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.

Monday, August 3, 2015

NoveList RA News: August 2015: Science Fiction

This month, the NoveList RA Newsletter is all about Science Fiction. You can find helpful articles like: Reading Science Fiction for Pleasure and Women in Science Fiction.

But the biggest, FREE resource you are getting here this month is access to Joyce Saricks’ brand new updated article, Getting Up To Speed in Science Fiction.

The “Getting Up To Speed...” articles are some of my favorite resources on the NoveList database. They are a quick and reliable way to make sure that I understand the genres, the key titles, and why fans love theses books. I also regularly point librarians to these articles when they are asking me for help running staff genre studies. These are librarians who have access to NoveList and didn’t know that it contained the guidance they were looking for.

So today, start your week by looking over Joyce’s new updated Getting Up To Speed in Science Fiction; whether you have access to NoveList or not, you can read this one for free.

But, if you do work at a library who pays for access to NoveList, go into the database and take a peek at some of the hundreds of other genre guides that are there, for all age levels, for fiction and nonfiction. 

Friday, July 31, 2015

ARRT Book Discussion Report: The Book of Unknown Americans [Featuring the Author!]

As I mentioned here back in June, the hardest part of leaving my library job was leaving the book group. But as I also said in that post, the end of my time with the BPL group was not going to be the end of me leading book clubs, and it would especially not be the end of me blogging about specific book groups.

Today is the start of a new kind of book discussion report here on RA for All and it comes with its own website.  [Yes that means I am now up to being the webmaster of 4 sites].

Introducing the ARRT Literary Book Discussion and Leadership Training site. From that page:

The Adult Reading Round Table, a group dedicated to developing reader's advisory skills and promoting reading for pleasure through public libraries in the Chicago area, provides all members access to our quarterly [4x a year] literary book discussion and leadership training. 
We give library book discussion leaders the chance to sit back and enjoy being discussion participants while also offering a forum for sharing questions and practical solutions to the problems and concerns of book group leaders. This “nuts and bolts” training session is offered at the end of each discussion. 
Both the traditional book discussion and the leadership training session will be moderated by a member of the ARRT Steering Committee. Dates, times, locations, and titles will be assigned approximately 10 weeks in advance. Members will be notified by email. If you are a member and wish to attend the discussion, you must register in advance [details in the email] and secure your own copy of the book. 
With a rotating cast of leaders, titles, and locations, we hope our members can find a discussion that fits their schedule.
Now, while coming to the actual discussion requires membership, we are offering the website, including the notes of our discussions for everyone through the site-- for free.

And our most recent discussion of The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez contains something extra special.

The topic for the leadership training portion of the discussion was about how to involve authors in your book discussions, and Ms. Henriquez herself joined us for that part of the discussion.

So head over to the ARRT site where you will find a link to the notes of the book discussion and a separate link to the leadership training portion of the discussion with Ms. Henriquez.

The notes are in a manner similar to the way I did them for the BPL group. It simply requires a click or two to get at them now.

***If you are finding this post more than a few months after its initial publication [July 2015], please use this link to access our archive.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Becky’s Favorite Resources: All for Frank Sex and Violence Info

With yesterdays post about the NPR Top 100 Romances I thought today was a good time for me to bring up my favorite site to find  frank discussions about the specific types and level of sex and violence in a book-- All

All Readers is not a pretty site; in fact it is fairly cumbersome and awkward, but it is THE ONLY place where you will find this information-- information readers care deeply about. And, even more importantly, they do not hold anything back..

Let me give you some examples.

All of the All Readers reviews include a analysis chart.  For each example, click and then scroll down to the chart.

Here is your example of sex level comparison of two best selling romance authors from opposite ends of the spectrum:

Here is your example of violence level comparison of two best selling crime authors from opposite ends of the spectrum:

Compare the difference in their sex and violence levels for yourself. All Readers does a great job of really telling you what to expect. With honest lines like: "generic/vague references to death/punishment vs "very gorey references to deaths/dead bodies and torture, [not to mention how frank they get about the sexual references], All Readers leaves nothing to the imagination.

Since we cannot read every book, this is a great way for the librarian to know what the reader can expect. It takes the awkwardness out of the RA conversation. Anytime there is a issue about sex and violence levels in a given title, I simply print the review from this resource and give it to the patron to decide for him or herself. Everyone wins!

