CLICK HERE for quick access to the materials for the 2016-17 Speculative Fiction Genre Study.
The website now features UNRESTRICTED access, including notes from our meetings; however, in order to attend the meetings in person, you must be a member of ARRT. Click here for information about how you can join.


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.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

RA for All Roadshow Visits Kokomo-Howard County [IN] Public Library for Regional Book Discussion Leadership Training

This afternoon I am in Indiana at KHCPL meeting with Book Discussion Leaders from libraries in the surrounding area from 1-4 pm eastern.

I am planning to run this training in two parts.  The first will be my standard (updated last week) Re-Charge Your Book Club presentation for book discussion leaders. Description:
Reader’s advisor Becky Spratford has been leading  book clubs for over 15 years and has seen it all. In this program she will share her tips and tricks for success. All book groups go through their ups and downs, but re-energizing your group is not as hard as it may seem. Becky will walk you through how to confidently identify and utilize the best resources for leading a book discussion, pick books that will engender the best conversations, lead a more interactive discussion even with the most jaded of groups. Let her show you how to take control, shake things up, and rediscover why you started the group in the first place. And make sure to bring your specific issues and concerns about your own group as there will be plenty of time for all of us to help each other.
That will run for about 90 minutes before we take a break.

Then, we will have 75 minutes or so for open discussion. I have asked the participants to bring their problems, triumphs, failures, successes, and questions for the group to talk about together. I have some conversation starters to help get it going, but my experience tells me that we will have no problem filling the time.

One of the things that library workers who run book clubs are STARVED for is the chance to get together with each other and talk about their groups.

Readers of the blog know that one of my favorite things is running the Adult Reading Round Table Book Club Study:
ARRT’s Book Club Study gives library book group leaders the chance to sit back and participate in a discussion without the stress of leading it. At the end of each discussion, we offer a “nuts and bolts” training session with practical solutions to the problems and concerns of book group leaders. 
I am trying to bring this book discussion leader support group idea to as many places as I can. I have found that just getting book discussion leaders who are geographically close to each other together in the same room goes a long way toward getting them to continue staying in touch.

But you don’t need to pay me to come to your library to start your own regional book discussion leader support group. Just start calling around and asking your colleagues over to your library and start sharing with each other. You will all benefit.

Back to today. Here are the slides. There is much here for all book discussion leaders to use and learn from, even if you aren’t with us tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

RA for All Roadshow: Sure Bet Bests PLA Year in Review Webinar

For the second year in a row I am presenting the PLA, free to members, year end best books wrap up webinar, today at 1 pm central.

[For details and a link to last year's slides, click here.]

Participants, below you will find the link to the live slides. And guess what? Those of you who aren't attending, you too can find the link to the slides filled with many links below. Everybody wins!

Some of the content I will be talking about in the hour presentation is based off of posts I have published, or plan to publish before the end of the year. So taking some time to browse through this month's RA for All posts will give the slides a bit more context especially for those of you who could not attend the webinar.

So without further ado, here is Sure Bet Bests: Matching Readers wit their "Best" Reads.

CLICK HERE for slide access

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Patron Participation in Year End Best Lists Featuring Goodreads and NPR Best Books Concierge

Tomorrow I will be presenting my second annual Best Books webinar for PLA members. One of the main points I will be making in that presentation is that you need to gather "best" opinions from as many people as possible in order to be able to help everyone find the right "best" book for them.

One of the largest "best" opinions we as library workers are bad at gathering is from our own patrons. Sure we check circulation statistics all of the time, but that just tells us what is checked out the most. It does not tell us which items our patrons most enjoyed. That more important information is much harder to gather.

In the webinar, I will be giving you some ideas on how to encourage patron participation in creating a picture of what is "best" at your library. But, I also know that some of my ideas may be pushing the envelope for some libraries. There may be institutional barriers that don't allow for my suggestions to be used at your library.

However that doesn't mean you have to give up. One of the best reader driven best lists that every single one of you can access came out today...

CLICK HERE to access the full list
The Goodreads Best Books of 2016, the only major year end book award that is 100% reader driven.

So if you cannot poll your own patrons easily, use their poll.

This list is a wonderful tool for many other reasons too.

