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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

BPL Displays: Spies Like Us, Learning From Compiling Displays and Archive Reboot

With all the hoopla surrounding a return from vacation, I had not yet posted the new BPL display, which is funny because you'd think I 'd remember since I made the list.

Click here to see my Spies like Us annotated list.  Here is a sneak peek and what you can expect from the 10 series I talk about:
The cold war is over, but that doesn’t mean spy fiction is dead!  There is a brave new world of great spy reads out there.  From literary, to action-adventure, to romance-- there is a spy for every reader.  Follow their adventures in these great series available at the Berwyn Public Library.
When I offered to be the one to manage this display back in March, I knew spy fiction was read at the BPL, but in compiling the list of titles to put on the display and choosing the ones to highlight on the list, I got more than I bargained for.  I was pleasantly surprised to see not only how many of the newest spy fiction titles we carried at Berwyn, but how popular they were.

Let me take a step back and explain.  Displays are an important marketing tool for libraries.  They are our best one actually.  In libraries, displays highlight your collection.  They are a way for us to pull out of the larger collection a smaller subset for people to browse.  Patrons will always gravitate to a smaller collection of titles (this thought is paraphrased from Joyce Saricks), so we have to make sure our displays are well chosen and contain books worth reading. [For more on my views on library marketing, click here.]

But displays have a second function, one of serving as a form of staff training.  When a staff member is put in charge of a display at the BPL RA desk, that person must come up with at least 100 titles for the "pick list" to fill the display and then decide which 10 titles to highlight on an annotated list.  Other staff members assist and John is responsible for getting the display up and decorated, but one person is the work horse for each display.

So, let's take Spies Like Us as an example.  I used NoveList's genre tag of "spy fiction," to get me started.  As I looked up possible titles on our catalog, I also checked their circulation statistics for our collection.  Sometimes when I do this I find a "forgotten favorite;" a book with great reviews that hasn't been checkout in a while.  Not here.  I was very surprised to see that not only did we own ALL of the top spy fiction books, but that they were all being read, frequently!

I shared this information with the rest of the staff.  So, building this display taught us all about our collection and what our patrons like to read.

So the moral of the story is...spies are a hotter commodity than I thought.  When I found this out, I asked about people's favorite spy fiction in a Monday Discussion last month.  Click through to see what other spy books were talked about.  Also this past Sunday, Lit Lists posted this list of the Five Best Books on Being a Spy with links to even more secret agent themed lists.

Finally, as I mentioned above, I had forgotten to post the new list.  One of my newer duties is to manage the RA content on the website (more on my other new duties soon).  I am not in charge of designing the site, just keeping it up-to-date.

One of my favorite things we have done in the past on the RA portion of the BPL site is to archive all of our annotated display lists, although we haven't been very good about keeping it up to date for awhile.  These lists are done by all of us and take a lot of work.  They also reflect our collection knowledge as a group.  They are not only useful while the display is up, but they are also a great asset later for reading suggestions; both for the patrons to encounter on their own, and for those of us at the desk to access when we are having trouble thinking of a good suggestion.

But how useful is the Suggested Reading Lists page if it is an outdated mess?  Obviously the answer here is "not very useful."

After talking about possible ways to organize it better with Briana, our IT Librarian, I am on my way to improving the Suggested Reading Lists page.  Click here to see it as it stands right now. It is under construction, so bear with me.  The plan is to have it all set by the end of the month.

The newest features I want to highlight are how we now will have past year's versions of the lists we do every year.  See African American, Christmas, or Horror for an example.

Second, I added a link to our ongoing Staff Picks website, the Browsers Corner to the Suggested Reading Lists page.  People using the site to find book suggestions need to know that they always find new staff picks at any time here.  I did the same thing for horror readers by also adding a link to RA for All: Horror.

Finally, I have added some text at the top that reminds our users that this page is the start of a conversation with us, not the beginning and end of their transaction.  Here's the text for those who don't want to click through right now:

Below, you can find original annotated lists as prepared by the Berwyn Public Library Readers' Advisory Staff.  Please let us know if a link is broken or if there is topic on which you would like to see a list.  You can call 708.795.8000 ext. 3005 or email us at ra@berwynlibrary.net.
This stems form the work I did on this program "Bridging the Physical-Virtual Divide," a theme which I will be expanding into an article for NoveList later this Fall.

So I hope you enjoy the hard work we put into our displays and our Suggested Reading Lists page.  And please, I am serious, if there is a list or topic you want us to explore in detail, just ask.

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