Disruptive Library Model

Regina recently wrote about the use of the term “community center” versus the term “library.”  Then I read a blog post entitled “Why Your Company Needs a Disruptive Business Model,” which seemed to echo the point that Regina was making.  “The reality of the economic landscape demands that a business must either figure out how to create new markets for its products and services or reshape existing ones to stay relevant.”

Of course this is going to take some work on the part of library staff.  What are the unmet needs in our communities? What is our niche? Who are we not reaching? How can we broaden our customer base? We are going to have to observe trends, especially in technology, and embrace change.

Change is scary.  It can also be risky, especially when resources are limited and we are not sure that something new is going to work. That is the reason that PLAN developed its Innovation Projects. This program allows member libraries to try new ideas and services, without investing their own limited resources. Based on the results of an Innovation Project, libraries can determined if a new program is worth continuing.

Contingent upon Library Cooperative Grant funding, PLAN is accepting applications for the 2019-2020 fiscal year. Now is a great time to start planning what disruptive changes your library is going to make.

Random and Slightly Irreverent Thoughts on the Word “Library”

According to Merriam-Webster, a library is “a place in which literary, musical, artistic, or reference materials (such as books, manuscripts, recordings, or films) are kept for use but not for sale.” I think we can all agree that the term “library” no longer adequately describes what we are, especially as it relates to public libraries. Sure, we have books and reference materials. Some of us also have films and artistic materials. But we are so much more than just a “library” as defined above.

So why are we still calling ourselves libraries? The term “library” itself comes from the Latin “liber,” meaning book. If we are more than just books (and we are!), why limit how our patrons see us with our name? (Patrons, users, customers – that’s another issue altogether!)

We say that we are more than just books, that we have become community centers. So if we are going to be a community center, then let’s call ourselves that. Let’s embrace what is, instead of what was. According to Merriam-Webster, a community center is “a building or group of buildings for a community’s educational and recreational activities.”

Doesn’t that sound more like what we are?

Chalkboard with "the next step" written on it and footprints on boardBut I know that totally divorcing ourselves from the term “library” would be too abrupt, so I propose we combine the terms: library and community center. Disappointingly, I am not the first person with this idea, which severely restricts my ability to trademark the phrase.

Some organizations are already calling themselves library and community centers. In New Orleans, the Rosa F. Keller Library and Community Center is a partnership between the New Orleans Public Library and the Broadmoor Improvement Association. While I would love to give you more information on how this partnership works, the website is not forthcoming with information.

[Sadly, like many library websites, it is not well-designed. Did I mention that we offer training on what your website should include? For instance, tomorrow Laura Solomon is presenting “Work with What You’ve Got: Practical Tips for Redesigning Your Library Website” at 2 p.m. CT, 3 p.m. ET. Register for the live webinar or to receive a link to the recording. I’m not calling you out; I’m just suggesting that we could all use this training.]

There’s also the Kraemer Library and Community Center in Plain, Wisconsin; the Embudo Valley Library and Community Center in New Mexico; the Newport Library and Community Center in Newport, Minnesota; the Emma L. Andrews Library and Community Center in Newburyport, Massachusetts; and the Magnolia Library and Community Center in Gloucester, Massachusetts. In 2017, the trustees of the Highgate (Vermont) Public Library officially changed the name to Highgate Library and Community Center.

As far as I can tell, none of these organizations are doing anything more or less than what public libraries throughout Florida are doing.

And while I know that the term “library and community center” is long, unless someone can come up with a cool, short name that everyone knows means “library and community center,” I think it’s the best option we have.

And, who knows, a few years down the road, maybe we could delete the term “library” altogether.

[Oh, no, she didn’t!]

After all, other non-library organizations are co-opting the term “library” for themselves. For instance, did you know that Little Free Libraries have nothing to do with libraries? And that if an actual library wants to start a Little Free Library, they need to pay for the privilege of calling it a Little Free Library? Yep.

And the Human Library? Not a real library. Well, duh, of course, it isn’t, but it wasn’t even started by a librarian. It does have one librarian on its board, I think. But if you want to have a Human Library event, you have to request permission. That’s right – permission.