First, they do multiple rounds of voting and narrow down the final ballot in a way allows some smaller titles, missed by all other best lists, to be in contention. This also means that the titles on the final voting lists are proven winners. These are books you can confidently use as a sure bet to suggest to a reader. It is not just some newspaper critic who liked it, it was a real reader, just like the patron in front of you. And with vote total for all finalists given, its not just 1 reader, its hundreds or thousands (or tens of thousands for some) that enjoyed it.

[Okay, that paragraph had like 3 or 4 reasons, moving on...]

Second, they have many genre categories which means we can also use each genre list of finalists and winners as a sure bet for genre fans.

Third, even nonfiction is broken down into six separate categories which is rare in best lists. Again giving us more lists of winners and finalists to use as sure bets for our readers with a particular reading interest like "Science and Technology." Now instead of 1 S&T title appearing in a general, nonfiction best list, you get 20!

Finally, even though I feel like I sound like a broken record, don't forget the backlist of previous award winners and nominees. Goodreads has every year's list [since 2009!] linked at the bottom of the front page of this year's list.  Any or all of those titles are a great place to start when you are looking for sure bet title suggestions for any type of reader.

Another resource I love that is not as overtly reader driven is the NPR Best Books Concierge. This list is a favorite of mine because it puts all of the best books into a single pile and then allows the user of the list to customize the results-- thus making the results list reader driven.

I also enjoy how they filters are not just genre labels, but rather, based on actual reader tastes.  So, you can click on "the dark side," and get a list of 67 choices, and then go even deeper by adding the "rather long" filter on top of it and get 7 choices.

That list can be created by one reader. But another could apply the filters,  "funny stuff" and "for music lovers" and get these 3 completely different-- yet still "best"-- titles. Each list is "best" for the reader in question. No need to worry about creating a one size fits all best list.

I love that readers can interact with the NPR Best Books Concierge and make themselves the perfect list of the year's "best" offering.

And like Goodreads, they also have the backlist concierges available for browsing-- right at the top of the page! These older lists are just as useful as we help patrons. In fact, I refer to previous year's concierge's all of the time, no matter the season. I often walk through them with a reader in front of me to help them pinpoint the type of book they are looking for using the natural language filters. From there I often branch out to other resources, but any of the concierges makes for a great RA conversation starting point with a reader who is having trouble expressing what they are looking for.

I hope this post inspires you to figure out a way to incorporate reader participation in year end best lists. Or, at least gets you to think about these two resources from a patron participation perspective.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Answering the Calls to Action: Now and Anytime-- Featuring Morton [IL] Public Library

As the end of the year approaches, I am going to take a break from the Call to Action posts in favor of focusing more on Year End posts; however I did want to post an update to last week when I had this Call to Action explaining why your library need to make a local holiday gift guide.

In that post I mentioned how you could make one fairly quickly now, and also how you could work to build a better one next year by starting early and soliciting help. I also argued that big or small, any library could do something.

Well my friend Alissa Williams, the Director of Morton [IL] Public Library, a small library in a community of about 15,000 outside of Peoria, IL took the call.  She didn’t overthink it. She simply compiled some titles off the top of her head-- ones that had been popular both on best lists and at her library.

She spent about 90 minutes compiling and then gave the info off to the staff member in charge of making it look good and viola! Here is the link.

They already have it posted on the website too! It’s under the Books and eBooks tab as "Book Giving Guide."

The point of this post is to show you that any one of you can do this. Any one of you can do any of the Calls to Action.

Remember, I don’t expect any library to do them all; that would not be a good idea, you would exhaust yourself. Rather, I post them as a way to inspire and encourage you all to step out of your comfort zones and try something new. I try to post them weekly so that you don’t forget to think outside the shelf about your RA service, not to overwhelm you with how you could be better.

So look through the archive and pick one to try now, or as your goal for 2017.

And, I highlight some of the very best people who take my Calls to remind you that there are real people, at libraries not that different from your own, trying to serve leisure readers better, just like you are. You are not alone, and there are more people than just me there to support you.

We are all in this together.

Thanks to everyone who tried a Call to Action this year. Remember you can try any of them, at any time. You don’t need to follow my schedule [easy archive access here]. In fact, I love hearing about someone trying an older idea. I have analytics on this blog. I know you guys are looking at these posts. So if you have tried something, don’t be shy. Let me know if you have answered a call. I try to share as many as I can here on the blog.

Friday, December 2, 2016

What I’m Reading: Haven and The Burning World

I have two horror reviews in the 12/1/16 issue of Booklist. Both received stars, although I want to point out the second one here is shockingly good and it’s a DEBUT!!! Finally, both are great options for teens as well as adults.

