A Year of Reading Women

Can you believe we’re already halfway through March? This winter has felt especially grim, but now, all of a sudden, it seems spring is upon us. The days have been getting longer, and the ice and snow are starting to melt. I’m finding myself dreaming of warm summer days and some much-needed sunshine.

It’s funny how working in a school can change your perception of time. Recently, a colleague mentioned that her friends in other professions often moan about how long their days feel. We agreed that’s never the case when you work with kids and spend every minute of your day being on. There’s so little time to sit down, or take a break, or even catch your breath, and before you know it, it’s Christmas break. Then March Break. And then summer arrives and another school year has come and gone. Before long, kids you’ve known since kindergarten are graduating from high school. Sometimes, my colleague remarked, you wish things would just slow. down. Even for a minute.

When you constantly feel like you’re racing against time, it becomes that much more important to pause every once in a while and take it all in; to live in the moment and appreciate just how lucky we are to do what we do.

One of the ways I’ve been slowing down lately is by spending more time reading. Being a librarian, I think most people assume that all I do is read. But the truth is, even though I spend my days surrounded by books, I actually spend very little time enjoying them. I’ve therefore been making more of an effort to find time to read, whether that means waking up a bit earlier on weekends; sneaking in a few pages during my lunch break; or reading in bed at night before I drift off to sleep. I’ve really come to enjoy this time to myself, where I can slow things down and quiet my mind, while still focusing in on something I truly love.

I don’t know if it’s the current state of the world — or just feeling exhausted by the sheer number of male voices we’re forced to listen to on a daily basis — but I recently began to notice myself being drawn more and more to female (and female-identifying) writers. It didn’t start out as an intentional thing, but I loved uncovering these stories, and soon began seeking them out with greater intent.

Now I’ve decided to take this a step further with a pledge: For the rest of 2019, I’ll only be reading books by women. Below are a few titles I’ve read and loved so far, along with brief descriptions from their respective publishers. To see more of my reading life, feel free to connect with me on Instagram.

Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture (Edited by Roxane Gay)

“In this valuable and revealing anthology, cultural critic and bestselling author Roxane Gay collects original and previously published pieces that address what it means to live in a world where women have to measure the harassment, violence, and aggression they face, and where they are “routinely second-guessed, blown off, discredited, denigrated, besmirched, belittled, patronized, mocked, shamed, gaslit, insulted, bullied” for speaking out. Contributions include essays from established and up-and-coming writers, performers, and critics, including actors Ally Sheedy and Gabrielle Union and writers Amy Jo Burns, Lyz Lenz, Claire Schwartz, and Bob Shacochis. Covering a wide range of topics and experiences, from an exploration of the rape epidemic embedded in the refugee crisis to first-person accounts of child molestation, this collection is often deeply personal and is always unflinchingly honest. ” (HarperCollins)

Men Explain Things to Me (By Rebecca Solnit)

“In her comic, scathing essay Men Explain Things to Me, Rebecca Solnit took on what often goes wrong in conversations between men and women. She wrote about men who wrongly assume they know things and wrongly assume women don’t, about why this arises, and how this aspect of the gender wars works, airing some of her own hilariously awful encounters. She ends on a serious note— because the ultimate problem is the silencing of women who have something to say, including those saying things like, “He’s trying to kill me!” This book features that now-classic essay with six perfect complements, including an examination of the great feminist writer Virginia Woolf ’s embrace of mystery, of not knowing, of doubt and ambiguity, a highly original inquiry into marriage equality, and a terrifying survey of the scope of contemporary violence against women.” (AK Press)

I Might Regret This (By Abbi Jacobson)

“When Abbi Jacobson announced to friends and acquaintances that she planned to drive across the country alone, she was met with lots of questions and opinions: Why wasn’t she going with friends? Wouldn’t it be incredibly lonely? The North route is better! Was it safe for a woman? The Southern route is the way to go! You should bring mace! And a common one… why? But Abbi had always found comfort in solitude, and needed space to step back and hit the reset button. As she spent time in each city and town on her way to Los Angeles, she mulled over the big questions– What do I really want? What is the worst possible scenario in which I could run into my ex? How has the decision to wear my shirts tucked in been pivotal in my adulthood? In this collection of anecdotes, observations and reflections–all told in the sharp, wildly funny, and relatable voice that has endeared Abbi to critics and fans alike–readers will feel like they’re in the passenger seat on a fun and, ultimately, inspiring journey.” (Barnes & Noble)

Some other books that are currently topping my TBR list include:

  • I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya
  • Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
  • A Handbook of Disappointed Fate by Anne Boyer
  • Seven Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga
  • This Will Only Hurt a Little by Busy Philipps
  • The Library Book by Susan Orlean
  • Hunger by Roxane Gay
  • Swing Time by Zadie Smith

Have you read any of these books? Are you currently taking part in a reading challenge of your own? I’d love to hear your thoughts. In the meantime, happy reading 🙂


Life Update + An Instagram Takeover!

