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75 Years of Service to Booklist

Every year, the American Library Association holds a service awards ceremony, honoring employees whose term of employment ends in a multiple of 5. This year, Booklist had 6 full-time employees out of our current 18 (we have a few positions to fill) on the list. If you’d like to get to know them better, here’s how their supervisors summed up their careers-to-date. I know several of them are thinking, “It can’t possibly have been this long!”

Five Years of Service

Sarah Hunter, Senior Editor, Books for Youth

Sarah Hunter hiked all the way from the Pacific Northwest, dodging rock slides and living off slain bigfoots (bigfeet?), to join Booklist as an editorial assistant. In that role, she both assisted and edited, not always in that order, until she was promoted to associate editor. There, among thousands of other tasks (see this booklet’s Addendum 12, attached), she took over the magazine’s graphic-novel coverage. Now she’s a senior editor—can you believe it? Her delightful cynicism, thunderous book-truck spills, and, oh yeah, peerless writing skill are absolutely indispensable. Don’t bother her. She’s busy.


Rebecca Vnuk

Rebecca Vnuk, Editor, Collection Management & Library Outreach

When Bill Ott and Rebecca Vnuk first met at a PLA conference in Portland, a very strange thing happened. Listening to Rebecca, who had recently won PLA’s coveted Allie Beth Martin Award, talk about readers’ advisory work and her passion for what was then the emerging genre of women’s fiction, Bill thought to himself, “I wonder if there’s any way to get Rebecca on the Booklist staff.” Moments later, as the dinner was winding down, Rebecca said to Bill, “I’ve decided I want my next job to be at Booklist.” Shortly thereafter, the inevitable happened, and Rebecca arrived at Booklist as reference editor. She was promoted last fall to Editor, Collection Management and Library Outreach, and in this newly created position she is helping Booklist carve out new markets and launch new products, with her editing of two crazy popular e-newsletters, Corner Shelf and Top Shelf Reference; with her SRO weeding webinars; and with her role as “on-air talent” in Booklist’s newest venture, the production  of live events, including a recent series of readers’-advisory programs sponsored by EBSCO and presented in partnership with the Illinois library consortium RAILS.  And, of course, she writes books, too, including the recent ALA Editions best-seller, The Weeding Handbook.


Ten Years of Service

Kraus, Dan

Daniel Kraus, Editor, Books for Youth

No one is quite sure whether it was Laura Tillotson, former Booklist Books for Youth Editor, or Leonard Kniffel, former American Libraries editor, who first described Dan Kraus as Wonder Boy, but there’s no doubt that the term aptly describes Dan’s astounding ability to do so much so well. He came to ALA 10 years ago as an associate editor at AL but then moved on to Booklist’s Book for Youth department, where he leapfrogged his way up the masthead from associate editor to senior editor to editor. Those would be accomplishments aplenty for all of us not called Wonder Boy, but for Dan, his remarkable work at Booklist, both as writer and editor, serves as a mere warm-up, a kind of loosening of his authorial muscles, for his career as a novelist. Since coming to ALA, Dan has published six YA novels, including two Odyssey Award-winners, Rotters and Scowler, as well as his most recent effort, a two-volume epic called The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch, which was named one of Entertainment Weekly’s 10 best books of the year (for adults!). If you don’t know Dan’s books, you should be warned that he writes horror—and not that namby-pamby kind of horror novel where sexy vampires kiss in the dark. No, we’re talking rats and grave robbers and really creepy guys who make noises that no person should be forced to hear, or even see on the page. And that’s why we all love our Dan! We’re not even mentioning his other career as an award-winning documentary filmmaker, but that’s because Booklist is doing all it can to keep these damn tributes under 5,000 words!


