example, in Marc's area there is the Law Librarians of Puget Sound (LLOPS). Nationally, the "big one" is the American Association of Law Libraries. A "standard" in the field is the Legal Information Buyer's Guide & Reference Manual by Kendall F. Svengalis, available at

Learn more at the ALA Store.

Books hot off the press, Meet the Authors at the ALA Store in Orlando

Located just inside the Shuttle Bus Entrance at the Orange County Convention Center, the ALA Store offers products that meet the widest range of your promotional and continuing education/professional development needs—as well as fun gift items. Make sure to carve out some time in your schedule during the conference to stop by and examine the many new and bestselling items available!

ALA Store hours:

  • Friday, June 24            12:00 pm – 5:30 pm
  • Saturday, June 25       8:30 am – 5:00 pm
  • Sunday, June 26          8:30 am – 5:00 pm
  • Monday, June 27        9:00 am – 2:00 pm

ALA Graphics will feature a selection of popular posters, bookmarks, and promotional materials, including new 2016 Teen Read Week and Banned Book Week items. And stop by early to get your pick of conference t-shirts—they sell out fast! We’ll also be introducing several brand new items and exclusive gifts:

  • Libraries Transform Expert Badges
  • CSK Book Award T-shirts
  • CSK Book Award Pashmina (limited quantity and only available at the Conference Store)

ALA Editions and ALA divisions are excited to offer several new titles hot off the press, such as “RDA Essentials,” by Thomas Brenndorfer; “Engaging Babies in the Library: Putting Theory into Practice,” by Debra J. Knoll; and “The Librarian's Nitty Gritty Guide to Content Marketing,” by Laura Solomon. Come by the ALA Store for these special Meet the Author events:

Saturday, June 25      

Sunday, June 26      

Remember that you can now find titles from ALA Neal-Schuman and Facet Publishing in the ALA Store. You can also get free shipping on all book orders placed in the ALA Store (posters, bookmarks, and other gift-type items are not eligible for this offer).

Stop by the ALA Store to learn more about our eLearning opportunities. You can also arrange for a live demo of RDA Toolkit—just contact us by June 20 to request an appointment.

Prices at the ALA Store automatically reflect the ALA Member discount, so there’s no need to dig out your Member number. And remember that every dollar you spend at the ALA Store helps support library advocacy, awareness, and other key programs and initiatives!

"A gem of a book ... ought to be on the shelf of every high school guidance counselor in the country"

The stated mission of the American Library Association is, “To provide leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.” New from ALA Editions, How to Pay for College: A Library How-To Handbook is an effective guide emphasizing the help that the local library can offer in this process, using its reference materials, the Internet, and the advice of experienced researchers.

Gail Buckner, writing for FOXBusiness, agrees; in her rave review she notes, "The publishing arm of the American Library Association has assembled a gem of a book that  ... ought to be on the shelf of every high school guidance counselor in the country. How to Pay for College is only slightly larger than a paperback and a bit more than a half inch thick, yet the editors who pulled the information together manage to cover more material than books that are four times larger and twice as expensive. And they do it in plain English. This is not only a book that parents should read, but they should also share it with their teenager."

Check out the full article and then surf on over to the ALA Store and order a copy for your library today!

Diane Kovacs' job reference ecourse starts soon


Diane Kovacs’ syllabus for her ecourse "Job and Employment Reference on the Web" shows a targeted approach. well-suited to a tough market in which scattershot simply won’t cut it. She teaches how to get local and industry-specific. Clicking through her course pages, I quickly found what people are earning in Chicago. And then, I explored a path not taken, a career in science, unlikely now as a second career.
The course starts the week of May 2, and you still have plenty of time to jump-in and get started. See the course listing  in the ALA Store for more information and to purchase. 

Diane organizes her lessons around classes of industries. You’ll have readings that point to specific Web resources. As assigments, she will present scenarios of job reference questions. Participants will pick one, describe the search strategy, and  findings.  Diane is ready to give feedback to any participants who want it. Below are scenarios from  the “Business, Accounting, Finance, and Managerial Jobs” lesson.

  1. I'm an accounts manager for a local company. I'd like to find out about other jobs in this and other states. My experience is in specialty steel products. Is there any information about jobs for managers on the Web? Are there international jobs available? Anywhere with beaches and no snow?
  2. I have a B. S. degree in Finance and more than 10 years of experience. I need to stay in x state. How can I find good jobs that fit my qualifications.
  3. I have a B. A. in Sociology but I've got more than 10 years of experience working in business administration/sales management, etc. I was just laid off when the company I worked for relocated, I need to stay in x state. How can I find good jobs that fit my qualifications?
  4. I've run my own business for 15 years and now I want to get a job working for someone else. How can I find executive level jobs in x state, country, locality?
  5. I graduated this past spring with a Bachelors in Business Administration. Are there any jobs out there? Where are they?
  6. Twenty years, I worked for x company, as a regional sales rep... now I'm laid off. Where can I look for jobs that pay almost as well but don't take me out of x state/x city?
  7. I have a high school diploma but I have some experience managing fast food restaurant - are there better paying manager jobs for people without college degrees?
  8. I want to be an accountant - do I have to get a four year degree? What kinds of jobs are there for people with accounting (or other similar) degrees?

What better way to serve your community than helping  jobseekers find work. Diane can teach you how to quickly point your people to the most useful resources.

