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.

Monday, December 11, 2017

What I’m Reading: December Issue of Indie Picks

Have you subscribed to Indie Picks yet for your library? The December issue is out and I have three reviews that showcase the full breadth of horror from spooky to terrifying and a feature interview.  [You can visit the horror blog here for the feature interview]

You can click here to see tons of sample material. This magazine is a must read for library workers and patrons. We work very hard to let you know about a small sample of the independently published, books that would be perfect for your library, if only you knew to buy them.  You can click here to read my longer post about why Indie Picks is worth your money.

Today I have my draft reviews from this issue. A final reminder though. I pick these books very carefully. I truly believe most public libraries should add every title I include. I wouldnt review them if I didnt think they would work for a general public library audience. To help you booktalk each title I have also included multiple readalike options at the end of each review and my “three words."

Becky’s December 2017 DRAFT Indie Picks Magazine Horror Column

Horror is more popular than ever, but what readers find horrific is highly personal and varies widely from those who cannot handle more than a few ghosts to some who want to intensely experience the fear with all five of their senses. Thankfully, there is a wide range of horror to satisfy just about every reader, from spooky to terrifying here are three options that capture the full spectrum of thrills and chills.

Spooky Suspense

Patricia V. Davis follows up her National Book Critics Circle Award nominated COOKING FOR GHOSTS with her second entry in the Secret Spice Cafe series, SPELLS AND OREGANO [HD Media Press, Inc; 978-0-9899056-8-8; $15.95; 2017]. Once again the setting is on the Queen Mary, and its well known status as one of the most haunted places in America sets the uneasy atmosphere before you even open the cover, and once you do open it, Davis hits the ground running with an excellent dual plotline, supernatural thriller. Sarita is the manager of The Secret Spice Cafe, the upscale restaurant aboard the Queen Mary [founded in book one]. She is a troubled young woman with psychic abilities and a strong connection to the ship’s spirits. Luca is a young man who has suffered much personal loss but a family connection draws him to the Queen Mary. Luca and Sarita meet and fall in love, but their pasts are literally coming back to haunt them. As Sarita and Luca’s stories unfold, their plot lines converge, and the danger increases. Along the way, Davis throws in well developed secondary characters and many engaging and well researched details about food, magicians, psychics, and the stately Queen Mary herself, all without sacrificing the compelling pace; in fact, these details are equally as engrossing as the heart-racing suspense. By the end the stakes are high and all are held breathless awaiting the shocking conclusion. Don’t worry if you missed the first book in the series, this one can stand alone. It is perfect for both readers who enjoy the supernatural psychological suspense of Jennifer McMahon and also those who love Nora Roberts’ storytelling prowess across many genres. This is spooky suspense that will frighten just enough to make readers give any movement in the shadows a hard, second look.

Three Words That Describe This Book: Supernatural Suspense, Multiple Storylines, Interesting Frame

Dark Dread

There is no question the dread and fear are ratched up in the next book, a dark fantasy by John Urbancik, THE CORPSE AND THE GIRL FROM MIAMI [DarkFluidity; 978-0-99838-824-3; $15; 2017]. The unease grabs the reader from the very first scene and really never lets go. A man returns from the dead, resurrected in a cemetery, in the driving rain, in a seedy section of Boston, with no memory, only an ID with an address. With no other options, he heads to the address and meets Ofelia and Mr Maker, both who have been waiting for him. Ofelia is a fem fatale who wants revenge, Mr Maker, a being with connections to a mythological world standing just outside of our own, and our corpse, Lucas, is just trying to figure out who he is and how he fits into the story. The three protagonists, in their three storylines, are laid out in alternating chapters, with the point of view quickly bouncing back and forth. Readers will be engrossed, turning the pages, following the leads, seeing the stories converge, and finding out that they are all after the same thing-- a diamond with more power than any of them can imagine. The mythological details about the magic inherent in a place are captivating, the old fashioned pulp heist story fantastic, and the resurrected corpses add just the right amount of supernatural horror. Come for the awesome action and world building, but stay for the characters, especially Lucas as he searches for the answers to the man he was and struggles to figure out who he is supposed to be now. This original, dark fantasy tale is a must read for fans of Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series with touches reminiscent of Seanan McGuire and Gaiman’s American Gods.

