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.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Halloween Prep Has Begun

Over on RA for All: Horror I have begun my steady march toward October with a planning post. Click here to read the full post, but for the lazy among you, here is a great display idea from that post- because it is too awesome for you to not read...
Step Two, start some Halloween display prep by allowing your horror books to act all creepy. What do I mean? Well this is one of my favorite passive RA tricks for horror promotion.  Grab some of your more terrifying titles with great covers-- I suggest Brian KeeneJonathan Maberry, and Nick Cutter to start-- and put them face out in the stacks. So at the end of the row where Nick Cutter's The Troop is normally shelved, pull the physical book out to display face out; maybe even have it peeking out from the end of the row if you can. If you are a library that actively puts books face out in the middle of the stacks (good for you), switch them all to horror titles.  Even if you never have books face out, go through and randomly put a few where there is room.  The result....your horror books are stalking patrons as they walk through the stacks. It is as if they are following you.... It creates the exact feelings of anxiety, dread, and unease that horror fans crave.  It is AWESOME!!!! [and super easy]
See now you want to read the post and all 6 steps....


I had a whole other post planned for today, but this morning there has been a very active, useful, and informative discussion by a bunch of us on the importance of weeding over on Twitter.

What I love about this discussion is that it is looking at the issue the right way.  Too often talk of weeding does not get beyond the bias that it involves books being "trashed." First of all that is untrue. No library simply throws books away. They are conscious recycled-- both figuratively [by finding the books a new home] or literally.

And weeding is about more than removing books, it is about shaping our collections to represent our communities. Weeding involves removing books, but it also includes replacing those removed books with more responsive titles.

Look, I could go on and on, but I am writing this post because I know I have a bunch of readers who are not on Twitter. So, I have been actively retweeting much of the conversation so that you can read it on the widget in the right gutter of the blog. Also, click here to read 1 librarian's longer discussion of weeding on Twitter today. [You don't nee an account to read it].

You can also click here for all of my posts on weeding.  I do not have a tag for weeding because it is a part of collection development (for which I do have a tag), and weeding is not productive without being connected to a larger CD plan. So use that link to see all posts on collection development.

I would also like to specifically point out my post on Rebecca Vnuk's brand new book on weeding. I really feel like it is a must buy for all public libraries.

And finally, here is a link to Rebecca's recent presentation on Weeding at RAILS HQ.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Crime Fiction Genre Study: 1 Month Reminder and a Thank You

We have our every-other-month Steering Committee Meeting tomorrow so this is also your 1 month (and 1 day) reminder about the next [and penultimate] Crime Fiction Genre Study meeting.

Click here for all the info and the assignment on the topic of Special Interests and Formats in Crime Fiction including multicultural  graphic novels, audio, and YA. And get reading....

As always, if you cannot join us, you can follow along with the assignment on the website, or use it to run your own genre study. All we ask is that you credit ARRT.

Speaking of it being close to the end of our 2 year journey, I spent some time earlier this week combing through the responses to our Genre Study Survey too.  First of all thank you to everyone who took the genre study.  We had a very healthy number of responses.  I especially appreciated the people who took the time to leave specific comments. I read every single one and I have a lot of great insight to share with the entire Steering Committee tomorrow.

Second, I want to also thank all of your for your effort and commitment to this 2 year process. We were trying something new by doing a category and not just a single genre.  We were not perfect in our execution, but I think over all the Genre Study Team did a good job; thankfully you all agree.  And you all hung in there with us, read the books and participated. Not only is that appreciated, it made the experience better for all of us.

Third, to the person who wants us to increase our meetings to monthly....sorry, not gonna happen, but not because we don’t want to. It is because those of us on the Steering Committee already meet on the alternate first Thursdays of the month when there is no genre study.

Seriously though, everything [besides that comment] that people left is on the table to be considered. If you are a member of ARRT (and since it is only $10 to join and the genre study comes with it for free- so why aren’t you?), you will be hearing very soon about what we chose [based on your input] for the next genre study set to begin in February of 2016. The only thing I know for sure is that someone else will be the main leader, but I plan to participate for sure [and maybe help depending on the genre(s) chosen for study].

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

First Ever RA for All Ad

Deciding to go into business for yourself is scary enough, and then you realize there are a million things you need to do that have nothing to do with being a librarian-- and I don’t just mean the book keeping [which I knew about going in and am getting better at every day].

For example, last year I started the process toward branding RA for All by hiring a friend who is a graphic designer to make me a logo.

Then in July, I signed on to be a silver sponsor for the Illinois Library Association Conference.