I’m not saying that either of these two organizations are not great – they are! Getting books into more hands and getting humans to listen and learn from each other are excellent goals. But why did they have to steal our word? (Yes, I’m whining.)

Now they’re even stealing our ideas. (More whining.) The Chicago Tool Library will open in July to loan out sewing machines, slow cookers, power drills, and more to the Bridgeport neighborhood. But there’s a catch — there is an annual membership fee, based on your income. Granted, they say that members who cannot pay will still be allowed to check out tools. Sure, until the third time you’re late bringing back a staple gun and your fine is too high to pay so no more tools for you!

My main point is that we should embrace our image as community centers, call ourselves library and community centers, and use this to maintain and increase funding. Even those public officials who persist in believing that “everything is freely available on the internet so we don’t need libraries” can get behind funding for a library and community center.

The Robots Are Coming! by Guest Blogger Sarah Blackburn-Lancaster

By Guest Blogger Sarah Blackburn-Lancaster of the Valparaiso Community Library

Back in March, I had the privilege of attending the Computers in Libraries Conference in Washington, D.C., thanks to a scholarship from PLAN. It was an eye-opening experience for many reasons: I got to visit our nation’s capital (imagine that being spoken in a Forrest Gump impersonation); I crashed an electric scooter, breaking my wrist, which was as embarrassing as it was painful; and I learned a lot about the technology that is emerging in libraries. The most fascinating to me, though, were the humanoid robots.

Photo of robot

Some of the new tech was super fun and totally rad! The Roanoke County Public Library in Virginia actually has a four-foot-tall robot concierge (it actually does more than just greet people and answer basic questions, but that’s the best description, in my opinion) named Pepper! Pepper, in addition to being absolutely adorable, provides patrons with directions and answers the standard questions about the library. The staff also have started allowing teens to program the robot in order to teach young people how to code.

In the vendor area, Misty, a toddler-sized robot, rolled around charming anyone who came by. Far from being creepy or appearing as a threat, Misty made everyone tilt their heads and say, “Aw!” More importantly, though, Misty is equipped with an advanced camera that is used for 3D mapping. “She” can detect changes in environment, be a mobile version of a smart assistant/speaker, and has useful applications in eldercare. “Her” applications in libraries have been outlined as a greeter, item runner, and game host; however, librarians being the creative geniuses we are, there are probably many more opportunities for Misty to be involved!

Then there’s Dewey from the Palo Alto Public Library. Dewey is more of a bot of the people. The staff at Palo Alto utilize this mid-sized robot mainly with children and teens. Dewey is involved in story time, playing games with the small children like “tickle-the-robot,” and he is also the programming subject for the teens and young adults who come in to the Robo Dojo. We got to see some of “his” mad dance skills in the handler’s presentation, and they were awesome.

Seeing these robots at the conference and hearing about their presences enriched the lives of the patrons who visited their home libraries really struck a chord with me. Most people, especially here in Valparaiso, will probably only see technology of that sort in movies or on television. These pieces of equipment are costly and require advanced understanding of coding to operate correctly, so for the everyday person, they’re not accessible. Except in the public library! Getting to see and interact with these machines was thrilling for me, and I immediately imagined how incredible it would be for our patrons to see them in action. Libraries truly are the great equalizer, bringing opportunities that might otherwise only be available to a few select individuals to everyone who walks in the doors.

It really is an exciting time to work in our field.

Upcoming Continuing Education Opportunies

PLAN has scheduled a variety of free continuing education opportunities for you in the upcoming months, including conferences and webinars. Remember, if you can’t attend the live webinar, all of our webinar recordings are available on our website.


Panhandle Academic Libraries Conference
July 12, 2019
Keynote speaker: Elijah Scott of the Florida Academic Library Services Cooperative
Breakout session on ACRL’s Project Outcome initiative
More breakout sessions to be announced soon

PLAN FLA Mini Conference
August 23, 2019
Keynote speaker: Tom Vitale — Connecting the Dots: Community Library Collaborations
Breakout sessions on compassion fatigue and positivity with Linda Bruno; the 2020 Census; and more!