Three Words That Describe This Book: Mythological Tone, Engrossing, Original

Traditional Terror

While the first two books showcase how horror can slip into stories that are firmly rooted in other genres, sometimes readers just want a traditional tale of terror by a master of the form. Enter Bentley Little and his terrifying supernatural mystery THE HANDYMAN [Cemetery Dance Publications; 978-1-58767-616-1; $25; 2017]. Daniel, now an adult real estate agent, recounts the story of his family’s encounters with Frank, the handyman who built their Arizona vacation home back in the 1980s, who at best is a con artist, but at worst is a man with a connection to an otherworldly evil. Daniel thought his family was the only one destroyed by Frank and the homes he built, but after hearing a client mention the problems with his family’s “Frank” home, Daniel goes on a cross country search to try to understand the truth behind Frank. What Daniel undercovers, however, is much more sinister and dangerous than he could have ever imagined, and now his life and all those he knows and loves may be in perilous danger. Told in three distinct parts each with a unique style, the terror intensifies throughout. Part one reads like a traditional supernatural investigation, while part two is a series of impressions of Frank from the point of view of others over the years, and finally, part three brings Daniel and his friends back for the horrific and disorienting conclusion. Little has also infused the story with Asian horror influences, some overt and others more subtle. The result is a trippy and terrifying story of an insidious horror hidden just behind the walls. Pair this with other terrifying, surreal tales of deadly haunted homes like THE HOUSE OF LEAVES by Danielewski or SLADE HOUSE by Mitchell. Fair warning though, don’t hire anyone to do work on your house for a few weeks before or after reading this one.

Three Words That Describe This Book: Terrifying, Surreal, Asian Influences

Friday, December 8, 2017

RA for All Roadshow Visits Addison [IL] Public Library With Tips on In-Service Planning and Avoiding Jargon

Today I will be at Addison [IL] Public Library as one of the presenters for their in-service day. Addison, like a few other libraries I have visited recently, is using the “Conference” model for their staff training: planners have arranged for a variety of presenters on a wide range of topics and staff are encouraged to explore those topics that most interest them.

I love this idea because it allows staff to learn about something, whether or not is is specifically tied to their every day job. As we all know, working at the public library in one capacity does not mean you will not be called upon to help out somewhere else at some point; in fact, that’s pretty much the only thing you can count on at the public library, having to know a little bit about every job.

Of course, administrators can direct certain staff to a particular training session, but the idea that every staff member can choose their own CE adventure is a great way to make staff more invested in their own learning and continuing education. It will energize everyone to get the most out of the in service day. And it will be more fun. More fun means people pay more attention which should translate to more learning.

I don’t think this model would work for every library out there, but it is something to consider for your next in-service day. If you are a small library, this would would very well if you combined in-service training to do with other libraries. [Another trend I see quite often in more rural locations].

But back to day and my second point in this post. I will be offering my signature RA for All program followed by the Booktalking program for the staff at Addison who choose to join me. However, because Brooke, the Assistant Director of Addison Public Library, didn’t want the jargon [what does RA for All or Booktalking mean to non RA staff?] to confuse people and keep them from trying my sessions simply because they didn’t understand what was being offered, she asked if she could rebrand them. I eagerly said yes, not only because I have known Brooke for years and trust her, but also because it is an excellent point. How will nonprofessional staff be able to make an informed choice about which sessions to attend if they don’t even understand the title of the the program.

So today instead of RA for All and Booktalking, I will be presenting....

Have a great weekend and don’t forget to keep participating in #LibFaves17, it will go on throughout the weekend. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

What I’m Reading: Zero Day to Commemorate the Final Meeting of the ARRT Speculative Fiction Genre Study

Today I have a starred review of the final book in a trilogy. The star I gave this final book is really a star for the entire series. I have enjoyed the other books in the series which I wrote about here and here, but with the publication of the final installment I can 100% tell you that this is a must buy and a must read.  

Even though this review was published last week, I held it for today because it is the final meeting of the two-year ARRT Speculative Fiction Genre Study.  You can click here for all of the notes and assignments

Specifically this is our [final] assignment for later today:

Lunch, Book Talks, and Wrap-Up

December 7, 2017, 2-4 PM
Glenview Public Library
  • Come prepared to share a 90-second booktalk on an author or book we didn’t cover the course of the genre study. Please bring a printout of the booktalk so we can include it in the notes.

Which brings me back to the review for today, this book is the perfect title to showcase speculative fiction today. It is fun, draws from different genres, and can be read by a wide range of readers, even those who don’t think they like speculative fiction. 

[On a side note, today is also my final time in 5 years where I had some type of leadership responsibilities for the genre study. I will not be a part of the team running the 2018-19 Romance genre study, but I will still be posting notes and assignments here on the blog.]

Here is the draft of my Booklist review which I will be presenting as my book talk:

Zero Day.

Boone, Ezekiel (author)

Feb. 2018. 336p. Atria/Emily Bestler, hardcover, $26 (9781501125102); e-book (9781501125133)First published December 1, 2017 (Booklist).

