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 including RA for All's EDI Statement.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Two Twists on Best of the Decade

There are many "Best of the Decade" lists coming out alongside the usual "Best of the Year" barrage. Today I would like to highlight my two favorite "Best of the Decade" archives that I think have a "twist," one that will help you do your job better [and not just overwhelm you with more lists].

First up is Paste Magazine's End of the Decade Archive. As all of you know, our work while primarily concerned with reading, requires we be aware of more than just books.  We need to be up on all pop culture, at least know a little bit about what is popular. That is why I love Paste's coverage here. It spans all popular culture. Books [in general and by genre], video games, tv shows, movies and so much more. Even best Memes! This is the best place to go to get a full picture of the arts and culture of the 2010s. Just a cursory glance will allow you to get up to speed on the decade that was. Not to mention provide you with dozens of suggestions for patrons in a variety of formats.

The second one is more book focused. It's Lit Hub's comprehensive coverage of The Best of the Decade which they have archived here. Each list is 10 books long with a useful annotation as to "why" it was chosen AND there is an honorable mention list for each list. There are enough books in each category for their own display, but there are two specific lists they have done which I am extra excited about precisely because they take the entire concept and give it a satisfying twist:

These two lists are pure genius. You can suggest these books to patrons easily. Just the titles alone are your soundbite to start a conversation with a reader. BUT, both are also a great option for interactive displays.

You can put up a display with these titles, using the books included to fill it and then ask patrons to share their titles that either more people should read or will still be reading in 10 years.  Do the questions separately though as two different displays.

Do this in the library and provide a board for people to post their additions or on your website or as a social media post and ask for comments. Then you can take the answers and make another display of, for example, "Books from the Last Decade That Our Patrons Think More People Should Read."

I'll even go first and you can include me as one of your patrons. For a book from the last decade that more people should read, I nominate Delicious Foods by James Hannaham. And for a book that will still be read in 10 years, I am going to pick a horror title for this, one that will still be read by horror fans for years to come...A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay. It is THE horror novel of the Decade in my opinion. And I think it will become the entry point for readers new to the genre for years to come.

Now is your turn. Have fun with these lists. Suggest the titles, make displays, and use them anytime of year to make suggestions. We are talking about titles that have already stood the test of time, so suggesting them in 5 months, a year, or even like the title says, 10 years from now, they clearly make for a great suggestion.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Library Reads: Favorites of 2019

I normally have standard language I put before the monthly Library Reads list here on the blog, but today's list is a bit different; therefore, I am shaking things up.

Today, the 2019 Voter Favorites were announced-- the Top 10 titles of the year as chosen from the 12 months of lists. 

This is a fun twist on a "best" list because this is OUR list, and as you can see below or here, it is different from many other 2019 "best" lists because it combines genres, nonfiction, and of course, contains multiple titles about books and or libraries. [We are nothing if not true to form.]

Enjoy this year end list, but don't forget to use the archive of every title from every list for a treasure trove of hundreds of titles you can confidently suggest to patrons both because your fellow library workers also liked them and because there is a provided sound bite making it easy for you to hand sell every title. 

Announcing the Voter Favorites 2019!

You voted, we counted, and 2019's Voter Favorite is:

The Library Book
by Susan Orlean
(Simon and Schuster)
“An investigation of the fire that devastated the Los Angeles Public Library in 1986 evolves into a page-turning history of the immense impact libraries and books have had throughout time. Profoundly moving and enlightening, and a clear call to readers to appreciate and support their libraries. For readers who enjoy high-quality narrative nonfiction.”
Jesica Sweedler DeHart, Neill Public Library, Pullman, WA

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
A Novel
by Kim Michele Richardson (Sourcebooks Landmark)

“Blue-skinned Cussie brings books via horseback to rural, racially intolerant Kentucky in the 1930s. Her efforts demonstrate that people crave intellectual stimulation even when they are poverty stricken in a food desert. For fans of Sandra Dallas and Lee Smith.”

