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.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Guest Post: Jez Layman Helps You Provide Virtual Presentations for Your Library

Last week, I mentioned that I was kicking off Reaching Forward Fridays. From their website:

Every Friday at 1:00 p.m.

The Reaching Forward Conference may have been canceled, but we're bringing its programming to you! 

All Reaching Forward Friday webinars are free and recordings will be available. Registration for the live webinars is limited to Illinois Libraries. Others may view the recordings when they are available. 

Thank you to the Reaching Forward Committee for making these webinars possible.

My webinar recording is now available on their homepage as well as the signup link for next week's program featuring today's guest poster-- Jez Layman.

Again only IL libraries can view live but everyone can watch the recordings:
20 New Programs for 20-30 Somethings 
Go beyond board game nights and book clubs to grow or reinvigorate your programming for 20-30-somethings. This presentation will detail twenty programs, covering a variety of social, creative, and educational topics, with ideas for all sizes of libraries and budgets. 
Friday, April 10, 20201:00 - 2:00 p.m. Online (Zoom)
But Jez is more than a presenter for CE training for library workers, she has also been working tirelessly to help other libraries transition to virtual presentations for their patrons.

She recently sent out an extremely informative newsletter to her subscribers which covered many of the questions she has been receiving from others who need help and a list iff the programs she can provide for your patrons right now!

With Jez's permission, I am sharing her newsletter with my larger audience. The following includes links to Jez's website for more information and the form to contact her. You can signup for Jez's newsletter yourself here.

Thanks to Jez for allowing me to share this vital information with a wider audience AND for being so willing to help other library workers navigate this new reality.

Here is Jez.....

Hey everyone. This issue of my newsletter is going to be a little different. All of us are adjusting to a new reality where librarians work from home and programs happen on a computer screen. I wasn’t originally going to send out a newsletter with my virtual programs because I didn’t want to take advantage of a bad situation, but in the last week, I’ve received a lot of emails from other librarians with questions about whether I do virtual programs (yes) and how I’m going about doing them. If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you’ll also know that I’ve offered to help any librarian with their questions regarding virtual programming. I thought I’d use this platform to respond to some of the more frequently asked questions.

If you just want to skip to the programs I can offer, scroll to the end or visit the Virtual Programs page on my website.

Want more information or to book a program? Reply to this email or use the form on my website.

Your Questions, Answered 
What platforms are you using?
I’m using a mix of YouTube and Zoom, primarily. I’d never even heard of Zoom until about two months ago, but now it’s all I hear about. The library got a Pro account ($15/mo) last week. If you’ve used Skype or webinar platforms, it’s pretty straight forward, but there are lots of interesting things to find once you start digging through all the possible settings. I am only using Zoom for programs that are interactive.

Should I do all of my programs live? Or should I avoid live programs?
This is dependent on what programs you want to offer. I’m using live programs for things that are interactive, like Great Decisions or a book club meeting. Everything else I’m asking staff or outside speakers to send me pre-recorded content I can edit and upload to the library’s YouTube channel. Why? The laws of time no longer exist. Or at least work and school schedules don’t. If the audience doesn’t need to be present, there’s no reason to tie it to a specific time. I want the content to be available to patrons whenever they have time to access it. Plus, that content will still exist after the library reopens. I already have plans to get some of our technology and makerspace video tutorials we’re making now onto library computers going forward.

How are you handling registration?
We’re only doing registration for live events and only doing them through Zoom. I’ve set a password for every program we do, to give some added security and prevent “zoombombing” during our programs. When patrons register for the program, they’re sent an email with the link and password to access the event, which feels safer than to post them publicly on our website or social media.
If it’s not live, the video is available for anyone to watch at any time, no passwords or logins necessary.

How do I let patrons know what we’re doing?
Create a page on your website specific to your virtual programs and make that page easy to find. Share the videos on social media. Make a schedule and advertise a week’s worth of programs in your eNews (same as you would if the library were open). Email patrons directly, when possible. If you are moving an existing program online, contact anyone who was registered for the original event. Explicitly ask your followers to share on their own pages or invite people who may be interested.

**Just a note not to overload your patrons. I follow a library that has sent out an eNews every. single. day. I have stopped opening their emails because it’s just too much, too often.

Have a question I didn’t answer? Read my tips below and if you still need help, please reply to this email or contact me through my website. I want to help as much as I can!

Tips for Moving Your Programs Online 
Before I get too TL;DR with these answers, I want to start with the most important thing I’ve learned—something I will continue using after the library reopens. My department (Marketing) head helped me come up with a litmus test of sorts to determine which programs we should do and which we shouldn’t.

1. What value does this have for our patrons? (For the record, socializing is very valuable)

2. Why should the library be the one to do this? This is the important one. There are so many other organizations and businesses out there pushing similar content. So think about what you’re doing. Is it something someone else is already doing? What is it the library can offer that others can’t? Something I said no to was a Netflix Party, because people are already doing that; they don’t need the library to coordinate it for them. But book/movie/tv recommendations? Libraries do that better than anyone.

