It’s Wild Out There!

Dear HVLA Members,

Welcome to the 2023-2024 school year! It’s hard to believe we’ve arrived here. After summer explorations, adventures, and relaxation, I am excited to welcome students back into our school and library. 

This past Labor Day weekend, my family and I went camping at Jabe Pond near Hague, NY in the Adirondack Mountains. We were without electricity and running water but we were in an idyllic setting at the edge of a pond surrounded by fresh air, bird calls, and wild animals. Hiking into our primitive site proved more eventful than we anticipated. We had to traverse a bog, navigate the path after the trail ended, and my husband even had to survive a standoff with a five foot timber rattlesnake. A scary and potentially dangerous situation. Once again we were reminded that nature, while peaceful and restorative, demands our respect. 

As educators, we ask students to do things that are challenging and occasionally scary for them. It’s important to remember how that feels in order to be able to guide them through it. On the first day of school, we will show up in our schools and libraries carrying our own unique feelings and experiences from this past summer and of course our lives. I hope HVLA can support all of your work connecting with your students, teachers, staff, administrators, and families. The work you all do to develop comprehensive library collections that reflect the communities you serve and show the diversity of peoples’ experiences, while advocating for intellectual freedom, is invaluable. Not to mention the safe and welcoming spaces you create so that everyone feels they belong in the library. Thank you for all your hard work and dedication. 

I wish everyone a smooth and joyful start of the school year. I know this is some people’s favorite time of year (new notebooks and pens and pencils!) and some people’s least favorite time (grieving the end of summer). How ever you show up on the first day, I hope you find connection and joy. I especially hope you’ll find these at our Fall HVLA meeting (October date TBA). It’s going to be a great year!


Amy Chow, President

Looking for a book recommendation? Here’s what the HVLA board enjoyed during the summer:

Dune by Frank Herbert. It was time to read the book that inspired the movies. I love both the 1984 film with Kyle MacLachlan, Patrick Stewart and Sting and the 2021 film with Timothée Chalamet. Now reading Dune Messiah while I await the release of Dune: Part Two. ~Amy Chow, President

This summer I read a book titled Glory: Magical Visions of Black Beauty. I checked it out of the public library and renewed it twice. I have since purchased a copy for my own personal library collection. The photos and stories are stunning. I also enjoyed that it is a book you don’t have to read in order; you can literally just flip to a page you like and read the excerpt written about each model.  ~Ayana Mbaye, Co-Vice President

Like many of you, I view summer as an opportunity to read as much as time allows. Amy asked us to write about one book that we liked for the blog post–too hard! My favorites this summer include Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson where I traveled to 1926 London and spent time with Nellie Corker and her seamy entourage in a variety of Jazz clubs. The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris was also a favorite. This novel takes place in Georgia in the days after the Emancipation Proclamation–it follows two formerly enslaved brothers, Prentiss and Landry, and the white man who encountered them camping on his land. Lastly, The Last Animal by Ramona Ausubel was a great read featuring a woman and her two daughters grieving over the death of their husband/father. A lot happens, but the most exciting part involves a wooly mammoth. ~Ragan O’Malley, Co-Vice President

Passport by Sophia Glock ~Gwen Kaplan, Membership and Financial Coordinator

Girl Woman Other by Bernadine Evaristo ~Mallory Weber, Communications Coordinator

To find out what Elaine Levia, Secretary, read during the summer, you must seek her out at the Fall Meeting and ask her!

Introducing the 2023-2024 HVLA Board!

Thank you so much to those who stepped up in the board search! As we move forward as the Hudson Valley Library Association, the Board of Directors is here to help. Learn a little about us them below.

Amy Chow, President

Amy Chow (she/her) is a librarian at The Brearley School serving kindergarten through twelfth grade students. Amy was born in Taiwan and grew up in Canada. She has a Bachelor of Music from McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, and obtained her M.L.I.S. from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She has been a young adult and children’s librarian at The Toronto Public Library and The New York Public Library. Her interests include dragons, camping and, of course, books. When she’s not reading fantasy novels, she enjoys playing with her dog and two guinea pigs. She lives with her family in Brooklyn, NY. 

Ayana Mbaye, Co-Vice President

Ayana Mbaye is a 6-12th grade librarian at Professional Children’s School. She obtained her MLIS with a specialization in school librarianship from Pratt Institute. She began her library career at the NYPL for the Performing Arts library at the age of 17. Since then, she has worked in an academic library and various independent schools in NYC. She has even taken her librarianship skills abroad to teach students and collaborate with educators in the Samburu region of Kenya. She loves the Wizarding World, wildlife, visiting museums, traveling and her 12 year old mainecoon Brooke.

Ragan O’Malley, Co-Vice President

Ragan O’Malley has been Head Librarian at Saint Ann’s School longer than she cares to admit. The likely reason for her long tenure is that it’s the perfect job–spending her days surrounded by children and books in a school with no grades is hard to beat. She first obtained a Masters in Comparative Literature from Rutgers University and then followed up with a MLIS from Pratt Institute. She is the mother of three grown children (the last time she served on the board of HVLA she had three young children). She is an avid reader and crafter and has been known to do both at the same time (yay audiobooks!).