Following directly on the heels of THE HATCHING and SKITTER, Boone brings his excellent spider-apocalypse thriller to an exciting conclusion in ZERO DAY. Back is the same realistic, fast paced, edge of your seat action from the first two books, as the story continues to bounce around the world, following the cast of well developed and diverse characters readers have grown to loathe and love, as they inch closer to figuring out the key to defeating the spiders who are systematically destroying humanity. This final installment has everything readers crave in a solid thriller series, speculative or realistic, but it is the spiders, the inherent fear they invoke, their ability to reproduce efficiently, and their evolution as actors in this drama that raises the stakes, the suspense, and the enjoyment here. Also, unlike most adventure stories, this one is not fueled by testosterone; in fact quite the opposite, as it is the women here who posit that the key to saving the world might be in understanding the spider queens. In particular it is a female scientist and US President who fight the men to be heard, take over, and lead the final charge, hoping that their intuition will save all of humanity, but fully knowing that if they are wrong, the world as we know it will end. Readers will race to the trilogy’s finish with our heroes, and be glad that they went along for the entire ride. ZERO DAY cements the entire series as one you will be handing out for years to come for fans of all high action thrillers, but especially for those who like the speculative frame in titles by Mira Grant, Jonathan Maberry and Ben H. Winters. But more importantly, it is a series worth rooting for. In a landscape where the adventure thriller seems to be dragging, it is clear all we needed were some spiders to revive it.
Further Appeal: I cannot stress enough how this is a perfect thriller with or without the spiders. To prove this point, I gave it to a patron who loves Baldacci and doesn’t really like apocalyptic or speculative fiction. She literally couldn’t put the first two books down. Well, let me rephrase that, she only put them down when she started to feel things crawling on her. She took a break but went back to it as soon as she could. Yesterday I gave her my ARC of this third book. She cannot wait to finish the series.

As a reader, I also liked how this series shows the apocalypse as it unfolds, in real time. Many apocalyptic series start post apocalypse and then they go back and show you how things got to be destroyed through flashbacks while they concentrate the “present" action on how people are surviving. Here, in Boone’s series, we watch the apocalypse happen in real time and the focus is on the battle to stop it. Choices, both good and bad, are made, and they are made urgently as things are unfolding quickly. We the reader can see all over the world and know things the local actors do not. All of this adds suspense, drama, and intrigue to the story.

Finally, I have to say it.....SPIDERS! Seriously, is there anything people in general are more scared of than spiders? Nope. It’s genius to have them bring the apocalypse.

Three Words That Describe This Book: fast-paced, speculative thriller, fun

Readalikes: All three mentioned in the review above are the best matches as they are all series that share the fast-paced, speculative thriller, and fun appeal factors, but many realistic political thrillers would work also work, like Baldacci.

World War Z is also a good readalike, and that is a book that also had cross-over appeal for people who don’t normally like supernatural aspects to their geo-political thrillers. However, World War Z  is told entirely in flashback. If you really liked the speculative apocalypse in real-time aspects of the Boone series, I would suggest The Fireman by Joe Hill instead.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Becky Three Favorite Non-traditional Best of the Year Lists Make the Best Resources for All Year Long

With the overwhelming number of best books lists that come at us at the end of the year [by the way, click here for the best archive for just about every list in the world], it is not only hard to manage the volume of information, but it is hard to know which lists are the most useful for us as we help patrons who are looking for a good read.

First, you need to read this post from 2015 where I discuss what patrons actually mean when they come to us asking for a “best book.” Go on. I’ll be here when you get back.

Okay, now second, you need to find resources that not only include older “best” books [because if you read that post you would see that patrons don’t care when a book was “best,” they just want assurances that someone thought it was good enough for them to invest their time in it], but also are easy for you to use as you are having the RA conversation with the patron.

Patrons can look up best lists themselves. The ones who come to the library want a little more help. They want to talk about their options and they want our opinions on what they should read, not because we read it too, but because we know more about books than they do.

That is why every year I celebrate the release of my three favorite best lists, which all came out this week. They are:

  • Goodreads Choice Awards: This is the only list that is 100% driven by readers. Yes it’s a popularity contest and not always the “best” book wins [Stephen and Owen King’s only so-so book won best horror], but that’s the point. The people get to chose their favorites for whatever reason they have. And like when we help readers in real life, the reasons for their choices don’t always make sense to us. But who cares? I love this list because it is for the people, by the people, and as a result, it more closely matches what we encounter each and every day at the public library. 
  • NPR Book ConciergeThis annual 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 itself driven by the specific reader who is using it at that moment. The 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 71 choices, and then go even deeper by adding the "rather long" filter on top of it and get 4 choices. That list can be created by one reader. But another readers could apply the filters,  “for history lovers" and “ladies first" and get 12 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" offerings.
  • The Millions Year in Reading: This is not a best list at all, but rather essays by the authors of the most talked about books and/or the most important books of the year about what they read this year. This list has double the use because the authors are part of the “best” conversation themselves, but then to have the next level suggestion for patrons of the “best” authors’ favorite reads of the last year makes you look like a genius. Patron loved Sing, Unburied, Sing by Ward or is waiting for their hold to come in, why not also read what she read and loved this year? This option of reading what the patrons’ favorite authors read is a great way to showcase how helpful we can be to readers.

