Pandemic Program Guilt

When I proposed this topic as a post, I really didn’t know what I was going to write about. I still don’t really, I’m just making it up as I go along. All I know is that I have felt incredible guilt over the past year because I feel like I’m not doing enough.

Enough programs, enough emails, enough outreach, enough Take & Makes, enough Summer Reading planning.

At work, I am in a constant state of mild panic. That dread that hangs over you when you know you’ve forgotten to do something really important, but you can’t quite figure out what it is. That is what this whole year has been like for me. Worrying that I’m not trying hard enough to reach the teens. Feeling like I’m missing a huge part of my job.

Work is stressful, not only because I am working with the public during a pandemic, but I work 2 days from home helping my daughter with remote kindergarten. It’s hard to get work done on these days, and it is almost impossible to separate work life and home life.

And I’ll be honest, I haven’t done that many programs. Mostly crafts and book boxes (Check out Andrea’s post!) My teens are MIA since last March. They can’t hang out at the library so they don’t come around. Unfortunately, that was the source of my program attendance. There is zero interest in virtual programs, which is partly because they don’t want them, and partly because I haven’t been overly excited about them either.

I feel guilty. But I also know deep down, that I am also just trying to survive this. We all have a lot going on in our work lives and in our personal lives. We talk a lot about self-care on this blog because it’s very easy to get burnt out in this job. But I think right now, I’m just trying to survive. And sometimes, that’s enough.



Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Libraries

Libraries are for everyone. Equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDII) are fundamental values in our profession.  In the library world, we strive to provide both equitable access to library services, as well as access to diverse perspectives, but there is always work to be done. 

I work for a municipal public library in a suburb north of Denver. In the last year, both our City and our library have undertaken a major campaign to reassess our practices using a EDI lens. I was tasked with researching the actions other libraries are taking to ensure that they are creating environments in which diversity, equity, and inclusion are central. 

Here are some key areas in which libraries are taking action:


Reforming Library Policies

Policy reform is happening at both the library level, and on a larger scale such as within universities, cities, and counties. 

  • Rewriting Existing Policies – Many libraries, including my own, are looking at rewriting policies to ensure their equity and inclusiveness. For example, we have looked at individual policies and asked the following questions: 
    • Do we need this policy (or a specific piece of this policy)? 
    • Does this policy support the culture we’re trying to build? 
    • How does this policy impact specific communities or individuals differently? 
    • Is this policy targeting a particular group of patrons?  
    • Is the language unwelcoming, offensive, objectionable or inaccessible to certain communities?

Reforming Hiring Practices

More and more, libraries are realizing that our hiring practices are not always equitable, despite our best intentions. 

  • Library systems are working to reduce implicit bias in hiring and recruitment.
  • Reconsidering Minimum Qualifications – It is crucial to think about the ways in which minimum job qualifications can leave out solid candidates. For example, does a candidate really need multiple years of experience to complete the job tasks? Is a year of related experience really necessary if the job will include on-site training? Sometimes even getting the MLS degree is a challenge for many as unpaid internships or practicums are often required to graduate.

Collection Development Practices

  • Training – Make sure staff are well-versed in selection, and provide training on preventing selection bias 
  • Create diverse booklists for patrons, or lists that are explicitly anti-racist or pro-LGBT.
  • Perform Diversity Audits of collections. Karen Jensen has a great blog post about auditing her YA collection on Teen Librarian Toolbox

Rethinking Programming and Services

  • Perform Diversity Audits of other services like programs and displays 
  • Perform Accessibility Audits – Check out this great example from the State Library of South Carolina
  • To make programs more accessible to patrons with disabilities, include information about accessibility on every event listing. Provide contact information for a specific staff person who can help provide accommodations, and make sure your library has a process in place for handling these requests. 
  • Work to reduce barriers to underserved populations. For example, consider offering wi-fi hotspots in areas where internet access is an issue, offer handouts in multiple languages, or consider removing library fines as they can serve as a major barrier.
  • Add captions to video content on websites and social media. Consider modifying colors used to make things easier for visually-impaired community members. 


  • Partner with local organizations to reach underserved populations. For example when Seattle Public Library performed an equity assessment and realized that many BIPOC were not attending their events, they partnered with groups like a local African American dance studio to help reach the African American community.
  • Many libraries also partner with organizations like Head Start, food banks, YMCAs, etc. to reach different populations.

So much fantastic work is being done in our libraries. What am I missing? Is your library making great strides toward offering diverse, equitable, inclusive services? Please share in the comments below!


Fictional Books Tackling Mental Health


According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) 17% of youth (6-17 years) experience a mental health disorder. To look at it another way, 1 in 5 youth and young adults lives with a mental health condition. It is also not uncommon for people to have more than one mental illness. Examples of mental illness include, but are not limited to,  ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Anxiety Disorders, Bipolar Disorder, BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder), Depression, Dissociative Disorders, Eating Disorders, OCD (Obsessive-compulsive Disorder), PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder), Schizoaffective Disorder, and Schizophrenia.