Why Your Library Should Include a Press Room with Kathy Dempsey
May 21, 2019 @ 10 a.m. CT / 11 a.m. ET

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Tools & Strategies for Critically Evaluating Fake News with Denise Wetzel
May 22, 2019 @ 10 a.m. CT / 11 a.m. ET)

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Overcoming the Email Avalanche: The Secrets to an Empty Inbox with Doug Crane
May 22, 2019 @ 2 p.m. CT / 3 p.m. ET

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Delegating Effectively: When, How, and To Whom? with Linda Bruno
May 23, 2019 @ 2 p.m. CT / 3 p.m. ET

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Work with What You’ve Got: Practical Tips for Redesigning Your Library Website with Laura Solomon
June 4, 2019 @ 2 p.m. CT / 3 p.m. ET

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Creating Video for Beginners with Diana Silveira
June 6, 2019 @ 10 a.m. CT / 11 a.m. ET

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PLAN Quick Class: Words, Places, and Dates: The Advanced Search on Twitter with Brian Crowell
June 6, 2019 @ 2 p.m. CT / 3 p.m. ET

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Managing Employee Performance: A Simple Formula for Talking with Staff with Doug Crane
June 12, 2019 @ 2 p.m. CT / 3 p.m. ET

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Emotional Intelligence: What It Is and Why It Matters in Your Workplace with Linda Bruno – 2 parts
June 13 & June 20, 2019 @ 2 p.m. CT / 3 p.m. ET

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Writing for the Web with Laura Solomon
July 2, 2019 @ 2 p.m. CT / 3 p.m. ET

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Lessons for Lifelong Learning with Linda Bruno
July 9, 2019 @ 2 p.m. CT / 3 p.m. ET

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The Art and Science of Marketing Communications with Kathy Dempsey
August 6, 2019 @ 10 a.m. CT / 11 a.m. ET

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Handling Negative Feedback Online: Strategies for Your Library with Laura Solomon
August 6, 2019 @ 2 p.m. CT / 3 p.m. ET

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Will the Real You Please Stand Up? Dealing with Impostor Syndrome with Linda Bruno
August 13, 2019 @ 2 p.m. CT / 3 p.m. ET

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Developing Motivated Cultures: Six Simple Factors that Shape Your Organization with Doug Crane
August 14, 2019 @ 2 p.m. CT / 3 p.m. ET

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PLAN Quick Class: Google Arts & Culture 101 with Sarah Burris
August 22, 2019 @ 10 a.m. CT / 11 a.m. ET

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Work/Life Balance: The Key to Real Success with Linda Bruno
September 5, 2019 @ 2 p.m. CT / 3 p.m. ET

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Also, we have scheduled the PLAN Annual Meeting so save the date: November 1, 2019, at the Niceville Community Center. In addition to our regular business meeting, we will have an interactive workshop on user experience with Aaron Schmidt.

Digital Resources

Are you taking full advantage of digital collections to meet your patrons’ information needs?  There are so many resources available to assist patrons and library staff with Genealogy, research, school projects, etc.

Here are just a few:

  • Hidden Treasures is a collection of historical and genealogical documents from PLAN member libraries. It contains items unique to the Florida Panhandle, including newspapers and local history materials.
  • The University of West Florida Historic Trust shares the history of Northwest Florida. Click the “Random Images” button to serendipitously browse the collection.
  • Florida Memory contains the archival collections in the State Library and Archives of Florida. There are even resources for teachers.
  • Publication of Archival, Library, & Museum Materials (PALMM) is a collaborative effort of the public universities and colleges in Florida. It provides access to special collections like the Florida Heritage Collection, the University of Florida Herbarium or the World Map Collection.
  • The Florida Electronic Library is a gateway to digital magazines, journal articles, newspapers, almanacs, encyclopedias and books.
  • In addition to a multitude of digital materials, the Library of Congress website has a special section for teachers.
  • The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) provides access to the materials held within America’s libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural heritage institutions. The site also provides curated collections on topics such as history, literature, and culture, developed by educators — complete with teaching guides.
  • The Sunshine State Digital Network (SSDN) is the Florida Hub for DPLA. Visit their website to learn how your library can be a part of DPLA .

These are just a few of the collections available to library staff and the public.  What’s your favorite digital resource?