Thats why All is a Becky Favorite.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

NPR Books Release Top 100 Summer of Love Romance List and More...

Back in June I alerted you to the NPR Books Summer of Love romance poll and the many RA opportunities it created.  Well today they released the results of that poll here. From that post:
"As we get into the hottest, most languorous months of the year, it's the perfect moment for a hot read — and just in time, our big summer book list is here. It's the NPR Books Summer of Love, and we have 100 great romances for you, from historical to paranormal to LGBTQ to the subgenre that started it all, category romance
Back in June we asked you to tell us about your favorite romantic reads, and you responded in droves. (We had to shut the poll down early after more than 18,000 nominations flooded in!) Once the votes were tallied, we turned to our expert panel, reviewers Bobbi Dumas and Sarah Wendell, and authors Sherry Thomas and Michelle Monkou, to help us break down the categories and shape the final list into a love story for the ages. 
"It is my sincere hope and belief that readers new to the romance genre can pick up any recommended title on the list and find an interesting, affecting and satisfying read," says Thomas. We hope new readers and longtime fans alike will find a happily ever after here — but if we've left out one of your favorites, please tell us about it in the comments!"
Click here for the full list. There truly is a great romance read for every reader.

Save this list to help you all the year through! I think you should especially save it to reuse for Valentine’s Day this year.  See how I help you? Now you are already set for February! Seriously though, a great list like this is not only useful when it comes out.  I addressed this issue in more detail in that post from last month.

Also, I am very impressed with the inclusion of this article as part of today’s list release-- “Heartbreakers: Why Some Books Didn’t Make The Final List.

Making lists of the best of anything is hard.  People love what they love and they are upset when their favorites are left out. Me, I am glad that people  et so worked up about books that they love, but as someone who frequently makes book lists, I understand that best lists have rules and parameters.  I am so happy NPR had strict guidelines, clearly listed them here, and stood by these rules  even when it meant excluding a book they wanted to include themselves. I try to do the same when I make a list.

But most importantly, I am glad they acknowledged, upfront, that this list will not make everyone happy. That is important for all of us who work with leisure readers to remember.  Always acknowledge how personal “a good book” is. The reason it is great for one person, can also be a reason someone else hates it.  This is at the heart of what we do as readers’ advisors and it is often the toughest hurdle to get over as we work with patrons. This NPR example of being upfront about how hard it was to leave some books off the list AND kindly offering opportunities for people to include their own favorites in a supportive manner (i.e. not mean and troll-like) should be a model to us all.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Very Detailed Analysis of American Book Clubs by BookBrowse

Today I would like to share with you an email I received from BookBrowse about their new report on Book Clubs in the USA.  I am still going through the report myself, but there is quite a lot of useful information here, especially for libraries that run book clubs.

I hope this helps you to serve your book clubs better.  I will be incorporating some of this data in my updated Re-Charge Your Book Club presentations scheduled for this coming Fall

Here’s the info directly from BookBrowse:
Based on recent research, in-depth interviews and extensive experience, BookBrowse's just published white paper provides an intriguing and insightful look at Book Clubs. 
Download it for free at
(this link takes you straight to the download, no form to fill in)
Find out: 
  • The two life stages when book club participation increases
  • How many belong to book clubs, both in-person and online
  • The five key attributes book clubs look for when choosing books
  • The importance of libraries  
  • How many books book clubbers borrow 
  • What men in book clubs think
  • What men interested in joining a book club want 
  • How many Friends of the Library members are in a book club 
This white paper also contains links to advice on how to start and run a book club, and interviews with a wide variety of book clubs, with a particular focus on clubs that meet in libraries and have a mix of men and women. 
Please share you comments or questions with Davina Morgan-Witts the Founder & Publisher of BookBrowse 
Direct 408-867-6500 | Toll Free 1800-745-5306

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Next Crime Fiction Genre Study Assignment and General Comments on Running a Genre Study

I am finding it hard to believe that the ARRT 2014-2015 Crime Fiction Genre Study is winding down.  As I mentioned here, I hosted our last fiction genre discussion on psychological suspense.

And in less than 2 weeks, we will all gather together to have Magan lead us through True Crime.  Click here for the details on location, time and assignment.

The imminent arrival of that meeting date meant I needed to get my butt in gear and make the assignment for our penultimate meeting in October when we will discuss Special Interests and Formats: Audio, Graphic Novels, Multicultural, and YA Crime. 

