Upcoming Webinar – Street Smart: Urban Fiction in Public Libraries

picI am so excited! Vanessa Irvin Morris will be presenting a Public Library Association webinar on Urban Fiction called Street Smart: Urban Fiction in Public Libraries! Register for the May 15, 2013 webinar here.

Participants will leave the webinar with the ability to:

*Understand the evolution of street lit as we know it today

*Articulate the difference between urban fiction and street lit

*Refer to established resources for the purpose of collection development and readers advisory


During this 1 hour long webinar, Vanessa will be:

highlighting the popular literary genre, street lit, also known as urban fiction. Morris will not only explore the historical context for the genre as well as the characteristics and sub-genres, she’ll also provide concrete ideas for collection development, readers’ advisory and programming.

Vanessa is the author of The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Street Literature, which I highly recommend!

She also has a great website: www.streetliterature.com.


Kind words for Exploring Prison Librarianship & a Great Youth Services Resource

This weekend I had a very nice surprise… stumbling on these kind words for my blog’s Urban Fiction Resources page!

The sweet librarian that said such nice things has a great website called Library Services for Incarcerated Youth. I don’t really mention youth services much. This website will be a great source for all of us!

Library Services for Incarcerated Youth features five key resources for you: getting started, funding, successful projects, evaluation, and resources. Check it out!

Sooo Much Urban Fiction — So Close To Being Added To The Jail Libraries!!!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Months ago at a meeting of jail librarians, we began talking about the small number of urban fiction books in the jail libraries’ collections despite the very high number of requests from patrons asking for this genre.

From this meeting, a jail librarian asked the key members who oversaw the jail libraries for an in-house grant to purchase urban fiction despite the mission of the organization is to collect only donated books with the exception of dictionaries. And, we got permission to buy a considerable number of books. We were also asked to buy graphic novels; here we decided to buy only Manga (look for an other post as to why).

By consulting many books, blog posts, websites, and readers advisory brochures, I was able to come up with a collection development list for the jail librarians to approve. One of the most helpful sources were:

  1. Honig, Megan. Urban Grit: A Guide to Street Lit. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited, 2011.
  2. Morris, Vanessa Irving. The Readers Advisory Guide to Street Literature. Chicago: American Library Association, 2012.
  3. Patron Input! I asked patrons at each library what titles they enjoy and would like to see at the library. One patron asked to go back to his cell to get a list he had already made for his own reference! He had a list in a small address book that was four pages long, in small print, and in alphabetical order. His list was so extensive that he let me borrow his notebook to copy the titles until the end of library hours and had our library assistant bring his notebook back to him. Asking this patron for input engaged the patron significantly to the project and he took more pride in the library, for he once checked-in on the project stating that he thought he had something to do with getting urban fiction into his library and he did. It is unfortunate that now that we are getting ready to have the books circulate, he has been sentenced and transferred out of jail and into a prison facility.

Now that we have some of our books we are labeling them with our sticker system  (you can see me starting to put some of the stickers on the books in the photo above). We do not separate Urban Fiction or  black authors from the libraries’ fiction sections like large book stores do, but we do add blue and white striped stickers in addition to stickers that display the genre (fiction, romance, etc) to distinguish black authors. This has been effective in helping patrons learn how to browse more effectively and search for items of their interest in their short time allowed in the library (usually 10 minutes or less) without having a library catalog.

After stickers are put on, we are attempting to expand the lifespan of our purchased books by wrapping the books in contact paper. See blog post Expanding Lifespan of Paperbacks in the Jail Library for more information and a tutorial video.

Once the purchased collection is prepped for the library, our plan to track the lifespan of the books will enter it’s final stages. Once those documents are complete I’ll share them with you all. Look for the catagory “Purchased Books Project 2012.”

Volunteered at a New Jail Library…

Last night I volunteered at a new jail library (our community has two jail sites in town). The site that I was at last night holds about 100 less people, women compared to all men and the men that are there are confined to their cells for longer periods of time due to the severity of the crimes they are accused of.

Instead of going into a lobby to be buzzed in, I walked to the loading deck that had a large steal door and waited with my new mentor in a very small area. Once inside, it was much noisier than the other site – inmates yelling, guards shouting out commands, doors slamming shut. Maybe the library was closer to where the inmates are housed, but I don’t even think that the doors at the other site even mad their slamming / locking noise.

