Click here for quick access to all of the materials for the 2014-15 Crime Fiction Genre Study. Please note, some information will be password protected for members only. Click here for information about joining ARRT.


I can come to your library, book club meeting, or conference to talk about how to help your readers find their next good read. Click here for more information.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Horror For Beginners

Our Trick or Treat Greeter
Happy Halloween!  Phew, I made it to Day 31.  Well, I still need to make it through tonight with four, 9 and 10 yr old boys sleeping over our house.  Thank goodness there is plenty of candy!

I had a great time talking to everyone about horror, yesterday.

As I discussed in the presentation, my specialty is helping librarians feel more confident as they help horror readers, but there are plenty of you out there who don't usually read like horror and want to give it a try.

How do you help the horror newbie?

One answer to that question can be found here in a post by my fellow ALA Editions author and Genre blending expert, Megan McArdle.

The post is appropriately titled, Horror for Beginners.

Don't forget to keep using this blog as a resource all year long.  Horror fans read scary books all the year through.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Slides for Today's Horror Fiction Webinar

As I posted a few days ago here, today is your chance to hear me talk about why reader's love horror...for FREE. 1pm Eastern/Noon Central. 

I have planned 30 minutes of talking and am willing to take questions for 30 more minutes, so bring your tough horror questions.

The presentation with the live links is available here, or just click on the first slide below.

Can't wait to give you the Halloween pep talk!

Use the slides to find a way to contact me.  I don’t hide in the shadows.

Click the slide to go right to the presentation

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

BPL Book Discussion: Tale for the Time Being

Last week we met to discuss the AMAZING novel A Tale For the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki.

Here is the publisher's summary [It's a long one]:
Amid the garish neon glare of a district of Tokyo known as Akiba Electric Town, sixteen–year–old Naoko Yasutani pours out her thoughts into a diary. She is drinking coffee in a cafe where the waitresses dress like French maids and a greasy–looking patron gazes at her with dubious intent. The setting is hardly ordinary, but Nao, as she is called, is not an ordinary girl.
Humbled by poverty since her father lost his high–income tech job in Silicon Valley and had to move the family back to Japan, Nao has been bullied mercilessly in school. Seemingly unmanned by his professional failure, her father, Haruki, has attempted suicide. Nao herself regards her diary as a protracted suicide note—but one she will not finish until she has committed to its pages the life story of her 104-year-old great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun named Jiko. 
Years later on the other side of the Pacific, shielded from damage by a freezer bag and a Hello Kitty lunchbox, Nao’s diary washes up on the shore of British Columbia and falls into the hands of a writer named Ruth, who becomes captivated by Nao’s revelations. As Ruth’s fascination grows, however, so does her sense of dread: Has Nao followed through on her suicidal pledge? If not, is there still time to save her? Or has Nao survived her bout with adolescent angst, only to be swept away to her death by the cataclysmic tsunami of March 2011? 
Moved to compassion by the young girl’s words, Ruth ransacks the Internet for a trace of Naoko Yasutani or her father. She finds almost nothing there, but the mystery deepens when she discovers a second document in the same packet: a collection of letters from Haruki’s uncle, Jiko’s son, who was conscripted against his will in 1943 to serve the Emperor as a kamikaze pilot. Slowly Ruth pulls the pieces of the mystery together, learning about the lives of an extraordinary family whose history is both inspirational and tragic. 
Day by day, in her quest to save a girl she has never met, Ruth begins to acquire the wisdom that just might save herself. And above all the mystery and drama stands the presiding spirit of great–grandmother Jiko, an Eastern saint whose prayers and paradoxes point the way to a more settled sense of self.
Unflinching in its portrayal of the deep conflicts in Japanese culture, equally incisive in its assessments of the West, A Tale for the Time Being exposes a world on the edge of catastrophe. Simultaneously, with exquisite delicacy and an intimate sense of human motivation, it reveals its characters as kind, compassionate, and worthy of deliverance from the evils we do to ourselves and to one another.
Ever mindful of the small, A Tale for the Time Being also contemplates the large: quantum mechanics, Zen meditation, computer science, climate change, and the nature of being all pass beneath the author’s thoughtful gaze. A novel about both the near–impossibility and the necessity of communication, A Tale for the Time Being communicates a love of life in all its complex beauty. 

