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.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What I’m Reading: The Troop

Recently I reviewed the brilliant Bird Box by Josh Malerman. Well, today’s review makes for an interesting pairing because Nick Cutter’s The Troop has an equal sense of dread and claustrophobia but is on the exact opposite end of the gore spectrum. [Hint-- look at that red cover] I loved both, but I appreciate that for some library patrons this will matter.

Set on an isolated, uninhabited island a few miles of the mainland of the equally isolated Prince Edward Island, Canada, a troop of boy scouts and their leader have their survival excursion interrupted by the appearance of a stranger who is completely consumed both physically and mentally by hunger.  Once “the Hungry Man” enters their world, their fight to survive-- the disease he carries, each other, and those trying to contain the biological incident-- really begins. Featuring a fluidly shifting narration and monsters both of this world and unearthly, the anxiety of The Troop never stops, the panic keeps intensifying, and the gore is bountiful. But there is more than just visceral horror at work here; there is also the desperation of knowing you are trapped, contagious, and doomed.

The story begins with a narration by “The Hungry Man” himself. We then switch to the island where we see things unfold through the eyes of the troop leader and then the boys themselves. In fact this is where the story telling goes from good to GREAT. The boys, their personalities, their places in the troop pecking order, and their backgrounds all come to influence how they manage this horrific situation, how they choose to take charge, and how they treat one and other.

As the anxiety builds and the situation goes from bad to worse to unimaginably horrific, the pov switches become key.

There is also a great side plot here involving the evil scientist who has created the vector which created The Hungry Man. This is a 100% fatal disease that spreads person to person and violently consumes its victim. As readers we are allowed to follow the trial that takes place in the aftermath of the horror that happens on the island. The result is a winning horror combination of a supernatural and human evil that keep the chills and thrills rolling through this extremely fast paced story.

Besides the gore as a limiter, I also need to mention that there are many child characters here, and this story has a high body count. I am sorry to provide a bit of that spoiler, but I think just saying that previous sentence to readers who are unsure if they would like to read this novel is a good idea.

This is pulp horror at it’s best. It is a throwback to the best of the 1980s but with a 21st Century sensibility. [Read during this time of Ebola at your own risk though.]

As a final aside, it is important to note that Nick Cutter is the pseudonym used by acclaimed, Canadian, literary fiction writer Craig Davidson for his horror novels.

Three Words That Describe This Book: gory, intense sense of dread, isolated setting

Readalikes: Obviously Lord of the Flies is in play here. Many readers will see a connection and might want to revisit the classic Golding novel.

The Ruins by Scott Smith and Castaways by Brian Keene are two of my all time favorites. Both share the isolated setting and high gore level. Click on the titles for more details. Hint/small spoiler, all three books share a very high body count, and while The Troop comes close, The Ruins is still the winner in that category.

Two other fantastic horror novelists who go heavy on the gore but don’t sacrifice the storytelling in its wake are Richard Laymon and Jack Ketchum. Laymon in particular was a master of the extremely isolated setting. Cutter has obviously read them and learned from their expertise.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Monday Discussion: What Do You Need To Survive A Horror Movie?

Today I am running the Monday Discussion on both blogs because it is a good one.

Let me have the person who suggested it set the stage for you:
My name is Alexandra, and I'm the community manager for Man Crates. We're a new company that ships awesome gifts for men in custom wooden crates that he has to open with a crowbar! At Man Crates, it is our mission to end the difficulties that have long been associated with buying gifts for men. I'm emailing you because I think you would be a perfect fit for our Halloween Movie Survival Kit campaign!
As Halloween approaches many rituals go into full swing. Costume hunting, pumpkin carving, and of course, scary movie watching. No matter how many times you see the same story, you still get a kick out of it (or still scream at the ghostly scene). While watching these movies I always find myself thinking, you know, if she didn't go into the basement alone she might have made it. Or better yet, if you're gonna go in a dark forest you might want to have fresh batteries in your flashlight first, right?
We are looking for bloggers like you to create a post talking about the things they would want to have if they were stuck in a spooky movie. Whether it's garlic to ward off vampires, a shovel to thump zombies with, or a goofy sidekick who you know you could outrun, we'd love to hear what you'd have in your crate to make it through the entire movie.
What a fun idea from the people at Man Crates.  They even provided a cool graphic which I have embedded below to help get your creative juices flowing.  It is kind of small, so I also uploaded a nice clear pdf that you can read in a larger format by clicking here.

So for today's Monday Discussion... what would you put in your "survive a horror movie" crate?

I'll go first.  I would definitely have extra batteries for everything. The batteries always seem to run out on phones and/or flashlights all of the time in those movies.  In fact, I am going to say 5 extra flashlights and 2 extra cell phones, plus a mess load of extra batteries should do it.  Some granola bars to stave off hunger (they are light to carry and yummy to eat) as well as a wooden spear or bat.  I don't know how to shoot a gun and would probably hurt myself with a knife or sword, but a club or bat made of wood with a sharpened end could do a lot of damage to a wide range of monsters.