—Courtenay Reece, Millville Public Library, Millville, NJ

Daisy Jones & the Six
A Novelby Taylor Jenkins Reid (Ballantine Books)

"Like the best episodes of Behind the Music, this chronicle of the rise and fall of a fictional ’70s rock group is impossible to resist. You'll be tempted to look up the band's hits, only to disappointedly remember that they don't exist. A great rock ’n’ roll ride for readers."

—Becky Bowen, Kenton County Public Library, Erlanger, KY

The Dutch House
by Ann Patchett (Harper)

"For siblings Danny and Maeve, the Dutch house is much more than a structure. It is the bones of their family, a symbol connected to love, loss, achievement, and abandonment. They are connected to this house all their lives, even after being flung out of it. For fans of Anne Tyler and Anna Quindlen."

—Kelly Currie, Delphi Public Library, Delphi, IN

Evvie Drake Starts Over
A Novel
by Linda Holmes

(Ballantine Books)

“Relationships are hard, whether with a spouse, a best friend, a new love interest, or ourselves. Evvie navigates all of these after a life-changing series of events. An engaging novel that explores relationship nuances without being too dark or too cutesy. For fans of Jenny Colgan, Cecilia Ahern, and Sophie Kinsella.”

—Maribeth Fisher, Scotch Plains Public Library, Scotch Plains, NJ

The Flatshare
A Novel
by Beth O'Leary (Flatiron Books)

“In this entertaining and humorous romance, Tiffy and Leon share a flat, but have never met. Who says you can't fall in love if your only communication has been through Post-It notes? For fans of Bridget Jones’s Diary and Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating.”

—Kelly Moore, Carrollton Public Library, Carrollton, TX

My Sister, the Serial Killer
A Novel
by Oyinkan Braithwaite
“Nigerian nurse Korede puts up with so much from her sister Ayoola (the serial killer). Braithwaite tells a dark, lively, and funny story of how begrudgingly cleaning up after someone else's deadly habits is just one of those things one does for family. For fans of satirical humor.”
—Lisa Hoffman, Bloomfield Public Library, Bloomfield, NJ

The Nickel Boys
A Novel
by Colson Whitehead

"An incredibly powerful story about an abusive boys' reform school in the 1960s. Whitehead skillfully brings each character to life even as they suffer physical and emotional horrors. For fans of Panopticon by Jenni Fagan."

—Mara Bandy Fass, Champaign Public Library, Champaign, IL

Red, White, and Royal Blue
A Novel
by Casey McQuiston (St. Martin's Griffin)

"First Son Alex Claremont- Diaz is in his last semester of university and has an antagonistic relationship with Prince Henry of Wales. But friendship and then love blossoms when they are forced to pretend to be buddies after an embarrassing altercation. For fans of a good rom- com."

—Nita Gill, Brookings Public Library, Brookings, SD

The Silent Patient
by Alex Michaelides (Celadon Books)
“Led on a dark path, readers will quickly guess that there's more to Alicia's story than what meets the eye. But the big surprises lie in the deep betrayals and the shock of an ending. Dark, twisted, perfect for fans of Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins, and Ruth Ware.”
—Amy Fellows, Multnomah County Library, Portland,OR

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

NPR Book Concierge 2019 Released and It Is Even Better Than Ever

This is my favorite best list of the year-- NPR's Book Concierge. Why? Because not only do they make sure to get a wide representation of books from a variety of formats, reading levels, and genres, but they also allow the person using the list to customize their choices. It is a patron focused, interactive best list like no other.

Filters can be applied and removed at will to find a great choice for any reader. And the filter choices include genre and appeal options. 

But this year, it is even better because the access to all 7 years of the Book Concierge are easily accessible and searchable. Meaning you have access to over 2000 "best" titles. 