Please note, most of the other titles in these reviews link to more reviews by me. Click through for even more information and/or readalike options.

The Burning World by Isaac Marion
Feb. 2017. 512p. Atria/Emily Bestler, hardcover, $27  (9781476799711); e-book, $9.99  (9781476799735)First published December 1, 2016 (Booklist).

In 2011, Marion released Warm Bodies, a refreshingly unique post-apocalyptic zombie novel. It told the love story of R, a recovering zombie, and Julie, a human girl. It’s popularity led to a movie and a clamoring for Marion to release a sequel. But it was clear that in order to continue R and Julie’s story, Marion would have to deepen the world building and characters, so he went back and wrote a prequel, The New Hunger (2013). Now, Marion has finally returned with that much desired sequel, The Burning World, and his efforts at laying a more stable groundwork behind the Warm Bodies world made it worth the wait. R and Julie are still helping recovering zombies rejoin the slowly healing world, but a new threat flies in, a corporate entity known as Axiom, with henchmen, secrecy, and violent domination on their minds. R, Julie and their friends, including an Axiom employee, end up on the run. What follows is a cross country journey to discover the truth behind Axiom and just how much of humanity is left out there, but along the way, our heroes also begin to understand more about themselves, their personal pasts, and how they each fit into the story of the end of the world. With exciting action sequences, intriguing new characters, and a much more epic scale to the story, The Burning World will leave readers satisfied but eagerly anticipating book four. Suggest to fans of epic horror with a science fiction tilt like Justin Cronin’s The Passage trilogy or Mira Grant’s Newsflesh series.

YA Statement- With a full cadre of “new adult” heroes trying to save the world while also looking for just how they fit into it, teens will find much to continue enjoying in this series.

Further Appeal: Okay, let’s be honest, Marion could have phoned it in here. But I really want to give him credit for going back and writing the prequel first to build up the foundation of the world and then move to the sequel to the enormously popular Warm Bodies

The Burning World moves the story away from its narrow scope, literally and figuratively which is a big change, but I think a good one.

Also, this novel introduces familial love back into the story through a few different characters. This makes sense as the characters are shifting from survival mode to actively trying to rebuild society.

Three Words That Describe This Book: exciting action, epic scope, moving

Readalikes: Other apocalyptic but non-zombie titles that readers may also enjoy include:

  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel because like The Burning World, we see flashbacks to how the world was destroyed and see a moving portrait of how people are trying to piece it back together.
  • The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker because like The Burning World we see the apocalyptic event through the eyes through a young person. In this case, the full weight of the apocalypse hasn't taken hold yet, but it is coming. 

Haven by Tomy Deady
Dec. 2016. 504p. Cemetery Dance, hardcover, $40  (9781587675133)First published December 1, 2016 (Booklist).

In 1961, the small town of Haven, Massachusetts was terrorized by a series of child murders. When a local, disfigured, young man, Paul Greymore was put in jail, on shaky evidence, for the murders, the residents of Haven thought they could go back to a peaceful life. However, in the unseasonably warm spring of 1978, 17 years later, Paul has been released, is reconnecting with those who believe in his innocence like the local Priest, a young neighbor named Denny, and his best friend Billy, when the strange killings start happening again. Some old grudges are leading the police chief to target Paul, but the evidence clearly points to something evil and monstrous lurking in the caves and lake in the town’s forest. Paul and Denny lead a ragtag group of unlikely heroes, heroes with as serious things to overcome in their personal lives as they do with the human and supernatural threats endangering their community. With compelling characters (both good and evil), a shifting narration that keeps the story moving, a slowly unveiled, but relentlessly building sense of dread, a recently unearthed and devastating secret from the past, and breathless action sequences, Haven is a well crafted example of what is best about horror today, and this is only Deady’s first novel. While obviously for fans of Stranger Things and classic, 1980s, small town horror by those like King or Straub, don’t let the novel’s setting keep you looking in the past. There is a 21st Century perspective behind this tale similar to Jonathan Maberry’s award-winning Pine Deep Trilogy or Jonathan Janz’ Children of the Dark. Hand out freely to anyone looking for a solid scare.

YA Statement- With strong coming of age themes and young, outcast heroes leading the charge against the monster and town bullies, Haven is the perfect choice for teens looking for a bit complexity to go with their chills.

