Readers’ Advisory The Gothic Novel

Spooky path through the woods sets the tone for this gothic readers' advisory article.

Gothic novels have become some of the most well-known classics. But what sets a book apart from the horror genre as Gothic?  

Like every genre of literature, horror novels can be broken down into many subgenres from paranormal, like The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty, to The Last Astronaut by David Wellington with its outer space setting and science fiction theme. But horror novels started long before Regan met Fathers Karras and Merrin when in 1764, Horace Walpole published The Castle of Otranto. This book created many of the elements of what would become known as the Gothic style of literature. 

In Gothic novels, the setting tends to be an essential element of the story. Think dark, dreary, dripping 

castles like the one where Jonathan Harker finds himself in Dracula. More recent Gothic novels like Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas may be set in a modern-day boarding school. Still, the oppressive atmosphere of the buildings and ground is an essential element. Seclusion is crucial in the setting of the home as well. For example, traveling to Dracula’s castle can only be reached via a treacherous coach ride through the Carpathian mountains. While the Catherine House is merely at the end of a long driveway, it is still secluded deep in the Pennsylvania woods. 

It is not always the physical building that needs to be dark and dreary to create the atmosphere necessary for a Gothic novel. Emily Bronte brought used weather in her novel Wuthering Heights to create a foreboding atmosphere. We also find many Gothic heroines forced into precarious circumstances by the weather. For example, after Jane leaves Thornfield Hall, a storm rises and blows her onto the doorstep of the Rivers siblings, who allow her to stay. 

Exploring crumbling country homes while a thunderstorm rages outside is undoubtedly creepy. However, to reach the level of true Gothic horror, something needs to leap out from the shadows. Gothic novels lean heavily into the paranormal and supernatural elements when creating their villains, filling them with vampires, ghosts, and even manufactured monsters like Mr. Hyde. However, sometimes the monster making is out of our character’s control – the Castle of Otranto itself is under a prophecy that any family who owns it will meet tragic ends. The current lord, Manfred, is aware of this and goes to great lengths to preserve his lineage and slowly becomes the novel’s villain. 

Gothic literature, like all literature, has evolved through the years. For example, in 2022, an abandoned mid-century home could create an atmosphere just as disheartening as the Halloran House in Shirley Jackson’s The Sundial and a Vacation. Likewise, no cellphone service would be as much of a deterrent as the wolves that attack Jonathan Harker’s coach as he makes his way to Count Dracula’s castle. But underneath all the changes, Gothic literature still contains several elements that send a shiver up our collective spines. 

Chickasha Public Library 2021 Year in Review

Congratulations! We made it to 2022! 

In January 2021, the library began using a new circulation system called Atriuum. This has some amazon features, one of which is the ability to create and run several different types of reports. This allows us to track statistics with a wide range of parameters-and that makes my boring little heart just soar. Join me on my adventure through the Chickasha Public Library 2021. 

Last year our patrons checked out over 20,000 items from the library. This includes books, audiobooks, magazines, and DVDS. When we started counting circulations per book we found one that soared above the rest. Juniper’s Butterfly Garden by Autumn Heigle was the most-circulated item in the entire library. The book tells the story of Juniper, a young girl who wants to find ways to help the Monarch butterfly population. It is a great book, but what made it even better is that each patron who checks out the book receives a voucher to the Oklahoma City Zoo for up to 4 people. That’s a pretty good deal in my book!  Four Winds by Kristen Hannah was another heavily circulated item. This story of Elsa Wolcott and her life-changing decisions was the most circulated adult fiction item. 

Of course, the library added more than those 2 items. In fact the library purchased over 2200 items to add to the collection in 2021.  The first book we ordered in the year 2021 was Plants-Only Kitchen: Over 70 Delicious, Super-Simple, Powerful and Protein-Packed Recipes for Busy People -a vegan recipe book by Gaz Oakley. Many of the children’s books we added this year were focused on animals in coordination with the theme of Summer Reading 2021 which was Tails & Tales. 

While most of the items we add to the collection are selected by Lillie, the Library Director or Courtney, the Youth Services Librarian, we do occasionally add items that are requested by customers. Last year our customers requested 347 items. Some were titles suggested by family and friends or recommended through social media. 

Sometimes an item that has been requested is difficult to find for purchase. That is one of the many reasons we use a system called interlibrary loan wherein libraries around the country lend books to one another for their customers. This year we lent 564 items to libraries as close as Anadarko and as far away as New Jersey. Of the 924 items that we borrowed, one came  all the way from Alaska!

