Author Archives: Annie Coreno

A Day in the Life of a Librarian-in-Training

Annie Coreno -- January 7th, 2014
This year's Beyond Literacy class at University of Toronto

This year’s Beyond Literacy class at University of Toronto

Emily Ekstrand-Brummer is a second-year graduate student at the University of Toronto iSchool, where she studies library and information science with a special focus on public libraries. She is only one “packed” semester away from becoming a Master of Information—a pretty big feat in today’s information age if I don’t say so myself (it takes one to know one).

What’s on your agenda for today?

Emily: So my agenda for today is pretty packed. I’m working this morning at the department of Italian studies where I am (attempting) to archive and catalogue a huge collection of newspaper articles about Leonardo Sciascia. After that I’ve got a doctor’s appointment and then I’m going to a class about issues in children’s and YA librarianship.

What other classes are you taking this semester?

Emily: I’m also taking a course about public libraries where we talk about the role of libraries today. It’s actually pretty interesting because the prof spent all last year traveling to different libraries around Canada, so she has a lot of insights that you can’t find in the literature. I’m also taking collections development and the practicum course.

What was your favorite assignment from the past semester?

Emily: My very favorite project last semester was probably my favorite from the entire two years. I took Beyond Literacy, which is a weird special course where we just talk about what it would be like if we didn’t read and write anymore, and we all made podcasts in groups. They actually taught us how to use the recording studio and helped us record and everyone’s groups were really supportive of each other. We got to be super creative and take it any direction we wanted. Even though it wasn’t about libraries, I think I learned more than essay assignments because we just throw out any ideas and roll with it. My group did reading addictions and post humans.  Here’s a link to the podcasts:

What reading/article from last semester stands out in your mind as particularly interesting or pertinent?

Emily: I really like the Bowker and Star book Sorting Things Out: Classification and Its Consequences. We read parts of it in Professor Keilty’s Bibliographic Control class, and it questions how we catalogue things in all areas of life. It uses examples like classifying humans in apartheid South Africa.

What are the hot topics at the i-School this year?

Emily: It’s things like maker spaces and community led libraries. The interesting thing is that a few of my professors are questioning that and also asking, what are these things? What do all of these buzzwords mean? Why are we putting actual books on the backburner when that is still why most people come to the library?

The Writer and the Website

Annie Coreno -- December 3rd, 2013

Never judge an author by their website, unless it’s really great. Not all authors have the design gene or technical skill for Internet creations, but these writers let their creativity soar on the Web. So what makes a good author website? Aside from containing key information–bios, books, tour dates, and contact information, the best websites find ways to showcase the writer’s personality through either design or content. Here are some best practices.


James McBride website

James McBride:

Highlights: McBride bobbing his head and playing the sax.

Denise Mina:

Highlight: Mina’s bookshelf makes up the main interface.

Carla Kaplan:

Highlights: Photos from the book incorporated with quotes from reviews.


Atwood website 1

Margaret Atwood:

Highlight: Her poetic “no” to blurb requests, which includes the following stanza: “So I wish you Good Luck, and your author, and book, / Which I hope to read later, with glee. / Long May you publish, and search out the blurbs, / Though you will not get any from me.”

Sherman Alexie:

Highlight: Humor meets humility. He mixes quotes from dudes on Facebook with reviews. “Sherman looked more Indian when his hair was long,” -a woman on facebook

Daniel Menaker:

Highlight: In the About section Menaker writes, “The writers I’ve worked with in one capacity or another are too numerous to mention but that hardly means I won’t mention them.” He goes on to list every writer with short parenthetical anecdotes. Some examples include: Colum McCann (slight, bewitching stutter, Alice Munro (the literary love of my life, friendly and elusive at the same time), Ethan Canin (some kind of majesty about him; a good basketball player).

Oh Canada!

Annie Coreno -- November 20th, 2013

What do these titles have in common, aside from the fact that they are all on PW’s 2013 best books list? The authors are all women, yes, but they are also all Canadian. Pretty shocking, considering the fact that the entire population of Canada is smaller than that of California. Is this a mere coincidence or is it evidence of something larger?

I may be prone to conspiracy, but I have a theory that Canadian women are the new old white men of the book world. In other words, they are taking over publishing. Come to think of it, this plan of theirs has been in the works for years—decades really. The Canadian literary scene is booming, yet completely under our radar in America. (If you don’t believe me, visit Toronto; there’s a bookstore every block and a half on Bloor Street.) Continue reading

Books for the Digital Citizen

Annie Coreno -- October 15th, 2013

Before you read Dave Eggers’s The Circle and swear off Twitter or the internet forever, read these books. Like it or not, we’re living in a technology-crazed world. Rather than sulk about it, it’s time we embrace the change. Here are some new books to help you do so.