These lists are non-traditional in that they don’t simply give a best list, rather they all incorporate something a little different which also makes them the absolute BEST resource to help readers. We start with Goodreads 100% reader driven “best” lists and move to NPR’s editor picks for best but then a way to narrow it down for each reader based on the feel they are looking for and finally we can move to the opinions of the authors who themselves are tastemakers.

All three also make their backlist of previous year’s lists easily accessible from the main page of the current year’s list. You can’t miss them even if you weren’t thinking of using older lists. I love that.

All three of these lists can be easily used as you help patrons. They will encourage conversation about books and what the patron is looking for in their next read and, even more importantly, they can be used anytime throughout the year- using the current list of the plethora of older lists. Don’t just use these resources [old and new versions] at the end of each year. Keep them bookmarked as an option for every RA transaction you may have.

Seriously, try it out today with the next few patrons. You will have some of your best RA conversations of the year and everyone [you and the patron] will have a ton of fun!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

RA for All Virtual Roadshow Presents Demystifying Genre for PCI Webinars

This morning, I have my first of two genre webinars for PCI this month. You can think of them as helping genre readers 101 and 201.

Today’s-- Demystifying Genre-- is the overview of the most popular genres as they are written today, including the most recent trends. Here is the program description:
Nothing 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 the basic appeals of the major genres, give you the inside track on what a fan of that genre is most drawn to, and provide you with talking points to get your genres readers to tell you what they want. You will leave this webinar with the confidence and skill to help fans of every genre, regardless of whether or not you have ever read a book in that genre yourself. And that will leave a trail of happy patrons in your wake.
You can click here for the slides and here for the handout with all of the links.

This presentation is very text heavy so that you can use it as notes, meaning even if you don’t hear me present this one, you can learn something from the slides and handout.

Please visit PCI for a list of all of their webinars. They offer a wide variety of library training options. You can also view archived webinars. For example, click here to see every webinar I have done for them.

But first, check with your local library system because many have a contract with PCI which allows you to view webinars for FREE. I know that this is true for anyone reading this from my local library system, RAILS [click here for those details].

Having worked with PCI for a while now, I can tell you they are very professional, pay their presenters fairly, and care about putting out a great product. You get top notch training for a very good price. And, they have the technical experts to make sure it looks and sounds good too.

Now let’s do this webinar and demystify genre for you so you can help every type of reader.

Click here for slide access

Monday, December 4, 2017

Call to Action: Countdown Your Top 10 of 2017

Today’s Call to Action is important whether you use Twitter or not, so if you are not on Twitter, don’t stop reading. I promise there is literally something for every single library worker in this post.

Today begins the annual countdown of library workers' favorite titles published in 2017 on Twitter. Using #LibFaves17, everyone in library land is encouraged to tweet out their favorite books published in 2017 beginning with #10 and counting down to #1. This is a facilitated conversation so all of the Tweets will be compiled and an overall Top 10 will be announced. There will also be a list of every title that even gets 1 mention.

This last point is why I choose to use this annual countdown as a way to highlight the best horror for libraries. Like I did last year, I will tweet my top 10 horror titles that were published in 2017 for the next 10 days. [Here is the link to today’s title] When it is over, I will have the entire list on my horror blog with more commentary and links to my longer reviews. This way I an ensuring that horror has a seat at the table.

Now back to my promise about including those of you who don’t use Twitter. First, a reminder that you don’t need an account to view the tweets, you just can’t participate. Click here to view #LibFaves17.

But everyone reading this, Twitter user or not, why not use this countdown as an inspiration to get your staff to do a countdown of their favorites from 2017. Anything released in 2017 that you circulate is eligible, so for example, if someone on staff is a big movie buff, they can countdown their favorite DVD releases of the year. Or maybe someone likes multiple formats; their list can have books, music, DVDs, etc....

The simplest way to do this would be to send out an email to all staff asking them to contribute to a library wide countdown. Ask them to send you their top 10 lists [ordered] by the end of the week. Then you can unveil a library-wide top ten in the building-- make a poster and uncover the next one each day. You can also release the countdown on all of your social media.