Hello, 2019! And welcome to a brand new year of Books & Beets. One of my goals for this year is to actually post to my blog from time to time (heh). When I started this site in 2018, I was so excited to begin sharing reviews, recipes, and general updates on my life as a school librarian. But as is often the case, life got in the way — I moved into a new apartment, switched jobs, and dealt with some personal struggles that made it difficult for me to really put myself out there. Now, a year later, I have written exactly two posts on this site (not quite the output I was aiming for), and I would really like to change that.

And so, I’ve decided to set myself a new writing goal for 2019. Each month, I’m planning to share a minimum of two new posts. They may not all be brilliant, but I’m forcing myself to push past my perfectionism and just say what I want to say 🙂 I’ll likely be sharing stories and recipes from my new-ish vegetarian lifestyle; reviewing even more wonderful books; and of course, going on and on about my love of libraries. I hope you’ll enjoy following along!

To start things off, I wanted to do a quick recap of a fun thing I worked on last month. A few girls from my alma mater recently started an Instagram account called Life of Librarians. Each week, a different library/information professional takes over the page and shares daily updates about their life and work. I was so excited when they accepted my application to do a takeover — especially when I realized it would line up with my school’s annual Holiday Madness event, which is basically a giant, festive spirit week that leads into Christmas vacation. You can see all my posts here, but I’ve also included two excerpts below as a bit of a preview:

Day One: That’s a wrap on day one of my @LifeofLibrarians takeover! Thank you to everyone who has been following along on Instagram stories. For those of you just tuning in, I thought it might be good to share a bit more about my typical work week. I’m at Elmwood Monday – Friday from about 8-4, but I’m only in the library in the afternoon. I work part-time in the school’s Communications office, so I spend most mornings there. I typically head over to the library midday, at which point I spend some time getting organized before heading out to yard duty. I’m the only staff member in the Junior School library, so some days can get pretty busy, but I absolutely love it. After my yard duty I usually have my first class of the day or one of my clubs. Today I had senior kindergarten — which is such an amazing group of kids! We had a short class today because it takes FOREVER to get the girls out of their snow suits after recess 😂 But we still had time to choose their books for the week and read a story together. Lately in class we’ve been working on how to choose books that are age/level appropriate; where to find different items in the library; and understanding the basic circulation rules. After class I spent some time cataloguing and processing new books (including some for our ever-growing multilingual collection!), and then I finished my day by doing some festive mini-displays (thanks, #Pinterest). I’m at home now and prepping for the day ahead. My book club is making book-themed ornaments tomorrow — so stay tuned to see how they turn out!


Day Three: Let’s talk about Curriculum Integration! As a school librarian, a main part of my job is to support the school’s academic program. Elmwood is an International Baccalaureate school, which means that on top of the regular Ontario curriculum, we also follow guidelines set by the IB. Within the IB framework, each grade is divided up into roughly six Units of Inquiry. These units are embedded into almost every single subject, so if the Grade 3’s are doing a unit on female trailblazers, for example, that idea wouldn’t just be discussed during social studies — it would also be incorporated into their library class, music class, French class, etc. I’m able to support this learning by understanding the various units and developing a collection that reflects the wide range of topics covered. I also try to incorporate them into my weekly lessons. Last week, for example, the Grade 4’s were learning about keyword searching in library class, so I created a mini research activity that was based around their current Unit of Inquiry. This morning I had a bit of spare time, so I started mapping out the next few units by choosing books and thinking of ways to integrate them into my upcoming lessons!


If you’d like to learn more about my week (or you’re interested in reading some of the other amazing takeovers) feel free to check out the Life of Librarians page on Instagram. It’s an awesome place to network, get inspired, and learn more about the rich and diverse field of LIS.

Thank you so much for stopping by! I hope you enjoyed reading my latest post as much as I enjoyed writing and reflecting on another fun week in the library. Stay tuned for my next update (which *hopefully* won’t take me another year to write).

And as always, happy reading!

A Day in the Life of a School Librarian (Or, Why School Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google)

Anyone who works in the LIS field knows that librarians spend a pretty good chunk of their day explaining why their jobs are important/still relevant in the Age of Google. It’s exhausting, to say the least, but I’ve come to realize that these conversations are absolutely vital. As stories of library closures and funding cuts continue to permeate our news cycle, it’s becoming more and more important that we learn to speak up and defend our work — not just for the sake of our careers, but for the benefit of the communities we serve.

Since transitioning from public to school libraries last year, I’ve become much more concerned with the state of our province’s school library programs. Did you know that in 2017 only 52% of elementary schools in Ontario reported having a full- or part-time teacher librarian? (To put things into perspective, that’s down from 80% in 1998.) The regional inequities are also disturbing: while 93% of elementary schools in central Ontario are staffed by a librarian, only 11% of northern libraries are.