Further Appeal: I just want to reiterate how good this novel was. I had everything you want from an old fashioned horror novel, yet it didn’t feel dated. This is a debut novel that I want to make sure libraries order and hand out to patrons who love any of the authors I mentioned above. They will not be disappointed.

Three Words That Describe This Book: sense of dread, shifting pov, compelling characters

Readlaikes: Besides the many I crammed into the review, I would also suggest this to your fans of Paul Tremblay, especially Disappearance at Devil’s Rock and Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Library Reads: Favorite of Favorites 2016

I already had a post today and I have 2 reviews set to run tomorrow, but I always promise to keep every Library Reads list available to you with one click of the Library Reads tag, so here it is.

Interestingly, [but not surprising if you have read this blog ever] I am much more intrigued by looking at the Favorite of Favorites lists from 2015 and 2014 to see how they have stood up over time. Answer: pretty well; you can still suggest all of the titles easily. However, overall, the lists are all very "white" and mostly female author driven. I know the Library Reads committee is trying very hard to include diverse works and I am excited to see that commitment pay off next year.

Here is the Favorite of Favorites 2016 Library Reads list:


The Woman in Cabin 10

by Ruth Ware

Published: 7/19/2016
by Gallery/Scout Press
ISBN: 9781501132933
“An intruder in the middle of the night leaves Lo Blacklock feeling vulnerable. Trying to shake off her fears, she hopes her big break of covering the maiden voyage of the luxury cruise ship, the Aurora, will help. The first night of the voyage changes everything. What did she really see in the water and who was the woman in the cabin next door? The claustrophobic feeling of being on a ship and the twists and turns of who, and what, to believe keep you on the edge of your seat.”
Joseph Jones, Cuyahoga County Public Library, OH
Commonwealth blog


by Ann Patchett

Published: 9/13/2016 by Harper
ISBN: 9780062491794
“The Cousins and the Keatings are two California families forever intertwined and permanently shattered by infidelity. Bert Cousins leaves his wife for Beverly Keating, leaving her to raise four children on her own. Beverly, with two children of her own, leaves her husband for Bert. The six children involved are forced to forge a childhood bond based on the combined disappointment in their parents. As adults, they find their families’ stories revealed in a way they couldn’t possibly expect. Patchett has written a family drama that perfectly captures both the absurdity and the heartbreak of domestic life.”
Michael Colford, Boston Public Library, Boston, MA

LucyBarton blog

My Name is Lucy Barton: A Novel

by Elizabeth Strout

Published: 1/12/2016 by Random House
ISBN: 9781400067695
“Set in the mid-1980s, Lucy Barton, hospitalized for nine weeks, is surprised when her estranged mother shows up at her bedside. Her mother talks of local gossip, but underneath the banalities, Lucy senses the love that cannot be expressed. This is the story that Lucy must write about, the one story that has shaped her entire life. A beautiful lyrical story of a mother and daughter and the love they share.”
Catherine Coyne, Mansfield Public Library, Mansfield, MA


The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

by Katarina Bivald

Published: 1/19/2016 by Sourcebooks Landmark
ISBN: 9781492623441
“Sara arrives in the small town of Broken Wheel to visit her pen pal Amy, only to discover Amy has just died. The tale of how she brings the love of books and reading that she shared with Amy to the residents of Broken Wheel is just a lovely read. Any book lover will enjoy Sara’s story and that of the friends she makes in Broken Wheel. If ever a town needed a bookstore, it is Broken Wheel; the healing power of books and reading is made evident by this heartwarming book.”
Barbara Clark-Greene, Groton Public Library, Groton, CT

A Great Reckoning blog

A Great Reckoning: A Novel

by Louise Penny

Published: 8/30/2016 by Minotaur Books
ISBN: 9781250022134
“Armand Gamache is back, and it was worth the wait. As the new leader of the Surete academy, Gamche is working to stop corruption at its source and ensure the best start for the cadets. When a copy of an old map is found near the body of a dead professor, Gamache and Beauvoir race against the clock to find the killer before another person dies. A terrific novel that blends Penny’s amazing lyrical prose with characters that resonate long after the book ends. Highly recommended.”
David Singleton, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, Charlotte, NC