Spying on Democracy: Government Surveillance, Corporate Power and Public Resistance by Heidi Boghosian

>_National Lawyers Guild Executive Director Heidi Boghosian’s purpose is not necessarily to dissuade you from using technology but rather unveil how your personal information is being used and the various implications of its use.  Michael German, a former FBI agent, says its best in his blurb: This book provides “the answer to the question, ‘if you’re not doing anything wrong, why should you care if someone is watching you?’ ”


Without Their Permission: How the 21st Century Will Be Made, Not Managed by Alexis Ohanian

>_An inspiring tale of success in the internet age. Reddit cofounder Ohanian leads by example showing readers how to harness the potential of the internet by sharing his own success. More importantly, Ohanian shines light on how politics threaten the open internet.


9781594204456.jpgSmarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing our Minds for the Better by Clive Thompson

>_When it comes to technology, Clive Thompson sees the glass half full. Rather than a definitive take on technology, this book is more of a counter point to arguments against the digital revolution. Thompson engages readers while leaving room to debate. It’s a stepping stone for skeptics.

The Evolution of Censorship

Annie Coreno -- October 1st, 2013
Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Last week librarians, educators, publishers, booksellers, and bookworms alike joined together to celebrate Banned Books Week. The celebration took on many forms: Twitter parties, YouTube read-out-louds, Google hangouts and more. The most important way to commemorate the seven-day event happens to be the simplest: read a banned book.

As someone who works in publishing, I always look forward to Banned Books Week—maybe because the best books tend to be the most frequently banned. Yet indulging myself in The Catcher in the Rye for the fourth or fifth time seems hardly commendable. I understand, of course, that it’s important to promote these titles for younger generations and doing so really does make a difference, as we saw in North Carolina when the Randolph County school board overturned the ban on Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man.

But as an adult with a computer and a bank account, not only have I read The Invisible Man but if I felt so inclined I could literally download it right here at my desk and start reading now. The same goes for Captain Underpants; it’s not exactly a revelatory activity.

After all, digital media has thrown censorship for a loop. On the one hand, the internet makes it easier for us to circumvent traditional barriers—if a two-year old can purchase a car on Ebay, then they probably can buy Lady Chatterly’s Lover online too. And it is not all that often you hear about religious leaders burning Kindles at the stake. On the other hand, the ways in which we encounter digital media are shifting, allowing new, more subtle forms of censorship. Rather than individuals or institutions serving as gatekeepers of information, algorithms filter content to fit our personal interests. These filters help sift the otherwise overwhelming universe of content and information by catering to our own interests, feeding us information likely to reflect our own world views. These filters work through our newsfeeds, our Google searches—the suggested reading we encounter regularly. Eli Pariser calls this phenomena the “filter bubble”—a term he uses to describe “your own personal, unique universe of information that you live in online. What’s in your filter bubble depends on who you are, and it depends on what you do. But you don’t decide what gets in — and more importantly, you don’t see what gets edited out.”

Banned Books Week is intended to celebrate the freedom of speech and our right to pursue ideas that are different than our own–even if they are unorthodox or unpopular. It’s an opportunity to read outside the comfort zone, to encounter new or different ideas which in turn will define own our opinions, to enable us to think critically about the world around us.

So as tempting as it is for me to read Toni Morrison’s Beloved just because it appeared on 2012′s list of most frequently banned books, basking in the rich language is not exactly in the spirit of the week. I need to read something I have avoided, something I have cast as outside my own interests/views or dismissed on account of the author—even if I don’t enjoy it.

An [Imagined] Oral History of Oral Histories

Annie Coreno -- September 3rd, 2013

To mark today’s publication of the much-anticipated Salinger biography by David Shields and Shane Salerno and the release of the accompanying documentary later this week, I decided it was time to further explore the book’s format and the “oral history” book fad.

As those who have taken on the topic before know, it begs to stay true to form. So here is how I imagine a written oral history of oral history books might sound–errr–read.

PW EDITOR: It was the summer of 2011 that I really started to see this trend emerge. At first we were all a little confused by it. An oral history in written format? Is that even possible—it sounds like an oxymoron. But as it turns out, it can be done and actually has been around for a while—more so in magazines and eventually the blogosphere. But it wasn’t until 2011 that it really started to pick up in the book publishing world. First came the the ESPN book, then I Want My MTV the following year.