You may be asking yourself “Brande, if the library added over 2000 items this year, why are you not bursting at the seams?” That is because in addition to adding items to the collection we also eliminate items. This year we weeded over 1600 items from the collection. Most of the items had low circulation counts, were in unacceptable condition, or covered a topic that needed updating-for example a book about First Ladies of the United States that ended with Barbara Bush who served in that role from 1989-1993. 

Looking over these statistics I was amazed that the library had accomplished so much in 2021. I certainly knew that we had been busy, but I hadn’t realized how busy. It is easy to get caught up in a day to day routine, to miss the forest for the trees. What did you accomplish this year? What does your forest look like?  

How I learned to Knit. What does the library have to support your hobbies?

Back in the Dark Ages, 1997, I found a pair of knitting needles in my mother’s big blue sewing box. Why there were knitting needles in there, no one knows, she was an avid crocheter, but I had never seen her knit at that point in my life. I took them as my own and decided to learn to knit. The problem? 1997 was pre-internet, and I didn’t have a knitter handy to help me. What did I do? Why I turned to the only resource, a teen in rural Oklahoma had–the encyclopedia. Yep. I grabbed the “K” volume, a skein of Red Heart, those found needles, and got to work trying to learn the art/craft/sorcery that is knitting. 

A book that may have been a bit more helpful than a half-page entry tucked between the Knights Templar and Alfred Knopf in an out-of-date World Book would have been a comprehensive guide like Knitting school: a complete course. This book addresses the basics of knitting and how to fix mistakes like dropped stitches. It even has simple patterns for basics like mittens and baby booties. 

Of course, knitting isn’t the only hobby a person could enjoy. The book Get a Hobby: 101 All-Consuming Diversions for Any Lifestyle lists, well, 101 hobbies that you could learn. And the library has resources to help you with many of them. 

With the rise of at-home tests, genealogy has exploded in popularity. Did you know that the library has access to several resources to trace your family history? You can start your search from home by logging onto HeritageQuest. You can search for your relatives in city directories, the US censuses as late as 1940, even Freedman’s bank record. HeritageQuest is available from home on our e-resources page. You can also access several physical items at the library to help with your genealogy quests, including yearbooks. 

Perhaps you want a hobby more tangible than genealogy but less tangled than knitting. Papercrafting could be for you, and Origami isn’t your only option either! There is Kirigami: the art of 3-dimensional paper cutting by Laura Badalucco. Kirigami is a combination of folding and cutting paper to create images that “pop” from the page. You could use this skill to make amazing birthday cards and jaw-dropping displays for your home. 

In the end, World Book served me well enough, and if you like an encyclopedia, those are available at the library. I learned the basics of knitting from an encyclopedia, even if that first scarf was a mess of dropped stitches, crooked edges, and uneven tension. Over the years, I have used many resources, mainly from the internet, to learn new techniques and patterns, but I will always be on the lookout for a good book that will help me grow my hobby. 

Library Displays

The library has a large and varied collection of materials for all ages. All of the items have been carefully selected with our community in mind. With such a large collection it is possible that some items may get overlooked. To prevent this staff creates displays to highlight unique items and subjects. 

We often use an upcoming holiday as an inspiration for our displays. With the start of November, we have dedicated one area to items about Christmas. Some items have a plotline that centers around a Christmas celebration like The Christmas Pearl by Dorothea Benton Frank where Theodora gathers her family to her home in South Carolina or may just be set during the Christmas season as in Andrew Greeley’s Home for Christmas where Captain Kane struggles to return to his first love in time for the holiday. 

As part of general collection development, we assess our current collection to determine if it needs an update. This summer we found a gap in the sports collection and decided to beef it up. This resulted in a large amount of items about sports being added so we chose to spotlight the new additions. Because the titles which included,  Born on the Links: A Concise History of Golf by John Williamson where the author covers the timeline of golf from 15th century Scotland to today and the first full length biography of Harry Caray since his death in 1998,The Legendary Harry Caray: Baseball’s Greatest Salesman are shelved in the non-fiction section we were worried that these great reads would be missed by casual browsers we showcased these with a fun display on the front unit. 

If you visited the library during 2020 while the library was limiting seating, you may have noticed that some of the tables had small displays on them. These were topics that we felt were interesting, but we just didn’t have enough items to fill a display shelf. We took the idea of a mini-display and created “Take 5” for the library catalog. Take 5 is a curated list of 5 items that the library owns and thinks customers may be interested in.  You can view the weekly Take 5 and other curated lists here. Other lists you may find include books that complement other articles in the newsletter or honor literary occasions like Science Fiction Day on January 2 or Caldecott Day on June 14. The Caldecott Medal is awarded for the “most distinguished picture book for children” Past winners of this award include Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg and This is Not my Hat by Jon Klassen.  