Not only is this  a super fun way to allow all staff to share their favorites with the entire community, but it also advertises that everyone on staff cares about providing quality materials for them to checkout and enjoy.

You can do a library wide countdown, but then each department can do one too. So the AV materials with the highest votes can be unveiled in the department, the kids materials there, etc.... Heck even each staff member who wants can post theirs.

Now this works best with a staff of 20 or more, but if you have fewer people, work together to make lists for each department.

Finally, so that I leave absolutely no one out and you have NO EXCUSES for not doing this, you could simply do a top ten countdown of the items with the highest circulation in 2017.

The point here is that I am calling you to action to do something to showcase your hyper-local “best” of the year. You can use any criteria for best. Don’t get so mired in arguing about the minutia that it doesn’t get done. Just do it.

For past Call to Action Posts click here.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Library Reads: Favorite of Favorites 2017

Here is the year end list of the best of the best from library reads.  I am forgoing my normal monthly Library Reads preamble to make some comments about this annual list.

But before I share my thoughts, I am sure you have some too. Starting on 12/4 you can share your favorite books of 2017 on Twitter using #LibFavs17. The Library Reads Steering Committee will be moderating that hashtag. Countdown from #10 to #1 for ten days beginning on Monday. [FYI- I usually try to share my favorite horror titles that way. I hope to have my list ready by then.]

Now back to this list and my comments.

First, after calls by many, including me, to all of you library workers to make this list more diverse, this years list is definitely better than in the past; not perfect, but better. The top book features Asian Americans as the lead characters. There are books about women forgotten to history, Native Americans, and Jodi Picoult’s honest looks at racism. But all three of those are not own voices. So again, better, but still room for improvement.

Second-- where are the speculative titles?!?!? I know there were SF, FSY and Horror titles on the voting list because I voted for them! This prove a point I talk about all of the time in my training programs: readers love speculative fiction but library workers as a whole are not fans. *Sigh* Seriously not a spaceship, elf, or monster in the bunch here. And no romance either. Same issues there too. Hmmmmm.

Third, News of the World!!!! Such a great book. And it proves my year long point that Westerns are hot.

Fourth, I am also so proud of Radium Girls. As you can see here, I read it months before it came out and loved it. I literally shouted about it from the RA rooftops. I am so glad others liked it-- enough to make it #2 for the year and one of only 2 nonfiction on the list.

Fifth, this list [except for the glaring absence of speculative titles] makes a good general holiday gift giving list.

Finally an overall theme I notice here is that all of these books, no matter their genre would all make great book club suggestions. Since this was a library worker picked list, this does not surprise me.

Click here to pull up every month’s list using my Library Reads tag.

Favorite of Favorites 2017

Little Fires Everywhere

by Celeste Ng

Published: 9/12/2017
by Penguin Press
ISBN: 9780735224292
Little Fires Everywhere delves into family relationships and what parenthood, either biological or by adoption, means. We follow the members of two families living in the idyllic, perfectly-planned suburb of Shaker Heights, Ohio: Mia and Pearl, a mother and daughter living a less traditional lifestyle, moving from town to town every few months, and the Richardsons, the perfect nuclear family in the perfect suburb…until Izzy Richardson burns her family home down. Ng’s superpower is her ability to pull you into her books from the very first sentence!”
Emma DeLooze-Klein, Kirkwood Public Library, Kirkwood, MO

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women

by Kate Moore

Published: 5/2/2017 by Sourcebooks
ISBN: 9781492649359
“This is the story of hundreds of young, vibrant women who were sentenced to death by their employers. The so-called “Radium Girls” painted luminescent faces on clock and watch dials using a paint mixture that contained radium. Instructed to “lip-point” their brushes as they painted, they absorbed high doses of radium into their bodies. When the effects of the radium led to horrific disfigurement and pain, the company refused to take responsibility. This heartrending book was one I could not put down.”
Catherine Coyne, Mansfield Public Library, Mansfield, MA

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine: A Novel

by Gail Honeyman

Published: 5/9/2017 by Pamela Dorman Books
ISBN: 9780735220683
“I loved this book about the quirky Eleanor, who struggles to relate to other people and lives a very solitary life. When she and the new work IT guy happen to be walking down the street together, they witness an elderly man collapse on the sidewalk and suddenly Eleanor’s orderly routines are disrupted. This is a lovely novel about loneliness and how a little bit of kindness can change a person forever. Highly recommended for fans of A Man Called Ove and The Rosie Project – this would make a great book club read.”
Halle Eisenman, Beaufort County Library, Blufton, SC