Panhandle Academic Libraries Conference – July 12th

We are pleased to present the first annual conference in the Panhandle for academic libraries. Our theme is Making Connections, Building Bridges.

We would like to invite proposals for the first annual Panhandle Academic Libraries Conference on Friday, July 12, 2019, in Tallahassee.

Libraries have long been places of connections—connections between people, ideas, and the community. Libraries are safe places on campus for students to discover new thoughts and ideas by interacting with fellow students and faculty. The academic library has been called the heart of the university or college, and as the center of the campus connecting learning and human interaction, this statement is as true today as ever.

The planning committee seeks session proposals for the conference, which will be held at the FLVC Tallahassee Office (1753 W. Paul Dirac Dr.) on Friday, July 12, 2019.

We seek proposals related to the conference theme in the areas of:

  • Subject Librarianship
  • Collaborations
  • Collections and Funding
  • Instruction
  • Technology
  • Innovation

Share your experiences, both successes and learning opportunities, with your Panhandle colleagues. We will accept a maximum of TWO proposals per presenter (including individual and panel presentations).

DEADLINE: Proposals are due by 11:59 p.m. EST on Monday, May 13, 2019. Applicants will be notified about their proposal status by May 20, 2019.

Submit proposal here.


Panel Discussion
40-minute discussion with 10 minute Q&A
Two to four panelists will provide multiple, diverse perspectives on a topic or theme, followed by 10 minutes of question and answer from the audience. Proposal abstracts should highlight practical takeaways for attendees.

40-minute presentation with 10 minute Q&A
Presenter(s) will speak with the audience for 40 minutes, followed by 10 minutes of question and answer from the audience. Proposal abstracts should highlight practical takeaways for attendees.

Interactive Workshop
50 minutes
Presenters will engage attendees in active, hands-on learning. Proposal abstracts should present a clear description of the activity as well as highlight the practical takeaways for attendees.

Roundtable Discussion
50 minutes
Attendees are encouraged to participate in informal group discussions on topics of interest. Proposal abstracts should include sample questions that facilitators plan to use.

We are excited for this first conference, and hope you will join us.

Your conference organizing team:

  • Michael Meth (Florida State University), Conference Chair
  • Melissa Davis (Pensacola State College)
  • Mike Lane (Pensacola State College)
  • Alvin Lee (Florida A&M University)
  • Valerie Boulos (Florida State University)
  • Jenni McKnight (Florida State University)
  • David Russell (Gulf Coast State College)

Submit proposal here.

You may register for the conference here.

Sidewalk Stargazing @ Your Library with Guest Blogger Khelsea Rantanen

Photo of detail of moonBy Guest Blogger Khelsea Rantanen of the Northwest Regional Library System, Bay County Public Library

“Wow!” “Amazing!” “So cool!”

Nothing compares to the first time you see the Milky Way in all its glory or the full moon magnified by a telescope. Stargazing is a simple, fun, and engaging activity. At minimum, you need a safe place to stand and a night sky dark enough to see the moon or some stars. The young, the old, and everyone in between can stargaze. Telescopes or binoculars simply enhance the quality and quantity of what you see.

Implementing a stargazing program at Northwest Regional Library System (NWRLS) was one of the solutions that arose from completing the Sunshine State Library Leadership Institute. Public libraries all over the country facilitate STEM education opportunities to children and teenagers. Our library system provides opportunities to learn coding, DASH robots, 3D printing, and virtual reality among others. However, there were few chances to discover the beauty of the night skies. To engage single adults, seniors, and families – stargazing offered an intersection of hands-on learning, an inter-generational activity, and it lends itself from being a simple hobby to a complex, all-consuming passion.

During Summer 2018, to test public interest in stargazing, we scheduled a one-time star party called Sidewalk Stargazing @ Your Library for November 7, 2018. As many of you know from experience, Hurricane Michael made landfall in Mexico Beach, Florida on October 10, 2018, causing devastation throughout the Florida Panhandle. Our Facebook event garnered more than 200 interested notices.