Before I get to the discussion itself, I have a few general comments. This is one of the best novels I have ever led a discussion on.  This is a book that is BEGGING to be discussed. I will recount all of the opinions and ideas expressed in our discussion below, but this is just a tip of the iceberg.  We could have kept going for 2 more hours easily.

Here are the discussion notes:
  • This is a challenging novel, but I had warned the group about that in advance.  Still, I was a bit nervous asking for a group vote on the book.  I should have known better than to underestimated the ladies.  10 Liked, 2 disliked, 2 so-sos. [2 votes were came in via email or phone as they had to miss the meeting but loved the book too much not to vote.]
    • One of my so-sos voted that way because of how long it took her to "get into it." This comment caused another to say, that was why she voted liked-- once she got to the Jiko character she felt like the book was worth the wait.
    • No matter how people felt, we all agreed it took until part 2 starts (about 100 pages in) until we felt comfortable.
    • I liked the spiritual experiences here.
    • I felt like the book portrayed the Japanese personality well.
    • I loved how the lines between "fiction" and nonfiction blended in the novel.
    • It was an uncomfortable read at times with the horrific bullying, sex industry, and talk of suicide, but it was never gratuitous.  It made you think about these issues.
  • Right at the start a few people mention asking themselves, "Why did I have so much trouble getting into this novel?" I thought this needed to be discussed:
    • It is an entire book about the collaborative nature of reading.  There is a key quote about it on page 109.  The novel's story line is a study in a reader and writer working together to unravel a story. Ozeki involves us by making us experience it too.  We all agreed that this active participation by us, as readers, improves the story and our experience reading it.
    • We talked about this for a bit and then came to the conclusion that the end of the novel was perfect because the end wasn't the end. It keeps going, like life. Very satisfying.
    • I think once we talked about how the novel is constructed in a way that is challenging but for an ultimate goal of our enjoyment of the story, people felt better about how hard they worked.
  • As I am sorting through my notes, I am remembering how philosophical our discussion was.  here are some topics we brought up and discussed at length:
    • What is reality?
    • What is my reality?
    • How does my perception of reality shape my reality?
    • What is the present?
    • What is time?
    • We had a discussion about Quantum Physics using the Appendix which explains the theoretical physics of  the Schrodinger's Cat Paradox. Click here for more on that. This led to discussions about how we think and create in the "time being." and how what is happening around us is dependent upon who is observing the happenings.
      • It is NOT coincidental that a key action in the book involves a box being opened at different times and people finding something different in it at different times.
  • Now, this is a book where what is happening on the page is open to interpretations, As a result we all posited different thoughts as to what was “really” going on:
    • Ruth and Nao are not 2 separate people but rather 2 halves of the same person.
    • Or they are 1 person but one of them conjured the other to cope.  Who conjured whom though?
    • Ruth is a writer in the beginning stages of Alzheimers and the whole novel is her story of the novel she is writing and the process of writing it.  Clues from her husband’s comments as they “read” Nao’s story together, the slow speed at which she “read” Nao’s diary, and the blank pages at the end.
    • This truly is a story told on different planes of reality a la quantum physics
    • Everything that happens can be taken literally and it is a magical realism story.
    • In the end we decided that it means what you think it means and that THAT comment is the entire point of the book.
  • We all loved the Jiko character. 
    • She unites everyone, both readers and those in the story.  That is why she is there.
    • When the stress or conflict in the story escalates, Jiko comes back to calm things down.
    • She is there to nourish the soul.
    • We wish all children could be given a “supapawa" like Jiko gave Nao.
  • We did talk about the ending at length.
    • The ending was very happy, but was it too happy?
    • Ruth needed a happy ending.
    • The reader deserved one too after working so hard
    • The ending was very “quantum” as we had a few possible endings here.
    • The ending is happy because Ruth is celebrating the end of writer’s block and finishing the book
  • We talked about the theme of loss in this story
    • There are many times when they lose power or communication with the outside world
    • Things being erased from the Internet
    • Alzheimers
    • A lost cat
    • A lost child
    • Lost homes (America vs Japan; NYC vs the Canadian island)
    • Whaletown lost its whales but kept its name
    • The free store-- the dump where lost things go
    • Life is an accumulation of losses
  • Of course we talked about time:
    • It’s a “tale” for the time being. The entire book is a tale not the truth. It is not meant to be taken literally.
    • “Tale" invokes fairy tale
    • Time itself cannot be more than a tale because it has no beginning or end.
    • Someone shared a quote from Thich Nat Hahn: "The present moment is where life can be found, and if you do not arrive here, you will miss your appointment with life.
  • Other issues we brought up briefly:
    • Pacifism
    • Environmentalism-- contributed to the theme of loss as we are losing the health of our planet.
    • Radiation issues with Fukushima.
    • Social media and bullying
  • We started to wrap things up with a return to the beginning-- Why was this book so hard to get into?
    • Because it a book that is like life and life can be hard and difficult but is worth it.
    • This book fanned out.  As book went on it blossomed and opened up and turned into a beautiful contemplation of Life.
  • Words or phrases to describe this book:
    • zen
    • spiritual
    • Supapawa
    • writer-reader combo
    • ugliness of human nature vs the redeeming nature of other
    • thoughtful
    • intricate
    • layered
    • mind-blowing
    • magical thinking
    • supportive relationships
    • 4th Dimension
    • challenging
    • loss
    • life- live
    • passage
    • unforgettable
    • philosophical
    • time
    • beauty of pacifism
Readalikes: This one was easy for me. Although the novel was unique, it also reminded me of other metafiction books and/or authors that were thoughtful, stylistically complex, and character driven:
Finally, for watch alikes we had two movies about alternate realities and popular quantum physics applications come up:

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Listen to Me on Circulating Ideas Episode 53

My favorite library related podcast is Circulating Ideas by Steve Thomas. Why do I like it so much? Because of it’s subtitle: The Librarian Interview Podcast.

With this podcast, Steve is able to bring the thoughts of librarians from all over the country right to you.  I subscribe so that I can hear different perspectives and opinions from my colleagues on my own time. Circulating Ideas provides, for me, the type of experience I used to only be able to get by attending a conference-- a place where I can learn from my colleagues, hear opinions and ideas that are outside of my personal experience, and “meet” new and interesting people in my field.

This is why I invited Steve to the Illinois Library Association Conference where he presented two fantastic programs.  One on podcasting for libraries and another on using Kickstarter to build your community. [Links go to his slides]. He has been able to take his own interest in learning more about what other librarians are doing and working on and has made it available to all of us.

I not only like the podcast because it is well done and useful, but I feel like Steve is doing the same thing I aimed to do when I started this blog back in 2007.  I wanted to bring together the desperate voices and work in the RA field and highlight them all in one place.

While Steve was at the ILA Conference, I helped him to arrange a few interviews with interesting folks in the IL library community.  So look for those coming soon.

But first, there is my interview.  I am first because while most of the interview is about how I approach RA in general, there is a little about horror too.  What better week to listen to my interview than now?

So if you want to hear my philosophy on RA in a nutshell, click through to the interview.

And if you want to keep your mind open to different people and ideas throughout the entire profession, subscribe to Circulating Ideas, and listen no matter who is on.  In fact, I often pay more attention when it is someone from outside my normal experiences.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Monday Discussion: How Are You Going to Celebrate Halloween?

This is a cross post with RA for All: Horror

We are in the home stretch now. It is time for the Monday Discussion one last Halloween themed time.

Today's question is easy, how are you going to celebrate on 10/31/14?

Me first.

I have a lot planned this year.  Friends from out of town are bringing their 2 yr old to watch my 4th grader (who will be going as a zombie doctor) in his school parade. I love watching the 600+ kids trot by one after another.

Then after school, his friends are coming over for some gross grub and trick or treating with 2 dads supervising.  I usually make a very chunky and red chili for Halloween.  It looks gross but tastes yummy.  However, with 4 little boys over who may be picky eaters I am switching to a giant pot of macaroni and cheese with cut up hot dogs and broccoli chunks. Still looks gross, but will be better suited to a 9 and 10 yr old palate.

My 7th grader (going as a mime) will be out with friends trick or treating.  I am glad she still is getting dressed up and participating.  It helps that the Jr High threw a Halloween costume party this past weekend.

I will be answering the door in a scary mask with a witch hat thrown on for good measure, while drinking a zombie dust beer and toasting that I have made it through yet another crazy October.