News of the World: A Novel

by Paulette Jiles

Published: 10/4/2016 by William Morrow
ISBN: 9780062409201
“Readers fortunate enough to meet Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, an old ex-soldier who makes a living reading the news to townspeople in 1870s Texas, and Joanna, the Indian captive he is charged with returning to her relatives, will not soon forget them. Everything, from the vividly realized Texas frontier setting to the characters is beautifully crafted, right up to the moving conclusion. Both the Captain and Joanna have very distinctive voices. Wonderful storytelling.”
Beth Mills, New Rochelle Public Library, New Rochelle, NY

Glass Houses: A Novel

by Louise Penny

Published: 8/29/2017 by Minotaur Books
ISBN: 9781250066190
“A new threat arises in Three Pines as a mysterious masked figure stands watch on the village green. ‘It’ refuses to communicate in any way, which is just the start of another thrilling adventure in this long-running series. Gamache is still trying to restore the Sûreté du Québec back to what it was before it was corrupted under the previous regime. Choices are made that will forever change our hero in ways we can only begin to imagine. The next book can’t get here fast enough.”
Joseph Jones, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Brooklyn, OH 

Small Great Things: A Novel

by Jodi Picoult

Published: 10/11/2016 by Ballantine Books
ISBN: 9780345544957
“A black neonatal nurse is charged with causing the death of a white supremacist’s newborn baby. The story is told from the points of view of the nurse, her attorney, and the baby’s heartbroken father. As always, Picoult’s attention to legal, organizational, and medical details help the tale ring true. What sets this book apart, though, are the uncomfortable points it makes about racism. The novel is both absorbing and thought-provoking, and will surely spark conversations among friends, families and book clubs.”
Laurie Van Court, Douglas County Libraries, Castle Rock, CO

Magpie Murders

by Anthony Horowitz

Published:6/6/2017 by Harper
ISBN: 9780062645227
“Susan Ryeland is a London book editor who has just received the latest manuscript from one of her most irascible authors, Alan Conway. But the manuscript’s ending appears to be missing and she learns that Conway has committed suicide. As Ryeland learns more about his death, she starts to question whether a murder has occurred and begins to investigate. Magpie Murders is a delightful, clever mystery-within-a-mystery. Horowitz shows real mastery of his craft. This is a terrific, modern take on the traditional mystery with ingenious puzzles to solve.”
Andrea Larson, Cook Memorial Library, Libertyville, IL

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

by David Grann

Published: 4/18/2017 by Doubleday
ISBN: 978o385534246
“In the 1920s, a string of unsolved murders rocked the Osage Indian Nation in Oklahoma.  Made rich by oil rights, the Osage were already victimized by unscrupulous businessmen and societal prejudice, but these murders were so egregious, the newly formed FBI was brought in to investigate. Immensely readable, this book brings a shameful part of U.S. history alive and will keep readers thinking long after they have finished the book.”
Jenna Persick, Chester County Library, Exton, PA 

The Dry: A Novel

by Jane Harper

Published: 1/10/2017 by Flatiron Books
ISBN: 9781250105608
“’Luke lied. You lied. Be at the funeral.’ These eight words will change everything for Agent Aaron Falk, summoned by the father or his former best friend. It appears Luke went on a rampage, murdering his wife, son, and then himself.  At Luke’s father’s request, Aaron agrees to look into the murders/suicide and learns that the small town has long held grudges and secrets that may be best kept hidden in this atmospheric, chilling complex tale of anger and revenge.”
Jennifer Winberry, Hunterdon County Library, Flemington, NJ

Beartown: A Novel

by Fredrik Backman

Published: 4/25/2017 by Atria Books
ISBN: 9781501160769
“Backman’s most complex novel to date takes place in the small, hockey-crazed village of Beartown.  He deftly weaves together the stories of the players, the coaches, the parents, and the fans as Beartown’s hockey team chases its dream of winning a championship.  Weighty themes are explored.  How high a price is too high for success?  How deadly is silence?  Who can you trust with your secrets?  How far will you compromise your beliefs in the name of friendship?  There are no easy answers.  A great book club choice.”
Janet Lockhart, Wake County Public Library, Cary, NC

RA for All Road Show Visits Fountaindale Public Library with Jez!

Today I will be in Bollingbrook, IL at the Fountaindale Public Library. They are closing until 1 to have a 2 program in-service morning with me and Jez who has appeared on the blog before talking about audiobooks, here.

Jez and I will stay put in our locations and the staff will rotate to us in two groups. We will deliver our programs twice, but to two different audiences.

I am doing my signature RA for All program which follows my 10 Rules of Basic RA Service. You can click here for all of the information and links.

Jez's presentation is entitled, Beyond Booktalking: Whole Library Promotion. She has shared her slides here.