It is important for teens to know they are alone in what they are feeling. Fictional stories of teens experiencing a variety of mental health issues are a great place to start. Here are ten books to get you going.

Please be aware some of these books do deal with suicidal behavior related to mental illness. Death is also involved in some books, either as a trigger for mental illness, or a result of. Those books are marked with an asterisk (*).


Aceves, Fred. The New David Espinoza

“Obsessed with the idea that he is not muscular enough and tired of being bullied, David, age seventeen, begins using steroids, endangering his relationships with family and friends.”

Mental Illness: Body Dysmorphic


Caletti, Deb. A Heart in a Body in the World*

“Followed by Grandpa Ed in his RV and backed by her brother and friends, Annabelle, eighteen, runs from Seattle to Washington, D.C., becoming a reluctant activist as people connect her journey to her recent trauma.”

Mental Illness: PTSD


Fortunati, Karen. The Weight of Zero

“A seventeen-year-old suffering from bipolar disease wants to commit suicide, but a meaningful relationship and the care of a gifted psychiatrist alter her perception of her diagnosis as a death sentence”

Mental Illnesses: Depression and Bipolar Disorder


Gregorio, I. W. This Is My Brain In Love

“Rising high school juniors Jocelyn Wu and Will Domenici fall in love while trying to save the Wu family restaurant, A-Plus Chinese Garden.”

Mental Illness: Anxiety


Henry, Katie. Let’s Call It a Doomsday

“A girl with an anxiety disorder that makes her afraid of world-threatening catastrophes befriends a girl in her therapist’s waiting room who claims to know when the world is going to end.”

Mental Illness: Anxiety

Khorram, Adib. Darius the Great Is Not Okay

“Clinically-depressed Darius Kellner, a high school sophomore, travels to Iran to meet his grandparents, but it is their next-door neighbor, Sohrab, who changes his life.”

Mental Illness: Depression


Lord, Emery. When We Collided

“Can seventeen-year-old Jonah save his family restaurant from ruin, his mother from her sadness, and his danger-seeking girlfriend Vivi from herself?”

Mental Illness: Bipolar Disorder


McGovern, Cammie. Say What You Will

“A girl confined to a wheelchair by cerebral palsy and a boy stymied by an obsessive-compulsive disorder are assigned to spend time together in what becomes a blossoming friendship that neither expected.”

Mental Illness: OCD


Parker, Morgan. Who Put This Song On?

“17-year-old Morgan is a black teen triumphantly figuring out her identity when her conservative town deems depression as a lack of faith, and blackness as something to be politely ignored.”

Mental Illness: Depression


Sheinmel, Alyssa B. A Danger to Herself and Others

“After her best friend, Agnes goes into a coma as a result of a game of Truth or Dare, rising senior Hannah’s secrets begin to escape while she is locked in a psychiatric hospital.” 

Mental Illness: Schizophrenia



SandraRosa’s Recent Reads: BIPOC YA/MG

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson

Liz Lighty has her future all mapped out but her plans come crashing down when a scholarship to her dream college falls through. With the help of those around her, Liz begins a campaign for Prom Queen because being crowned Queen also means getting money—money that can help her pay for Pennington. Liz does not like to be at the center of attention. She has panic attacks and anxiety attacks and her town is wild about Prom, so running for Queen means all eyes on Liz. But eyes have always been on Liz, no matter how hard she has tried to hide, because she’s one of a handful of Black kids at her school and being different makes her stand out. To make things even more complicated, Prom Queen candidates are only allowed to bring boys as their dates to Prom and Liz wants the new girl, Mack, to be her Prom date—even if Mack is part of the competition.


Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland

After being reported to ICE by the racist town Sheriff, Sia Martinez’s mother gets deported. Then she disappears. Sia knows her mother crossed the US/Mexico border to get back to her family in Arizona, but the trail ends there. Sia wants to believe her mother is still out there somewhere, but the desert is brutal and Sia is losing hope, so she escapes to the desert to center herself. It’s there that she meets Noah, the new boy at school. As Noah and Sia grow closer, they bear witness to strange phenomena in the sky and begin to question everything around them. This book took an unexpected turn and I absolutely loved it.


The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert

Alberta has been the only Black girl in her beach town for a very long time, so when Edie moves into the Bed and Breakfast next door, Alberta is thrilled to not be the only one anymore. The two become fast friends and find an old diary in the attack of the Bed and Breakfast. The diary’s owner was Black just like them but passed for White many years ago. Alberta and Edie are determined to unravel the mystery of the diary and what they discover along the way will stay with them for the rest of their lives.


Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From by Jennifer De Leon

Lilliana Cruz has been accepted into the METCO program, but she’s not interested. Why would she want to leave her Boston neighborhood, school, and best friend to wake up hours earlier each day to be bussed to a rich school with rich kids who are going to look at her funny? But Lilliana knows she has to go. Her parents added her name to a waitlist a long time ago, hoping that she would get in and be able to get a jumpstart on success. Lilliana’s parents are from Guatemala and El Salvador and came to America to escape violence and live better lives. They want to give her every opportunity to get ahead and METCO is one of those opportunities. Lilliana’s new school comes with challenges. The METCO kids are giving her the cold shoulder. The White kids are needling her with micro-aggressions and not-so-micro-aggressions. And on top of all that, she’s learning a lot of family secrets– like why her Dad hasn’t been home in months and why her Mom has stopped cooking, cleaning, and taking care of Lilliana and her little brothers. The more Lilliana learns about these family secrets, the more she wants to learn about her Guatemalan and Salvadoran roots.


Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

Lei has been kidnapped by the Demon King to become a Paper Girl at court. Lei is from the Paper caste, the fully human. She’s had some experience with the Steel caste, those who are mostly human in appearance but with some animal features and characteristics. She hasn’t had much contact with Moon castes who look more animal than human and are at the top of the caste system. Moon castes raided her village and kidnapped her mother, all under the Demon King’s command. Now Lei is expected to be a Paper Girl, one of the King’s courtesans. To make matters worse, so many people are saying what an honor it is to be chosen as a Paper Girl. They expect Lei to be grateful. When Lei falls in love with one of the other Paper Girls and learns that she is not the only one who despises her position at court, Lei begins to believe that she can take down the Demon King once and for all.

Middle School Booktalk List

As an outreach librarian, my job has been vastly different this year. However, I’m lucky that a few teachers have been inviting me into their zoom classrooms to still do booktalks. If you’re anything like me, I’ve been struggling to come up with good titles for the middle schoolers; especially the younger side. Teen seems to be skewing older and older and I’ve been looking more at those juvenile/middle grade novels to find a nice balance. I thought today I would share the Sci-fi titles I talked about to a 7th grade class recently.



The Lion of Mars by Jennifer L. Holm

Bell has spent his whole life–all eleven years of it–on Mars. But he’s still just a regular kid-he loves cats, any kind of cake, and is curious about the secrets the adults in the US colony are keeping. Like, why don’t have contact with anyone on the other Mars colonies? Why are they so isolated? When a virus breaks out and the grown-ups all fall ill, Bell and the other children are the only ones who can help. It’s up to Bell–a regular kid in a very different world–to uncover the truth and save his family…and possibly unite an entire planet.




Jinxed by Amy McCulloch

After fourteen-year-old Lacey Chu repairs a highly advanced smartphone/robotic pet companion, or baku, called Jinx, the baku gets her into her dream school, Profectus, where she is exposed to dangerous secrets.





We’re Not From Here by Geoff Rodkey

After a year on Mars, a young boy and his family migrate to the planet Choom, but the inhabitants of Choom, the Zhuri, who look like giant mosquitoes, don’t really like humans and it’s up to the boy and his family to change their minds if they hope to survive.





Sanity & Tallulah by Molly Brooks

Sanity Jones and Tallulah Vega are best friends on Wilnick, the dilapidated space station they call home at the end of the galaxy. So naturally, when gifted scientist Sanity uses her lab skills and energy allowance to create a definitely-illegal-but-impossibly-cute three-headed kitten, she has to show Tallulah. But Princess, Sparkle, Destroyer of Worlds is a bit of a handful, and it isn’t long before the kitten escapes to wreak havoc on the space station. The girls will have to turn Wilnick upside down to find her, but not before causing the whole place to evacuate! Can they save their home before it’s too late?




A problematic Paradox by Eliot Sappingfield

Thirteen-year-old Nikola Kross’s world is turned upside down when her father is abducted by aliens and she is suddenly transported to a special boarding school for geniuses, but things get even stranger when she realizes she has certain abilities that put her entire school in grave danger.





Time Museum by Matthew Loux

Science-loving Delia Bean is expecting to have a pretty boring summer vacation looking after her little brother. But when her Uncle Lyndon offers her an internship in his Earth Time Museum, everything begins to look a lot better!





Satellite by Nick Lake

Born and raised on Moon 2, Leo and the twins, Orion and Libra, are finally old enough and strong enough to endure the dangerous trip to Earth. They’ve been parented by teams of astronauts since birth and have run countless drills to ready themselves for every conceivable difficulty they might face on the flight. But has anything really prepared them for life on terra firma?





Nemesis by Brendan Reichs

As the Anvil, an enormous asteroid, threatens to end all life on Earth, sixteen-year-old Min begins to uncover a lifetime of lies, a sinister conspiracy involving all students in her sophomore class in Fire Lake, Idaho.





Bounders: Earth Force Rising by Monica Tesler

Twelve-year-old Jasper and his friends are the first group of cadets, called Bounders, to be trained as astronauts who use new spaceships to teleport, but soon are forced to go up against an alien society seeking revenge for stealing this brain-sync technology.





Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

The planet Kerenza is attacked, and Kady and Ezra find themselves on a space fleet fleeing the enemy, while their ship’s artificial intelligence system and a deadly plague may be the end of them all






What are some of your favorite titles for middle schoolers?