Here at the BPL, we will also have trick or treating at all of the service desks available all day on the 31st.  Feel free to dress up and show off your costumes here at the library.

What about you.  Are you dressing up? What as?  Do you have special plans since it is on a Friday this year?  Share them here.

For past Monday Discussions, click here.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Horror Blog Updates

I know it is Sunday and I don’t usually post here on the weekends, but we are getting close to Halloween and many of you do not read the horror blog regularly, so this a reminder to go check out my 31 Days of Horror over on RA for All: Horror.

Most importantly for general RA followers is my brand new review of The Quick by Lauren Owen which is a fantastic Halloween suggestion for readers who want vampires but also enjoy literary fiction.  It is a WAY better choice than The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.

Click through to see why.

Back tomorrow with a final Halloween themed Monday Discussion.

Friday, October 24, 2014

FREE Halloween Webinar with Me Next Week

Today's post is to tell you about the FREE webinar I am doing in conjunction with my publisher, ALA Editions on Thursday, October 30th.  Click here for all of the details and to sign up for FREE!

I have reposted the important info with links below.  But here's what you are going to get:

30 minutes of me doing a prepared talk on WHY people love horror with a few author examples.
30 minutes of live questions from any of you asking me about specific books or horror related issues at your library.

Remember, this is sponsored by my publisher, so I am going to be pushing the hundreds of title suggestions available in my book, and on this blog, which is your FREE update to the book.

In fact, to get you excited for signing up and possibly buying the book, click here to get a preview of my slides which includes a coupon on slide 2!

I hope to "see" you there next week. It can be your lunch break! Well, only if you can handle talking horror while eating.  I can, but I know I am weird that way.


Horror Readers' Advisory for Halloween!
with Becky Spratford
Thursday, October 30, 2014
1:00pm ET | 12:00pm CT
11:00am MT | 10:00am PT 

60 Minutes
 Halloween is right around the corner, and the demand for horror books is peaking! In this free webinar, horror expert Becky Spratford will teach you the basics of providing great readers'- advisory services for students and patrons of all ages.
You'll learn how to provide age- and community-appropriate resources for your readers as well as how to avoid potential problem areas. Don't miss this opportunity to learn! Becky Spratford has been a Readers' Advisor for patrons ages 13 and up for over 14 years at the Berwyn Public Library (IL). She has taught at the graduate level and trains librarians all over the world. Spratford runs two popular and critically acclaimed blogs, RA for All ( and RA for All: Horror ( and writes content for EBSCO's NoveList database. She is the author of The Readers' Advisory Guide to Horror (ALA Editions, 2012) and is a proud member of the Horror Writers Association.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Norwegian Librarians Are Coming....

No that is not a joke.  They are actually here already. Seriously, I am picking them up at the train station in less than an hour.

Let me back up a bit, though.  Next month, Joyce Saricks is headed to Norway to conduct RA training.  In preparation for her trainings, a couple of Norwegian librarians have come to the Midwest to see RA in action. While in the Chicagoland area, Joyce asked ARRT to help facilitate some tours and experiences for them.

Yesterday, they travelled out to the Geneva Public Library and attending the ARRT Literary Book Discussion and Training (a quarterly members only event).

Today, I have the pleasure of showing them the Berwyn Public Library and the La Grange Public Library.  And,  I have even arranged for them to have lunch with the President of the Illinois Library Association, Jeannie Dilger (my local library Director).

Tomorrow, they will be touring Skokie Public Library.

We are all very excited to have the chance to showcase RA Service to those from overseas.

In honor of their visit, here is a link to all my posts where I mention the first thing you thought of when I mentioned Norway, Nordic Noir.  [Admit it; you know you did.]

New Genre Study Notes Are Available

Those of you following the ARRT Genre Study on this blog, we have our notes from the October 2, 2014 meeting up.  They are password protected with your password AND you should have received them via email late yesterday.

Also, this is your 6 week reminder that we will be discussing the thriller subgenres of Espionage and Forensic on December 4th at the Glenview Public Library.  Anyone, member or not, can click here and use the assignment to run their own genre study. Please just credit ARRT and the genre study website.

