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Friday, July 22, 2016

RA for All Guest Post: Meredith and KHCPL's Heat Index

For my next guest post I am featuring Meredith from Kokomo-Howard County [IN] Public Library. I have been working with Meredith to plan her library system’s in-service training this coming December [which they have hired me to do]. Meredith was recently made the coordinator for all RA across the multi-building district so she is very busy, but also very excited to inject some much needed RA into their busy library’s daily routine.

During one of our planning talks, Meredith mentioned that she created a “Heat Index” for Romance. It was being used by the patrons and the staff to facilitate more comfortable sharing of Romance preferences, both more comfortable for the patrons to be honest and for the library workers to ask delicate questions.

I asked Meredith to write something up for me to share with all of you.  If you want to ask Meredith more questions about her heat index, click here for the phone number of her library.

On a side note, meeting people like Meredith is why I love my job as an RA Consultant. I honestly learn as much from meeting and working with all of you-- from all over the world-- as you do from me. So for that reason alone I thought Meredith’s post was the best place to start this guest postapolooza. That and come on, starting off with the “heat” is kinda fun too.

Take it away Meredith.....

RA for Romance: Introducing the Heat Index
By Meredith Wagner
Readers’ Advisory Coordinator
Kokomo-Howard County Public Library

The idea of a heating rating may be nothing new to those familiar with the romance publishing industry, but to even avid fans of the genre it may come as a surprise. 
After all, romance novels are all about sex, right? Yes and no. The defining characteristic of the romance genre is a woman’s sexual awakening, and the plot revolves around her relationship(s) with another person (or persons). Within this framework, stories run the gamut from kisses only or euphemistic implied sex behind closed doors all the way to a wild romp described in explicit detail. 

Readers often know what kinds of stories they like but are unable to express exactly what that is. To assist, many publishers have developed their own heat rating systems although there is no official thermometer for the romance industry. As a readers’ advisory tool, I created a Heat Index by distilling a combination of explanatory sources. The most basic heat generating criteria are the amount of sexual content, the type of sexual acts (traditional vs. taboo), and the level of description for the sexual encounters. The other significant factors are the number of partners, the degree of commitment in the relationship(s), and the emphasis on emotional and physical experience.

In defining the varying heat levels, my goal was to use the most simple and judgement-free terminology possible. While the romance industry may be comfortable using terms like “erotica,” “erotic romance,” and “BDSM,” many readers (particularly people living in conservative communities) may not. The categories I devised were: chaste, warm, hot, spicy, and explicit. 

After defining the heat levels, I then sought out authors for each temperature based on romance review sites. To be sure that the example authors for each heating rating were correct, I even skimmed some of their best known works, which, for someone who is not a romance reader, was quite eye-opening. And, viola!, the library’s own heat rating system for the romance genre was born. 

Below is the bookmark and flyer we made as well as the text pulled out (at the bottom) so you can see it all clearly.

Sweet & Chaste

Sensuality: Kissing and Allusion (“closed” door)
One Partner
Emotional Focus
Commitment: Marriage
  • Kristan Higgins
  • Debbie Macomber
  • Betty Neels
  • Pamela Morsi
  • Deborah White Smith
  • LaVryle Spencer
  • Lisa Wingate


Sensuality: Mild Description and Euphemism, 1 to 2 scenes (“open” or “closed” door)
One Partner
Emotion Focus
Commitment: Engagement or Marriage
  • Judith Arnold
  • Mary Balogh
  • Gail Carriger
  • Dakota Cassidy
  • Jennifer Crusie
  • Edith Layton
  • Nora Roberts
  • Susan Wiggs
  • Rebecca York


Sensuality: Detailed Description, Multiple scenes (“open” door)
One Partner
Equal Emotional and Physical Focus
Commitment: Monogamous
  • Leanne Banks
  • Diana Gabaldon
  • Linda Howard
  • Sherrilyn Kenyon
  • Lisa Kleypas
  • Linda Lael Miller
  • Karen Marie Moning
  • J.D. Robb
  • Nora Roberts


Sensuality: Graphic Description, Multiple scenes 
Multiple partners and/or light novelty
Physical Focus 
Commitment: Possible
  • Jacqueline Carey
  • Christine Feehan
  • Lori Forster
  • Laurell K. Hamilton
  • Lora Leigh
  • Lynsay Sands
  • Gena Showalter
  • J.R. Ward 


Sensuality: Intensely Graphic Description 
Multiple partners, alternate lifestyles, and/or fetish
Physical Focus
Commitment: None
  • Wahida Clark
  • Olivia Cunning
  • Laurell K. Hamilton
  • Emma Holly
  • E.L. James
  • Alison Kent
  • Angela Knight
  • Madeline Sheehan
  • Nikki Turner
  • Joanna Wylde

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