Voices from the Stacks Podcast

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The Mandel Public Library of West Palm Beach reaches out to inspire, inform, and create a delightful quality of life. Let's get expansive and make some sound waves. Haven't you heard? Libraries aren't that quiet anymore. Voices from the Stacks empowers library users by giving them a voice. How has our library changed your life? Contact us. We'd love to hear your story. 

Listen to our latest podcast here or on Spotify. Be sure to subscribe to get notified of new episodes.



Episode One

[00:00:00] Kristine : The Mandel Public Library of West Palm Beach reaches out to inspire, inform, and create a delightful quality of life. Let's get expansive and make some sound waves. Haven't you heard? Libraries aren't that quiet anymore. Voices from the Stacks empowers library users by giving them a voice. In this podcast, you'll meet and get to know our staff and our community members, and maybe even find your next great read.

This is Kristine Techavanich and I'm a children's librarian, and I'll be your host for this episode of Voices from the Stacks.

So how did you become a reader? What kind of books do you read? What motivates you to keep reading. How do you find out what you're going to read next? These are a few of the questions that we're asking in this episode and in the episodes that will follow.

[00:01:00] Tina: Reading was one of the, one of the things I was good at and that I loved and I can't imagine living without, I haven't read or

I've been a reader since maybe three years old.

Evelyn: Instead of reading posts, you can be reading a book

Matt: because print isn't dead. It really isn't folks.

It's like a single thing that you can be doing and it's immersive and just relaxing. I think that's really important to take the time to do that for yourself.

Kristine : First we'll start with a conversation with staffers Sophie, Amris and me that was recorded in the library's digital recording studio. We talk about how a love of books in libraries from a young age have shaped who we are today, the kinds of books we like to read, and since it's the start of a new year, we also talk about our reading goals. Fair warning though.

Prepare to hear some squeals and some awws. Yep. We get that excited when we talk about reading.

[00:02:00] Amris: My name is Amris. I am an associate librarian here at the Mandel Public Library, and I work in the technology floor, but I'm in school now to become a librarian, and I've been working in libraries for 10 years. So I have lots of experience. You could say.

Sophie: My name is Sophie Meridian. I'm the teen librarian here at the Mandel Public Library, um and I have not been working in libraries for ten years but I um previously interned at a public library and before that I was a book seller at Barnes and Noble. So I've always kind of been involved in bookish things and I'm really happy to be working with teenagers here. I've always just felt like books were the ultimate form of entertainment. Like I love getting lost in words and making the vision of what I'm reading in my head, my own. I was always that person.

Even in high school, like I always had a book with me that wasn't a required [00:03:00] reading book. I just feel like you don't need much. You don't need the internet to be able to read a book. It's just nice. You could just grab a book and go anywhere with it and be lost wherever you are. When I was in elementary school, I went to a private Catholic school in New York, um, and every week we had like a library class.

So that was part of our curriculum. We went to the library and the librarian there would read us a book. After she read the book, we were allowed to kind of like free time. There was, I have distinct memory of puppies being there and we were allowed to play with puppies and it was like super fun. And um, and then we, it was, we had an activity and then we were allowed to check out books.

We could pick out a book to take with us. And I got into the Series of Unfortunate Event books. So this had to, I had to have been in like fourth or fifth grade. The librarian, every time we got another the next volume in that series in she would take me to the back, like her back office, and she would unwrap it with me, and I get to put on the [00:04:00] label, and then I got to be like the first person to check it out.

And now my, I'm like, Oh my God, I'm gonna cry like it. At the time, I was like, this is really cool. I'm in the back. Yeah. Now I'm like, Oh my God, this was so like beautiful. But I just, I don't know. I was always kind of a reader and it feels weird when I'm at a point in my life where I'm not reading. I think it's one thing to kind of take a break, but I'm always going to like go back to books.

Um, so yeah, even in high school I wasn't, I wasn't like a total loser, but I wasn't like a really popular kid with this, like thriving social life, which I guess is why I love YA so much. I love to read about kids that are like doing all these things cause I want them to. Um, so I always just had books and my parents were big on like taking me to the library. What do you want to read now?

Kristine : That sounds like a dream library experience.

Sophie: I know.