Your turn. Leave a comment with what you would put in your Horror Movie Survival Crate.

And thanks to Man Crates for getting in touch.  This will be fun.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Soon to be Famous Illinois Author Project-- Author Appearance and Year 2 Submissions Begin!

Last year I was a judge for the first ever Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project.  [Click here for access to all of my posts on it].  It was a smashing success.  In fact, this week at the ILA Conference we celebrated their success as our first winner, Joanne Zienty, appeared, the committee spoke about how they pulled it all together, and David Vinjamuri, the inspiration and mentor of the project, reprised his talk “It’s a Mad, Mad Publishing World.

Joanne has already begun her tour of Illinois libraries to talk about the process and plug the second year of the project.  In fact, tomorrow at 2pm she will be appearing at the Berwyn Library to kick off our Friends of the Library Week celebrations.  Click here to see where Joanne is going and where she has been.

But that was last year.  The Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project is fully entrenched in kicking off year 2!  Click here for details, but the basic info you need to know is ANY IL LIBRARY can accept ANY BOOK by ANY self published author.  You do not have to have read it, or deemed it worthy, that is a job for the judges.  And you don’t have to officially join Soon to Be Famous; just by being a library you are already part of the team! The point is to encourage the connection between self published authors and their local libraries.

But I’ll send you to their site for the most up to date info, including the link here where you can submit a book for the judges to consider.

Don’t believe me about how easy it is? Watch the video below to prove it!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

ILA Conference: How to Take Your Friends From Drab to Fab

Today is the last day of the conference, and later this morning, I will be presenting a program that has to do with the other hat I wear at the BPL-- the Friends Liaison.

Along with my colleagues Nikki Zimmermann and Carmen Higgins, we will be giving a pep talk to all of the other Friends Liaisons in Illinois.

Entitled, How to take Your Friends from Drab to Fab, our program is an attempt to organize this diverse group of librarians.  All of us have other job duties besides working with FOL groups, and often, our FOL work is forced to come second.  Obviously, for me this is 100% true.

We are fixing to end that today.  Our program will focus on how the three of us have made positive changes to our groups in three different libraries [click here for the link to see it for yourself].

But the main outcome we are hoping to achieve with this presentation is to start a community of Friends Liaisons.  We are leaving time for discussion in our program and, if you go to the last slide of the presentation, you will see that I have set up a listserv for all Friends Liaisons so that we can keep the conversation going.

Click through and go to the last slide for the link.  RAILS [our library system] has graciously set this listserv so that anyone, from anywhere can sign-up.  I am the moderator, and would like to encourage anyone who works with friends groups to join us in a positive, supportive environment where we hope to share our successes and work together to get through failures.

I know this is a RA themed blog, but if you could let your FOL Liaisons know about our attempt to build a community, please pass this link on.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Follow the ILA Conference in the Twitter Widget

As I have mentioned numerous times, I am in Springfield at the Illinois Library Association Conference all week.  The blogs are both soldiering on due to the benefits of being able to write ahead and schedule things, but I did want to check in to remind people that I am not blogging about specific programs.

Instead, I am tweeting everything.  But I wanted to stress that you do not need to be on Twitter to access my comments and reports from #ilakick.  Readers of the blog can simply scroll down, and look in the right gutter under my book cover to see my Twitter feed.  It has its own scroll bar and the links are clickable.  You can also click on the hashtags to pull up more information without logging onto Twitter.

I’m trying not to duplicate information while still respecting my loyal blog readers.  I hope this is working for people.  If it is not, please contact me and let me know.

What I’m Reading: Bird Box

This is a cross-post with RA for All: Horror.

Back in the summer when I finished Bird Box, the debut novel by Josh Malerman, I knew I had encountered a special book; not only one of the best I have read this year, but one of the best I have read in awhile.

You could feel it as you were reading. I rarely encounter a story as well crafted, with suspense, interesting characters, and an amazingly creative premise.

And it wasn’t just me. Everyone in the library was inhaling and loving this taut and tense novel. From Youth to Adult Services, Circ staff to pages, employees all over the library were talking about how great this novel was.

So what was all the fuss about? Are you sure you can handle it?

Bird Box is a terrifying story set in a world where an unknown threat has killed off almost every person on earth. We don’t know what the threat is though because everyone who sees it kills themselves. So, the only way to protect yourself is to never open your eyes. EVER. Not even a peek people.

What this also means is that everyone who can tell narrate the novel also has never seen the threat, or else they wouldnt be alive. They all just know that they cannot, under any circumstances, ever open their eyes.

The story opens by introducing us to a mother and her two young children who live alone in a house near the river. They are preparing to set out into this world of unknown horrors and pilot a boat down the river to a possible (but not guaranteed) place of salvation, with-- you guessed it-- their eyes firmly shut.