Students working at Trinity College School in Port Hope, Ontario
A stunning example of a newly renovated school library (Source: M&T Architects)

I consider myself very lucky to work in an independent school that understands the value of (and can afford to hire) a full-time librarian. But I know many public schools in the province don’t have this luxury. That’s largely because provincial funding is provided to school boards on a per-student basis, allowing them to hire just one librarian for every 763 elementary students. In my hometown, for example, three schools are required to share one traveling librarian — leaving the library unstaffed for the duration of the week. When I hear stories like this, all I can think about are the students and teachers who are going to suffer as a result.

To people outside of the LIS profession, this may not seem like the end of the world. A library is just a room full of books, right? Why should we pay to have someone sit there all day? This response always stings a little, but it’s also an important reminder that we still have a lot of work to do in terms of advocacy. That’s why I wanted to take a moment to share what a day in the life of a school librarian really looks like:


Collection Development: One of the most important parts of my job is building the library’s collection of print and digital resources. This isn’t just a matter of browsing the shelves at Chapters and buying whatever looks good; collection development requires a great amount of thoughtful consideration. When making collection decisions, librarians factor in everything from critical reviews and cultural relevance to faculty input and gaps in the existing collection. This allows us to make sure we’re buying quality works that support both the school curriculum and our students’ reading interests.

Research Help: I also provide ongoing research help to students. This could be as simple as helping someone locate a book on the shelf — but more often it involves speaking with students about reliable sources and critical reading, and working with them to develop effective skills that will guide them through the research process.

Instruction: Another big part of my job is instruction. Throughout the year, I provide regular workshops for students in Grades 6-12 on topics such as academic honesty & citation, information literacy, and general research skills. I also offer a lot of one-on-one support to students working on their IB Extended Essays and other major projects.

Readers’ Advisory: This is one of the absolute best parts of the job, IMO. Readers’ advisory is the practice of pairing readers with books they’ll love. It can be active, such as when a student walks into the library and asks for a recommendation, or it can be more passive, with things like book displays, reading lists, and shelf-talkers. There’s no greater feeling than finding a book that really speaks to a student, and I think good readers’ advisory is one of the most important things we can do to convince non-readers to pick up a book.

shelf talkers
Shelf Talkers (Source: Library Learners)

Other Activities: In addition to these daily library services, I also have the opportunity to host a lot of really fun activities and clubs. At our library, I run two monthly book clubs — one for Middle School and one for Senior School — and I coach the school’s Kids’ Lit Quiz team. (If you’re new to KLQ, it’s an awesome book-trivia competition where students compete against other schools to answer questions about popular children’s books.) I also hold author readings and writing workshops, and run an ongoing book-review program. Sure, the days can get pretty hectic, but the work is always rewarding.


I could go on and on about my love for libraries and the need for improved funding models, but instead I’ll end by saying this: school libraries are absolutely essential to our students’ education, and as a province we should be investing more money in them, not less. Having access to a fully functioning school library — and an informed, capable librarian — can have a profound impact on a young person’s life. It allows them to explore new ideas in a safe, comfortable environment, and helps build vital information literacy skills that will stay with them throughout their academic careers and beyond. School librarians support teachers and students by offering a diverse range of hand-picked resources, and they help to foster a lifelong love of reading. All while creating a setting that is at once fun, engaging, and educational.

I’d like to see Google try and do that.

All stats borrowed from the People for Education annual report on Ontario’s publicly funded schools. I encourage you to read the document in full here

2018 Reading Goals

Hello and welcome to Books & Beets!

I created this blog as a way to keep track of what I’m reading and eating. I’ve always been an avid reader, but lately I’ve been finding that work and life keep getting in the way. Even though I’m a school librarian who’s literally surrounded by books all day every day, I often end up watching TV in the evening instead of picking up a book. I’d really like to change this, and so I’ve set myself an ambitious goal to read FIFTY books in 2018. 


Step One of my reading goal is to read all the books in my #TBR pile. Like most bibliophiles, I have a terrible habit of buying books that I never end up reading. By the end of this year, I’m hoping to get through all the books that have been collecting dust on my shelves for far too long.


Step Two is to start reading outside of my go-to genres. When it comes to literature, I’ll admit I’m a bit set in my ways. I love a good character-driven work of literary fiction, and I find myself returning to them time and time again. But I would love to start reading more widely, both for personal growth and to improve my readers’ advisory skills. In particular, I’m hoping to read more YA, fantasy, and science fiction in the coming months. (If you read any of these genres, I’m very open to suggestions!) A few books that are already on my radar include:

war        ready        die

And finally: Even though I’m aiming to diversify my reading habits this year, I still need to leave room for some old favourites. That’s why Step Three is to continue reading and re-reading the kinds of books I know and love. What will that consist of? Probably lots of memoirs, narrative non-fiction and literary fiction. (What can I say? I know what I like.)

Are there any books I absolutely MUST read this year? Let me know in the comment section below! And if you have an ambitious 2018 reading goal of your own, I’d love to hear all about it 🙂

Happy reading!