Kristine : Puppies, librarian takes you to the back . You'd see the the latest thing.

Sophie: Yeah. This is why I wanted to work with like the youth, [00:05:00] because that was such a big experience for me, so I'm trying to do that with our teens today.

Amris: Well, I was the same way in high school, like I didn't even, I kind of like block out high school I think in general. But I forgot that I did. I carried books like all the time. I remember distinctly reading like after a test was done and laughing at my book while other people were trying to take the test. It was um, one of Louise Rennison books. Well I remember it was like a civil war history test and I was done cause I'm, I was smart or whatever and I like pulled it out and I was laughing at it cause it's a really funny book. But like the girl next to me was giving me stink eye. Like, like "what are you doing?" I was like having the greatest time ever. My parents took me to the library all the time. My mom specifically always took me to the library at least once a week because I read a lot and it was a free activity. It was really close to our house.

Sophie: Yeah, that's another thing yeah.


Amris: It's, I like that. I think that's my favorite part about the libraries.

It's a very big equalizer. [00:06:00] Like anyone can use it. Anyone can enjoy any of the activities here, and it's totally free.

Kristine : Now we can talk about genres, genre genres, so Amris, what's, what are your favorite genres?

Amris: So I love romance. That's like my escapist time. And then I like analyze all like the gender roles and stuff, but like I try to just like enjoy it.

Um, and just like, it's just sweet. I don't know. Like I just watched a Christmas like Hallmark-y type movie last night for like similar reasons cause I'm like, this is silly and fun. Um, and I, I also selected history cause I do like listening to audio books, um, like history, audio books, and I love graphic novels. I kind of read all over the place, but those are my main ones. It's like romance and then probably like history, nonfiction  are the things that go back to the most. 

Kristine : What about you Sophie?

Sophie:  I feel like it's funny because thinking [00:07:00] about back to like when I was in high school, I didn't read a lot of YA. I definitely read more YA now as an adult then I did when I was a teenager. When I was a teenager, I was reading like Atonement, like, I don't know, I was reading like whatever was hot and would be on  website or whatever. Um, I would say across the board, I am really drawn to fantasy. You know, like a lot of librarians and readers.

I remember like my first big reading experience being Harry Potter, so that's kind of informed my reading. For now. I'm like just getting into literary fiction and nonfiction. Although with nonfiction, I don't love memoir really depends on the subject. Um, I also read to escape, so right now, not in the mood to be reading like the sad stuff, but I love Trick Mirror.

We were talking about a Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino. Um, and I love like essays, especially if they're funny, especially if they're about current topics. Um, so that's [00:08:00] my big nonfiction thing that I like. Um, and I like to me, I feel like I'll read anything as long as the writing is really beautiful. Um, but fantasy will probably always be my number one, especially if it's fantasy that's like takes place in our world, like urban fantasy. Love Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo, you guys should read it. It's kind of dark. I love dark fantasy too, but it takes place our world at, uh, Yale, but there's magic in it that I'm always going to be a sucker for like urban fiction, urban fantasy. I should say. Yeah. Not her vacation. That's different.

Amris: Did you see it on the good reads award?

Sophie:  I did, I think that was probably that one and the Wicked King were probably the only two that I voted for and actually won. The rest of them I, yeah.

Amris: My goal was about fifth every year. Yeah. Um, and this year and last year, this is the first two years that I actually like blew past it.

[00:09:00] Um, which was weird. Like I wasn't trying to necessarily, it was more just like, Oh yeah, I'm going to read and record what I read and, you know, whatever. Um, the, I read a lot. This year.

Sophie: What are you at now?

Amris: I'm embarrassed. I read, um, I've read 166 books.

Sophie: Wow!

Kristine : That gets a clap! That's so good! That's awesome!

Amris:  Thank you. I mean, I read a lot of audio books. But like that's like a third of my- I keep, I have a chart. Like I have like a graph in Google docs cause I'm a nerd like that.

Kristine : Oo, I want to see.

Amris: I know next year I think I'm not going to read as much cause it's like life stuff happens. Like, I'm getting marry and grad school.

Grad school. So I'm a little bit like, Oh no, I'm going to read as much. I don't know if this was a good idea. No, it's good. It's good. But, um. Yes. I read a lot.