Throughout the summer, while I studied more about stargazing in libraries, I kept reading about lending telescopes. Cornerstones of Science, a nonprofit in the Upper Northeast that works with public libraries to facilitate informal science education through public libraries, has the Cornerstones’ STAR (Sharing Telescopes and Astronomical Resources) Program to foster interest in astronomy by getting quality telescopes into the hands of the public. A very popular telescope, the Orion 4.5” Star Blast is modified by a large group of volunteers to make them friendly to the public. After the storm, Bay County Public Library was closed to the public for a short time as the librarians and staff were reallocated to recovery efforts. Amid these efforts, I received word about the looming deadline for PLAN’s Innovation Projects program. At some point, I asked my administration if I could submit an application for purchasing these telescopes to kick off the stargazing program, which I had been trying to lift off prior to the storm.

Since I had researched and planned to eventually incorporate lending telescopes into the stargazing program, I had all of the necessary information. I submitted the application and waited.

To my great surprise, among all the great applications, my request was funded. It felt very good. We received funding to purchase books and three telescopes, two for circulation and one library programs. I owe thanks to the comprehensive grant writing class I took during my graduate studies at Florida State University with Dr. Linda Swaine. Also, I owe a debt of gratitude to Heather Ogilvie for taking the time to listen to my rambling about the project and reading my drafts while she was writing hers, too. Without the encouragement of Robin Shader and Lynn Elliott, my library director and department head respectively, I would never have even started this program.

Lending more than books has already taken place in my library system. Before telescopes, NWRLS already lent maker kits, cake pans, ukuleles, and dulcimers. Our staff was familiar with cataloging strange new items and knew what questions to ask in regard to storage, the method of lending, changing policies, and generalities. After a bevy of meetings with administration, technical services, circulation, and reference departments, we determined that we would allow the telescopes to be borrowed like any regular item for three weeks with the opportunity of two renewals. Many public libraries lend their telescopes for a week to encourage more circulation; however, we differed in order to keep our lending policies uniform. Since the telescopes are more expensive than the average book, we did follow the general practice of requiring an adult to check out the telescope. In addition, we require the borrower to sign a waiver of claims and a borrowing agreement describing correct use. Some libraries require patrons to agree to transporting the telescope in a car; however, our talks led to the decision that implementing a car-only transportation requirement limited those who borrowed the telescopes. Finally, we decided to test the circulating procedures for a short period only from Bay County Public Library before allowing circulation throughout the system.

As of now, we are still working out the kinks to lending the telescopes. We expect by June to allow our courier to ferry the two telescopes. The first Sidewalk Stargazing @ Your Library was held on March 24th with a total attendance of nine people. We have scheduled more throughout the summer in conjunction with a Universe of Stories, the space-themed summer reading program. Two stargazing parties will be held in Gulf and Liberty counties to encourage and highlight stargazing among the smaller branches where there is less light pollution than in Panama City.

In the beginning, I expect the stargazing program to be modest, but with time it will grow in popularity. I hope it sparks curiosity about space exploration and positively bonds those who stargaze together.

Can You Weather the Storm? by Carol DeMent

I have been thinking a lot about resiliency. Since Hurricane Michael caused wide spread damage in the Florida Panhandle last October, there has been an emphasis by civic leaders on our communities’ ability to “bounce back.” I recently read two blogs posts on libraries, librarians, and resiliency.

In “Characteristics of a Change Resilient Librarian,” [ ] Ron Aspe discusses the importance of librarians being change agents.

While this post was addressed to special librarians, I believe it applies to all library staff. Every library deals with challenges on a regular basis. “Libraries must cope with staff shortages, budget cuts, outdated technology, competition from unexpected sources, and even negative stereotypes.”

Resilient librarians look for ways to expand their relevance in their larger organizations (i.e., town, county, university, etc.). They look for ways to use their skills in new ways and with new tools. They tie their services to clear goals and objectives for their libraries. These proactive librarians look for ways to contribute to the larger organization/community and show the value of the library. They make connections with their peers in other departments and agencies.

In “Reasons to love your library: Think of them as ‘resilience centers’,” [] Amy Brunvand discusses how libraries are not only essential in times of crisis but also in creating sustainable communities.

“The reason libraries are so effective to re-ground and re-center communities in crisis is that they already serve a similar if less urgent role in more normal times, with goals for literacy, civic engagement and community resiliency, as well as collections that preserve community memory, identity, history and a sense of place.”

