Monday, September 2, 2013

KEEPER OF WONDER: An Interview with Deena Viviani

Today my lovely Keeper of Wonder is Deena Viviani. Deena and I have been hanging out over at Verla Kay's Blue Boards together for a while, so it's fun getting to know her better in her librarian hat. She tweets for her library @bmlkidsteens

So you’re a librarian, how’d that happen?

My full title is Circulation, Programming, and Young Adult Services Librarian (yes, it's a mouthful!), and I first must say I LOVE my job and feel so fortunate to work with J, YA, and adult materials and patrons and my awesome coworkers. 

My library career started when I was 15 at the Parma Public Library in Hilton, NY. Going back even before that, I attended the story times and kids' summer reading programs at that same library where Sue the Librarian (as I knew her then) "hired" me and my sister as teen volunteers to help with those same summer programs that we had attended for years. Then when I turned 15, I was hired as a Page, and I remained there through the rest of high school and undergrad, moving up to Page/Processor and helping at the Reference/Circulation Desk, finally leaving at the age of 21 when I graduated from college and got a full-time job at a legal publishing company. I swore I was sick of libraries and would move forward with my new career and degree, whatever that may be!

Um, yeah, after about 3 months in my cubicle office job, I missed the library. I went back to grad school that summer and got my MLS in 2 years. I also realized at that time that I wanted to be a YA Librarian. It took me 3 YA interviews in 3.5 years to get hired in my current library, but it was worth the wait to find the right fit for me. (sounds like an ideal job!)

Tell us about your library?

I work at the Brighton Memorial Library in Rochester, NY ( It is part of a 30-library system in Monroe County (MCLS; Our cool fact is that in the summers, we are the only library of those 30 that is open on Sundays, and we get about 800 people through the doors in the 3 hours we are open. Phew! (that is a big library system!)

What was the most recent book request?

The most recent books I purchased for my YA collection were titles for the local schools' summer reading lists. These books go fast and I always want to make sure we have plenty for the teens to read! The most recent YA titles I had patrons asking for were also on those lists, namely DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth, MAZE RUNNER by James Dashner, and BIGGER THAN A BREADBOX by Laurel Snyder.

What was your most recent book suggestion to a patron?

Oooh, I love when patrons ask this question! Before I left work on Friday a patron (adult male) asked for "something fun." I recommended REDSHIRTS by John Scalzi (our copy was out so we put it on hold), and BOY NOBODY by Allen Zadoff (the author is a Brighton HS grad). 

What was your most recent book suggestion to a friend?

Oh man, I am always pushing books on my friends! I gave my husband WORLD WAR Z by Max Brooks, told two girlfriends about DEFENDING JACOB by William Landay, and handed another MONKEY MIND by Daniel Smith. I gave another friend PALACE BEAUTIFUL by Sarah DeFord Williams to give to her daughter.

If you could sit down to your favorite beverage with any current kidlit author, who would it be? And why? 

I have been very fortunate to have met, chatted with, or heard present a number of kidlit authors because of my job (I have been to 3 YALSA Symposiums, numerous SCBWI conferences, and am so lucky to have the head of the Rochester Teen Book Festival as a colleague ( But I keep saying that the three authors I need to meet/hear/see live before I die -- in order from 1st through 3rd choice if I had to choose -- are Sarah Dessen (my YA writing/librarian career inspiration), Cynthia Lord (for her lovely way of looking at the world), and John Green (for bringing YA fiction to the forefront of literature in general). (Do you like how I refused to pick just one?) (I'm all about doing what you need to do ;0))

What book do you wish you had in your library (personal or where you work or both) but don’t? (this can be something written or something you’ve never seen)

My library budget for YA materials is a good size, so I can buy mostly everything I really want that is published. What I want to buy that I don't see so much of are hi-lo novels (high interest topic for older/ESL teens with lower reading levels), and non-fiction on topics that read like thrillers/adventures/etc. (more in the style of Steve Sheinkin and Jim Murphy). 

What about you would make us say, “REALLY! But you’re a librarian!” ?

I don't own tons of books, and I don't collect autographed copies despite my opportunities to do so. I live in a 1200 square foot house with my husband and try to keep down on the clutter, and I don't really have sentimental attachments to physical books. I also don't re-read much because I am always being introduced to new titles so I feel like I don't have time. But the irony is I LOVE books and am obsessed with my YA collection at the library. (Right? Why have your own collection when YOU HAVE A LIBRARY!)

Five favorite books of the past five years.

Oh come on, you're killing me here! Only five??? I read about 160-200 books per year (go to to see all my reviews), most of them YA, and oh my gosh this is hard. OK, here goes:

1) READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline (Crown, 2011) -- wide appeal across ages and genders. I recommend this book to almost everyone.

2) GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn (Crown, 2012) -- the reveals of each character and the ending were brilliant, even if you end up hating both characters. I could not put it down.

3) OKAY FOR NOW by Gary D. Schmidt (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011) -- amazing writing, amazing characters, with so much emotion. My heart still warms when I think about this book.

4) BETWEEN SHADES OF GREY by Ruta Sepetys (Penguin, 2011) -- I read this on a hot day and still shivered during the Siberia scenes. A painful look of a lesser-known Holocaust.

5) ASK THE PASSENGERS by A. S. King (Little, Brown, 2012) -- the love, hope, and magical realism are beautiful and still make me teary.

Thanks so much for stopping by to talk to us, Deena!


  1. Great interview! Loved hearing more about your job and book suggesitons, Deena. :-)

  2. Getting to hang out w/YA books all day would be great! Do you get to read on the job, Deena...? ;)

  3. Thanks so much for posting this interview! Was so fun! And Leandra, man, I WISH I had time to read at work, lol! Instead I am entrenched in emails and reference questions. :)

  4. 800 people in three hours on a Sunday--awesome! Thanks for all your support of YA novels. Happy reading and librarian-ing.

  5. So nice to read about librarians such as yourself, Deena. I write MG, not YA, but I've met so many kind and supportive librarians since the publication of my debut, A Smidgen of Sky. If I wasn't a writer, I think I'd want to be a librarian. Keep up the good work!

  6. This is a wonderful, insightful interview! And it was great to read Deena's top five list. Thanks so much for sharing this with us! = )

  7. A few titles I haven't heard of here, which is always fun :) Nice to meet you, Deena!

  8. This Keeper of Wonder series is just great, JRo. It's amazing meeting people who are passionate about what they do, and I love all the book recommendations. My to-be-read list is growing by leaps and bounds.

  9. Great interview! I always like to hear what librarians are getting asked for and recommending.

  10. Wonderful interview. I love to hear what people's favorite books are.

  11. Thanks so much for reading, everyone! I adore YA novels, and super super love MG, followed my some amazing adult books of course. Too hard to limit my reading choices some times!


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