The sponsorship required I submit an ad in the Fall.  "How hard could that be?" I thought at the time. I have a logo; I can make this happen. Well, then the email about how to submit an ad came and I felt like I was reading a foreign language.

Thankfully, I had a relationship with a graphic designer and could again hire her to help me.

Notice I said “hire.” I am expecting all of you out there to pay me for my expertise, the least I can do is pay someone else for theirs.

So I now have a concise advertisement for the basic services I provide. I am posting it below today but you can always find it on the About page [accessible by clicking on the RA for All logo on the top right of every page of the blog.

Print the ad out and show it to the people who plan your trainings and inservice days. I really want to get out there and help improve library based leisure reading services for every public library patron. A lofty goal I know, but one with good job security.

Please contact me if you have questions about how I can help you, your library, or your library system.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Display Idea for Hotly Anticipated Fall Releases

The big Fall releases are starting a week before Labor Day this year with Franzen’s Purity coming out tomorrow. In general, Fall is the time of year when the most blockbuster titles come out, especially those that will be up for major literary and/or genre prizes.

Often the problem libraries have in promoting the newest and hottest titles is that we only have a few copies of these books and they all have long holds’ queues.  So, we end up focusing on readalikes for the hottest titles, otherwise known as “While You Wait” lists.

But, some readers do not want readalikes for the current “it” books. They want that book.  In my experience, I have found that these readers are actually happier reading an older book by the author whose current book they came in for than they are simply getting a readalike for said book [even if the readalike is a better match than a previous book by the author].

In this case, the patron is more interested in reading something by the author everyone is talking about than they are in reading that exact book.  We need to remember that as we help people.  It is the same reason why some patrons will only read something if it is, or has been, on the bestseller list.

Book stores have the luxury of having scores of copies of these big releases stacked in piles waiting for people. At the library, we want to help readers who have come in because of the buzz around a hot new title, but we cannot ever hope to have enough copies to satisfy demand in those first few weeks. The problem is simply magnified by the heavy Fall release schedule.  

But, I have an idea that will help you to promote tall the big fall reads in a new way; a way that will win over these particular [and numerous] patrons.

First, click here and here to see some of the release lists for the most anticipated books of Fall.

Second, take those lists and cut and paste the titles you think will be most popular at your library into your own list. If you can make a poster sized list that would be great. Or, if you do 1/2 sheets with the cover of each upcoming title and post those somewhere.  Or, make a bookmark with the info. The key is to have a list you can make available for patrons in some eye catching way.

Third, pull the other books by the authors on the list you have created.  Try to get a mix of formats too [audio, LP, etc...]

Fourth, sit back and watch those backlist titles fly off the shelf and watch your patrons leave happy.

[I realize that this display idea leaves out the chance to highlight debut authors, but that cannot be helped in this example.]

What you get from this simple display idea is a two sided victory for your RA services. One, you have let your patrons know that you have the hot fall books, even though they are not on the self right now, and two, they leave with a book by one of this Fall’s hottest authors in their hands. It might not be the exact book they wanted, but they are still “in the know,” reading the hot author of the moment. 

Plus, you look brilliant.

You have anticipated their requests.

You have made it clear that you know about the book they want, own it, and have an option while they wait for their turn on the holds list.

And, you promoted your awesome backlist, reminding them of all of the great reads available throughout the library beyond those on the new shelf.

Everybody wins! 

I like when that happens at the library.

Friday, August 28, 2015

NoveList RA News: Nonfiction Edition

Here is the link to the September 2015 NoveList RA News, as it says in the title, with articles all about Nonfiction RA.

While I encourage you to read the entire issue, there is one article in particular that I not only enjoyed, but, you can use it immediately to help readers- Audrey Barbakoff's article on nonfiction readalikes for fiction bestsellers.

Here are three samples from the list:
If you like… The Girl on the Train by Paula HawkinsTry… Paris Views by Gail Albert HalabanWhat is so compelling about The Girl on the Train -- even more than the murder plot or the quick pacing -- is the protagonist's universal experience of imagining lives for the strangers she sees through the window. Halaban's book of photography gives viewers a captivating literal look into the windows of strangers in their homes.  Through Halaban's photos the viewer becomes like Hawkins' unreliable narrator, questioning the meaning and reality of what we do and do not see through the window.
If you like… All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony DoerrTry… Paper Love: Searching for the Girl My Grandfather Left Behind by Sarah WildmanIn Doerr's tender yet gripping story, World War II forever alters the lives of a blind girl in occupied France and a well-meaning German boy with a talent for math.  In Paper Love, Wildman discovers a long-hidden set of letters from her grandfather's first love, who was trapped in Europe during the Holocaust.  Both stories are suspenseful, yet fundamentally about complex characters and relationships struggling to endure in a time of war. 
If you like… Grey by E.L. JamesTry… The Secret Life of a Submissive: A True Story by Sarah K.The newest installment in James' erotic BDSM 50 Shades of Grey series isn't the only steamy read on the shelves. This memoir's anonymous author was a newly divorced, middle aged empty-nester when she discovered her hidden passion for bondage.  Her relationship with her first "dom" contains both ample explicit sex scenes and an interesting peek into one real-life dominant/submissive relationship. 
As you can see, she includes a wide range of bestsellers from thriller to literary, to E.L. James.  There are many more suggestion if you click here, and they are for many of the current hottest books.

