Earlier this year, The Center For Fiction moved from its Manhattan site to a new home in downtown Brooklyn. EQMM and AHMM managing editor Jackie Sherbow had a chance to speak with Allison Escoto, the Center’s head librarian, about the Center and its Raven Award winning mystery and detective fiction collection, her work and goals for the library, the organization’s history, and her thoughts on the mystery genre and other literature. Allison, a New Yorker by way of New Orleans, is a graduate of SUNY New Paltz and Queens College and has worked as a librarian for seventeen years. She is also a poet, copywriter, and the associate editor of Newtown Literary. Here is the second half of Jackie’s conversation with her; the first half appeared yesterday at TRACE EVIDENCE, the Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine blog.
Jackie Sherbow: What are your favorite mysteries—specific titles, authors, or subgenres?
Allison Escoto: I recently finished Attica Locke’s Bluebird, Bluebird and was hooked! Any mystery with a strong central character really appeals to me. I do enjoy delving into series with an historical bent and on the cozier side, like the Phryne Fisher series.
JS: What are your favorite genres and/or forms of books to read in general?
AE: I enjoy reading so much that it is hard to pin down my favorite genres but I suppose literary fiction, historical fiction, and poetry are what I read most frequently.
JS: Does your work at the library influence your own lifestyle as a reader?
AE: Only in that I get to be surrounded by fellow book lovers, always ready with recommendations. Also, publishers are very kind to librarians and I am always very lucky to get early access to new books. I’m very lucky!
JS: What about your writing career?
AE: The Center for Fiction has amazing programs for writers from workshops to boot camps to author talks. I feel fortunate to have access to these tools. Plus, all the reading I’m doing is having a huge influence on the way I look at writing.
JS: How does your work here compare to your work at other libraries?
AE: Working for a small non-profit is always a team effort and in this job, I am learning so much about how all the different departments work. Many of my previous positions were for much larger organizations with a clear delineation of departments and responsibilities. Here, there is almost always overlap and there is a real teamwork atmosphere that gives me insight into how each individual contributes to running the Center as a whole.
JS: What do you wish everyone would know about the Center for Fiction?
AE: That we are a true home for readers and writers!
JS: What do you wish everyone would know about libraries/library services in general?
AE: I feel completely privileged to have worked as a librarian for the last seventeen years, mostly because it has made me understand the wealth of vital services libraries provide to all kinds of organizations and communities. Whether it is public, academic, or a specialized library like the one at the Center for Fiction, libraries often fill a need that few other organizations can.
JS: What would be a “dream” acquisition of yours for the library, if you could pick any edition of any work?
AE: Considering we’ve been around since the 1820s, I would love it if we had some first edition, signed copies from those early decades. A first edition of Ivanhoe or A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass or Frankenstein.
JS: How can visitors interact with the collection at the Center’s library?
AE: Our library is available to members of the Center. It is one of the many, many perks to joining as a member!
JS: What classes or other programs should we keep an eye out for?
AE: We have a great lineup of summer reading groups including N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth Series, as well as Identity in Graphic Novels. We are also just about to open enrollment for our Literary Thrillers Reading Group with Crimereads editor Dwyer Murphy, which we are very excited about! Our inaugural season of programming has been wonderful and everyone should sign up for our newsletter for updates and information. Follow us on social media for information on upcoming programs.
Many thanks for joining us, Allison!
You can check out the Center for Fiction on their website, on Instagram and Twitter @center4fiction, on Facebook @thecenterforfiction, or by visiting them at 15 Lafayette Avenue, Brookly, New York. For a look at their upcoming classes and workshops, visit https://www.centerforfiction.org/events/ and https://www.centerforfiction.org/groups-workshops/.