Patrons came in smaller groups, two to four at a time. The female patrons were definitely  a different pace. They seemed to talk more about what they enjoyed reading and were more direct about their information needs. This site holds much more psychology and self-help due to the high demand from the women. Men preferred browsing, which was a highly desired way to use at the other site’s library too. At this site the men bantered more with the guards compared to the other site, but let patrons have a fully allotted time in the library even though they were recently put on lock down. At the other site,  guards talked about similar reading interests, talk about what they did on their time off, and also shortened library time / hurried patrons when they were aggravated.

I asked for the women’s opinion on an Urban Fiction collection development list I’ve been working on for the jail libraries. They offered additional authors then the men at the other site did. Some of their authors included:

  • Darlene Johnson – more of contemporary black fiction
  • Nichelle Walker
  • Cupcake Brown – memoir
  • Shelia E. Lipsey
  • E. Lynne Harris
  • Keisha Ervin

They got the most excited for Nichelle Walker, especially due to the popularity and excitement around her novel, Doing His TimeI was told that no matter who you are – man or woman, frequent reader or hate to read – everyone will read this novel. They shared their memories of one woman who was known as more of a trouble maker, a definate non-reader, enjoying the novel. A group of women realized they hadn’t seen her all day. When they found her she was on her top bunk of her bed. They asked what she was doing; she replied that she was reading. READING!? They were flabbergasted that this novel would engage her and Doing His Time furthered its reputation for being for anyone!

I couldn’t believe the difference in patrons and atmosphere at this library. I’m looking forward to working with the women more and learning about how they use the library compared to the men I usually interact with.

New Categories & Resources Added to Resources Lists

Today I’ve added new resources to the Urban Fiction ResourcesPrison Librarianship Resources, and PIC Resources pages.

New categories that have been added to the Urban Fiction Resources page are Youtube Channels and Podcast (just one, but it needed its own category!).

Some of the websites and blogs that I’ve added are no longer being updated and I’ve noted so under the links. These websites and blogs still have information that might be useful to your information needs, have current links in them for further resources, or provide an archival purpose.

Below is everything new that has been added:

PIC Website:

Journals With Issues Dedicated to the PIC:
  • Sinister Wisdom – Winter 2003/4 – Issue 61 – “women loving women in prison”
Journals with Issues Dedicated to Reading / Writing in the PIC:
Prison Librarianship Websites:
  • Pace Law Library’s Prisoners’ Rights Law Resources
    • “A gateway to information on prisoners’ rights, including federal, state, and international primary and secondary sources, in print and online, with a particular focus on special populations and topical issues.”

Prison Librarianship Blogs:

Prison Librarianship Books, Articles, and Journals:

Prison Librarianship Youtube Channel: 

Urban Fiction Article:

Urban Fiction Blogs:

Urban Fiction Youtube Channels:

Urban Fiction Podcast:

Urban Fiction Websites:

Delicia Greene – Called an Urban Fiction Expert

I came across Delicia Greene, PhD student, this week – put this woman on your list of important people and to keep an eye out for!

Greene is a doctoral student at the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University, working on her proposal: Concrete Roses: A Case Study Exploring the Reading Engagements of Black Adolescent Girls in an Urban Fiction Book Club.

Concrete Roses explores both the social and cultural factors that influence the reading engagements of Black Adolescent girls in an Urban Fiction Book Club. More specifically, this case study provides an intimate account of the experiences black adolescent girls bring to urban fiction texts, as well as the experiences that they take away from urban fiction texts. Concrete Roses also focuses on trends in character analyses by drawing on the representation of black girls in urban fiction books and its influence on black adolescent girls’ identity construction. Lastly, this case study explores the social factors present in an Urban Fiction Book Club that influences “sense of community” and full disclosure among members. (Schroeder)

Why is Greene working on her doctorate?  “It was my work with middle school students, libraries and literacy that led me to pursue my PhD,” Greene states (Schroeder).

A little more about her background:

She holds master’s degrees in both Library and Information Science and Secondary English Education (Grades 7-12), and an Advanced Certificate in Administration and Supervision. Prior to her arrival at the iSchool, she worked several years for the Department of Education as a middle school librarian in the South Bronx and for several years as a young adult librarian for The New York Public Library. Greene’s scholarly interests are interdisciplinary with the expressed aim of bridging the fields of library and information science, literacy, and English education. (Schroeder)

Once I watched the first YouTube video of Greene, I watched all of them. I can’t wait to read her dissertation!