Besides using this resource to help readers find the best "best" book for them, you can also use this enhanced resource to create dynamic displays. How? Well, you can apply the same filters across multiple years. For example, I clicked the "Eye-Opening Reads" filter and got a great list of 2019 titles in fiction, nonfiction and for all age levels. Then I clicked the 2018 tab at the top and immediately saw the "Eye-Opening Reads" from that year. Click on 2017 and repeat down the line. 

You now have a title for your display-- "Eye-Opening Reads" and a huge collection of varied and inclusive titles to fill it. You can do this over and over again all year long by employing different filters. You will never run out of display ideas or titles to fill them with if you use this resource. You can also pick multiple filters for smaller, more targeted displays. 

Okay enough from me. Stop reading this and just go use it. Today, tomorrow, and 5 months from now. With the backlist options you have no excuse not to help even the pickiest of patrons. And again, not just during this "best" season, but all the year through.

NPR's Favorite Books Of 2019: The Book Concierge Is Back With 350+ Great Reads

Monday, December 2, 2019

What I'm Reading: The Boatman's Daughter

Today I have my latest Booklist review and it is so good that I am calling it now-- this title will be among the best books of 2020 next year. Think I'm overreacting? Well, when this author's first book came out, I knew absolutely nothing about the author or the book and it blew me away immediately. That title went on to be one of the most critically acclaimed horror debuts of the year and led to the author signing a 2 book, major publisher deal. [Links below] So, lesson here: listen to Becky. and read the review below, which as always is my longer, draft review with added information to help you help patrons. You don't want to get behind the curve so early in the year.

The Boatman’s Daughter.

Davidson, Andy (author).

Feb. 2020. 416p. Farrar/MCD, paper, $16 (9780374538552)
First published December 1, 2019 (Booklist).
Davidson [In the Valley of the Sun] presents another hauntingly lyrical story that is dripping with atmosphere, in which the complicated characters and foreboding setting take the lead, draw readers in and envelope them in this brutal yet beautiful tale. Told through an omniscient lens, readers are introduced to a broken town, deep in the bayous and along the river banks of Southwestern Arkansas. Miranda ferries contraband for a corrupt sheriff and a neerdowell preacher, trying her best to make a living among the dense forests, winding rivers, and run down buildings. A stormy, tragic evening, 11 years prior, set Miranda's life on this path, and she cannot break free for many reasons, some apparent, some hidden by or from her, and even a few that are tied down by a dark magic. The novel, centered around Miriam’s final three runs, uses these criminal endeavours to tell the story of the interconnected characters and a place across generations, revealing the sins, secrets and magic, recounting brutal violence and desperation but also love and forgiveness. It is a story of monsters, both human and supernatural, where no one is innocent and yet, the lines between good and evil are still clearly drawn. Told with a restraint in the narration, a storytelling style where no detail is unnecessary, a slow burn that explodes at the novel’s mid-point, making room for the plot and the pacing to breathe and unravel toward the novel’s satisfying conclusion, this is a confidently told narrative that fully embraces its roots in the horror genre while also claiming a rightful place alongside Southern Gothic classics of the 21st Century such as Sing, Unburied, Sing by Ward, Winter’s Bone by Woodrell, and A Land More Kind Than Home by Cash.  

Further Appeal:  This is Davidson's second novel and I am telling you, I LOVED his debut, but this one is better. It is a crime novel with a fairy tale, timeless feel [although it appears to be 1979-80 where the "present" action takes place, if you follow the scant clues and do the math]. And there are  non-negotiable supernatural elements. This is not a Tremblay book where it could be real or it could be supernatural and you get to decide...Nope. There are monsters here. Actual monsters.

I would like to address the timeless, fairy tale tone. I tried to portray that feel in the review but I don't get many words and I wanted to make sure to be explicit here. It is Southern Gothic meets Fairytale.