The Nest

by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

Published: 3/22/2016 by Ecco
ISBN: 9780062414212
“If you think your family is dysfunctional, move over, because here come the Plumbs. Suddenly faced with the dismantling of the nest egg they’ve counted on to solve their financial woes, the four Plumb siblings have to grow up, and fast. But though they all do some terrible things in the name of ambition, there’s something lovable about the Plumbs. You can’t fail to be moved by the beating heart of this novel, which seems to say that family, for good or ill, unites us all.”
Mary Kinser, Whatcom County Library System, Bellingham, WA

Salt to the Sea

by Ruta Sepetys

Published: 2/2/2016 by Philomel Books
ISBN: 9780399160301
“Titanic. Lusitania. Wilhelm Gustloff. All major maritime disasters, yet the last is virtually unknown. Ruta Sepetys changes that in her gripping historical novel. Told in short snippets, Salt to the Sea rotates between four narrators attempting to escape various tragedies in 1945 Europe. Powerful and haunting, heartbreaking and hopeful–a must read.”
Jennifer Asimakopoulos, Indian Prairie Public Library, Darien, IL


The Summer Before the War: A Novel

by Helen Simonson

Published: 3/22/2016 by Random House
ISBN: 9780812993103
“Fans of Simonson’s Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand have reason to rejoice. She has created another engaging novel full of winsome characters, this time set during the summer before the outbreak of World War I. Follow the story of headstrong, independent Beatrice Nash and kind but stuffy surgeon-in-training Hugh Grange along with his formidable Aunt Agatha. Make a cup of tea and prepare to savor every page!”
Paulette Brooks, Elm Grove Public Library, Elm Grove, WI


Lilac Girls: A Novel

by Martha Hall Kelly

by Ballantine Books
ISBN: 9781101883075
“This is story of the Ravensbruck Rabbits: seventy-four women prisoners in the Ravensbruck concentration camp. Using alternating first-person narratives, the characters relate their experiences from 1939 through 1959. Drawing upon a decade of research, Hall reconstructs what life was like in Ravensbruck. More than a war story, this is a tale of how the strength of women’s bonds can carry them through even the most difficult situations. Lilac Girls is a solid, compelling historical read.”
Andrea Larson, Cook Memorial Public Library, Libertyville, IL

truly madlyblog

Truly Madly Guilty

by Liane Moriarty

Published: 7/26/2016 by Flatiron Books
ISBN: 9781250069795
“A typical afternoon barbecue among friends becomes something much bigger when one pivotal moment of inattention leads to repercussions for all in attendance. In trademark Moriarty style, the story flashes back and forth between the day of the barbecue and two months later, slowly revealing the events of the day and its consequences, creating a delicious momentum for the reader as the tension builds and the pieces fall into place. Moriarty has another sure-fire winner with this look at the complexities of friendship, marriage, and familial relationships.”
Halle Eisenman, Beaufort County Library, Hilton Head, SC

RA for All Roadshow Visits Wisconsin Virtually with a New Program!

This morning, I am presenting the following webinar for the members of a group of Wisconsin Library Sytems:
RA Rethink: The Adult Programming and Displays Edition: 
Becky Spratford brings her popular new RA Rethink Series to your computer with a webinar that focuses on serving your adult populations better. Becky will help you to rethink the library mainstays of programming and displays so that you can work more efficiently and dynamically to increase patron engagement with the library. So let’s take these old concepts out for a spin, air them out, and have some fun.  Sponsored by IFLS, MCLS, NFLS, NWLS, OWLS, SCLS, SEWI, SWLS, Winnefox Library Systems.
Please feel free to look at the slides whether you are attending the webinar or not.
Check out my Recent and Upcoming Presentations page for links to more programs and sample in-service day schedules. That page includes contact information.
Please note, 2016 is wrapping up. If you want to secure me for your group or library in 2017 but at 2016 prices, now is the time to contact me. I am taking Winter Break from 12/29 to 1/8, and when I return, the prices will be going up.
Click here for slide access

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

What I’m Reading: Every Heart a Doorway

Today I have a review of the novella, Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire. Plot via Goodreads:

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations No Visitors No Guests 
Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere... else. 
But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.
Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced... they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world. 
But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter. 
No matter the cost.
Appeal: This book is perfect for fans of darker fairy tales because when these kids return from their jaunts in magical lands, they are forever changed, and most cannot readjust to life in the real world. Just that set up alone will draw many fantasy fans to this novella.