I also wanted to pass on Jez's speaking engagement page. She speaks on different topics than me, but she has a similar approach. I highly recommend her as a speaker and as a person. Check her out for your library.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Reader Question About Listen-a-Likes

Here is another real life question from a librarian in the trenches of RA Service. I have received permission to share this question from Pat at Crystal Lake [IL] Public Library. Below I share the question and my response.

If you have a question about a specific patron-- contact me and let’s work on it. I might use it here on the blog to help others.

My colleagues and I work with an avid reader with visual difficulties.  At this point she is only able to read via audiobooks and goes through about 10 books a week.  She loves the readers George Guidall and Simon Prebble and mostly wants to read spy fiction or thrillers (no Patterson!).  We are starting to exhaust our supply of audiobooks narrated by these two narrators.  She realizes the situation and is starting to soften on trying other readers, but she is fairly particular about it. My question for you:  Is there a place to go to find sound-alikes for a particular narrator?  Novelist has listen-alikes, but I don’t think the focus is on a specific narrator.
Beckys Answer:

You are correct, there are no specific “listen-a-like” sources. Some of this is because of the fact that people like a narrator for many reasons- some of which as you note in your question have to do with fact that narrators don’t stick to one genre. Prebble and Guidall are two excellent narrators who do read many types of books. 

So while I don’t have a specific sound-a-like resource that will solve her problems magically, I do have a couple of suggestions on ways to help her that she can participate in with you. The result will be more titles for her to enjoy.

First, figure out her favorite books narrated by these two men. Then help her find straight readalikes for those series. But, look them up on Audible before suggesting a title.  This way you can not only listen to a snippet of the narration with her, but you can read her customer reviews that speak about the narration specifically.  Make sure to look at the 5 star and 2 star reviews so that you can see the lovers and the critics. This will help you narrow down the type of book she is looking for first and then select the narrator second.

On Audible you can search by genre and narrator. So if you use NoveList and Goodreads to find readalikes based on the story, then you can go into Audible to refine it a little more. 

Second, in this case Prebble and Guidall are Golden Voices on Audiofile Magazine. The Golden Voice database is an excellent place to begin helping her. Let her know that these are other narrators deemed the best of the best, just like her two favorites. You can start there by listening to others and reading interviews with them about their work. I have had great luck using this page as a starting point to help my audiobook readers who care about the narrator as much as, or even more than, the story itself.

From my experience with patrons who have similar tastes I think she would probably also like Simon Vance and/or Dion Graham. I would start with them. Both read suspense and thrillers.

In general, however, Audiofile Magazine is the only place where you can read critical information about narrators, from reviews to interviews to essays. It takes a little more digging than a simple NoveList search, but everything has an audio clip. Both you and your patron will love using it together. There is so much information there, and since she is willing to try something new, you are bound to find something she will enjoy.

This two-pronged attack will settle the listen-a-like issue because you are considering both the story she wants to read and the style of narration. It is clear that you cannot divorce one from the other with this patron. I am similar. There are narrators I adore in general, but when they narrate a book I don’t like, I still don’t like it. 

Also, since she is such a voracious consumer of audiobooks, this strategy will work well over time. You will never “run out” of books by a specific narrator again because you are considering the content and the narration together. There are always new books coming out, and she will find new series and narrators she enjoys. All of which create more connection points to match her with her next good listen. This strategy broadens her options and will allow you to keep helping her indefinitely. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Make All of Your Displays Interactive-- Both for Staff and Patrons

Today's post is inspired by one of my new favorite tips to share with the staff I work with in person. I often say these things so much to the people I actually come into contact with that I worry I am repeating myself. And then, I remember that the vast majority of you interact with me here and not in person. So, today I am passing on my love of building a patron friendly library where conversation is not only encouraged, but runs rampant, and it all starts with making sure every single staff member and patron/user at your library has a chance to participate in your service to leisure readers.

That is my overall goal for all of you in your service to leisure readers. It is the thesis statement behind everything I say, do, and teach.

Displays are one of the easiest ways to get this participation bonanza going, and the end of the year is the best time to start. Why? Well it’s because everyone has an opinion on what THE BEST thing they read or watched this year was. And these opinions are varied and different. And that is AWESOME for a display.

Let’s start with the concept first and then a specific example second.

You need to make every single display you do participatory in some way. Patrons are used to seeing displays, they are used to browsing them, they are used to taking books from them, but they are never asked to help build them.

Likewise, while specific staff members or departments are responsible putting up and taking down displays, why aren’t all staff members asked to help with ideas or to fill the display?