The book builds world details and characters relentlessly for the first half of the book. The storytelling moves it along, but it is at a steady, not brisk pace. And the thing is, the details will all matter....every...single...one. There is a literally breaking point in the middle of the book [almost exactly] where the story explodes and races to its conclusion.

The Boatman's Daughter is an immersive reading experience that will envelop readers in every facet, with its setting, characters, storyline, tone, message, all of it. And it will leave you thinking about many real world issues in its wake.

Three Words That Describe This Book: lyrical, haunting, complex characters

Readalikes: I give you three above. I also have more in the In the Valley of the Sun review. Check all of those out. But the three in the review, taken together represent this title very well. Also, those 3 readalikes are all titles that have done very well with a public library audience; therefore, I would argue, so will this one.

I also think that fans of Lauren Groff's The Monsters of Templeton or anything by Karen Russell will enjoy this title too. In fact, I also love Russell and that link goes to any time I have mentioned her as a readalike or reviewed her books, leading you to many more options.

I would also like to mention how happy I have been with the books under the MCDxFSG imprint. I would highly suggest anything that comes from them. I recently reviewed Tinfoil Butterfly by Moulton and I am a huge fan of The Grip of It by Jemc. But all of the titles. They are all different in plot, but very similar in feel. They are all atmospheric, lyrical, character centered, and very unsettling. I don't usually make an overarching "imprint" readalike but MCD as an imprint is a great resource for more readalikes, at least right now.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

What I'm Reading: Goodreads Updates [Third 2019 Installment]

Today I have another installment of my catch up reviews. This post should serves as a reminder that I do periodic updates of all of the books I read for "fun" on Goodreads and then compile them here so that the titles are searchable on the blog too. 

I am also attaching the links in this post to the titles I included on my Horror Novellas for Libraries column in this month's Library Journal because those titles only appeared on the horror blog, and like I said above, I want to make sure all the books I have read are accessible via a title search on this blog for me as much as for you. Plus, now they have been assigned "three words."

See below for the authors and titles as well as my three words. Use the links [click on titles] to read the full review on Goodreads.

And Happy Thanksgiving. I should have one more quick Goodreads update before the end of the year.

From the Novellas Column [minus One for the Road which was reviewed on the blog previously], but I have added my three words for each book here on the blog
  • Ormeshadow by Priya Sharma [mythical, menacing sense of place, coming of age]
  • Snow Over Utopia by Rudolfo Serna [harrowing, character centered, disorienting]
  • Husk by Rachel Autumn Deering [unreliable narrator, thought provoking, trauma]
  • A Lush and Seething Hell by John Hornor Jacobs [cosmic, disorienting, thought provoking]

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Call to Action Reminder-- Don't Shelve Your Series in Alpha Order

Today I am reposting my demand that we stop shelving series in Alpha Order. This post is from 2018 and it has a very useful comment at the end of it from a library who was working on this issue.

I use one of the most extreme series authors, Nora Roberts as an example in this post, but most are not this hard.

But I am also updating this Call to Action by adding some more general information about how we present books to our community.

The main reason you NEED to shelve books in series order is simple:
I am so done with library workers who act like they are the gate keepers of their collections. These people act as guards, trying to find reasons to restrict access. This is dumb. If you think like this, you are wrong. You cannot win this argument. And, you should probably find another line of work.

As I say this, trust me, I realize that many library directors and administrators are the ones who think most like this. I fight them constantly about their outdated and harmful opinions about how to serve their public. I write posts like this to help you have arguments to bring to them. As a widely accepted expert in all things RA Service, at least my word will carry some critical weight as you attempt to change their misplaced minds.

Look, the fact of the matter is your books are meant to be off the shelf, not held hostage on the shelf. You are not 100% successful in your work at the public library until every single item is checked out at the same time and the shelves are bare. So.....job scrutiny, yes, but also this is the goal to strive for. If setting the books free, to be circulated and enjoyed is our ultimate goal, then our policies and attitudes as a profession needs to shift.