If you are interested in more information about this genre study in particular, or in running a genre study on any genre, you can contact me.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

ILEAD U: Using Technology to Tackle Community Problems-- A Bridging the Physical Virtual Divide Example

A few years ago, the Illinois State Library started a program that has now taken off in a few others states.  It is called ILEAD U.  Here is some general information on the program:
Problem Statement: Librarians must expand their leadership abilities by using participatory technology tools to address the needs of their patrons and foster greater community involvement and civic engagement. Examples of participatory technology tools might include digital audio/podcasting, digital photography and video, blogging tools, instant messaging, photosharing (e.g., Flikr), RSS, social networking (e.g., Facebook), videoconferencing, virtual reference, virtual worlds (e.g., Second Life), web conferencing and Wikis. The entire library community may benefit if the successful application of these tools results in the development of an easy-to-replicate program. 
Innovation: The Illinois State Library applied for and received a three-year Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to develop ILEAD U as a national model for participatory technology training. Eight five-member teams representing multitype libraries across Illinois take part in three, three-day in-person seminars over a period of nine months. Teams are assigned mentors who keep participants motivated; offer expertise; and provide guidance and advice. Teams identify a single group project of the team’s design that will address at least one identified need within their communities of users. Teams use the skills and training acquired throughout the sessions to develop, implement, manage and evaluate the projects. 
Progress: The first group of 8 teams who participated in 2010 are using Web 2.0 technology to address issues such as unemployment and job searching in central and southern Illinois; addressing the informational needs of law students in Chicago; providing outreach to people whose second language is English in the Chicago collar counties; and addressing economic development along the I-80 corridor from Rockford to Joliet. The second group of 8 teams is currently engaged in ILEAD U. Like the first group, the teams represent all geographic areas of Illinois and all types of libraries, and they are learning to use participatory technology to address issues such as developing job searching skills; providing quality library programming; fostering digital literacy; establishing an online platform to promote local history; and providing government information. In addition, 12 individuals from state libraries around the nation are participating as observers with the intent of importing ILEAD U to their states. States participating in 2011 are Iowa, South Carolina, Montana, Utah, Colorado, Georgia, Arkansas, New Jersey, Indiana, Michigan, Tennessee and Ohio.
The program continues today. At the BPL we have had a few employees go through and work on a team to complete a project, and this year I have been part of the mentor team for someone at my home library.  

This year's group of participants will be wrapping up their year of work  next week in Springfield, IL, but I thought I would share what the team I have been in touch with is working on.

They have called their project "Traveling Tablet Tour For Illinois Libraries." Here is their mission: 
To provide Illinois librarians the opportunity to borrow a set of iPads for use in children's, family and teen programming and to establish a forum for resource sharing.  

Here is the website they have created to facilitate this program. And go to the end of this post to see the adorable video they have created.

One of their biggest challenges was figuring out how to send the iPads between libraries.  In the beginning of their project I suggested that they look into using the already established Library System ILL trucking.  This is a free service for libraries to share resources and since their mission was "to establish a forum for resource sharing," I thought they could convince the systems to help.

I was correct, as Rachel, a team member told me:
One of our biggest successes so far is that RAILS has agreed to work with us to ship the set of 5 iPads that we will be purchasing. If RAILS wasn't willing to deliver the iPads, we would have had to set aside quite a bit of money from our grant to cover shipping costs. The majority of our grant money is going towards the iPads and accessories, such as cases, toggles so libraries can hook the iPads up to a projector, and a container to ship the iPads in. We also used some of the money for a .com and the rest will go towards an Apple gift card to purchase apps and replace any accessories along the way.  
Any library who receives RAILS deliveries can request to borrow our set of iPads for up to one month. We’ve already received one request! If you’d like to pass along the word to any library friends that you know that may like to take advantage of this project, please do. We also have an app database on our website, where library staff can search for program ideas and age appropriate apps, even if they don’t borrow our iPads; it’s a opportunity for resource sharing.
But what does all of this have to do with RA?  Well, I am showcasing this project because I think it is an excellent example of the on-going conversation I am trying to have with the library community about being better at bridging the physical virtual divideClick here for more posts on that issue by me, including entire programs on the topic.

I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised that the Library System did agree to help because in the past, they have stood firm on only sending materials specifically requested between libraries,  This idea was outside the old rigid box, but I am glad that others are focusing on the service, in this case resource sharing, and not the rules from pre-digital days. 

For more information on ILEAD U please contact the Illinois State Library.