Set Some Boundaries
Keep in mind that virtual programming—especially right now—is not the same as the programs we do in the library. It may feel like anyone can do anything because we’re not tied to a specific location or time. You’ll avoid having two Zoom meetings at the same time, but time and space aren’t your deciding factors here: Marketing is. You can’t rely on your newsletter, in-library signage, or speaking directly to patrons right now. Everything will need to go through social media and your website, but the library needs to promote more than just programs right now. And, contrary to popular belief, we can’t create an infinite number of posts every day. The more you post, the less your patrons will see. Did you know Facebook actually stops pushing your updates to someone’s feed if you post a lot in one day? Not to mention the library isn’t the only one ramping up their online presence. Your patrons have digital fatigue. Let’s do what we can to cut down on that.

Be Kind to Your Marketer
As I mentioned above, everything goes through marketing right now. Anyone who has access to your library’s social media or website is completely overloaded right now. Every staff member has sent them at least one (or a dozen) emails making suggestions on things to share or promote online. 

Make a Schedule
My goal is to have one program a day, Monday-Saturday, and no more than two programs a day. There are already days where we will have more than that, unfortunately. My best advice is to put one person in charge of making the schedule—for all departments. That way you don’t have four different staff members move forward with their plans and then you can’t facilitate or market all of them.

Something my library has done that I really like is we’re making a mini schedule to post each week. We’re also keeping all of our programs and other efforts in a single place. To do this, especially with the weekly schedule, we need to have the week planned in advance. This is not easy when the rules are changing every hour, but do your best. 

Make Recurring Events or Theme Days
For me, I’m (unofficially) making Tuesdays DIY and crafts and I have two (official) series: What We’re Enjoying Wednesday and New Skill Saturday. Other libraries are doing “Fun Fridays” or something similar. Having a specific idea for each day (Mondays are catch-all but mostly Technology, Thursdays is youth) has really helped me plan things out and space out similarly themed programs so we get a good variety on our feeds.

Involve Staff from Other Departments
Libraries have a bad habit of making departments into silos, but staff is the library’s greatest resource right now (and always). When I started this new program initiative, I put out a call to any library worker to send me a short clip about what media they’re enjoying while we’re closed, show off a skill they have, or send me a program idea—and not holding them to actually doing that idea themselves, if they didn’t want to. I wasn’t sure I’d get any responses, but everyone has been very supportive and right now especially, people want to do something to help, in whatever way they can. And honestly, the best content I received was from a part-time circulation clerk I’m not sure I’ve ever even met.

Whenever possible, pass something on to someone else. If you’re handling a lot of programs with very little prep time, there will be quite a bit of your to-do list that can’t be done. It’s okay to ask for help. All of our jobs were affected differently and the workload is likely to be a bit unbalanced, which means some of your coworkers don’t feel like they’re doing enough or are being asked by management to “fill their hours.” Are there some items you can put on someone else’s plate? I’m someone who likes to be involved and have a lot of control, so I’ve worked for a long time to learn that when someone offers help, it’s okay to take it. In the last week, some of the things I’ve let others handle (at least in part) are: canceling programs on the online calendar, troubleshooting a video issue, hosting our Great Decisions group on Zoom, and contacting local businesses to see if there is interest in partnering with us for a future video. All of those things have saved me time that I can dedicate to video editing and coordinating with speakers and other staff. That last one is something I’ll need to take over soon, but I didn’t have to spend time getting the ball rolling and playing phone tag with businesses. I can start at the point when I’m needed, and not before.
Programs I Can Do Virtually 
Astrology 101
In this introduction to astrology, I cover sun, moon, and rising signs, planets, and houses and teach you how to read your natal chart so you can avoid future problems, learn your strengths, and embrace your best self.

Beginning Cross-Stitch
Cross-stitching isn't just for grannies anymore! Learn how to get started with cross-stitching and make a cute design to hang in your home or give as a gift.

Make a fashionable scarf with nothing but your fingers! No needles or experience necessary here—anyone can learn. Patrons can complete a full infinity scarf in a single sitting and you'll get to watch their faces light up with pride as they show off their impressive creations.

How to Do Your Laundry without Ruining Your Wardrobe
Perfect for college students or adults living on their own for the first time, I'll explain how to read care tags, the difference between the settings on your washer, the best way to care for different types of clothing, and at the end, you'll even know how to fold a fitted sheet like a pro.

Shopping, Saving, & Storing: Making the Most of Your Food and Funds
Great for college students and older adults alike, this class covers how to buy the best produce, how to store your food properly, how to lower your grocery bills, and where to find help if you need it. You'll never have to throw out a new container of strawberries again!

Job Hunting Programs:
Cover Letters Made Simple
In this class, your patrons will learn how to write a standout cover letter employers will want to read. Cover letters are the part of the job hunting process that causes the most amount of confusion for job hunters and can be what determines whether a candidate gets an interview. Students will learn how to craft a cover letter unique to them that complements the resume and makes an elevator pitch, but doesn't come off as either too proud or too weak. 

Interviews: Ace Your In-Person Interview
Learn how to wow an employer at your interview. This class covers the before, during, and after of the most crucial part of the job hunting process. Your students will learn how to prepare, research a company, dress the part, answer questions with ease, learn how to sell themselves better, and how to follow-up afterwards.

Interviews: No Stress Skype and Phone Interviews
Skype and phone interviews can be just as stressful as an in-person interview, but involve more difficult circumstances that can help or hurt your case to move on in the job hunting process. In this class, I help students learn the differences between types of interviews and how to prepare for them, as well as tips on best presenting yourself when you're not actually in the room.