Next time you come to the library be sure to check out the displays that we have created. You may just find a new favorite! 

Universal Class a Database Review

As school starts and parents, teachers, and students alike may find themselves struggling as they try to get back into the swing of early mornings, science projects, and the dreaded math homework the Chickasha Public Library has a great resource to help you with that, well, not the mornings, you are on your own there.  

Universal Class is a database with over 500 online classes available for library customers.  Classes range from accounting to history to various crafts and hobbies. But there are many courses geared specifically to students, parents, and teachers. 

 The first step will be to create an account with Universal Class. You will need your Chickasha Public Library card and an email address. Universal Class does not allow the same email address to be used for multiple accounts, however you can take up to 5 courses at time. 

Now it is time to start picking classes. If you are a new teacher or just want to brush up on your skills, there is a section called Teacher Resources that is filled with great classes like Solving Classroom Discipline Problems that covers creating a discipline program that is molded to work for you and your students and managing diverse student populations and Understanding Learning Styles which will help you gain basic knowledge of learning styles and how they apply to your students.

If only parenting came with a manual, raising kids would be so much easier. While Universal Class can’t provide an in-depth guide, it does offer some classes that can help. Building Children’s Reading Skills. This course instills an understanding of the development of reading skills from preschool through adulthood and helps the student begin to consider specific strategies which could be utilized to increase the skills and development of anyone’s reading.  

Unfortunately children today still encounter bullying at school. The class Bullying in Elementary  defines and addresses some of the causes of bullying and supplies tactics to prevent it from happening. If you have observed bullying behavior in your own child, this is an ideal course because it covers prevention and effective solutions for ending bullying. 

There are many courses available for students that allow them to do a deep dive on a topic like the Salem Witch Trials. Most history classes do not have the time to thoroughly explore the people involved in the trials or unique setting of a very small, very religious village this course does, with lessons focusing on the accusers and the accused alike as well as the judges who decided the outcome. 

Before a deep research dive, you will want to brush up on your research skills. The class Basic Research Skills can help. This class highlights sources beyond the internet to help students investigate any topic they may find.  

Of course, life isn’t just about studying, a person needs hobbies to give their mind a break from school and work. Universal Class offers a plethora of classes for people looking to expand their hobbies.  You can get a head start on birthday presents with classes like Soapmaking 101 and Knitting 101 or learn to treat yourself with a class on Therapeutic Bathing.   The library encourages you to create an account with Universal Class to explore all the classes on Universal Class.

Does the Library not have the item you want? Request it!

BLURB–This week, Brande discusses the process to request an item at the Chickasha Public Library. 

Last week a friend of mine told me about how the book Jaws by Peter Benchley was the book that made him fall in love with books, reading, and eventually horror movies. I have always felt that reading the book that made a person a reader is a bonding experience, so I trundled down to my local library to check it out. Ok, well, I went to work the next day. He’s a neat guy and all, but I am not going to do something crazy and put on shoes just to read a fella’s favorite book. 

The next day I arrived at work a bit early to grab Jaws before I was on the clock. To my dismay, there was no copy on the shelf. I checked the catalog because certainly, we have a copy. However, I found that we did not. So I did what every proper literary heroine did-threw myself upon the closest divan and wept bitter tears of disappointment. After drying my eyes with a lace-trimmed handkerchief, I submitted a material request for the 1974 bestseller. 

At the Chickasha Public Library, patrons can submit material requests for items that the library does not currently own. Let’s explore the process. 

The staff at the front desk will take your request. We need your name and contact information, of course, to contact you when your item arrives. Most importantly, we will need the title of the book you are looking for or the general topic. You can also ask for titles in different formats like audiobooks on CD or Playaway. We can also take requests for the Oklahoma Virtual Library, but those items may be a bit more difficult to find. 

After staff has taken your request, it is reviewed by the Director or Youth Services Librarian. They consider each request and choose to add it to the library collection via purchase or to use an interlibrary loan to get the item. In either case, they use the Material Selection Policy to decide. 

Requests purchased for the collection are items that fill in gaps in our collection, like books on stock market trading or bathroom remodeling. We have also purchased requested items that continue popular series like the latest Diary of a Wimpy Kid book (Big Shot will be released October 26, 2021). Requests also help us complete the series as well. This Fall, we received many requests for The Duke and I from the Bridgerton series by Julia Quinn, prompting us to check that series and purchase the few titles from that series that were missing. 