On Urban Fiction:

On Integrating Urban Fiction into a Collection:

On Push:

On Coldest Winter Ever:


Schroeder, Gretchen. Doctoral Student Delicia Green Receives Two HonorsISchool News. 27 June 2011.

Sapphire at ALA

1. I wish I would have been able to go to ALA.

2. I wish I would have been able to see Sapphire at ALA!

But we non-ALA goers can get a glimpse through a recorded interview Sapphire gave to a librarian during ALA:

In the same note as Sapphire, here is one of my new favorite people, Delicia Greene (more on here tomorrow), talking about Push:

Additional resource of interest:

Sapphire’s Story: How ‘Push’ Became ‘Precious’. NPR: All Things Considered. 6 Nov 2009.

Check out my guest blog post!

I had the honor to write my first guest blog post!

Check out the piece The Transformative Power of Urban Literature at Changing Lives, Changing Minds.

What CLTL does:

In Changing Lives Through Literature (CLTL) programs, criminal offenders with charges ranging from drug violations to assault with a deadly weapon read and discuss literature as a condition of their probation. During a typical class, students unite around a table with a professor, judge, and probation officer to engage with literature centered on themes of violence, poverty, identity, and abuse.

They also have a website.

Urban Lit. Featured as a Genre in Small Demons

Small Demons is a fairly new site for users to “experience books a new way by viewing all the people, places and things inside them.”

Their site is designed based on the storyverse (a clever play on literary universe): “the people, places and things from books, and everywhere they can take you.” The video below demonstrates how Small Demons functions.

While setting up my account, I was surprised to see Urban as a genre of books. The image below is a screen shot of the  Urban genre.

Though some authors seemed to not fit and some African-American genred authors should be cross-referenced, Richard Nash (VP, Content and Community, Small Demons), stated that “We missed this one largely because we’re working with publishers’ BISAC codes which don’t always reflect the content as well as they should, since they’re aimed at bookstores rather than libraries.” They are working to fix many issues on the site and to increase volume into the Urban genre is on the Small Demons’ planned to-do list.

I’m excited to watch this site grow and see a fun and interactive site that includes Urban Fiction. They are exploring how to make the site interactive with users, so this site is one to keep on the radar.

To see other Urban Fiction resources that are on-line, see past post on this topic here.

Urban Fiction: Part II – Resources On-line

As I try to explore Urban Fiction, I have found my self in multiple fits of frustration trying to find sources that I want… sources that are academic, critical, for librarians, or anything pertaining to Urban Lit. Recently I’ve came across some on-line sources that have proved very helpful in getting to where I want to be! Here are just a couple of excellent Urban Fiction Sources that are available on line:

WorldCat Genres: Urban Fiction

  • WorldCat has introduced an ‘experimental’ feature on their website that allows for an alternative method to browse library collections – this is their Genres section.
  • Here you can explore: authors, books, movies, subjects, places, and a teen section (there is a list dedicated to Urban Fiction and teens).
  • FYI: If you are not familiar with WorldCat, one of the coolest features is that once you are looking at an items’ page you can see where the closest book is to you by entering your zip code!
  • At first I thought that there were only ten books featured on this site, but there is 550+! In case you are also confused on how to explore this longer list, you can find it under their “Books” section through “Explore More Books.” [**See image  immediately below.**]

Urban Fiction/Street Lit/Hip Hop Fiction Resources for Librarians

  • In wiki style, this site provides booklists, social media, review & discussion sites, bestseller lists, articles, other wikis, power-points, pod-casts, and more.
  • One could spend hours exploring links on this site… and the links on those subsequent pages.
  • You can join the community of librarians to improve the site by adding information / links that will serve the community looking for Urban Lit resources.

Street Fiction

  • Holy Smokes! This site blows me away… I can’t believe it took me this long to stumble upon it!
  • Not only does this site feature Street Fiction, but sub-genres that are not frequently highlighted: Urban Nonfiction, Urban Christian Fiction, and Teen Urban Fiction. The majority of what is offered for each of these are reviews and purchase.
  • An additional unique feature is their section for LIBRARIANS (!!) that includes articles, booklists, books on Urban Fiction, history of Urban Fiction, and more.
  • One can also browse by author, place, and topic.

Street Lit Collection Development Resources