Meet the Librarian | Susan Claus

All the Kids!

We explore the nuances of nonfiction and fiction available to young readers.

Library Life

Learn about library life in the Children’s & Teens department!

Book Recs

What do young readers enjoy, well, reading?

The Journey

Everybody has a different library journey!

May’s Librarian

Susan Claus

Adult Services Programming Librarian
for Northland Public Library
in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Join us as we talk about library life and her journey in books.

Wanted: Pennsylvania librarians to interview throughout the year!
Please contact me here if you are interested.

I saw on Northland’s Instagram that the Children & Teen Services department answered over a thousand inquiries in recent history. Do you see a growing interest in reading with young people than, say, the past five years?

The change I see is in the way kids find their “reads.” Social media has made it easy for kids to share their excitement about books they’ve read. It’s always interesting when a series we thought no longer had readers suddenly becomes popular again. Kid-to-kid or teen-to-teen book recommendations beat out anything adults can do for reader advisory.

Do you think social media has helped stimulate a renewed interest in books and reading in general?

Definitely. Classroom Zooms with authors; Tik-tokkers doing mini book reviews; online summer reading trackers like Beanstack ; all seem to be engaging potential readers in a new way. E-book platforms like Hoopla, Libby, and Project Gutenberg make it easy for kids with any kind of device to get books where ever they are.

Other than the Children & Teens section, what’s your favorite area of the library?

That’s a bit like asking what part of the grocery store to you shop! My reading diet includes heaping servings of manga, non-fiction, relationship fiction, and some DVDs of Korean television shows for dessert.

As kids grow and learn, their interests often change with them. What are your favorite children’s topics? (ie planes/trains/automobiles, animals, dinosaurs, etc)

Top three for storytime programs: Bugs, chickens, and dinosaurs. And stones/pebbles. And weather. And growing things. And folktales. And…

Scenario: a young reader has to write a report for school. What are your favorite and most reliable resources you guide them to?

World Book Encyclopedia or Wikipedia for the appetizer (the “I-don’t-know-what-I-don’t-know” phase), then a hefty serving of non-fiction books on the subject, with a side of databases like CIA World Fact Book, Opposing Views in Context, or Academic OneFile.

If the Children & Teens department could partner with any other Pittsburgh area institution, what would it be and why? What benefits could both the library and institution bring to further benefit knowledge? (ie: Carnegie Museums, Science Center, Heinz Hall, Andy Warhol, etc).

We have partnered with lots of local organizations over the years. As a natural-history nerd, my favorite partnerships have been with local naturalists and the Allegheny County Park rangers. I would love to partner with the Warhol, since that museum seems to center art as a verb, rather than a noun, and process art is what I would like kids to do more of.

Do young readers generally come looking for fiction or non-fiction? Do they favor one over another, or is it pretty much split down the middle?

I’ve had a lot of conversations with anxious parents who worry because their child doesn’t enjoy fiction.  My grown sons are emblematic of the two types of readers. One is a voracious reader of fiction, and one prefers to read for information. Fiction is great at teaching empathy, but non-fiction readers can grow that skill through reading biography and history. I’ve noticed that fiction lovers and informational readers BOTH enjoy graphic novels.

Here’s a three-parter question! What’s your favorite thing about working in a library? When did you realize you wanted to be a librarian? Was it a life-long dream or did it just kind of happen?

No two days have been alike, and the scope of what we can do in programs is as unlimited as the number of subjects on our non-fiction shelves! The library was always my happy place, even as a preschooler. I never realized that it was a career you could CHOOSE. I always assumed a library-fairy appeared over your cradle and tapped you with a wand if you were worthy. After college I worked at Pinocchio Bookstore for Children, and two of the staffers were in Pitt’s Library School, hearing them talk about their classwork was fascinating, and planted the desire to get an MLS.

What are your thoughts on services like YouTube Kids or LeapFrog? Do you think they have some merit or would you prefer to be an advocate for books?

They do have some merit, but books aren’t going away. You’ve heard the saying: “The simpler the toy, the more complex the play.” I would say, “the simpler the information system, the more complex the thought.”

If you were a young reader in 2022, what recently published MG books would you absolutely love to read?

I’m waiting to get my hands on a copy of Animal Allies: 15 Amazing Women in Wildlife Science by Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan. For fiction, I’m keen at the moment on books that center on the lives of second or third generation American-hyphen kids, like the Front Desk series by Kelly Yang, or Barakah Beats by Maleeha Siddiqui.

New books get all the attention, so how about I throw some love to a few back-list books that deserve some new readers? The Wheel on the School by DeJong, Journey to the River Sea by Ibbotsen, or Dominic by William Steig are some I love to introduce to kids.

And so concludes the second round of Meet the Librarian!

What do you think? Isn’t this a fun addition to The Pittsburgh Writer? If you’re a writer/author, I highly suggest getting to know the librarians in your area, especially if you’re not yet published. No matter what you write, you’re going to need to use their resources at some point. Why not start with their very knowledgeable personnel? Don’t be afraid to get out there and ask them questions!

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Budding #historian. Writer of #adventures and #sciencefantasy. Lover of mushrooms and libraries. Fan of #chocolate, #books and Pennsylvania history.

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