Placing books on the shelf where patrons are most likely going to look for them, and then making sure your catalog reflects that [so they can find them when browsing the shelves AND while using the OPAC] is your ultimate goal.

Children's librarians do this all the time with popular series. So LEGO books, for example, are all together on the shelf and use a call number of LEG, NOT the various author's last names. Kids who want LEGO books or Star Wars or whatever is popular at the moment, will look. under the series NOT the author. My local library has gone so far as to pull out "counting" and "alphabet books" and designated them as a "series," even though they are not in a unified series. But, parents and kids look for them in this way.

And guess what, that is fine. Stop getting hives about the fact that it is NOT proper cataloging. Libraries are allowed to organize their materials in the way that makes the most sense to the way their patrons access the collection. Cataloging rules are a guide NOT a law. As I say below, there are no library police to put you in library jail if you disobey.

[Also, and this is a side argument but needs to at least be mentioned here, why are we so attached to LC subject headings. They are extremely racist. When patrons encounter them in the catalog it is a microaggression at best and a hostile attack at worst. So why are we so quick to defend the RULES then?]

The point I am making below is that we need to show our patrons [not just tell them] that we care about their access and experience. Yes, recataloging all of your series is a lot of work, but it can be done and is ultimately in service to your patrons....those patrons whose books these are in the first place.

Below is the original post. I will back tomorrow with a catch up reviews on all of my personal reading from the last few months and then away until Monday.

Call to Action: Don’t Shelve You Series in Alpha Order

Today I have a very easy Call to Action, one that a few libraries are starting to do, one that puts the patrons and their needs first, one that there is no good reason for you not to do--
Notice I say there is “no good reason” for you not to do this. I know many of you are literally shaking with anxiety after reading that statement. Putting things in alphabetical order is what most librarians do; it’s what they live for; it is what grounds them, and I am pulling the rug out from under all of them. However, just because that is how we are most comfortable organizing of our materials does not mean it is the best way. Sorry people, tough love here.

Also, and I say this often in my talks to ease some of the anxiety the above statement causes, I promise, you will not go to library jail for not putting every single item in alpha order. [cue nervous laughter and looking over shoulders]

Alphabetical order works great for organizing fiction authors and then for arranging their books on the shelf in many cases. But, for series, it never makes sense because people want to read the series in the order the author wants them to, not because the alphabet sets the order. And when you have an author like Nora Roberts, who has a bazillion different series it makes even less sense.

Let’s take Roberts as an example right now. We should use the KDL What’s Next Database as our model on how to organize series on the shelf. Here is a screen shot of their entry for just first few series Roberts has.

Each series is “shelved” alphabetically in this database. Then as you explore each series [as shown above in the Concannon Sisters Trilogy] those are in numerical order. In other words, in the order that the patron wants to read them.

With an author like Roberts, who has almost 3 dozen series under her name, this shelving by series alphabetically and then shelving the series in its written order is a game changer. The Roberts shelf is a mess with some books from the same series a shelf or two apart. Why do we do this to our patrons? Why do we make finding the books so harder them? Do we love alpha order more than our readers? Of course not.

Now Nora Roberts is an extreme example. Let’s take her series under the name JD Robb for example instead, currently at 47 books and counting. In this case we have a single author whose series is shelved completely out of order, and it really matters what order you read it in! Eve Dallas is in a different place in book 5 than she is in book 35. Why can’t we put them in numerical order? Why do our patrons have to search on their own to figure the order out? Why isn’t it clear on the shelf. I don’t know why? Better yet, why have we never asked ourselves how confusing and unhelpful this series of 47 popular books in no useful order is?

No wonder people don’t think we want to help them. We don’t make it easy for them. It's like we are taunting them. Seriously, that is how it feels to readers. I am not exaggerating. I have asked patrons, and trying to navigate a new to them series that already has a lot of books in it is a big source of library anxiety.