Newbery/Caldecott: The Speeches Revisited


Anyone who has ever attended the Newbery-Caldecott Banquet at Midwinter knows the place is always packed, and it’s not the food that draws the crowd. It’s not really the company either, however fine that may be. It’s the opportunity to pay tribute to the winners and the anticipation of getting a tiny glimpse of the people behind the books. A compilation of the speeches from the last decade, In the Words of the Winners, allows us to enjoy the speeches anew, in print this time and enriched by a personal profile of each medalist contributed by a friend or colleague. Below are a few teasers…. 
“Anyone who has reached this podium has traveled a long trail. Few have traveled a longer than I have, across thirty years and thirty books. I am not a quick study. It has taken me this long to find the key that unlocks a Newbery: a naked woman and a snake. There is no accounting for taste, and I am grateful to the Newbery committee for theirs.” --Richard Peck
“Writing is naming the world.” --Avi
“I am often asked, “How do you write for children? How do you know what they’ll like? I’m always surprised by the question because I’d never give it much thought. I feel as if I’m being asked, “How do you write for penguins? Or wombats?” The shocking truth is: I myself was once a child.” --Mordicai Gerstein
“Libraries fed our passion as children, and feed it still.” --Cynthia Kadohata.
“I did not write stories to get people through the hard places and the difficult times. I didn’t write them to make readers of nonreaders. I wrote them because I was interested in the stories, because there was a maggot in my head, a small squirming idea I needed to pin to the paper and inspect, in order to find out what I thought and felt about it. I wrote them because I wanted to find out what happened next to people I had made up. I wrote them to feed my family.” --Neil Gaiman
“My favorite Newbery speech advice came from a Texas librarian who told me to speak for the shortest time allowable and to remember that I am among friends. She’s here tonight, and I have given her a flashlight, and when I have been talking for twelve minutes she is going to give me a few blinks. And after fifteen minutes, she’s just going to throw it at me.” --Rebecca Stead
In the Words of the Winners: The Newbery and Caldecott Medals 2001-2010, coauthored by the Association for Library Service to Children and The Horn Book. (Editions, 2011)

Welcome to!

I would like to welcome you to and our open-forum blog. It is my privilege to be the Publisher of both TechSource (subscriptions, e-learning, webinars, and workshops) and Editions (professional and reference books, both print and electronic). My team is part of a larger unit at the American Library Association called Publishing.

The dirty little secret is that I am not a librarian, but I know a great deal about what librarians do, what they think about, and what they are concerned about.  But I never know enough; I will never be close enough to the action because I do not work in a library. So my colleagues and I depend on you tell us what is going on and what you need for your professional development. And here is a chance for you to do just that.

Something that we in publishing share with librarians of all kinds is high anxiety about how quickly our work world is changing. I am old enough (the proverbial 39, thank you Mr. Benny) to remember when the art and science of putting a book together meant having a hand-written manuscript typed by two different people (in order to ensure that the material was correct), comparing the documents, creating a master with hand edits, and sending it off to the compositor—who made galleys. (And why did we call them galleys, anyway. A galley is a long metal tray that holds type ready for printing.)

The galleys would be edited, read by the author, edited and corrected again, and sent back to the author. Changes would be made again until we finally had page proofs, which were sent back to the author and then to a proof reader. Cover art had to be hand drawn; even charts, graphs, and other display elements were hand drawn—we had an art department with lighted tables, for goodness sake.  And permission letters were a horrible bore—they took forever to do and get back. Did I forget the index……done manually? Once the art was in place and the index readied the second set of page proofs were sent off to the author. Corrections always came back, no matter how often you explained that an author could not rewrite anything! Finally, everything was sent to the printer, who put the book under the camera to make film, to make plates....and on and on.

Well, the back and forth still goes on, and we still go to the printer (for how long, one wonders). But it is all so wonderfully different now; still a lot of work for both author and publisher, but our output is more than just a physical book. It can be a PDF of the book you can print yourself; but it also can be an e-bundle that allows you to read one of our books on your Kindle or iPad or whatever your favorite device happens to be.

And of course, this is part of our shared high anxiety: Will an actual book disappear? Some may remember a quaint little movie “84 Charing Cross Road” with Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins from 1986—a movie that glorified and revered not only books, but old books. In it are great scenes from the proverbial musty book shop in the basement of a London building. The staff was totally devoted to and knowledgeable about books, great ones and little volumes of seemingly no consequence other than the fact that someone wanted to own them and read them. To have them. Librarians and publishers alike are anxiously asking if patrons will continue to want and to own books. And no one knows for sure.

Now I have to confess my second dirty little secret: I have owned a Kindle for over two years, and I love it. Not only do I love it, I take it everywhere. My non-publishing friends are scandalized. But you are a book publisher. No, I respond, I am a publisher and my world has changed greatly. I want librarians to own our books, courses, and newsletters, but I don’t care if they buy an actual book or something they load on their Sony Reader. Just tell us by your buying decisions that we are publishing correctly for you. What I really want to know is if our content is helping librarians be better librarians, which is what ALA Publishing in general and TechSource and Editions in particular are all about.

So, welcome again to our blog. We want to talk about anything that has to do with books, with publishing, with libraries, with technology…..come join the party.


P.S. Many of you may have heard that Barnes & Noble is for sale. Leonard Riggio, the founder, will probably lead a group of investors and take the chain private (again). It was not long ago that the entire industry was in fear and trepidation about the power and control that the super store chains would have on the book world.  Everyone fretted that one company, with over 700 stores, would so dominate the market. They indeed did change the landscape. There are very few independent stores around. In 2001, B & N’s total market capitalization was $2.2 billion while Amazon’s capitalization was $3.6 billion.

Now the shoe is on the other foot. B & N today is capitalized at $950 million while Amazon is currently at $55 billion. Who’s the monster now…….?

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