Sophie: So my original goal [00:10:00] was 30 books and in the past I've tried to do 52 books cause I figure a book a week. I can swing that. But yeah, like life, I mean, I don't know.

I find it difficult to go home and like, there's so many things I want to do. And I also want to have relaxing time. I feel like I'm behind on TV. I used to be so good with like knowing what the hot TV shows where the movies and it's just, it's hard. Even just figuring out like personal time, like how I want to spend it.

Um. That was like 30, I think can do 30 right now I'm at 34, so I haven't met my goal. I've gone past it. Um, there was a point where we talked about doing 50, this was after, well past January, so I'm not going to get to 50, but next year, um, our whole youth services department is going to try to do 50 books a year and I think it's doable.

I can do it. I, I think if I really tried, I probably not now at this point. Since [00:11:00] we've got like three weeks left, two weeks I was like, Oh, maybe I can hit 40 and then 10 more books for like 50 it seems really doable. I don't think I'll ever get to like 100. I wish I could, but that's, I don't know. Maybe at some other point in my life.

I will say though that like this year is probably the most books I've read in a long time specifically because of like grad school, like it was hard to dedicate the time to reading for fun, unfortunately. But I think you'll be able to do it.

Amris: I think, I think one of the things that changed is when I was younger, I did- I do think that - cause good reads, the reading challenges, I probably started participating when I was like 20 and I'm 27 now. And I think for a few years when I first joined good reads, I was trying to like compete with myself almost and make it to the 50 goal or whatever. And now it's more like genuine enjoyment.

Like I always loved to read, but like it went from, like I'm going to read as much as I can in December to make it to 50 [00:12:00] to like all year. I'm reading like consistently in a lot and making the time to do that.

Kristine : So at the start of a new year, do you make reading a part of your new year's resolution? It's not always easy to get reading time in and get motivated. Reading lives can be just as complicated as life itself. And sometimes life just happens. Tara, our Hispanic outreach librarian, conducted interviews with library staff and volunteers for this episode.

Let's meet Stephen, our technology librarian, who is inspired by the eight part television series called the Great American read that aired on PBS in 2018. The series was designed to get the country reading and passionately talking about books. Fun fact, Steven even makes an appearance in one of the episodes. In this interview, Tara [00:13:00] talks with Steven about his reading goal of getting through the 100 best loved novels as chosen through a national survey.

Tara: Hi, this is Tara, and I am here now with a colleague, a fellow librarian named Stephen. Hi, Stephen.

Stephen: Hello!

Tara: Stephen works on the second floor of the library in the technology department. Do you want to tell us a little bit about what your job is here at the library, Stephen?

Stephen: Sure. I am considered the technology librarian. So I am in charge mainly of the, the digital studios where we do all of our 3D printing and, uh, audio studio and all those tech gadgets.

Tara: Very exciting cutting edge stuff happening here at the library. You do have a newborn baby at home, right, Stephen?

Stephen: I do.

Tara: So you're reading a little less this year than usual, right?

Stephen: In general, yes.

Tara: But what, what have you been working on reading this year?

Stephen: Well, let's see. Considering the newborn and my nice commute to work, thanks to [00:14:00] traffic in the morning, and I've been doing a lot of audio books, which has allowed me to at least read a little bit more. Than I otherwise would have. But, um, this year I've mainly been going through the, the great American read.

It was kind of a new year's resolution that I started a little bit early last year, and I've been slowly but surely making my way through all of those very long books.

Tara: So how many of those books are there? Do you have any idea there?

Stephen: Well, I think I've just been going through the top 100-

Tara: Oh, wow ok .

Stephen: So, I am up to about... I'm about a quarter of the way through actually -

Tara: That's pretty impressive.

Stephen: So, I'm about 25-26 the way through, but I've also read a few already, so.

Tara: So, Stephen working full time and with a small child and a newborn at home has read 25 books this year. That's pretty good!

Stephen: Yeah, and one of them was Atlas Shrugged, which is like very -

Tara: That counts for three at least.

Stephen: Yeah, that's like three books. Um, but probably um among my favorites. There was probably one that I'm surprised I've never heard of [00:15:00] before, by um Robbert McCammon called Swan song.