Elaine Levia, Secretary

Elaine Levia is a High School Librarian and House Advisor at The Dalton School. A native Californian, Elaine majored in Feminist Studies at UC Santa Cruz and completed her MSLIS at UCLA. While interning at the Windward School, she became enamored with ~*the teens*~ in all their joyful, determined glory and decided to pursue a career in progressive education. Out of the stacks and classroom, Elaine enjoys biking, baking, Pilates, and keeps up a sporadic writing practice. She’s getting into hiking and backpacking, and will most likely take a memoir, chapbook, and novel out with her wherever she ventures.

Gwen Kaplan, Membership & Financial Coordinator

Gwen Kaplan is a Lower Division Librarian at the Horace Mann School. As an undergrad at the University of Pennsylvania, she was interested in so many different topics that she realized the library was the place to be! Since completing her MSLIS and School Library Certification at Drexel University, she has served as a librarian at Abington Friends School and Saint David’s School. She loves it when children ask “why?” and she is usually reading at least a couple of nonfiction books and mystery novels. A graduate school repeat offender, she is currently indulging her curiosity by working on a M.A. in American History, which means she has deep empathy for every student up against a deadline. In between parenting, teaching, and studying, she uses a time turner to make opportunities for quilting and baking.

Mallory Weber, Communications Coordinator

Mallory Weber is a Lower School Librarian at Packer Collegiate Institute.  She has a BA in Sociology & Philosophy from Smith College and an MLIS from CUNY Queens College.  She is also a Summer Immersion Program Instructor for Girls Who Code, a member of the NEIT organizing committee, and a reviewer for School Library Journal.  In her free time she really enjoys NYT crossword puzzles, playing basketball, running, biking, and hanging out with her cat.

A Used-Book Book Fair

by Melissa Kazan, Upper Division Head Librarian at Horace Mann

Every year, the Horace Mann Parents’ Association hosts a used-book book fair for the Upper and Middle divisions. This annual tradition generates tons of excitement throughout the community for many reasons, mainly because families and employees can donate books that have been sitting around their homes forever and because people can buy books on the cheap. Prices this year were $2 for paperbacks, $3 for hardcovers, and $5 for textbooks/test prep books. During the final hours of the three-day event, there’s a “bag sale” – no, not a sale on bags – but $8 for all the books one can stuff into a bag we provide. To say that people get creative is an understatement.

The book fair also features a raffle for students and teachers (prizes are gift cards or items like AirPods, all donated by parents), as well as a flea market for previously-loved games, toys, clothes, etc. And one of the best aspects of the book fair is that we send leftover books in good condition to community partners, such as Riverdale Neighborhood House, Housing Works, local public school libraries, and educational programs for incarcerated people.

Arranging the book fair requires a decent amount of organization, communication, and (literally) some heavy lifting, so it’s essential to coordinate with your maintenance or buildings department. It’s also critical to have energetic and dependable parent volunteers to set up, break down, and staff the fair. As such, this event is a good collaborative moment between the library and parents, as we not only work side-by-side organizing the fair, but proceeds from the fair help fund various non-essential library needs. Last year, we used the money raised to replace the library’s worn soft seating, and this year we plan to purchase group study tables to replace some study carrels.

And last but not least, the used-book fair is a perfect destination for your library’s weeded books. It’s really a win-win situation!

Found in Translation

by Maria Falgoust and Amy Ribakove

Have you ever considered how many works in translation are included in your collection? Are you interested in adding more? If so, we hope this blog post will get you started and provide some inspiration.

Why is it important to include translated books in your library? 

  • It honors linguistic and cultural diversity and helps preserve uniqueness of cultures
  • It relates to our diversity, equity and inclusion work
  • It builds audiences for literature in translation
  • It opens cultural borders

Groundwood publisher Karen Li wrote “Part of growing up is learning how to be in the world, and translated titles show us that there are so many different ways to be- none more or less valid than the other!” and this really strikes a chord with us.

Reading translated literature can build empathy, show the universality of emotions and  experiences, spark curiosity and build new connections. What’s not to love??

Where to start when building your collection:

Continue reading “Found in Translation”

Navigating Challenges and Advocating for the Freedom to Read

HVLA Winter meeting 2023

Book challenges – something most (probably all) of us dread thinking about. However, many HVLA members braved the topic and came out last week to hear the fascinating and valuable perspectives of a panel of experts. The discussion was eye opening and supportive, and we have some takeaways to share!

Moderator Christine Nassar and audience members got a chance to ask questions of five people with direct professional experience in this arena. They were:

  • Leanne Ellis – School Library Instructional Coordinator, NYCDOE
  • Vincent Hyland – Library Coordinator, North Brooklyn Office of Library Services, NYCDOE
  • Kyle Lukoff – Newbery Honor author,  former HVLA Membership Coordinator
  • Kacey Meehan – Program Director, Freedom to Read
  • Christy Payne – Director of Library & Information Services, The Dalton School
Continue reading “Navigating Challenges and Advocating for the Freedom to Read”