Read the entire article. Heck, print it out and leave it at the desk. I am pretty sure you will be consulting it more than once this weekend as you work with readers. Right after I finishing posting this, I am going to put 2 of these books on hold, 1 for myself, and 1 for my neighbor.

And even if you never use one of Audrey's suggestions please keep the spirit of her article in mind as you help readers. There might be a perfect readalike for that fiction bestseller hiding in the nonfiction stacks.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

RA for All Roadshow: RA Prescription

Today I am at RAILS doing a joint presentation with Booklist and NoveList.  The recording and slides will be available to everyone who can read this in the next issue of Corner Shelf- landing 9/14 to your email box. [Free sign-up for the newsletter is here]

But in the meantime, if you were at today’s presentation and want to get started using some of the assessment links, here they are.

To run the Novelist RA Diagnosis for your library, click here.

To run my Staff Reader Profile Assessment [and for reasons why you should] click here.

Interactive RA: Featuring a List of Fun SF and FSY Books Via io9

I am loving a current discussion on the SF/FSY site io9 so much that I wanted to share it with all of you.

They asked readers to share “Which Science Fiction or Fantasy Book Was So Much Fun You Couldn’t Stand It?

There are currently over 400 responses!

Which Science Fiction or Fantasy Book Was So Much Fun You Couldn't Stand It?
If you use this picture in your display
please use this credit.
How does this help you, the RA librarian? Well let’s start with the most obvious-- this post is an easy display; the book list is there in the comments and you can use their awesome graphic (with credit).

Also, I love the title. You don't normally see the word "fun" used to describe SF and FSY, but it can be so much fun as the large and positive responses illustrate.

Speaking of positive responses, in general, I actively advocate for using five star and one star reviews of books as a way to see what patrons actually think about a book.  No they are not your patrons, but they are someone's patrons; they are actual readers sharing their honest reactions to a book. But I also know that there are a lot of negative and mean spirited people on the Internet leaving nasty comments. However, io9 has created such a fun discussion, and they have worked hard to cultivate a model Internet community over the years, where there is more respect than not, that overall, you will see mostly a positive discussion focusing on the "fun" here.  It is a wonderful example of framing an internet discussion question in a way that encourages positivity.

Which leads me to my final, and main point of this post. This question: "Which Science Fiction or Fantasy Book Was So Much Fun You Couldn't Stand It?"begs for you to answer it.  It feeds off of readers' enthusiasm for the books they love. It is a question people feel a NEED to answer.

Social media and fan community's like io9 put forth questions like this a lot. People answer in droves. So why aren't we doing this in our library buildings? Yes, many libraries post or retweet these links to encourage conversation in the virtual world, but very few library's try to have this kind of interactive RA action in their buildings.

Why not?

We want to focus on being the place where the community discovers new books. We want to be a place that people think is fun to come to.  We are focusing on things like maker spaces and digital media labs to make us look relevant.  I am all for these things too, but once they are here for the "new," we also need to remind them how relevant we are when it comes to our main business-- reading!

So I suggest a new interactive RA idea as inspired by io9's discussion. Why can't we post questions like this in our buildings and online?

Try it.  Every 2 weeks have a library question.  Yes post it on your various social media places, but also at every service desk. Post the question with slips of paper and a box to drop answers in AND offer the info about posting it to Facebook or create a hashtag for Twitter.  For example, my local library's initials are LGPL; they could use #LGPLAsks.

When you ask at the Adult, AV, Circ, Youth, Teen, etc... all of the different desks, you get a range of answers, you encourage the entire library using public to participate, and, most importantly, you start a conversation about reading. By posting it online too, you let the rest of your community know that you care about what they like. And, by getting the staff from across the entire building involved you spread the work of coming up with the questions around to a larger pool of people AND you have created a cross library team building exercise as a result. [Win, Win]

These questions can be about any leisure mediums, and should be. Ask about TV shows, movies, audiobooks, etc... as well. You can take your cue from other online polls or discussions as long as you give them credit for the idea.