Nancy as our guide is a clever way to introduce the setting here. She has returned from a very dark world, but yet, she loved it. She was literally surrounded by death and wants to return more than anything else. McGuire handles this so well. It would be easy to explain why a kid would have loved being in a happy land full of sparkles and fairies, but to be able to explain why Nancy feels grief at being away from her dark lord while still having her be an empowered young lady [she is no victim] is quite a feat.

Soon after Nancy’s arrival one of the students is murdered. This plot device keeps the story moving briskly and allows us to meet every character and evaluate them as a suspect. McGuire is able to introduce each character and explain the hierarchy of magical lands and how they are divided (it is fascinating, and in the readalikes section I have more on the topic), all while keeping the murder investigation moving forward.

While most of the kids at the school are archetypical examples of the type of kid that gets sucked into  a vaguely familiar magical land, there are 2 very key characters who we all know-- Jack and Jill. Their story stands at the center of this slim volume. McGuire gives these kids, who all we have ever known about them is that they "go up the hill,” a complicated and intriguing backstory.

Overall, this is a character driven story. If you are not interested in the kids and their plight as refugees from a magical world, you will not like this book.

The novella also has a main trans character and the entire story is very queer friendly. It is actually a good read for all teens who are questioning their place in the world [for what whatever reason] as it is all about being who you are and being true to your self first and foremost, no matter what social norms tell you that you should be.

It is a clever, thought provoking, and fun read that can be consumed in a single sitting, especially on a "dark and stormy night.” And McGuire promises more tales of the Wayward Children to come. Yay.

Three Words That Describe This Book: fairy tale retelling, atmospheric, clever

Readalikes: My first readalike is this map/article from about how the information in Every Heart a Doorway can help all of us geeks map every magical world into a multiverse. This article will lead you down a rabbit hole of geeky fun.

I think Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs is an obvious readlaike, but honestly, I felt like The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is a better option. Both Every Heart a Doorway and The Night Circus have teen protagonists in a magical realism setting with great details and a dark quest. It is important to note however that The Night Circus is a long novel, and Every Heart a Doorway is a novella.

Three other books I have read and really enjoyed which all have a fairy tale feel but are not explicitly fantasy are The Swan Gondola by Timothy Schaffert, The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti, The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, and Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick de Witt

I have read many clever, twists on fairy tale novels. Here are some of my favorites with links to the reviews. None of these are straight out retellings, rather, like this novella, they are darker, original, tales that use a fairy tale as the story’s starting point. And remember those reviews contain even more readalikes:
For a similar author, I would suggest Helen Oyeyemi. I read Mr. Fox a few years ago, and that would be a great readalike. I am also about to read Boy, Snow, Bird for the ARRT book discussion.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Year in Review: NoveList's 2016 Most Popular Searches

As the end of the year approaches, I am going to be occasionally pointing you toward some "Year in Review" posts by others. However, please note that I will only be sharing those year end wrap up reports that have training implications. I will not be linking to every single "Best List." You can go here or here for that.

Today's post is a perfect example. Over on their blog [and available to anyone, whether you subscribe to the database or not], NoveList has posted their list of the most popular searches from 2016.

You can click through for the entire report, but below I have pulled one list from the larger post to explain why you should care about this data even if you NEVER use NoveList.

I always take notice when NoveList posts this list:
Top 5 Keeping Up... pages
The Keeping Up... genre pages in NoveList deliver all the important info you need on understanding popular genres and help you better pinpoint books readers will love. Find all the Keeping Up... pages in NoveList by entering UI 440110 in the search bar. These were the top 5 most accessed this past year:
  1. YA Lit
  2. Mystery
  3. Historical Fiction
  4. Biography and Memoir
  5. Romance
Why? Because this is probably staff searching for information to help them understand a specific genre better. Either the staff are getting more questions than normal on these genres or they do not feel like they have a handle on them-- or both! No matter the reasons, these are the genres you should start with for yourself. These are the most searched on a large database. Are you up to speed on what is going on here? The data seems to suggest that chances are, you are not.

But to take the training implications a step further, I would like you to also ask yourself to think about your own personal knowledge gaps. What genres have you been asked about this year, especially if it was more than once, where you did not feel "up to speed?" Maybe it is not one of these 5 but there is at least one. If you have NoveList go check out the page for that genre and if you do not, start researching the trends and award winners for that genre right now.  Need help? Click on the genre in my list of tags in the right gutter of the blog for places to begin.