The more voices and opinions we include in building the displays, the better our displays are because they represent a wider view of the “topic.” You cannot and will not think of every possible book that could work on any given display. But the collective brain-- you, staff, patrons-- working together will by default have a wider view of the topic at hand, thus creating a better and more responsive display.

Here is a specific example that works very well at this time of the year and can be a great starting point to creating more participatory displays all year long.

Take an empty display shelf, one near a service desk and put a sign on the top-- WHAT IS THE BEST THING YOU CHECKED OUT OF THE LIBRARY THIS YEAR? Send an email to staff and ask them to put a few things that answers this question for them in the display.  Then sit back and watch patrons and staff fill it for you!

Now, a couple of problems right off the back that I will address.  One, yes, you might get kids filling it with sex, poop, and fart books. But, if it is in a high traffic area you can monitor it. Two, if you ask people to take books off the shelf and put them in a display that means the item may not be where the catalog says it is. This is valid, but to answer it I always say, “Has there every been a day when everything you looked for was exactly where it was supposed to be?” The answer is always NO. So take a deep breath and get over it. If you are doing this type of display, you will know to check the interactive display if an item is not on the shelf before declaring it “missing."

Here’s why this display is awesome:

  • This display becomes a community created best lists where everyone’s voice and opinion counts. As the organizer of this display make sure you are keeping a record of the items that show up in the display. You can then release the community best list-- in print, online, heck even let the newspaper know. I know my local paper would LOVE this as an article. And you did nothing. You simply asked them to tell you what was “best."
  • A display of this kind allows ANY ITEM you carry to be considered best. From book to video to Go Pro camera-- whatever that patron thinks was the best thing they checked out this year is included.
  • This best list is not dependent upon the items released in the current year. At the library, the year something came out is not as relevant as other places. But every other outlet will be focused on the best of 2017. 
  • You get a real time sense of what in your collection is deemed the most useful by your patrons. If they are telling you they loved it, you should probably get more of that “it.” Also, you should probably get readalikes for that “it.” When do we get such honest and useful feedback? Um, never.
  • Don’t overestimate how much fun patrons will have adding books to a library display shelf. You seriously might never get them to stop. And I would argue that you shouldn’t even ask them to stop. They should always feel free to add to our displays. In fact, it is weird that this is NOT a thing. [Side note: in 2018, I am going to make this a thing so that in the future people will think it was weird that we never let patrons add to our displays. Stay tuned.]
  • People now know that you care what they think. You might be the nicest most helpful library in the world, but patrons think of the library workers as experts who don’t want their regular person opinions. I know we do want them, but they don’t know we do. And who can blame them? It’s not like we ever asked. 

Now to keep this going all year long----

Every display should have an interactive element. Sometimes it will be big like the above example, but other times, it may be smaller and more subtle.

To include staff going forward, let them know ahead of time your upcoming topics. Ask them to contribute [if they want] titles to that display. Not only will you get a title you might not have thought of, but also, you may find out that a staff member really likes a genre or type of book and you had no idea. That not only helps you to identify another resource when you get a reader with similar tastes, but it builds camaraderie between staff members. It helps to remind us that while we all work in a specific department, we have likes across all departments and we are all a single team working together to help all patrons. As we stay in our specific departments, this team attitude often gets forgotten.

You can also move on to soliciting topics of future displays from all staff too. Having been part of a team that did multiple displays a month for 15 years, I know that we all run out of new ideas. Why aren’t we asking staff from other parts of the library for ideas too?  For that matter, why aren’t we asking patrons what topic of displays they want to see?

Which leads me to an easy way to make a display interactive for patrons. You don’t always have to invite them to add books to the displays to include them [but in general, I think this is a great idea for every display, every time, as I mention above]. But, you can always have a question to go with every display, a small pile of paper, and a box for them to leave the answers. So if you have a display of historical fiction, for example, you could have a sign with a question like-- What is Your Favorite Time Period to Read About? or What Time Would You Travel To If You Could? or even, What Historical Eras Do You Want Us To Have More Books About?

All of these questions will help you to serve your readers better. You can put these out with the physical display and on your social media channels. People get to express their opinions and we find out what truly interest them. The result is that we can develop our collections to better suit their wants AND our displays go from ho-hum to must visit by patrons. They will want to come back to see what we are asking them.

Again, staff should be encouraged to participate too.

When we ask people-- staff or patrons-- to participate in our service they feel like they are important. And they always have been, but we do not show them that we believe this nearly often enough . We can’t do our jobs of helping leisure readers without our fellow staff members or the patrons. All are vital to our success. They have value and can truly help us elevate our service-- but we have to ask.

Interactive displays are fun. They are a slight twist to a core service. And the results both physical and psychological are priceless.