Okay, now the biggest argument against shelving in numerical order- how else will we make sure that they are marked appropriately in the catalog and on the book themselves in order for them to be easily reshelved and located by patrons and library workers alike. How will we make sure it is consistent and clear.

Yes it is true that our cataloging methods are all based on alpha order, but guess what? The cataloging systems are not the law. Again, you won’t go to jail. We have the right to create local cataloging changes to serve our patrons better.

Luckily here, there are many libraries who are beginning to do this, so I know of some models to share.

The easiest way I have seen it that a cutter is created for the series and then a number appears after it. So a JD Robb book would be under ROB, first and then IND 1 would be added to the title Naked in Deathsince it is the first book in the In Death Series. It would look like this on that book:


If an author has multiple series, you cutter each series and assign numbers. Adding this one extra call number allows the book to be shelved properly every time and takes up very little extra space on the spine of the book.

Again, use KDL’s What’s Next database as your model. Then you have a standard source to base your cataloging off of. You can insure that if your cataloging person changes, the standard will be kept. It is your professional source material to make your cataloging choices for series.

I am making this call to action-- shelving series in numerical order-- one of my personal goals. Everywhere I go I will be telling libraries to do this. And you know what, there is no argument any one can make against me. It is easier for the library workers, the shelvers, and most importantly the patrons. It puts the reader and their needs first. It shows them with our actions that we want them to be able to use the library easily. It makes us look more friendly and helpful without even talking to anyone.

And the only argument those of you who resist have is that it is different than how we have always done things.

Doing things the way we have always done them is a terrible and lazy argument. Progress has never been made in any arena on the back of that argument.

Often with my Call to Action posts I leave it up to you to try it or not. Today, I am demanding you start seriously considering making this change.

If you need help convincing your supervisors, let me know.

For past Call to Action posts, click here.


Jessi said...
Thanks for sharing this tip! We are in the middle of making this change at my library and I'm so excited about it. It is a lot of initial work and we have had staff and patrons express concern about the change, but we're also hearing good things. We are using new and replacement copies to trigger an update to catalog records and spine labels for the entire series. This means that within a year any series with new materials added will be updated. This will also be helpful with weeding, as staff can start to see series that are no longer being updated and series gaps. Keep up the good work ...

Monday, November 25, 2019

The Double Edged Sword of "Heritage Month" Displays

I been asked the same question about how "Heritage Month" displays do or do not fit into an EDI philosophy of RA Service at least 4 times in the last 10 days, so I thought it was time to answer it more publicly on the blog.

[I will also be linking this post in my EDI webinar so people can access it within context more easily. Here is the most recent version of that program.]

Let me take a small step back and set the stage with some foundational information for this discussion. I argue that the first step in making sure your RA Service considers Equity, Diversity and Inclusion issues every step of the way begins where we always begin in libraries-- with an EDI mission statement. Ideally you would like your entire Department to adapt an EDI mission statement but since I know that would take time, I believe that you should start with yourself, lead by example, and at least make sure the work you do puts EDI at the forefront of your planning, thoughts, and actions.

Mine lives here always. And here is where I wrote about how and why I developed it.

When you put an EDI lens in front of everything you do, you can't help but assess and consider how we are promoting our collections and suggesting to readers every single day. This EDI mission statement is there to guide me and remind me of my ultimate goal every single day. I am so grateful for how it has focused me on what is important.

After I spend 45+ minutes explaining my EDI and RA Service philosophy in my training sessions, inevitably I get a questions about "Heritage Month" displays. This happens because one of my main arguments is that diverse titles should appear in every list and display, all of the time, and that we are not being equitable and inclusive if we only highlight own voices titles on displays in their designated month-- so Native American titles now, LGBTQ in June, African American in February, etc.....

Only displaying these titles during their designated months is a microaggression, I explain, because it assumes the white, hetero-normative, abled body titles are the standard and everything else is "the other." No matter how well meaning you are, this outcome is a problem.