Tara: I've never heard of it. Tell us about it.

Stephen: It is. It's kind of in the vein of Stephen King. So of course I love a good Stephen King book, but it came out in the 80s and it's similar to The Stand, in that it's kind of an end of the world thing, except in this case it was Russia and America finally fired off the nukes, but it's also got a nice little, um, a little bit of a religious twist. A little bit of magic kind of in there and a little bit of demons. So um it provides for some very interesting and riveting reading .

Tara: Yeah, that sounds fascinating. One last question. You work here in the library. I know that, but, uh, where do you get your reading recommendations from for new books besides the great American read, if you wanted to read something new?

Stephen: If I wanted to read somethin' new. I, uh, I usually, I have several friends on good reads, so I'll often pop in and see what they're reading at the [00:16:00] moment and I'll check those out. And of course, I also check out, um, like the hot picks downstairs in the, uh, yeah. And the, uh, uh, the staff picks.

Tara: Yes!

Stephen: I usually see what everybody else is reading here and -

Tara:  I like those too.

Stephen: Yes. And usually there's some great ones on there, so it gives me some good ideas of what to read.

Tara: I agree.

Kristine : Stephen discovered audio books to keep his reading goal going while caring for a newborn baby and commuting to work. Curious about those books? Here are the top five. To Kill a Mockingbird was voted by viewers as America's number one best loved novel, followed by the Outlander series, the Harry Potter series, Pride and Prejudice, and the Lord of the Rings series.

What guides your reading life and where do you get your reading recommendations from? Browsing the stacks is one of my [00:17:00] favorite things to do at the library. But, discovering books can be a social activity too. In this next interview, Tara speaks with Sister Vivian, who participates in a book club called Fiction and Fellowship at her church.

Tara: Hi there. This is Tara and I am here today with Sister Vivian. Hello, Sister Vivian.

Sister Vivian: Hi, how are you doing? Thank you for having me.

Tara: I'm glad to have you here. And sister Vivian, what church are you from?

Sister Vivian: Oh. I'm working at St. Patrick Catholic church -

Tara: I see.

Sister Vivian:  I'm a Claretian missionary sister and I'm the outreach director at St. Patrick in Palm Beach Gardens.

Tara: Ok, very cool! And you're here at the library today to help out with the community ID drives. Is that right?

Sister Vivian: Yeah, I'm volunteering for that now. 

Tara: I'd like to ask you, do you consider yourself a reader?

Sister Vivian: Oh, yes, definitely, it's 100%. I absolutely love to read, and the library is one of my favorite places. I've just come to the library, sit down and smell the books just for the fun of it. When I'm [00:18:00] depressed, I come to the library.

Tara: That is awesome. You mentioned that you are participating in a book club at church, right?

Sister Vivian: Yes.

Tara: Does that bookclub have a name or a theme or anything?

Sister Vivian: Uh, we called, um, fiction and fellowship, and it's a book club that was started in the church and we didn't want to do like religious books. We wanted to do like regular books that people are reading. And when we discuss it, we say, well, we as Catholics, how that affects how the book responds to our faith. And if it doesn't, why?

Tara: Oh, that's very interesting.

Sister Vivian: So every month we read one book. And it's been very successful. We have about 30 people participating in the book club, which is pretty large group for a book club.

Tara: That is yes.

Sister Vivian: But it's very, um, professional people. They're very smart and intellectual, and they're respectful of the different opinions. It was really nice because the person who started it, her name is Carol Palusi [00:19:00] and she is a retired English professor, college professor. I really enjoy it.

Tara: That's really cool. What are some of the books that you've read this past year?

Sister Vivian: Uh, yes. We've read reading a lot about World War II. The Other Einstein-

Tara: The Other Einstein.

Sister Vivian: Which is about the, uh, the wife of Einstein.

Tara: Oh interesting.

Sister Vivian: Uh, we read the Testament.

Tara: Oh, okay.

Sister Vivian: Um, still there oh we have  so many books. So we'd be reading a couple of by Ann Patchett, -

Tara: Okay, yeah.

Sister Vivian:  and Really like that one.

Tara: That's good! Yeah, she's popular.