Resume Workshop
My step-by-step resume guide has been shared over 15,000 times online. In this 90-minute class, I break down the essential parts of the resume and help students create a document that is unique to their skills, experience, and goals. I'll cover how to determine which format is right for you; making your work experience strong, yet succinct; highlighting your skills; avoiding common mistakes; and how to overcome issues like work gaps or age discrimination. This program is suited for all ages of adults, but I also offer a version specific to high school and college students.

Copyright © 2020 Jez Layman, All rights reserved.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Becky's Virtual Training Offerings Available Immediately

Now that libraries are really settling in to the fact that they will be working from home for the next month [at least], I am beginning to get more requests for virtual training. The good news, I am a already virtual training veteran.

I am able to provide you with training immediately; however, the not as good news is that due to demand and the fact that I am also writing a book, I cannot create all new material from scratch.

But, I do have many programs that are excellent training for ALL library staff and a few that are specialized toward adult and teen staff specifically. I can do them as traditional webinars or interactive zoom classes.

And, the best news, I have slashed my base prices by $100 while we are under stay at home orders. So my 60 minute trainings begin at $250, but if you book 3 or more, I can offer them at $200 each.

Let me start with my extremely popular general RA training programs [click on the titles for descriptions and sample slides-- not always the most current slides.]:

  • My signature RA for All is all about how to reconnect your staff-- every single member of your staff from pages and maintenance to the Director-- with your brand....Books! This is a program I can do in 60, 90, 120 minutes depending on how much interaction you want and it would be for the $250 baseline price no matter how long. It is an excellent team building exercise and comes with take home [virtual] exercises to keep the learning going. 
  • Booktalking Your Way to the Friendliest Library in Town can also be 60 or 75 minutes, again for the baseline price. This also comes with follow up exercises that work now, in a virtual setting, and later when you reopen. It is for all library staff because everyone on staff can participate in some way with booktalking.
  • #OwnVoices for All Readers: Incorporating EDI Values into RA Service: This is one I give frequently and is an important and frank discussion of equity, diversity, and inclusion issues for ALL library staff. This makes a great entry point for larger EDI discussions at your library.
  • 2 programs for adult and teen genre training. All of the major genres, their appeal, trends, and top authors with slides that serve as a great resource.
Then I have:
  • RA Rethink: Merchandising and Upselling-- a popular 60 minute program where I talk about displays and general library marketing based on RA principles. This program has always had in-library and virtual options as examples. I am updating it for a webinar later this month which was booked in advance of the current situation.
And don't forget about my extremely popular Book club training-- Recharge Your Book Club. In this 60-90 minute program I go over how to hold better book discussion meetings including a detailed discussion of my well documented Group and Leadership Norms. I often offer this program in conjunction with an actual book discussion. That double program does cost $500 and is 3 hours total. It can be split up over different days or offered back to back with a break The idea is that we talk about how to recharge your book discussions and then I lead a live discussion for book discussion leaders. 

Book discussion leaders rarely get a chance to be participants. This alone is energizing. But in this training, I also pause the discussion itself for "teaching moments." We talk about issues as they come up. It is one of my useful and quite honestly, favorite, programs. 

And here is the bonus-- we can do it as a Zoom or Google Hangout and I can model how that would work for your book clubs too. 

No matter what happens post Covid-19, I think that patrons are going to crave and demand more live, virtual book clubs. The text based ones on platforms like Facebook and Goodreads aren't going to cut it anymore. Now that we have shown people that we can offer virtual services, it is going to be very hard to go back to saying "we can't." So why not participate in one now and get ready for the future.

Now let me be clear, I am not offering these program myself. I am not set up to do that in my "corporate" structure. I offer my trainings through individual libraries or through their systems. I use their set-ups. They host, they handle sign-up, they decide who gets access and if it is free for their members or not. I do allow recording for future viewing. But I am simply a trainer that is hired by a library organization to provide programming.

For example, on April 16th Reaching Across Illinois Library System [RAILS] is offering my brand new, 90 minute Horror Readers' Advisory program to anyone and everyone at 10 am central. However, only RAILS members will be able to view the recording. You can signup for that program here. It has never before been seen in America and is brand, spanking new. And free! I wouldn't miss this one.

Please contact me, or pass this post on your your supervisors and have them get their systems to contact me. I can do up to 3 programs a day currently but you will want to book soon so I can work out the details with you. I create contracts and have all of the payment paper work ready to go. Like I said, I am a veteran and my goal is to offer you effective and interactive training with very little work on your part.

Friday, April 3, 2020

RA for All Virtual Roadshow: Own Voices for All Readers

Click here for the
Reaching Forward Fridays site
Reaching Forward is an Illinois Library Association conference that is geared toward library workers that usually happens the first Friday in May. I have presented at this conference many years in a row.

Obviously, the event for May 1st was cancelled this year, but the ILA staff asked me if I would be willing to kick off their plan to offer many of the scheduled programs from that one day event, 1 a week, every Friday at 1pm. Of course I said yes.

So today at 1pm I will be presenting an updated version of my #OwnVoices for All Readers: Incorporating EDI Values into Readers' Advisory Service. You can access the slides here.

Everyone can access the Reaching Forward Fridays page for more CE opportunities here.