Then, in alternating sections, the reader is taken back to see this young woman on the day it all began, four years before, when the world as we know it ceased to exist. We see the same house full of people and know that in the story’s present they are all gone. We read compulsively both to find out what happened before and also, to see what will happen now. And the best part of the novel is, we know things are going to end badly, but we cannot stop turning the pages.

Oh, and the ending is just about perfect--resolved by no means settled.

The claustrophobia of this story is oppressive, intense and terrifying from the first page, and it only builds from there. There is also no gore here, but that makes the fear you will feel even more intense.

I dare you not to read this book.

Three Words That Describe This Book: oppressive, dread, anxiety

Readalikes:  This is absolutely my favorite type of book, horror or not, one that is oppressive, terrifying, anxiety driven, and with a constant and intensifying dread hanging over everything. Here are some other books I have read and enjoyed that also fit this profile with links to my reviews for detail. It is important to note that they are not all horror books.

I also recently finished Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. This is also a fantastic readalike option for Bird Box for the same reasons. More details in my review of Station Eleven on RA for All soon.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Art of Booktalking Link Now Live

I may be at the ILA conference, but the RA world keeps spinning.  Yesterday, the newest issue of The Corner Shelf, a Booklist free newsletter came out, and it features some fantastic RA articles.

First, I’ll get the self promotion out of the way, because this issue does have a live link to The Art of Booktalking program of which I was a part. Click through and watch, but here is Rebecca Vnuk’s summary of what you can expect:
Booklist recently had the great pleasure of sponsoring a program with Rowman & Littlfield on the topic of booktalking in libraries. The conversation was graciously recorded by the Reaching Across Illinois Library System, and can be viewed here. Jennifer Bromman-Bender, librarian at Lincoln-Way West High School (New Lenox, IL) and author of several books on booktalking, including R&L's Booktalking Nonfiction: 200 Sure-Fire Winners for Middle and High School Readers (2013), spoke about how to present nonfiction books to middle- and high-school students. She also gave a presentation of some of her most popular booktalks. Katie Mediatore Stover of the Kansas City (MO) Public Library (and author of several ALA Editions RA titles) was up next, with a ton of practical advice on how to booktalk informally—while in the stacks, or out in the community. She also discussed how to pull out the best elements of a book in order to sell it to a reader. Kaite incorporated a lot of RA tips (talking about tone, mood, warning the reader what to expect) on how to do what she calls a "bookmercial." Becky Spratford, author of ALA Edition's Readers Advisory Guide to Horror (2012) and librarian at the Berwyn (IL) Public Library, gave advice on how to get your staff comfortable with booktalking, and why booktalking is so important. Becky then finished up with a selection of her favorite horror books for booktalking.
But wait, there is so much more.

Kristi Chadwick and Anna Popp write about creating a regional RA team in Western Mass, Libraryland’s “blurb Queen,” Robin Beerbower is this issue's interviewee, and there is a core collection column on Gay and Lesbian Romance Novels [a trending area that needs revamping at many libraries].

Click through for more.

ILA Conference: Leveraging Your Librarian Influence

As I mentioned in this post, I am at the Illinois Library Association Conference all week.  I am going to try to have some posts to share, but I did pre-load some posts, like these just in case.

This morning, I will be presenting Leveraging Your Librarian Influence Through the Power of Reviews with Rebecca Vnuk and Kara Kohn. You can click here for the post where I have details on the program itself.

You can click here to access the slides.

Monday, October 13, 2014

RA for All Training with Bucks County Free Library

Today is the Columbus Day Holiday here in the US and many libraries are closed.  Some, like the Bucks County Free Libraries, are holding staff training all day.  And they invited me.

I am happy to be a part of their day as I will be appearing (on a 100 inch screen!) to present my very popular RA for All training:
From shelvers to directors, this program is aimed at any staff member in the library who interacts with patrons.  Being able to provide good RA service from any desk in the library will help staff communicate effectively and ensure satisfied patrons.  Using her "Ten Rules of Basic RA Service" as a guide, Becky will show you how to help any patron find their next good read.
I love this program because it is 2 hours of hands-on RA training and the set up we have will be fantastic.  Everyone can see me and I can see them. Until recently, I thought this was a program I could only do in person, but now, I am excited that I will be able to offer it virtually to more people.

Whether you are a part of today's training or not, this post is a reminder that my 10 Rules of Basic RA Service, which serve as the guide for this RA for All training program, are always available here for you to use for yourself and your staff. I have also ended this post with the rules themselves [but for the entire handout, go here].

Back tomorrow with 3 days in a row of horror novel reviews...

Becky's Ten Rules of Basic RA Service

1.   Betty Rosenberg: “Never apologize for your reading tastes.”
      A non-judgmental list of what you should read"
2.   Suggest don’t Recommend.
3.   Everyone reads a different version of the same book.
4.   Write down adjectives about what you read; plot you can find.
5.   Read widely (at least speed read widely).
6.   Read about books (RSS feeds).
7.   Share what you read- with staff and patrons.
8.   Never let a patron leave unsatisfied.
9.   Get out from behind the desk.
10.Bridge the physical-virtual divide.