Sister Vivian: The top of my mind, I can't remember all of them, but every month would read one, so been in the club,  has been  there for three years now. So, we've read quite a lot.

Tara: Yeah that is a lot of books. That is a lot of books.

Sister Vivian: And then if we all still work, different books that have to do with theology religion, but then because I've worked with the Jews, I've read a lot of German dog novels to see what the reading, what they [00:20:00] say. Um, I'm really enjoying though.

Tara: That's really good.

Sister Vivian: I've been reading Harry Potter. And uh, what's the other one, uh, Pendragon series.

Tara: Oh yeah!

Sister Vivian: So it's kinda fun. I usually read those before I go to bed at night, it's kind of relaxing.

Tara: Very cool! Do you have any reading goals for yourself for 2020 or you just roll with it?

Sister Vivian: Um, I haven't thought of having a goal. But I keep reading as much as i can

Tara: That's fair!

Sister Vivian: And reading books I mean actual books. I do have a lot of, which I think is good to have, uh.

Tara: Like eBooks or magazines?

Sister Vivian: Ebooks.

Tara: Oh Ebooks

Sister Vivian: But I kinda liked the feeling of-

Tara: the actual old fashion book?

Sister Vivian: I can holding the book. So I'm, I'm hoping that I can continue doing that, for 2020.

Tara: Well, thank you for sharing your insights with us. We really appreciate having you.

Sister Vivian: Thank you. Thank you very much for having me and thank you for having the library. [00:21:00] It's a really wonderful place.

Tara: Glad you're enjoying it. That's great.

Kristine : I love that for Sister Vivian, visiting the library and being surrounded by books is a restorative experience. When was the last time you got lost in the stacks at the library? Of course, libraries are more than just buildings housing books, libraries build community too. Let's hear from members of one of the libraries, book clubs. This book club is run by millennial librarians, Emily and Bethany for millennials. Emily speaks with readers about their reading goals and their experience in the book club at Grandview public market located in the warehouse district of West Palm beach.

Emily: So I'm here with Madeline, one of the Millennials Ruin Book Club participants. Madeline, what was your 2019 [00:22:00] reading goal? Did you have one?

Madeline: I did actually. This was the first year that I actually sent one at the beginning of the year and it was 22 books.

Emily: Did you achieve that goal?

Madeline: Oh my God, did I! I read 44 so far and I'm probably on track to finish number 45.

Emily: That's awesome. That's cool. Because we surveyed the library staff, and on average we read 45 books this year-

Madeline: Oh my gosh!

Emily: So you're right along with us.

Madeline: Does that make me a librarian now?

Emily: Yeah, I think that makes you a librarian. Um, do you have any goals for 2020?

Madeline: Um, I kind of do. I mean, I think I'll probably set it to about 44-45. I'm scared to try to do much over that cause I'm not even sure this is replicable.

Emily: What do you think like happen? That means you read over and beyond

Madeline: Um, well, I moved. And so like, part of it is just like I was still developing a social life cause I moved to a totally different state. So I have a lot more time to like sit by myself and read.

Emily: So, but you found the book club. What do you like about book club?

Madeline: Oh my gosh. Um, I love everything about book club. I love that. This one in [00:23:00] particular is uh everybody's reading different things. So I get introduced to a lot of things that I really wouldn't think of otherwise.

Um. And I also think it's great because we, because we read, so broadly, um, I think we have conversations to get a lot more interesting and a lot more divergent in terms of just like, I think I, we think about things in new ways that we maybe couldn't do if we were just reading one book. And so it's really fun to sit with people who like, you know, we're all millennials, so there's, there's some commonality, but there's a little bit of, there's a lot of diversity in what we've read in and what we, how we think of it too. So I think that it, at leads to conversations that are really fun.

Emily: That's awesome. Well, thank you so much.

Madeline: You bet.

Emily: So Elsa, what kind of books do you like to read?

Elsa: I like a lot of nonfiction books, memoirs, you know, stuff by Malcolm Gladwell's, this phenomenal research. Stuff along those lines and um historical fiction. Yeah.

Emily: How many books did you read in 2019?

Elsa: I'm currently reading my  50th book, [00:24:00] so, and that was my goal to read 50 books this year.