The point here is, you are starting the RA conversation with your patrons at their comfort level. They can talk to you about their answer, leave a slip in a box, or simply interact with you digitally. But the conversation has begun. You have asked for their opinion on their leisure "reading," and have given them a choice in how to respond.

And as I have found, once you make a connection with a patron through RA service, they start to come back for more.

This post doesn't even consider the massive amount of data you can collect about your community's reading and viewing habits by engaging in this activity. [That line is for the administrator who doesn't want you clogging up desk space with questions and answer boxes-- these are worth it for collection development.]

Try it out and let me know how it goes.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Back to School Reads for Grownups

Let’s talk about back to school displays and lists for your adult leisure readers. Yes I said adult leisure readers.

Look, we spend a lot of time at the public library promoting back to school. This makes sense as it is one of our core services. But as a grown-up who gets a bit nostalgic for my school days as I send my kids back to school, I know I would appreciate a back to school inspired list for me. I know I am not alone.

But rather than simply putting up a display of books with an academic setting, what about reads that capture adults' nostalgia for school days and/or leisure reading titles that speak to our desire to learn new things?

Here are some lists to inspire you to make a back to school display for the grownups. Then you can sit back and watch the books fly off the shelf.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

What I’m Reading: The Shining Girls

As promised yesterday, I am catching up on reviews this week [after a summer of slacking on that front].

Back in March I read The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes. Here is my 30 sec or less conversation starter for this novel:

Soundbite Review: This is the best serial killer book I have ever read. Set in Chicago, it has 2 main narrators and a fluid time frame.  The first narrator is a young woman in the 1990s, the only survivor of a never caught serial killer as she is searching for her attacker.  The second narrator is that serial killer, a man whose present is the 1930s, but who lives in a home on the South Side, a home that is a portal to other times.  Although this may sound confusing, Beukes does an excellent job of letting the reader know where you are in time and space at all moments.  Plus, as the action heats up, the time travel increases, making the story even more suspenseful. This was a satisfying and exciting novel by an author to keep an eye on.

Let me elaborate a bit more on the specific appeal of this book. It is obviously intricately plotted as the above soundbite review mentions, but the layering of time frames and storyline adds to the enjoyment of the mystery here.  Clues emerge in an order that is more satisfying as a reader than a straight timeline would allow. This also keeps the plot moving much quicker than it could have.

On the other hand, while I enjoyed this aspect, I know of many readers who will be upset by the messed up timeline and not enjoy the book for this reason. So when booktalking this backlist title, sharing the time travel is key.

The Shining Girls is also intensely suspenseful, almost painfully so.  Even though we know who the killer is, we are helpless to watch traditional police and investigative reporters [rightfully] fail to consider a time travel solution. We observe young women die at an evil killer’s hand.

And character wise, because we have the 2 narrators, both our heroine and the villain are well developed. We see their motivations and clearly understand where they are coming from.  In true psychological suspense fashion, both are very flawed. and meant to be observed by readers. Specifically our heroine, Kirby, is very strong but very damaged, making her sympathetic only up to a point.

This is a great book for psychological suspense fans who also enjoy horror. It is not for lighter psychological suspense fans like those of Girl on a Train.  The Shining Girls is violent, heart wrenching, and intense, but if you like that sort of thing [like me], you are in for quite a treat.

Three Words That Describe This Book: multiple time lines, psychological suspense, dread

Readalikes: As I was reading The Shining Girls I kept thinking about how similar it was to Dark Places by Gillian Flynn.  Here is the link to my full detailed review of Dark Places, but quickly, both are dark, violent, and intricately plotted psychological suspense novels.  Also while Dark Places is not speculative in anyway, it does consciously layer different time frames to keep the pace moving forward and obscure the mystery a bit. Both are also intensely suspenseful.

Two other darker psychological suspense books that I have read which would be a great suggestion here are Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger and The Darkling by R B Chesterton. You can click on the title for a detailed review of either.

As I mentioned above this is not a readalike for The Girl on the Train, the current bestselling “psychological suspense” novel.  Rather, I think Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy is a better new, psychological suspense readalike here.

Outside the Box Suggestion: This really was the best serial killer book I have read in a long time because of how original it is.  Interestingly, I felt similarly about The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell only as the best and most original zombie book I had  ever read.  These two books share a genre-- psychological suspense, but they are also both unique, intricately plotted works that tip toward literary fiction, but still keep the suspense and action at the forefront. If you liked either, try the other.