When the Library Director or Youth Services Librarian decides not to purchase a request, it will be inter-library loaned. Inter-library is a process where we contact other libraries who own the title and ask to borrow that item for our customers. There are a few reasons that an item would be inter-library loaned over purchasing. The item may be unavailable to purchase, which is often the case for older titles that haven’t reached “perpetually in print” status. Other items that we would inter-library loan are titles that don’t quite meet our material selection policy. Some examples are local history books for other states; we appreciate historical preservation as much as the next library, but a history about the founding families of Chautauqua County, New York, would not be a reasonable purchase for the Chickasha Public Library. 

Once a requested item has arrived, it is added to our system to be checked out by customers. Both purchased, and inter-library loan items have a two-week checkout. 

The Chickasha Public Library strives to curate a collection that will entertain and educate the public. We recognize that there are times when a customer needs a book that we do not own. The library will do the best we can to obtain any item for our customers, however, unfortunately some items just aren’t available.

Every Reader Their Book

In 1931 Shiyali Ramamrita Ranganathan proposed the five laws of library science. One of them is “Every reader their book”. I use this as a key when helping library patrons find the perfect book for themself. 

Each patron who comes into the library is looking for something different. Some are looking to learn more about gardening. Some want light entertainment. While still others are struggling to find a book that interests them at all. It is my job to help them find what they need and “Every reader their book” is my secret weapon.  

When a patron needs a book about plants I could simply point them to the 635.9 section and say “Go for it.” But even I, and my black thumbs, know that there is more nuance to plants than dirt and green things.( Although most of my plants eventually turn brown.) A book like Hip houseplants (635.965 Hamilton) would be a great resource for a customer who had taken to home horticulture in the last year, but it would be practically useless for a customer wanting to attract birds to their outside garden. That customer would need a Bird-friendly backyard: natural gardening for birds: simple ways to create a bird haven (639.978 Zickefoose.) 

Many people use reading as a form of escape and want a light hearted book to relax with-they would need a book that they could pick up at odd intervals and be able to hop back into the story with no trouble regardless of how long it had been since they had a chance to read that book. If I suggested the book American Gods by Neil Gaiman with its fluctuating cast of characters and timelines the customer may have to spend a few minutes reacquainting themselves with the characters and the situation. “Wait. How did Mr. Wednesday, Shadow, and Mr. Nancy get to this place? Oh yeah, they rode the carousel in the roadside attraction. Yeah, that’s right.”  

Customers of all ages also have different format needs when it comes to books as well meaning that their perfect book may actually be an electronic or audio version or, my favorite, the electronic audio version, of the print title. A person who finds the small print in The Broken Gun by Louis L’amour difficult to read may find the large print version a better fit and less tiring for their eyes.  

Many parents are worried about putting books into their babies hands for fear of them ripping pages. This is an understandable concern as I had to sheepishly present Clumsy Crab  to the front desk one day when my daughter ripped a page in half while trying to turn the page herself. After this I decided that I would check out board books for my daughter until her fine motor skills progressed a little more. Board books are small books with thick pages that are easy for tiny hands to turn. Many of the board books available at the library can help parents teach baby simple concepts like colors, shapes, and numbers.

The Chickasha Public library serves a diverse group of customers who each need a specific book to suit their needs. One of the most satisfying parts of my job is deploying my secret weapon to ensure that each reader finds the book that fulfils their need in that moment. Come on down to the library and let staff help you find the book that will help you become the reader you were meant to be. 

Librarians in the Media

If you were to do a quick google image search for “librarian” you would find several images portraying the typical librarian–glasses, cardigan, pushing a cart of books through dusty stacks.  I can assure you that that is NOT the standard-sometimes there are not any carts available and I have to carry the books. 

Let’s look at other librarian and library worker stereotypes and dispel the myths. 

The second event of the Scare Games in Monsters University takes place in the campus library. In this game the students must capture their team flag without disturbing the librarian. Unfortunately one team can’t stay quiet and the librarian plucks them up and tosses them into the nearby creek. 

The Chickasha Public Library understands that life happens above a whisper. We do ask that customers keep conversations quiet. 

If the librarian on TV isn’t aggressively shushing a person for daring to speak above a whisper, they are meekly tiptoeing about the stacks afraid of their own shadow. Although if I encountered a ghost like the New York Public Library librarian Alice did in Ghostbusters I would gain a healthy fear of turning corners while shelving. 

In reality most public library positions require, well, public interaction. Each day here our staff interacts with customers in person, over the phone, and online. This includes weekly programs we host like Tai Chi: Moving for Better Balance and Virtual Preschool Storytime or special programs like the Bookmobile that you will see out at an about on April 7th. Two stops are scheduled one at Shannon Springs park 10:00 am to 12:00 pm and one at the Washita Valley Community center and park from 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm.