And if you want training for your organization, contact me. I have lowered my prices by $100 a webinar right now. I have many programs ready to go at the drop of a hat. I can do standard webinars or interactive seminars. Just let me know what you need.

See some of you on Zoom at 1pm central.

Click here for slide access

Thursday, April 2, 2020

What I'm Reading: The Bank by Bentley Little and the Entire April Issue of Booklist for Free

The latest issue of Booklist is now live and access to it is FREE! Click here to access a digital edition of the magazine. Every single piece of it. Every review, article, etc.....

The Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror review section, in particular, is excellent this month. I wrote one of those reviews, and it is by a classic author. Find the draft version of my review and the added info I share here on the blog below Or read the entire magazine here.

The Bank.

Little, Bentley (author).
Apr. 2020. 376p. Cemetery Dance, $25 (9781587677403)
First published April 1, 2020 (Booklist).

Little is a master of small town, immersive, pulp horror that puts ordinary people against an evil that invades their day-to-day life, quickly turning what was once mundane into a terrifying reality. In his latest, Little bundles the real life horrors of identity theft, economic downturn, and intrusive marketing practices into a story of a recently opened bank, in a small town facing hard times, and how it quickly and violently infiltrates the lives of every member of the community, increasing its demands on customers, until there is no longer a safe way out. Utilizing multiple points of view across a wide swath of the town, introducing tense situations that relentlessly build to unbearable dread, but then leaving those dark moments dangling as the reader is led back to another character, dragged all over town, in a fast paced story whose evil cannot be escaped. This is horror that is all about the feelings it produces: discomfort, disorientation, and distrust. Add in a dose of Little’s trademark satire and dark humor underpinning it all, and you have a satisfying story of supernatural evil that will satiate your patrons appetites for classic horror. Use Little’s popularity and reader interest in this title to draw them to newer voices such as Gina Wohlsdorf, Ania Ahlborn, and Jonathan Janz.
Further Appeal: First thing to get out of the way, there is violence to animals in this book, but it is by one of the human villains to make him identified as such from the first moment we meet him.

People who are familiar with Little and enjoy his works know exactly what they will get here and should just read this book ASAP.  However, I tried very hard to get the major appeal factors of this book into the review for new readers. I will explain a bit more though.

The tension, dread, and violence ratchet up quickly and significantly. We have an ordinary town but with a feeling of unease from the first pages that spirals quickly. The supernatural evil is a monster that has no regard for humanity, but in classic Little fashion, even though things get awful so fast, it feels like the progression is inevitable. Yes you have to suspend disbelief because the threat is supernatural in origin, but the way Little builds the narrative, everything that comes from this supernatural evil unfolds believably.

The multiple points of view are key to speeding things up. We meet the characters throughout the first third of the book and spend a little more time with each in the beginning, but then, during the second 2/3rds the story is bouncing around between these people [who we have gotten to know] and the action is pinball fast. Readers barely have time to take a breath leet alone stop turning the pages.

There is an excellent frame overlaid onto of the entire novel that unites the evil force across time and space, allowing the story to have a satisfying conclusion while also leaving the evil a chance to come back again someday.

I cannot stress enough how timely this book feels. Yes it is "classic" Little, but the issues and concerns, especially about privacy in an increasingly digital world and the economics of small town shops are very relevant, adding an extra level of real life fear and unease to the entire tale.

Three Words That Describe This Book: fast paced, multiple points of view, extreme discomfort

Readalikes: I used my chance in the review to mention some newer voices to suggest to patrons. I would also suggest another classic author who is still publishing, Kathe Koja for fans of Little. And Gemma Files is another veteran but less well known name who I think fans of Little would enjoy.

Finally, with the Jonathan Janz recommendation, all titles work, but in particular I thought of Children of the Dark. Click here for my full star review of that book.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Resource Alert: LibraryReads Made Us a Resource Page

LibraryReads is way more than their monthly lists. Yes that is their main product, but LibraryReads' goal is to become a general clearing house for RA related information; a one stop shop for those of us providing RA Service throughout the country.

Thankfully, they had this goal previously and updated their website earlier this year to begin to reflect this mission more actively.  Now that we are all moving our services to a virtual model, LibraryReads  is already there, ready to help.

Click here to see the constantly updated LibraryReads Resources page. There are links to every publisher's library marketing page, RA relevant webinars, publisher book talks, and more. Of course all of the information about how you can get your hands on digital advanced copies of books is also there.

Please bookmark this page and make it a daily ritual to visit it during our quarantine time. There is a lot of useful information here, so I suggest you take a few moments each day to explore a a link or two. Use what you have learned from that resource and turn it into something, a product for your patrons.

Do you simply repost a video like the fun Bite Sized Book Buzz videos that the Library Marketing Association are putting together? Or do you gather titles from the publisher websites and make a reading list for patrons? What about using something you learn in a genre webinar to update your online lists or collections [print or digital]? Maybe you will get an idea to spark on online discussion of favorite books on certain topics. You can use the page to help spark ideas and spur yourself to action.

There is a lot more than just monthly lists at LibraryReads.org and updates are happening regularly. Make sure it is part of your RA work more than just once a month.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

RA for All Flashback: The Hyper-Specific Reader

I have been receiving some questions from library workers who are noticing different behavior from their patrons right now, and one of the questions that keeps popping up is how do we help the extremely specific requests we seem to all be getting in higher numbers, with our limited collection access.