The basic question is then, "Is it okay to do Heritage Month" displays ever or are those a microaggression by default, always.

My answer to these askers is a "No, but..."

There is nothing wrong with utilizing these months as a marketing and promotional event to highlight the breadth of your diverse offerings.


If this is the only time you put, for example, "Native American" works on display, that is a HUGE problem.

Many people I work with use their participation in "Heritage Month" displays as their excuse to not actively audit their other ways of displaying and suggesting titles to readers [whether passively or directly]. The excuses I hear go, "Well I make sure to highlight them at least 1x a year, so I'm doing my part."

However, if you only put out diverse books in a display that is about the diversity of those titles that is BAD, WRONG, and NOT OKAY.

Instead you should highlight specific underrepresented groups during that designated month AND you should also make sure to include diverse and own voices titles in every list you publish, in every displays, and in the suggestions you are booktalking. You should do all of that. And, if you are only doing 1 thing, it should be diversifying all of your displays and then NOT only ghettoizing these works to their assigned month because only doing that is the biggest problem.

You can read a book with, for instance, a LGBTQ frame any month of the year, just like I argue you can read horror any month too.

We have to actively audit the titles we include in all of the various ways we suggest and make sure the options are inclusive....all of the time. And those displays, every single display, especially when the topic is something generic like "Fantasy" or "Hot Reads for Cold Nights," that is where we have to make sure we are being inclusive and considering the widest range of voices. We should have titles by people from all backgrounds represented.

So again, for this popular question about if "Heritage Month" displays are okay..."Yes, But" is the answer.

And if you have further EDI based questions for me, contact me. When I know the concerns that those of you in the trenches have, I am able to develop content to help you both help patrons and make arguments to your supervisors the help you institute needed change.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Using Best Books Lists to Help You NOT to Overwhelm You

I wanted to end this week with my annual reminder that "BEST" season can be overwhelming if you don't have the correct mindset about it. New lists are coming at us every day, while patrons are coming in and asking for the same books appearing on those lists. But we need to remember, that while those best lists are bringing patrons in with a specific book to ask for, that does not mean they HAVE to get that book. In most cases, they just want A book, one that will be "good" because someone else who knows better said it was "best." Many of our patrons don't know or realize that we can help with their wants, their leisure requests. These list provide them with a tangible request to bring to us, to start the conversation about their reading needs, in a way that lessens their anxiety about asking and "bothering" us.

Rather than feel overwhelmed about all the "best" books lists, and being annoyed that everyone is asking for the same books, book that are already checked out and have long holds queues; instead we need to celebrate the bounty that is the "best list" and use this bounty to our advantage. And not just now, at the end of the year, but all year long. [Psst....a best book is still best in January or June or any month really; no one removes that status after the best book season ends.]

Let's begin with a little basic patron psychology. When a patron comes in asking for a specific title off of the best lists, understand that this is not the only book they will accept. As I said above, this is a specific request for a book, but what the patron is really asking for is a suggestion of a book that will be worth their time.

You can tell them that the book they want is out now, and you can take a hold, but did they read [insert similar book from last year's best list here]? Statements like, "This was on last year's best lists." Or, "Many people never got a chance to read this 2 years ago when it was on the lists." Or something that reminds them that best lists come out every year and no one has ever read all of them.

Best lists are a treasure trove of information that can help you to help readers all year long. Today's bests are a great way to bring people into the library to ask for leisure reads. They are one of our best marketing tools [along with Summer Reading], but they are just that...a marketing tool. The current list is helpful to bring them in, but it is the accumulated backlist of best lists, from everywhere and anywhere that become a great resource to help readers find a "pre-approved," already vetted as best by someone, read.

But where to find all of the best lists, especially the backlist versions? That could take forever. Thankfully, that is not the case. They are all easily available in one place thanks to Largehearted Boy.