Fifteen Years of Service

Keir Graff, Executive Editor, Booklist Publications

Before Keir came to Booklist, he was living la dolce vita, Chicago version: hanging out at pool halls, sampling cocktails at all of the city’s retro night spots (and plenty of its dive bars), and generally living the life of a freelance writer. During his years as a freelancer, Keir not only wrote a column for Billiards Digest, he also wrote a column called “The Designated Drinker,” which was required reading back in the day by those of us who like our drinks served with wit. Then two things happened to Keir: Booklist and kids. In short order, after joining Booklist, Keir found himself sharing responsibility for three children: his sons Felix and Cosmo, as well as a troublesome toddler barely out of diapers called Booklist Online. First as senior editor and then as editor, Keir taught Booklist Online how to crawl, then walk, and eventually turn cartwheels, as Booklist became a digital as well as a print publisher. And there were other children to help nurture: e-newsletters pouring forth one after the other and a new blog called The Booklist Reader (sadly, without either a pool column or any drinking advice, but maybe that will change now that Keir has been promoted, yet again, to Executive Editor, working on all of the above and also on content development and strategic planning). And who says, in today’s dynamic, rapidly changing publishing world, that there isn’t room in Booklist Publications for a booze column? On the other hand, Keir needs to save a little time to write books; like so many Booklist editors, Keir is a novelist, too, between deadlines: the count is steadily climbing and now includes four crime novels and two books for children, including his forthcoming Matchstick Castle. Congratulations, Keir, on finding something to do after you were forced to stop playing pool.



Carlos Orellana, Production Editor

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost 15 years since Stephanie Zvirin hired Carlos as an editorial assistant in Books for Youth. During his first week here, we dragged him down to Navy Pier for the ALA Summer Event, which, in 2001, was a skyline cruise aboard the Spirit of Chicago. Lake Michigan was unusually calm that day, with just a light breeze and gentle waves. We milled around for awhile, found our seats in the dining room, and lined up for the buffet. Suddenly, we noticed that the new guy, Carlos, was nowhere to be seen. In fact, no one had seen him for a while. We quickly organized a search party and eventually found him alone on the port side of the windswept deck, leaning forlornly over the rail. The new guy had neglected to inform us that he was prone to seasickness—and was seriously considering jumping overboard. We’re glad he didn’t. Five years later, he joined the production team in his current role as production editor, where he is responsible for laying out the youth and audio sections of the magazine as well as preparing and distributing Booklist’s and Book Links’ numerous electronic newsletters, including REaD Alert, Quick Tips, Corner Shelf, and Booklandia. He also spends a good part of most days massaging advertisers’ materials so they will fit nicely into our print and digital products. In addition to his many production duties, Carlos can be relied on for his expert restaurant recommendations, and is a good partner to have when we take our annual excursion down to Grant Park for the Taste of Chicago, coming prepared with a list of the essential, must-visit vendors (cumin lamb at Lao Sze Chuan and the jibarito at La Bomba). It’s a minor miracle that the man hasn’t come down with gout. He and his wife share a massive collection of vinyl and on some weekends Carlos can be seen attending record-collector shows in Chicago and vicinity with his trusty portable turntable.


Thirty Years of Service

Segedin, Ben

Ben Segedin, Production Director

When he realized that his thirtieth anniversary at Booklist was approaching, Ben Segedin made us promise not to use this tribute as an excuse to mention his propensity for telling bad jokes, so we won’t do that (but anyone wanting to hear the particulars should just ask any Booklister to define the term “Ben Joke”). Ben’s first job at Booklist was as an editorial assistant in the Books for Youth department. Shortly after that, he allowed as how he was “not all that interested in computers.” Naturally, we promptly promoted him to the newly minted position of Network Manager, at the dawn of the digital era. Eventually, he became a production editor (it’s merely hearsay that he also professed a profound lack of interest in magazine production); shortly thereafter, he was promoted again to Production Director. In that post, he has managed the production not only of print Booklist, but also of our ever-growing roster of electronic products, working with everyone on the staff to ensure that we never miss a deadline (just ask our printer). In between those deadlines, Ben listens to music, plays basketball (and has the bent fingers and bum knees to prove it), and, above all, spends time with his family, including wife Carolyn, daughter Dora, and a notoriously cantankerous puggle called Banjo. But the most important thing Ben does every workday is walk the halls of Booklist at 10:30, alerting us all that it’s time for our coffee break.



Posted in: Inside Booklist

About the Author:

After more than 30 years at Booklist, editor and publisher Bill Ott continues to edit the crime fiction section of the magazine and still delights in discovering new hard-boiled writers. Follow him on Twitter at @Booklist_Bill.

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