I think one of the reasons we are seeing an uptick in the hyper-specific request is because in this time of uncertainty, a book rec is something people can have more control over. Even my family members are getting way more specific than normal. There are other reasons too, and the whys don't really matter, but dealing with the hyper-specific reader is not always about giving them the exact book they are asking for. Often it is more about listening to them and working together to find a suggestion.

I had remembered answering a question similar to the ones I have been receiving from all of you, so I dug through the archives and found this post from 2017. I have also reposted it in its entirety below.

I also have a few more posts tagged "serving difficult patrons" that you could access.

Finally, if you have an immediate RA Service related question, use the search box for the blog [top left corner]. There are over 3,000 posts here on the blog. I might have already answered your question. I never mind if you contact me, but I have been receiving more inquiries than normal, so I might not be able to get back to you fast enough.


Advice on Dealing With Difficult Patrons-- The Hyper-Specific Reader

I get a lot of questions about serving specific difficult patrons and while I share my advice with the person asking, the advice often does not make it into the blog. It should. It could help more of you. So I am going to fix that now.

Today will be the first of an as needed series where I offer Advice on Dealing with Difficult Patrons. I will tag all of these posts "serving difficult patrons" so that they can all be indexed together.

If you have a specific difficult patron you would like my FREE advice on how to deal with, contact me with the details. The only rule I have is that I must be able to share the generalities of the question and my advice with the rest of the RA world.

Our first difficult patron is the Hyper-Specific Reader. You know the type. They only want to read a very specific book that may or may not exist. Here are a few I have had in the past:

  • Only books that are “about baseball.” He would read fiction, nonfiction, kids, teen, adult, but it had to be “about baseball. It couldn’t just have baseball in it.
  • Only books set during the time of the Tudors
  • Only books with dragons
  • My books cannot have the word cancer in them. Not just books with a cancer storyline. The word can’t be in there. 
  • Only books from the mystery section....with the mystery sticker. Nothing from our regular fiction section which included many books that could be classified as mystery. And, don’t get me started about the fact that authors like Harlan Coben who started as mystery writers and moved into suspense, but in order to keep his books together we kept them all in the mystery section. She’d read his suspense titles but not other similar authors because they were not in the mystery section.
That is just a small sample from my 15 years at the RA Service desk. But last month when I travelled to South Carolina, this question came up again. The very general hyper-specific patron in question here would only read “antebellum stories set in the south that did NOT focus on slave life.” She was not against stories with slaves in them, she just didn’t want that point of view only.

We talked about titles that stretched her specifics and together the room came up with a few more suggestions. But that is not the point. The point is that eventually, if she stays this rigid, not only will we run out of books that exist within those parameters, but also, the staff will come to resent helping her. Both are equally as bad.

When dealing this hyper specific reader I suggested that together, they make a list of the books that she feels perfectly fit her specific tastes. Then she should also make a list of other books she has enjoyed that do not fit this mold [she had read a few outside her narrow box]. Then I suggested that they go on NoveList together and note the appeal factors that are similar across all of the books. Using the database they could let the computer identify some possible titles.

I really want to stress using a resource with this patron-- together at the desk. She was fairly stubborn and didn’t want the library workers “forcing” her to try something she wouldn’t like-- even though she was asking for their help [people, what are you going to do?]. By allowing the database to identify the titles, the pressure could be off the staff. The choices seem less personal based and more official. We can say, “this is a resource identified suggestion based on your previously enjoyed titles."

The key is to get at least 2 titles outside the hyper specific zone to use as a bridge. The staff in this situation had at least 4 or 5 that they knew of off the top of their heads. You need something to move you a bit out of the corner the patron has boxed herself into before you start.

You can do a version of this to fit the person. So with my baseball guy, we found out that one of the reasons he demanded baseball was that he was reading on his overnight security guard shift and he knew that baseball would keep his interest enough to keep him awake. So instead of struggling for more baseball books, we made a larger list of his interests and found him titles that included those [using NoveList and Goodreads]. As we went on helping him, we were able to find authors who he had enjoyed who also write in a series. Once he found a series he liked, he read them all. That kept his interest which kept him awake and happy.

The point is, we dug deeper together. Often the thing making the patrons so hyper specific and demanding has more to do with their insistence on that type of book. All you have to do is find them 1 book outside their comfort zone that they enjoyed and then they will try another, and another, and then even another. Soon they are miles away from that narrow boxed in corner.

I was just pointing this out to one of my former patrons who I still meet with weekly to help her choose her books. She used to only read James Patterson and Mary Higgins Clark. All other books she read grudgingly while she waited. Now she has found so many more authors across many genres that she is considering taking her name off the automatic holds list for Patterson. We both had a laugh about how a few years ago that would have been a “scandalous” thing to say for her.

One last thing though. It doesn’t always work. Sometimes, you cannot get the person to budge even a centimeter. There is a point where it is okay, with your supervisor's approval, to nicely tell the person that you can no longer help them.  I don't think we talk about this enough. If you have done all you can to match this reader with books and they are unwilling to try your suggestions, you are within your rights to simply allow them to browse alone.

For the record, I have done this with a handful of patrons over the years.

Make it clear that you cannot suggest books that haven’t been written, but that there are thousands of options at your fingertips now, books that she should give a chance. Books that you think she will like despite the fact that they are not exactly what she thinks she needs.