Everyone, reading this...myself included... has at least one knowledge gap to close. None of you are exempt.

There is much more to learn from NoveList sharing their data with all of us. You can click here to see it all, but please as you read it, apply what you see to yourself and your own experiences helping patrons. You will get much more out of the post if you take this extra step.

 Finally, for comparison's sake and because I never shut up about using the backlist, here is the link to my post on the 2015 NoveList Year in Review.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Call to Action: Make a Holiday Gift Guide

Over the holiday week, I received an email from Penguin Random House telling me about their gift hotline and how you can ask them for the perfect book to buy for those on your holiday list.

I am not exaggerating when I tell that you after reading that email I was literally shaking with rage.


It was a Call to Action moment if I ever saw one. Here's why I am upset at us-- not them-- for not being on top of this and why WE should be the ones making holiday gift guides to help our patrons find the perfect gift for their loved ones.

First of all, let's start with the obvious. Publisher suggestions for the perfect gift are inherently biased. They can only suggest books they have published. At the library, we collect books based on their contents, not based on who published it. We can suggest anything.

Second, BACKLIST. I know I talk about it a lot here on the blog, but the backlist is truly the library's BFF. We know about and have in stock all the older, great titles out there. The ones that are winners year after year. The publishers are mostly suggesting books that are new to hardcover or paperback. So we are talking 1-3 years old for the majority. That is extremely limiting from a gift giving perspective.

Third, last time I checked, library workers help with more than just books. We help patrons with DVDs, audiobooks, downloadables, etc... Many of us also check out items like Roku, GoPro cameras, iPads, etc.... I spent hours each holiday shopping season helping multiple patrons navigate the process of buying [for themselves or others] an eReader or tablet. I was using my advisory skills to ask them questions and help them identify which of these tech products was best for them, gave them pro and con lists, and sample questions to ask the sales people. But in general, all of us who work at the public library can help our patrons find the best gift for those on their lists beyond just books.

Fourth, we know our communities. Back to books now, because it is unfair to fault the book publishers for only knowing about books. The publishers know the national trends. They have entire teams of people looking at these. But we know our communities. We know what books work best with them. We are the local book experts. No matter how many numbers the publisher's trends people crunch, we will always have a better handle on our local readers and their needs-- even if our patrons don't realize it.

Fifth, as I alluded to in number 4, we can use a library created gift guide to promote how awesome we are to our patrons. It will remind them not only that do we care about their needs [finding the perfect gifts for loved ones], but also that we are the best people to ask about the items we check out at the library. We know and understand the products and how our community members use them better than anyone else in the area. Let's shout it from the rooftops with a gift guide people.

Sixth, you as the main RA person do not need to go at this gift guide stuff alone. You have an entire staff, no matter which department they work in, to help you. At the very least, send out an email asking staff to share their favorite book they read this year, no matter the year in which it was published. Also, you can ask people to share which books they are buying for the people in their lives.  All of that information can be used to create a whole library gift guide, AND it is a great team building exercise. Do not underestimate how much people want to help, or how good it makes who don't normally get to field these types of questions.

Seventh, patrons can "test drive" their potential gift by checking it out of the library. This is a perk only library's can provide.

Finally, a holiday gift guide published by the library is a wonderful way to organize your hyper local "best list." Include the most checked out books both new and backlist in all formats and age ranges. Have a recap of genre and major award winners. Use the information you gathered from staff as mentioned above, and include trends and hot topics that came up over the past year- like diverse books. It is a great way to compile all of that "year end" information you are already gathering in one place that is both easy to retrieve when you need to use it and promotes yourself to the community. And find a way to allow for patrons to submit their own items to the gift guide whether it's as a comment to an online guide or a hand written suggestion.

And as a bonus, if you do a gift guide every year, you can use past year's gift guides to help patron's every holiday and all year long. They become library sure bets lists! The library produced gift guide is literally the gift that keeps on giving, to patrons and staff, all the year through.

To inspire you to create your library's holiday gift guide, here are the links to a few examples:
This Call to Action is one any library can do-- big or small. It showcases that you think about all patrons, it shows that you are the community book experts, and it is a extremely useful service. Please leave your library's gift guide in the comments if you have one to share. The more of these we compile, the more readers we will help-- to buy gifts for loved ones and to find their own next good read any time of year.

For the Call to Action Archive click here.