Following a disaster, libraries are critical as sources of information, venues for distribution of supplies, and communication centers. They often provide a place for FEMA to set up locations to assist the victims of the disaster. If the library can be reopened quickly, it restores a small piece of normalcy in the lives of people who may have nowhere else to go.

Are you and your library resilient? What do you need to do to improve your library’s ability to bounce back? Disaster planning? Training? Making connections with other agencies?

“The Road to Resilience” page of the American Psychological Association website [] has a list of ways to build resilience.  While these suggestions are designed for individuals, many of the ideas can be applied to organizations. What will you do to make sure you and your library can adapt to changes, big and small, that may come your way.

Playaways – Another Audiobook Format

Photo of The Silent Patient on a Playaway

My parents were recently in New Mexico, and a friend of theirs showed them the audioboook she was listening to on a device called a Playaway that she had checked out from the Alamogordo Public Library. I had never heard of it, and I can’t help but feel like I should have known about this.

So if you’re like me and never heard of Playaways, I’ll help you out. Basically, a Playaway is a portable listening device with an audiobook preloaded onto it. It has some pretty nifty features:

  • Reverse by chapter or within a chapter
  • Fast forward by chapter or within a chapter
  • 5 narration speeds

It’s easy to use, great for technology-challenged patrons. And it’s small. It’s about half the size of a deck of cards. It bookmarks the spot where you left off so you don’t lose your place in the book. You can also lock the controls so that you don’t accidentally fast forward or something while you’re listening.

It requires 1 AAA battery, which the company says lasts for about 30 hours of play. You will also need earphones or speakers. You can plug it into your car’s aux jack.

The price is a little more than either a CD audiobook or e-audiobook, but it does come with a 1 year limited warranty. Here are the prices I found for The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides (which, by the way, Carol and I listened to on our way to a conference in Knoxville and highly recommend!):

  • Playaway $69.99
  • RBdigital $47.49
  • Amazon CD $25.94

Please let me know in the comments section if your library carries these (I know the LeRoy Collins Leon County Public Library has some), and how they are working for your patrons.

The Chronicles of St. Mary’s by Regina Burgess

Cover of book Just One Damned Thing after Another by Jodi TaylorIn today’s blog post, I want to share with you a series that I absolutely love: The Chronicles of St. Mary’s by Jodi Taylor.

The first novel in the series, Just One Damned Thing After Another, introduces us to our heroine, Dr. Madelaine Maxwell, known as Max, who joins the St. Mary’s Institute of Historical Research. St. Mary’s consists of a bunch of disaster-prone historians who study major historical events in contemporary time.

Do NOT call it time travel!

The goal of the historians is to observe and document to try to find the answers to some of history’s unanswered questions – and not die in the process.

In the first novel, they time travel…er, visit 11th century London, World War I, the Cretaceous Period, and the destruction of the Great Library at Alexandria.

The books are hilarious – seriously laugh-out-loud fun! I love them so much that I also read all of the short stories and novellas in the series, and I am not usually a fan of short stories.

I found the books on Amazon (I don’t know how), but I probably wouldn’t have found them in a library because they would be shelved in SciFi, and I don’t read SciFi.

I mean, obviously I do, or I wouldn’t have read these books, but I don’t actively seek SciFi materials.

There are currently nine novels in the series (plus several short stories):

  • A Symphony of Echoes
  • A Second Chance
  • A Trail Through Time
  • No Time Like the Past
  • What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
  • Lies, Damned Lies, and History
  • And the Rest if History
  • An Argumentation of Historians

Book 10 is scheduled to be published next month:

  • Hope for the Best

Other historical periods the historians visit include Jack the Ripper’s London; the murder of Archbishop Thomas á Becket; Stone Age hunters; a mirror-stealing Isaac Newton; dodos eating cucumber sandwiches; the Great Fire of London; and the Bronze Age of Troy.

But will they ever discover why all the travel pods smell like cabbage?

I highly recommend this series, and I also recommend that you read it in order. Enjoy!

Edit: Thanks to Vicky Stever’s suggestion, we will order the entire series on RBdigital.