If she is still unwilling to read what you have to offer, then I have shown these people how to use NoveList [if you have it] to help themselves.  Again, you need to okay this with your supervisor.

We love to help readers find the perfect read, but we also cannot create books out of thin air. Don’t let unreasonable expectations make you resent your commitment to public service.

So try my advice on how to convince these hyper-specific readers to try something outside of their strict confines, but if you can’t get them to bite, move on to help the next person.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Stock Your RA Pantry: Collect Staff Quarantine Reads

I am back with Stock Your RA Pantry, a series of posts that address the things you can do from home to enhance your RA Services and Resources both now and going forward. And, these are all things any library worker can do, no matter what their official job at the library happens to be.

Today, I want to take advantage the increased organizational communication that is happening these days. In fact, let's stray off topic a bit and address this one remarkable and wonderful outcome of social distancing. From my personal experience with my library and from what I am hearing from colleagues all over the country, library staff as a whole are now communicating with each other better than ever before.

Library departments tend to function like silos. Which each department doing their own thing. When I come in to do full staff training, one of my biggest goals is to use the shared staff love of books and reading to bring everyone together. I call my company RA for All not only because I think anyone can participate in RA Service from any position in the library, but also because it is something that can bring everyone together. Everyone on staff has a deep connections to books. Seriously, because if they didn't they would work somewhere else for more money.

Communication across all staff is a failing at most public libraries in America. Well, it was until now. I am hearing so many happy reports of staff working together like never before. Meeting virtually, using communication tools like Slack [tools some administrators couldn't get people to use previously], and simply working together across departments to see how they can all use their skills to help all of the patrons as one united front-- not as separate silos working in a vacuum.

This is so heartening and I hope after we are "back to normal" that everyone keeps this positive, whole library communication going.

Time will tell, but for now, since staff are communicating I want you, as one of the RA people at your library to start gathering a staff quarantine "reading" list. [Note: I am using "reading" to mean every format you circulate for leisure items.]

Use whatever commutation platform is woking for your library and start a thread where you ask staff to share what they are reading. Why did they pick that book? Why was it a good read at this time. And most importantly, how did they access it? Include things people are watching and listening to also. If you circulate video games, include those too. Everything they are filling their downtime with.

On your websites, make a list of what you staff is using to pass their time, as long as it is something you currently circulate or possibly will. Include things from streaming services too, especially if you circulate onus and they can access these things after you are back open again. Don't separate the list by formats. Include it all in one place. In other words, don't get back to siloing the information by departments. Resist the urge.

This is a wonderful activity to create a sense of everyone being in this together-- both among staff and between staff and the public. I would even try to encourage patrons to interact and add their own quarantine "reads" too. Post on social media or enable the comments on your websites.

Then staff and patrons can try out the recommendations of others and maybe even engage in virtual conversations about the items they are enjoying.

The more voices you include the more inclusive and diverse the lists will be. The more voices you include, the more varied the options. This will be a great way for all staff to share their interests and engage each other in conversation. People who barely interacted before may find they have something in common.

This activity will also allow you to see the preferences of your entire staff in one place. You can see who has interests that you didn't know about. Those people can then be approached to do a bit more. Maybe they can make watch alike or readalike lists. Or what about asking them to prepare a "boot camp" for the rest of the staff on their specialty? You can work with them to figure out how they want to share their knowledge with everyone else. A list, a video, audio file, slide show....whatever that staff member wants to do. You could use this time to gather the different voices from people, get staff for whom it is harder to find work from home activities involved, and create content in varied formats to share with your patrons.

Remember, you staff will be more comfortable sharing their knowledge in different ways-- verbally, written, visually, etc.... and this is great because your patrons will each prefer to take in information in different ways.  We all do. Let's celebrate and honor that and create useful and helpful content in the process.

They are many applications for the future use of the information you gather by asking your staff to share their quarantine leisure options with each other [and patrons], but immediately this activity will bring everyone closer together, and it just might convince them to keep communicating as well when this is all over.

Click here for all of my RA Pantry posts on the Stock Your RA Pantry Archive page.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Stock Your RA Pantry: Make [or Update] Your Old Book Lists and Share Them Here

After a few days of other news, I am back with Stock Your RA Pantry, a series of posts that address the things you can do from home to enhance your RA Services and Resources both now and going forward. And, these are all things any library worker can do, no matter what their official job at the library happens to be.

All of these posts will use the label, "RA pantry," and will be gathered together on an archive page [eventually].

Today I want to address all of those book lists you have made, as a library, and posted on your websites but never updated. We make these lists once and then keep using them, forever. NO judgment here; we all do it. 

Not only are the titles old but I would guess that they are probably overwhelmingly white, male, able bodied, and heteronormative. Take a moment and go look. I can wait.....

Now is the time to go through the lists you already have on your websites and update them. Are the topics still useful? If not, get rid of them. If they are useful, when is the last time you updated them?

Online lists can be one of your best tools to help readers either in person or online. Why? First, they are easy to access anywhere. Second, the topics can be as general or specific as you want; you get to create them however you want. Base the topics on patron requests, your personal interests, local topics, or current trends-- whatever, you decide. But the very best thing about online lists is that ANY STAFF MEMBER CAN CREATE ONE!

