Middle Kingdom: Anchorage, Alaska

Nicole RoohiThe books that most delight mid­dle school and junior high read­ers often strad­dle a “Mid­dle King­dom” rang­ing from upper mid­dle grade to YA. Each month, Bookol­o­gy colum­nist Lisa Bullard will vis­it the Mid­dle King­dom by view­ing it through the eyes of a teacher or librar­i­an. Bookol­o­gy is delight­ed to cel­e­brate the work of these edu­ca­tors who have built vital book encamp­ments in the tran­si­tion­al ter­ri­to­ry of ear­ly adolescence.

This jour­ney takes us to Gold­en­view Mid­dle School in Anchor­age, Alas­ka, where Lisa talks with librar­i­an Nicole Roohi.

Lisa: Nicole, thank you so much for invit­ing us to make this vir­tu­al vis­it to your school library! Our first ques­tion is, what are three to five things our blog read­ers should know about your com­mu­ni­ty, school, or library/media center?


Nicole: Gold­en­view Mid­dle School serves 700 – 800 sev­enth and eighth graders and is locat­ed in Anchor­age, Alas­ka. The Anchor­age School Dis­trict is the most deseg­re­gat­ed school dis­trict in the coun­try, and because of that we have an incred­i­ble diver­si­ty in each class­room, in race, lan­guage, cul­ture, and socio-eco­nom­ic sta­tus. The top three most diverse high schools in the coun­try are in Anchor­age, and six of the top sev­en most diverse mid­dle schools are also here. Although Gold­en­view is not one of these six, it can’t help but be incred­i­bly diverse as a result of being in this won­der­ful city.

Lisa: What five books (or series) are checked out most often?

Nicole: Nat­u­ral­ly, all the dystopi­an trilo­gies are top­ping our cir­cu­la­tion list for the fall, fol­lowed by the movie tie-in books, so I’ll con­cen­trate on the next most pop­u­lar books after these usu­al sus­pects. That’s what makes it inter­est­ing, isn’t it? Intrigu­ing­ly, The List by Siob­han Vivian was hands down the biggest sin­gle book in cir­cu­la­tion this fall. I book talked it to one class, and then word of mouth made it spread like wild­fire amongst the sev­enth graders. A few days lat­er I noticed we had 14 holds on it, so I had to ILL sev­er­al copies from oth­er schools to fill the demand! The next four top books were Case File 13: Zom­bie Kid by J. Scott Sav­age, Ruby Red by Ker­stin Gier, Girl, Stolen by April Hen­ry, and Zero Tol­er­ance by Clau­dia Mills.

Gardenview 5 most circulated books

Lisa: What book(s) do you per­son­al­ly love to place into stu­dents’ hands?


  • Gracel­ing (by Kristin Cashore) is a favorite, and is an easy sell 95% of the time.
  • Ash­fall (by Mike Mullin) is anoth­er easy sell, espe­cial­ly to boys. I like how the char­ac­ter matures.
  • Some years, The Boy Who Har­nessed the Wind (by William Kamk­wam­ba and Bryan Meal­er) is very pop­u­lar, oth­er years not. This year it is cir­cu­lat­ing because some girls have read I Will Always Write Back (by Caitlin Ali­firen­ka and Mar­tin Gan­da with Liz Welch), or I Am Malala (by Malala Yousafzai with Christi­na Lamb) and want some­thing sim­i­lar, so I put this in their hands.
  • The Thief (by Megan Whalen Turn­er) and The Raven Boys (by Mag­gie Stief­vater) are two of my favorite fan­tasies but are hard­er to sell. Gen­er­al­ly girls who love fan­ta­sy and romance will take them, and they come back gush­ing and tell their friends about them.
  • We have a size­able Native pop­u­la­tion here, so The Absolute­ly True Diary of a Part-Time Indi­an (by Sher­man Alex­ie) is always pop­u­lar; it’s one of my favorites and is one I love to show kids.
  • Whale Talk (by Chris Crutch­er) and Slam (by Nick Horn­by) appeal to boys once I point them out to them.
  • Final­ly, The Dis­rep­utable His­to­ry of Frankie Lan­dau-Banks and even the Ruby Oliv­er series (all by E. Lock­hart) are ones I love to give out because they are, as my daugh­ter calls them, sub­ver­sive chick-lit. The girls get hooked on the romance and dra­ma, but they are quite empow­er­ing too. Prob­a­bly The Dis­rep­utable His­to­ry is too empow­er­ing as the girls hate that Frankie los­es her boyfriend in the end. I’m guess­ing high school­ers are much less dis­turbed by this ending.

Gardenview Booktalks

Lisa: If you had a new staffer start­ing tomor­row, what piece of advice would you be sure to give them?

Nicole: When­ev­er I get a new library assis­tant, I tell them our first pri­or­i­ty is ser­vice. Also, you have to love kids and books. If you do, then this is the best job in the school. What could be bet­ter than help­ing stu­dents and staff every day? We make their lives bet­ter and eas­i­er and more fun! The best thing about this job is per­son­al­ly deliv­er­ing a book on hold to a student’s class­room and see­ing the excit­ed smile on their face.

Lisa: What do you like most about work­ing with middle-schoolers?

Nicole: This age group is still young enough that they read all the time and home­work doesn’t inter­fere too much, so we still work with books a lot. But they are final­ly old enough that they are think­ing about the world around them and are try­ing to fig­ure out what their place is in it and how they can make a dif­fer­ence. So we get to talk about how to make the world a bet­ter place and I can help them find resources for that too.

Reading in the library

Lisa: Could you share some infor­ma­tion about your most pop­u­lar, suc­cess­ful, inno­v­a­tive pro­gram for pro­mot­ing books and read­ing to mid­dle schoolers?

King of the Mild FrontierNicole: There are lots of ways we pro­mote read­ing here. We just fin­ished the Amaz­ing Race, which is a dis­trict-wide read­ing com­pe­ti­tion among six of our mid­dle schools. Last year sev­er­al of the sec­ondary librar­i­ans decid­ed to gen­refy our fic­tion sec­tions to increase read­ing, and one of the things we did with that was to take our Amaz­ing Race com­pe­ti­tion and turn it into a way to encour­age our stu­dents to read in all sev­en gen­res. This year with all our stu­dents read­ing togeth­er, Gold­en­view read 3,268 hours in just 28 days! That is twice as much as we did last year.

We also have video announce­ments every morn­ing, and I have been doing occa­sion­al record­ed book talks for many years. How­ev­er, last year we got a fan­tas­tic new announce­ments teacher, and we’ve worked togeth­er to improve the book talks. We now have Book Talk Tues­day every week, and the kids great­ly look for­ward to it. They often sing the book talk jin­gle to me when I pass them in the hall.

Final­ly, I have for years cre­at­ed, curat­ed, and updat­ed a series of book pam­phlets on dif­fer­ent top­ics in our library. I have these on our cir­cu­la­tion desk and stu­dents take these every day to help them find books of inter­est. Of course now that we’ve gen­re­fied our fic­tion sec­tion, that helps them too!

Lisa: What do you want your stu­dents to remem­ber about your library in ten years?

Nicole: In ten years I hope that my stu­dents still love to read. And I want them to see read­ing as a path­way to con­tin­ue their edu­ca­tion and growth for the rest of their lives. I very much would like to have them be strong pub­lic library users and supporters.

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