Phew that is a mouthful.  Here is the link with all of the details.

Which only leaves our wrap-up meeting in December left to go.

I know there are many people out there who have followed this genre study and many of the past ones ARRT has done, using them as a guide for their own forays into the world of genre study.  Our official position at ARRT is that you are free to use our assignments and even our notes [if you are a member yourself] as long as you give credit to ARRT as the creators of the material.

The work that goes into preparing the assignments and running each of our genre studies is truly the work of the entire ARRT Steering Committee. As a group, ARRT has been running successful, collaborative, and useful genre studies for over 2 decades. It takes planning and teamwork. We love to share our successes, but please don’t steal our stuff without acknowledging those of us who work so hard to make it happen. We may make it look easy to pull off, but it takes many people to make the genre study happen each year, let alone the number of people who have made it possible over decades!

And we are not kidding about wanting to share our success.  As mentioned in this post, ARRT is coming to the Illinois Library Association Conference in October to teach you much of what we know about running genre studies.  On Saturday morning, 10/24/15, I will be presenting the following program for ARRT:
Genre Study Success!: Working Together to Help Leisure Readers  
The Adult Reading Round Table [ARRT], the country’s oldest group dedicated to developing readers advisory skills and promoting leisure reading, has been using the genre study as a training program for more than twenty years. This year, ARRT wants to share their success. Genre studies are a great way for librarians at any library that serves leisure readers at any age level to work together to improve their skills. At their essence, genre studies are group-centered discussions about categories of popular reading. Participants engage in a shared reading experience, compare reactions, and discuss both the books they have read and how patrons interact with the genre. As the actual study itself can take many forms, ARRT will walk you through the process of crafting a genre study model that works best for your needs, sharing their time tested tips and tricks to insure success for you, your staff, and, most importantly, your readers.
This program will help workers from any library where there are leisure reading patrons-- public, school, and even some academic.

This is your chance to see what it takes to embark upon a genre study [from a single meeting to a multi-year study] and ask us questions.  Other members of the ARRT Steering Committee will be in the audience to help tackle those questions both during the presentation and after.

Click here for more details about the ILA Conference and here for more information about ARRT.

Of course, I am also willing to answer any questions you have.  Contact info here.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Collection Development: Beyond the Basics

Rebecca Vnuk, Editor, Reference and Collection Management for Booklist gave a presentation for Reaching Across Illinois Library System [RAILS] entitled "Collection Development: Beyond the Basics" and the video recording is now available.

From the video description:
Collection development basics for libraries, including discussion on organizing your budget, weeding, and writing a plan. Also discusses current topics such as media and eBooks. 
This workshop is the second in a series brought to you by RAILS and Booklist titled "RA and More: Practical Advice for Public and School Librarians. 
Click here or on the embedded video below.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Library Aware Training

So today, I learned how to use my Library Aware account to help me train you on how to better promote books.

I am still playing around with it, but below is an example of 4 shelf talkers with 2 newer titles and 2 backlist options that I created in a matter of minutes.  If you use this link, you can pull the sheet up in its own tab. That will also allow you to click on the book covers or titles to link to my full reviews here on RA for All.

There are many things I will be able to do with this product going forward. And, if I am doing a training for you or your organization, I will show you how Library Aware can help you make slick marketing materials with just a few clicks (their annotations included)

Click here to see the sheet on its own page with links to full reviews

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Sharknado Readalikes

So tomorrow when everyone who comes into the library is talking about Sharknado, how are you going to turn the conversation back around to books they would also love?

Don't worry. I have you covered.

Click here to go over to the horror blog for all of my "comic" horror posts.  And bonus if you own my book because I have an entire chapter of comic horror annotations that would work perfectly.

I also have created this reading map for Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter which is also a great readalike, and the map includes many more suggestions.

You will impress your patrons with your book expertise by having these readalikes ready, whether or not they actually check them out.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

More RA for All News: Booklist Reviews, RAILS Webinars, and Brand New In-Service Day

Well, remember when I said I would have more news about my future plans, well some of the pieces are starting to fall into place.

First, I have been assigned my first 3 reviews for Booklist. So you will be seeing more of what I think there coming soon. If you want to know what books they are, check out my widget in the right gutter. The not yet released books are the ones I am reviewing (except for Fates and Furies, that one was already reviewed, but I still wanted to read it). What do I think? You will have to wait for the magazine to find that out.