For example, you don't have to work in the children's department to come up with a list of fun read-alouds with 4 years olds. Nor do you have to work with adults to create a list of swoon worthy romance. In fact, online lists are one of the best ways to allow all staff to participate in your service to leisure readers. It is also the best way to ensure a variety of voices are included in the book suggestion process. 

Now obviously, not every staff member is trained in book list creation, but that doesn't mean that you, someone who does work in RA regularly, cannot solicit ideas and lists from them and then use NoveList summaries and appeal terms [or another resource] to create quick annotations [as long as you say, annotations from NoveList you can "borrow" their words].

Once you have a stock pile of up to date and inclusive lists, they can be used by any staff member, from any desk to any help reader AND they can be used by readers from home to find their next good read.

Now here are some guidelines to creating the best lists:

  • Assess what you have; identify what can go vs what needs an update. Don't keep lists that are no longer relevant just to have a certain number of lists stockpiled.
  • The lists you are updating should contain titles between 2-5 years old. That is the sweet spot where you know the book is still relevant but your patrons have probably forgotten about it, meaning you look the most awesome for suggesting it. Also, it is more likely to be on the shelf.  Do not include brand new titles. You can use those new and popular titles as the hook though, such as Read a Likes for The Nickel Boys.
  • Every list needs a diversity audit. You should be aiming for all lists to be at least 50-50 men to women and 30% diverse voices. If you cannot make the list at least that EDI compliant, I think it is because you are not trying hard enough, not because it is impossible. But, I am telling you now in no uncertain terms, if you cannot hit this bare minimum requirement, do not post that list! Here is my inclusive suggestions for fans of David Baldacci post to inspire you to work harder. Feel free to use it on your websites. 
  • Farm out the lists you want to update to any and all staff who want to help. Send out an all staff email. Ask people [no matter their job title] if they want to update a list. Maybe offer a quick zoom meeting training on how to use NoveList or other resources to all interested staff in order to show them how to do it. Or just send out the ask and see what you get back; contact those who want help specifically.
  • Ask people for their ideas on list topics. Encourage all staff to contribute a new idea, a new lists. This is our chance to really expand the breadth of our offerings and to identify hidden areas of expertise and interest among our staff. Maybe they don't feel comfortable creating a list, but they have an excellent idea for one.
  • Create a shared Google Sheet for all staff to access with a list of your lists, when each was last updated, and by whom. Keep a different tab for new lists in progress or ideas for lists so people can signup to help. You need a way to know what you have and when it was last updated so you can not undo all the good work you do now by going back to ignoring it again.
This is an excellent opportunity to both stock your RA panty AND get more staff involved in helping all patrons with your brand-- books. Do not underestimate the team building mojo that will blossom from a project like this. Everyone working alone but on a topic they are excited about, as a way to work together, to help everyone-- staff and patrons-- will foster a sense of community and team, a feeling that is much harder to foster when we are all working in the same building but obsessed about our own projects and deadlines.

If you need some ideas on well constructed, updated lists take a look at two libraries in my area who are doing this well: Indian Prairie Public Library [Darien, IL] and Skokie Public Library.

I would like to end today's post with all of you. If your library has online book lists that you want to share, please leave a comment. We can turn this one post into its own stocked RA pantry. 

Click here for all of my RA Pantry posts. While this will be a very regular series during these days of quarantine, I do plan to keep this going as a semi-regular series in the future, much like my Call to Action posts.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

What I'm Reading: My Library Journal April Horror Review Column

Global pandemics are no match for my horror review column; in fact, for many readers these titles will be just what they need in the coming weeks and months. Start filling your pre-order carts now, or face the wrath of horror readers later.

Below you can find a list of the titles that appear in my April 2020 horror review column. I have added my "Three Words" here on the blog. All will also be indexed on the Horror blog soon.

I highly recommend all of these titles for a general library audience. I am very careful about what I pick to review in this column for exactly that reason. Please consider preordering these for your patrons. At the very least, 4x a year I am suggesting 7-8 titles to beef up your horror offerings. 32 titles is not that many in the grand scheme of things.

If you have a limited horror budget, consider ordering the starred titles, I am also very serious about what I give a star for this exact reason.

I would like to also point you to the interview I did with Daniel Kraus, co-author of one of the Starred titles in this column, The Living Dead, about his posthumous collaboration with George A. Romero. He also shared some of his insights about the state of the horror genre and why it is so popular right now. Kraus is especially attuned to the genre as a prolific, best selling author of horror for all age levels.

And now, here are the titles, links to the reviews, and my "three words"