Largehearted Boy has the ultimate aggregated list of every possible best book list here. It is updated daily AND there is easy access to past lists. And I am not kidding about easy. At the end of the list of lists, he provides a linked list of the archives from every past year. Right there, in plain sight, with single click access.

This is a resource I use all year long. In fact, it is one of my favorite and most used resources to connect people with their next good read.

Again, best lists are not only a great option now, at the end of the year, but also anytime of year. Have a patrons who wants a great romance in May, but has read all the newest ones? Go to Largehearted Boy's most current best books archive. Do a "find" for the word romance. Multiple best romance lists appear. Click through and look at them together. Read them all? Go back a year [at the bottom of the page and choose "2018"] and repeat.

They are still best and you probably still own a majority of the books from the last 2-5 years of "best lists." This archive contains every type of best book in every imaginable reading category, and from every publication, even the ones that barely cover books. And you can read "best" books anytime of year, not just at the end of a year. There is no law against it, regardless of the fact that many of us who serve leisure readers act like that is exactly the case and never give out or promote "best" books except from November-January.

So let's just stop, okay. Don't be so closed minded. And give your patrons a little more credit. They are not as simple minded as only wanting the exact best book from the exact list they have brought in. [even if they insist they do; those people just don't understand that you have more of the same for them in last's years list from the same publication. That's not their job to know that, It is yours. And it is your job to communicate it to them in a way that makes them excited to take a book home.]

Resources are our friends when we help leisure readers and best lists, especially the backlist ones, are our "best friends" because they help us find the perfect, new to them, read for our patrons-- all year long.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

RA for All Roadshow Visits East Aurora [IL] School District 131

In what I think will be my final in person appearance of 2019 [I can't 100% rule out a last minute local appearance], I am traveling to the second largest city in IL, Aurora, to spend the afternoon working with the School Library Staff of the East Aurora School District.

This district serves grades K-12 and I will be working with library staff in small groups as part of one of the district's half day staff training sessions.

I am excited to provide this training for a few reasons:

  1. I volunteer at the school library near me 2 times a month and I now I get to share some of what I do and learn from this experience with fellow school library people.
  2. I am going to be able to work with staff in small groups, presenting multiple times. The intimacy of the workshops is something I don't normally get to do. We are really going to be able to make connections that will stick and have impact, at least that is the plan.
  3. This is a school district serving children who are in need. I cleared my schedule to make this event happen. Helping to energize and train the school library staff on how to get the kids excited to read books for fun will make a huge difference in these kids' lives.
  4. I have confidence in the leadership team who are bringing me in to keep the learning going. This is the beginning of a larger plan to push leisure reading more into the spotlight for everything the district does, not just in the library.

Today's workshops will follow Becky's 10 Rules of RA Service

Finally, since this may very well be my final in person appearance of the year, it is a good time to remind you that it is not too late to hire me for 2020 but at 2019's rates.  Click here for those rates. And you can click on the RA for All logo on any page of the blog to contact me.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Library Journal Best of 2019

Click here for the Library Journal Best Books 2019 homepage

I am so proud to have been a small part of the team of contributors who put this huge list of the Best Books of 2019 together for Library Journal.

With 17 categories, there is something here for every reader. The categories are also easy to use, including things like "pop fiction," "crime fiction," and many nonfiction categories. This is a list you can use with readers as you ask them what they are looking for in their next good read.

But, most importantly, the entire best books collection, each and every list, is diverse and  inclusive, embracing the full range of the very best books published this year.

Congrats to all, both the authors who wrote these amazing books and my fellow contributors who did a great job selecting for each list.

Click on each category to link to that specific list. 

Crime Fiction


Literary Fiction

Pop Fiction



Short Stories

World Literature


Biography & Memoir

Cooking & Food


Religion & Spirituality

Science & Technology

Social Sciences


Graphic Novels