I have also finalized a series of monthly RA related classes from September through December with RAILS.  All will be free to RAILS member library staff. I have also given permission for everything to be recorded in case you cannot make it.

Here are the class descriptions.  More details will begin appearing on the RAILS CE site soon:
Re-Charge Your Book Club: Webinar, 9/14/15 at 10amReader’s advisor Becky Spratford has been leading  book clubs for over 14 years and has seen it all. In this webcast 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. 
Book Discussion for Book Discussion Leaders: In-person, 10/6/15 at 2pmLeading a book discussion group is one of the most personally and professionally rewarding things we do at work; however, it is an extremely challenging job too. No one understands this better than Becky Spratford who has been leading book discussions groups for over 14 years.  Join her, and a room full of your book discussion colleagues, as we discuss the creepy, historical novel, THE WINTER PEOPLE by Jennifer McMahon. This program will give you the chance to sit back and enjoy being a discussion participant while also offering a forum for sharing questions and practical solutions to the problems and concerns of book group leaders. This training pairs nicely with Re-Charge Your Book Club being presented in September, but it is not a requirement that you attend both sessions. 
Demystifying Genre: How To Help Every Type of Reader: Webinar, 11/9/15 at 10amNothing is scarier than trying to help a fan of a genre you yourself don’t enjoy. You want to help that, for example, Romance reader find the perfect book, but you are having trouble knowing where to begin because...eek!... you don’t read Romance. You are afraid they will find out you are a fraud. How can YOU possibly help THEM?!? Never fear, in this program, Readers’ Advisory expert, Becky Spratford, will teach you how to keep your genre knowledge up to date, explain the biggest trends in genre fiction, and share her time tested tricks for working with genre readers. You will leave this webinar with the confidence and skill to help fans of every genre, regardless of whether you have ever read a book in that genre. And that will leave a trail of happy patrons in your wake. 
RA for All: The School Library Edition: Webinar, 12/1/15 at 4pmInternational Readers’ Advisory expert Becky Spratford has spent over 15 years serving leisure readers aged 13 and up through local public libraries; however, over the last 7 years she also has volunteered with her local elementary school experimenting with the implementation of public library RA technics in a school library setting. Join Becky for this 90 minute webinar where she shares her successes (and even a few failures), discussing how you can maximize your opportunities for promoting leisure reading. Sometimes it takes an “outside the box” approach to help our students develop a love of reading, but together we can help children feel the life-changing power of finding the perfect “fun” book-- a power that can turn them into life-long readers and learners.  And isn’t that why we go into this profession in the first place?

And my last announcement is also an advertisement.  I am in the process of creating a brand new, fun and interactive 8 hour in-service day program that will be great for all levels of RA at your public library.  I will be doing it for the first time at the City of Camarillo Public Library [CA] in August.

But if you want to get in on this crowd pleasing and extremely useful public library staff training you need to contact me now.  My Fall is already filling up, but I am taking bookings from mid-September through May of 2016 right now. Believe it or not, I have one May program already in the works. Contact me for prices

The best news if that all of this is just a start. There are still exciting things that have not been completely finalized yet. And like the information I have shared above, all of my plans are geared toward allowing me to reach as many of you as possible.

All of you out there working in the trenches with readers deserve the best RA training possible all year long (not just those of you lucky enough to go to conferences). The better your training, the more confident you are, but more importantly, the happier your patrons are. 

This is why I left my library job because there is a need out there for someone to provide RA training in a fun and useful manner. So, as one of the country’s RA experts, I stopped complaining that there was no good training, and decided to take it upon myself to provide it. I realize not everyone can make the leap that I did, but for me it was a fortuitous coming together of timing and desire. [I have had the desire to do this for awhile, but until recently, the timing was wrong.]

So this is only the beginning. My goal by next Fall is to have reached as many of you as possible.  But I need your help to make this happen. Contact me and we can figure something out. Or contact your library system and have them contact me.  I have worked with IL, MA, and ME on multiple months contracts to improve the RA skills of their states' library workers in an efficient way.  [Remember, I am also a Public Library Trustee, so I totally get the cost issues.]

And if nothing else, this blog will be here to help you, always.

Now get out there and help someone to find their next good read.