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Thursday, October 7, 2010

RA Tip: Reviews of Reviews

I read a lot of reviews. Reviews in journals, reviews in newspapers, reviews in magazines, and reviews on blogs.  Yes, I read some of the reviews because I am responsible for 50% of the fiction purchases at the BPL, but mostly I am reading to find out what is popular. I read many reviews simply because I know my patrons are reading them. I want to know what they are exposed to.

With so many different review sources available to readers through the web, it is not enough to follow the local book section (for me The Chicago Tribune) and The New York Times only. But I am only one person with too many jobs and a book due in 7 weeks. How to keep up?

One of the best ways "to keep up" is to read reviews which review the reviews. Huh? What did I say? I know it is crazy sounding but think about it. There are reviewers out there who gather the reviews for you, synthesize them, and let you know the overall picture.

The best resource for this is Bookmarks Magazine, in print or on the web.  In their print reviews, appearing 6 times a year, they give a synopsis of the book, present excerpts from at least 5 reviews, and then provide a general commentary on the reviews.  They even provide readalike options sometimes.

If you like to read the full reviews from the source for yourself, Bookmarks Magazine has this database compiling all of the reviews in the past week. There is also this link to the most reviewed books over the last 8 weeks.  A simple scanning of the titles appearing on these lists, give you, the RA librarian a great sense of what books are being talked about all over media. It makes your job of knowing what is garnering the most buzz pretty easy. And, you will be ready when someone comes in asking for, "that new book about houses." (It's At Home by Bill Bryson, by the way)

I personally have a subscription to Bookmarks, as does the BPL. You can also join Bookmarks Magazine as a friend on Good Reads or Shelfari (where I am one of their friends).

The Amazon.com book blog Omnivoracious, does "Old Media Monday," where they also review the reviews. This is a little more traditional as they simply report on what appeared in some of the major print sources in the last week and quote a sentence or two from the review. I follow this blog through RSS and spend a few minutes every Monday going through this list. Really, anyone at your library who helps leisure readers in any way, should be looking at this list.

My point is that anyone working with leisure readers needs to know what the patrons are being exposed to outside of your building. We need to be able to anticipate their needs, be ready when they get the titles and/or authors wrong, and just have a general knowledge of trends and media darlings. Reviews of reviews are a quick and easy way to be prepared. Try one of these resources out for yourself.

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