REVIEWER: It seemed to be especially popular for music and television related books. Please Kill Me and Live From New York being the books that really lead the way for the ESPN, MTV and Nickelodeon histories. They often take on a gossipy, behind-the-scenes feel.

READER: I’ve read several of them. Live from New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live, as Told By Its Stars, Writers and Guests is definitely one of my favorites. They are always entertaining though sometimes a bit long. Usually pretty easy to get through—because you’ve got all those different voices in there.

HISTORIAN: Good history books usually incorporate multiple first-person account—and in a more authoritative fashion. These so called oral histories aren’t exactly books in my opinion! They are more like a bunch of transcripts copied and pasted together, no coherent voice, not enough analysis. If you want to read a history book, read one of Robert Caro’s book–now there’s a man who can write history.

CULTURAL CRITIC: I personally love the format. It feels very fitting for the times. The internet provides an avenue for anyone and everyone to have a voice.

POST-STRUCTURALIST: It’s easy to forget that the interviews are taken out of context and woven together. Every response is directed by an answer that is not always made obvious in the narrative. Remember there is no truth. Everything is a social construct…

HISTORIAN: Sighs Here we go again…

REVIEWER: They definitely tend to cater toward trade publication, less academically focused. The author is not defining history as much sewing together a narrative. It’s up to reader to assess story along with the credibility of its sources.

READER: I plan on reading the biography and seeing the documentary and then comparing the two!

Of course, this is all heavily based in my imagination, but who knows with the publication of Salinger and Slimed! An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age among others in the upcoming weeks, there may be some REAL voices to form this narrative.

When Librarians Write: On The Riot Librarian

Annie Coreno -- August 20th, 2013


A few weeks ago we ran a starred review of The Riot Grrrl Collection edited by Lisa Darms.

Having just finished my degree in Library and Information Science at the University of Toronto, I was particularly excited to learn that Darms is not only a librarian but also the founding archivist of the collection showcased in the book (and a Canadian to boot!).

There are lots of librarians who write books (for example, see her, him, and a personal favorite, him). But usually we encounter these writers in their role of author rather than librarian. This is not surprising considering that librarians have long struggled with the issue of visibility and are most recognizable by their physical workplace rather than the nature of their work. Defining librarian without mention of the library is not that easy of a task—even in Merriam Webster, the librarian is defined as “a specialist in care of or management of a library.”

This is precisely why Lisa Darms’s book is such an achievement: It is not about libraries, it’s about a punk-rock, feminist movement. It does not tell you what librarians do, it shows you.

The book itself, much like the collection, aims to document “the process of zine-making, being in bands, and activism, as well as, the finished products of these activities.” Darms writes, “It isn’t intended as a coffee-table book, despite the fact that many of the documents are beautiful in their own right. Our goal is to make the content of these smart, radical texts more broadly available.”

Although the collection “makes up less than 1 percent of Fales [Library]’s physical holdings, it already accounts for 15 percent of our research use, and is further accessed by hundreds of students in classes that the Fales staff teaches on riot grrrl, feminism, queer activism and zine culture.”

If I learned anything during my two years at library school, it’s that the value of the library is not so much in the physical components of the library itself but the activities which go on inside: whether it’s the process of reading a book, making photocopies of a zine to distribute, or meeting with a group. It is the librarian’s job to encourage, empower, and enable patrons to partake in these activities. Darms, in her book, hones that energy and transports it outside the library and into a wider world.


Granta Lauches ‘Pakistan’ Issue in New York City

Annie Coreno -- September 24th, 2010

Last night Granta and New York’s 192 BOOKS joined together to celebrate the launch of Granta Issue 112: Pakistan. Guests included Mary Gaitskill, director Mira Nair, and Mohsin Hamid whose short story, “A Beheading,” is featured. The tiny store was packed with people spilling out onto Tenth Avenue—and according to Granta editor John Freeman there certainly is reason to celebrate.

The issue is receiving an extraordinary amount of media attention with reviews in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times Review of Books and Time Magazine. “This is a first for Granta,” added Freeman in a toast to the crowd.

He then turned attention to Mohsin Hamid, who spoke of the larger significance of this success: “The story of Pakistan [in mass media] is supposed to scare you shitless…it’s meant to frighten you…Granta opens up space for more than the horror film franchise.” With reportage, memoir, poetry, short stories and even a novella all authored by Pakistani natives, Granta offers a much-needed examination of Pakistani culture (the cover art is modeled after Pakistani street art commonly painted on trucks). “Good writing,” Hamid explains, “recomplicates what has already been simplified.”