Emily: That's amazing. Um, so because you read so much, do you tend to read one book at a time or multiple books at a time?

Elsa: Multiple books at a time. I think right now, in addition to read my 50th book, I also just downloaded another three books. So I probably won't need that. Well, you know, between the one I'm reading and the others, it's more fun that way, I think.

Emily: That's cool. So you said downloaded, do you read a lot of eBooks?

Elsa: I do. And the library here, Uh, Clematis does an amazing job with their books. They have all the most up to date, New York times books. Really amazing. I'm so pleased to be a member of that library.

Emily: I'm here with Acsah, another millennial in the Millennials Ruined Book Club book club at the library. Um, so Acsah what was your favorite book from 2019 that you read?

Acsah: So that is [00:25:00] actually a very easy question. My favorite book that I read this year is Where the Crawdad Sings by Delia Owens.

Emily: What'd you like about it?

Acsah: Well, I only came across it because a book  club. We had talked about reading a book, um, from the theme of historical fiction. So I had seen it on the best times or the bestseller list, and it was just so suspenseful, unexpected, unique. I just fell in love with characters, and it was the first time in years that I literally stayed up at night to just like finish this book.

In, I think it was four days and I just, I just loved it. And I was literally, it was a page turning novel for me that I just couldn't even believe and believe the ending. Just love it! 

Emily: Awesome. And you said you heard about it from book club?

Acsah: I discovered it through book club, because at book club every month we pick a theme, and the theme was historical fiction, so I was looking up what kind of books fall under historical fiction, and I saw this one was one of them. So that's how I [00:26:00] kind of discovered it.

Emily: That's cool. Do you tend to read a lot of historical fiction or was this new for you?

Acsah: This was new for me. Book club has stretched my reading horizons for sure.

Emily: That's awesome. That's good to hear. Well, thank you so much.

Acsah: Yeah!

Emily: So, David, would you consider yourself a reader?

David: Yes, I definitely would.

Emily: What makes you a reader?

David: I like to read books in my free time and books and mangas, honestly. Um, and it's, it's something I enjoy talking to others about and, uh, just I look forward to every new book that I get to read.

Emily: Did you have any reading goals from 2019?

David: I wanted to read 30 books in 2019. Uh, I including mangas, I probably very well have beaten that goal. Um, if, if I was just going to be saying how many books I've actually read, it's probably more like 17 [00:27:00] I think.

Emily: Do you have any reading goals for 2020?

David: Yes for 2020. I would like to actually read at least 20 books. Um, and then probably 40 things in general.

Emily: So you don't consider mangas books.

David: I, I guess, I guess that's kind of harsh, but I, I, I guess, I don't know. That's an interesting question cause I, I feel like books in my, in my brain are more like. Things that have a lot of texts and texts that are mostly text and they'll have pictures of the chapters and stuff like that.

Mangas are, are, are comic, I guess, comic books, which has literally has “books” in the name. Um, maybe I shouldn't be. So, uh, uh, bookist, I guess.

Emily: Bookist? Yeah. I as a [00:28:00] librarian. I am a firm believer that comics and mangas are books, so I think you should count them.

David: Okay, well then I'll read 40 books next year.

Emily: Well, good luck. I hope it goes well for you.

David: Thank you very much.

Kristine : If you're a millennial interested in talking with fellow book lovers about books and expanding your reading horizons, you might want to join Millennials Ruin Book Club.

Bethany: Hi, this is Bethany of Millennials Ruin Book Club. Join us for a new kind of book club created by and ruined by millennials. This book club is no pressure, meaning you read what you want.

On the third Wednesday of each month, we get together at Grandview public market and share what we've been reading while getting recommendations from other book lovers and librarians, like me. New members are always welcome. For more information, visit WPBcitylibrary.org or call [00:29:00] (561) 868-7701.

Kristine :  Thanks for listening to this episode of Voices from the Stacks, a podcast from the Mandel Public Library of West Palm Beach. We hope you stay tuned to hear the next episode and remember, you can record your very own podcast in the library's digital recording studios.

Sister Vivian: I absolutely do love to read, and the library is one of my favorite places. I just come to the library and sit down and smell the books just for the fun of it.