Eight Spring Horror Titles To Scare Your (Winter) Socks Off

Barnes, J.S. Dracula’s Child. Titan. May 2020. 576p. ISBN 9781789093391. pap. $14.95. HORROR
  • Three Words That Describe This Book: atmospheric, fast paced, epistolatory 
Brooks, Max. Devolution: A Firsthand ­Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre. Del Rey: Ballantine. May 2020. 304p. ISBN 9781984826787. $28. HORROR
  • Three Words That Describe This Book: stellar world building, fictional true crime frame, claustrophobic 
Carey, M.R. The Book of Koli. Orbit: Hachette. (Rampart Trilogy, Bk. 1). Apr. 2020. 416p. ISBN 9780356509556. pap. $13.74. HORROR
  • Three Words That Describe This Book: menacing, thought-provoking, dystopia
Ford, Jeffrey. Out of Body. Tor.com. May 2020. 176p. ISBN 9781250250155. pap. $14.99. HORROR
  • Three Words That Describe This Book: librarian main character, captivating, character centered
Pohlig, Molly. The Unsuitable. Holt. Apr. 2020. 288p. ISBN 9781250246288. $26.99. HORROR
  • Three Words That Describe This Book: body horror, psychological, modern take on Gothic ghost story
Romero, George A. &; Daniel Kraus. The Living Dead. Tor. Aug. 2020. 656p. ISBN 9781250305121. $27.99. HORROR
  • Three Words That Describe This Book: compellingly paced, character centered, classic updated and completed
Stage, Zoje. Wonderland. Mulholland: Little, Brown. Jun. 2020. 368p. ISBN 9780316458498. $28. HORROR
  • Three Words That Describe This Book: oppressive atmosphere, haunted house, traumatic
Final Cuts: New Tales of Hollywood Horror and Other Spectacles. Anchor. Jun. 2020. 480p. ed. by Ellen Datlow. ISBN 9780525565758. pap. $16.95. HORROR
  • Three Words That Describe This Book: inclusive, full range of horror, shared frame

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Join the Historical Fiction Party Later Today

Okay, maybe party is a strong word, but we all have a chance to get together to learn for FREE later today. I am signed up and will be there. I even made plans to be on the phone with a friend while we watch the webinar together. 

This is a great opportunity to learn together. We can use the chat at the same time. Make some new friends. But also, consider calling someone on the phone while you are watching so you can learn together. Have some side discussions with a colleague about what you are learning. Share patron stories. Maybe even stay on the phone for a bit after.

This can be a learning AND social experience.

You can sign up from now to up to an hour before the event. If you miss the signup or the webcast, you can also use the links below to access the recording. And you can always visit the LibraryReads Resources page for the link to all of the Crash Courses.

I love all of these "Crash Course" webinars because they give you the most useful information about each genre from the reader perspective. The advice and the information can be applied immediately to help readers while it will also give you a sense of the state of the genre at this moment. 

And you do NOT need a subscription to NoveList in order to use any of this info.

Please see my post from February 20th which has all of the details you need to participate.

Genre Crash Course in Historical Fiction

One of the best resources for the current state of each genre are the LibraryReads-NoveList Crash Courses. I have a link to the archives with access to each recording on my constantly updated "Becky's Favorite Free Genre Resources" page which you can access directly here or anytime at the bottom of my Ten Rules for Basic RA Service page.

So far they have tackled:
Next up....Historical Fiction. See below or click here for details and to sign up. I generally miss the live webinar but I alway sign up so they send me the recording. 

I have learned something from every single one, even the horror one. Everyone should watch these to get up to speed on the current trends, hot authors, and best practices when helping fans of the genre.

Do you have a go-to strategy for helping historical fiction readers? Whether your readers are fans of family sagas or shady ladies, let NoveList and LibraryReads break down the best historical fiction has to offer your readers — from Biblical fiction to World War II and everything in between.
Join us as they cover:
  • Why readers love historical fiction and how libraries can ramp up their collections
  • How historical fiction developed, including classics, newcomers, and awards to know
  • Subgenres and trends
  • NoveList insider information on genre headings, appeal terms, and more
We welcome anyone interested to stay for an additional 15-minute training to share search strategy tips and learn where to access genre-related information in NoveList.
Wednesday, March 25, 2020 from 2-3pm Eastern
Optional NoveList training from 3-3:15pm Eastern

Click here
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Michael Santangelo is the Deputy Director of Collection Management at BookOps, the technical services collaboration between the New York Public Library and the Brooklyn Public Library.  Since starting as a children’s materials selector in 2005 for Brooklyn, he has had various positions working with collection development and technical services.  He is currently the co-chair of ALA’s Public Libraries Technical Services Interest Group and is on the LibraryReads' Board of Directors.  He reads in many genres and books published all around the world.  Besides reading, his newest favorite pastimes are going to movie revivals, visiting friends up and down the East Coast, and daydreaming on the subway.

A former lit instructor and medieval scholar-turned-RA Librarian, Kimberly Burton brings in-depth knowledge of genre fiction -- plus a passion for helping readers discover stories they’ll love -- to all she does at NoveList. She loves a great list (who doesn’t!) and develops Recommended Reads book lists, Book Discussion Guides, and other innovative RA content throughout NoveList databases. An omnivorous reader, Kimberly especially likes medieval fantasies, historical fiction, gothic fiction, and supernatural horror. Her first crush was Sherlock Holmes (more recently supplanted by David Rose of Schitt’s Creek). She enjoys true-crime TV, making art, and petting cats. Kimberly is a former ACRL fellow and current NCLA member.

Moderator Halle Eisenman leads the Editorial Content Team which oversees the creation of the lists, articles, book discussion guides, and all the other amazing and informative content you can find in NoveList. Prior to working at NoveList, she spent a dozen years working for a public library system in a variety of roles, but no matter what her job title, her favorite part of any day was suggesting books to patrons. When not at work, Halle can often be found walking her dogs (they get lots of exercise when she’s listening to a particularly riveting audiobook), binge-watching TV shows aimed at teenagers, baking, or sitting on her back porch with a book. She is currently serving on the RUSA CODES Reading List Council.