Ruth Brown was a librarian who was not afraid to take on a challenge. Miss Brown was the head librarian at Bartlesville Public Library in 1950 when she came under fire for her support of the Civil Rights movement.  She conducted Storytime for African American children and allowed students from the Douglass school to use the library. In 1950 she was let go from her position. You can read more about her here at the Oklahoma Library Association website. 

Stereotypes are useful in media to help the audience quickly identify a character and move the plot along. However in real life every person you meet is an individual and will not perfectly fit into any one particular role. The staff at your public library is an eclectic mix of people happy to serve the needs of our community. 

Readers’ Advisory

We all know the names of our favorite authors-at least the name that you scan for when you look at the new release shelf. But did you know that some of your favorite authors may be writing under a pen name? The author may feel the need to protect their privacy, want to try their hand at a new genre, or to determine if their continued success is based on their name or on the content of their work. 

The Brontë sisters, Anne, Charlotte, and Emily, chose ambiguous, yet vaguely mascuine names (Acton, Currer, and Ellis) to publish their works under because they wanted to maintain their privacy while still expressing themselves. Also in the time in which their works were published works by female authors were not taken seriously and often considered flighty or overly romantic. Charlotte and Anne were forced to present their decidedly feminine selves to their publisher when rumors began to spread that Acton, Currer, and Ellis were one in the same. 

Agatha Christie may have been known as the “Queen of Crime” but like most creative people, she had many ideas and needed an outlet for them. In 1930 she published Giant’s Bread, a novel about a composer with a tragic past under the name Mary Westmacott. Neither Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple would approve of the dramatics. 

Once an author becomes famous they have built in readership. Fans grab the latest release off the shelf, sometimes before reading critical reviews. This is great for the author’s wallet and ego, but some authors are not satisfied by money and fame alone-they want to know that they are producing books that entertain the public.  

After his initial success with Carrie, Salem’s Lot and The Shining, Stephen King published several novels as Richard Bachman to test his skills. After only four novels the ruse was found out by a bookstore clerk who spotted the similarities leading him to research publishing documents identifying King as the author. To his credit Stephen King encouraged the clerk to write an article about his findings. Bachman “passed away” in 1985 although his “widow” discovered a manuscript for The Regulators which was published in 1996.

Several authors have decided to hide their identities during their careers. They may have craved privacy like the Brontë sisters, wanted to try their hand at a new genre like Agatha Christie or felt the need to test themselves like Stephen King.  If you had to select a new name to attach to your creative work what would it be?

Here is a list of books available at the library with authors who use pen names. Authors Who Write Under Pen Names

Readers’ Advisory

Open book in front of book shelves.

As 2020 wrapped up many of my friends across social media lamented that they had not read as many books this year as they normally do. I had this problem as well. Very few books held my interest for more than a few pages.  Each time a friend asked for advice on what to read to help them through this slump I suggested reading a middle grade fiction or “chapter book”. 

Front Desk by Kelly Yang

I often pick up a chapter book when I need a palette cleanser between heavier books and this year that habit found me reading Front Desk by Kelly Yang. The Tang family recently immigrated from China and are struggling to find their place in Southern California in the early 1990’s. Mr. and Mrs. Tang take a job as live-in managers at a small motel while Mia starts fifth grade.   The reason I always suggest middle grade fiction is in its simplicity.

Middle grade fiction touches on the topics that humans face on a daily basis like friendship drama, family relationships, physical changes, and encounters with a new grown up world, but in a simple, straightforward way.  The main characters are children who (hopefully) haven’t learned the adult art of ignoring their own feelings just to appease others so while they may not express themselves with finesse, they do it better than some adults in novels do.  Compare how Jane Eyre expresses her unhappiness by running away from Thornfield Hall in the night versus Ramona Quimby who simply shouts “Guts!!!!” as she swings at the local playground. Maybe we need more gut-shouting and less slipping away in the night. The guilelessness of young main characters is refreshing. 

Authors of middle grade fiction have to express complex topics like poverty in simple terms that their young readers will understand. Even though Mia is very intelligent she is still a 10 year old speaking English as a second language. She is not going to use five dollar words like penury and indigence when worrying about the hospital bill after Mrs. Tang is attacked. “But we’re dirt poor!” she exclaims to the hospital clerk after they deny the family relief. 

My absolute favorite thing about children’s books is how they end. All the themes of the book are wrapped up in a neat little bow at the end. I know that life doesn’t always end with a pool party, but it sounds better than some endings we are faced with in adult novels and especially life.