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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

RA for All: Call to Action-- Have You Been Keeping in Genre Shape?

I always think of the first day back to work after Labor day as the top of the mountaintop we call a year.  For me, as I worked on our collections and helping patrons, the last quarter of each year was like riding downhill in a runaway Go-Kart. Just as soon as I caught my breath from summer reading and started in on the Fall pre-pub lists, the best of the year lists start rolling in, and before you know it...it’s December.

But before the year races away from you again, take a moment to look back at your personal reading and training plan from back in January.  That’s right? It’s check in time.

I have been advocating for all of you to take an active role in training yourselves because I cannot physically get to every library to do it for you.

One of my most popular self training programs is my Genre-A-Day plan.  I have been using this plan to stay on top of what is happening in popular reading for the last 16 years. It has served me well, it does not require you read any extra books, and it can be done while you are working the public desk.

All it asks is that you take some time, at least 1x per year, to look at the trends, resources, and hottest titles in each genre. Familiarize yourself with titles and authors you may be unaware of. Think about the readers you have helped who enjoy these books. Arm yourself with the latest knowledge.

It is how you can stay in genre shape without having to find more time to read even more books. All you have to do is spend a little time online reading up each genre. If you spread it out over the course of the year, you will be surprised by how easy it is to be become knowledgable and as a result, more helpful to your readers.

Also as you go about this training in any given year, it is also important to keep the larger trends in all leisure reading in the front of your mind and look at the genre through that lens too.  So for 2016 you need to be also looking for diverse authors and genre blends within your genre training regimens. Those are trends that effect ever genre and must be considered as you start you training program.

Today, as I ask you to ask yourself if you have been keeping in genre shape-- for ALL the genres-- I leave you with the original post on how to stay in genre shape so that you have no excuse to keep putting the exercise off. Your how-to plan is immediately below.


Becky’s RA Training Tips For a Great 2015: Part 1 of 4-- Genre-a Day

For the rest of this week I will be presenting a series of posts on how you can improve your skills on your own...well, with a little guidance from me to get your started.

As I mentioned yesterday, it is always a good idea to list some professional goals for the new year, but I have to say, I get discouraged by the number of librarians who simply list the number of books they are going to read as their annual goal.

The number of books you read is less important to improving your skills in helping leisure readers than is how and what you read. You really need to plan out how you are improving your skills while you are reading books.

So, before you set a useless goal for yourself, I am stepping in to help.  Hey, it’s what I do, whether I am asked for the help or not.

I realize that not everyone can attend one of my trainings-- although this year, that might be possible [details coming very soon]-- but I am uniquely positioned to help you get started in training yourself.  And, quite frankly, that is the best I can do for everyone, whether you come to one of my sessions or watch one of my webinars or just read this blog.  All I do is provide the spark, the resources, and the plan to put you down the path toward improving your skills of matching books with readers. Ultimately, no one but you can truly make you a better readers’ advisor.

Today is an oldie but a goodie. This is an idea I started using 14.5 years ago when I got my first RA job, and it is one I still use both for myself and in trainings. I call it my Genre-a-Day Schedule.

Let me explain.

Basically, I take the major genres and reading interests and assign them to a day of the week. Here is an example:

  • Monday: SF, FSY, Horror
  • Tuesday: Historical, Western, and Special Reading Interests [depends on your service area; in mine its LGBTQ and urban fiction]
  • Wednesday: Crime (Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Romantic Suspense, Psychological Suspense)
  • Thursday: Romance, Gentle Reads, Women’s Fiction
  • Friday: Nonfiction, Graphic Novels, Audiobooks
  • Literary and general fiction as time permits
Now, this does NOT mean that, for example, every single Monday I spend time working on SF, FSY and Horror. Rather, it means that on any given day I am working that I have some extra time for my own personal CE or collection development duties, I take a glance at the schedule and see which “day” it is on my schedule. Then I proceed to choose one of those areas and spend some time “getting up to speed” on that genre, its latest award winners, biggest trends, authors, resources, etc...

Of course, it is not every week that I have this free time, but you would be surprised, how often an hour or so becomes free.  But when those random moments do pop up, this schedule provides me with some focused and easy to access direction on how to best use that free time to improve my skills, knowledge, and, then as a direct result, my service to patrons.

Over the years, this method has served me well to get through at least every genre once throughout the year.

Now, this is just a guide, let me explain how I make it work in reality. Of course, sometimes, I happen to have more free time on a specific day of the week than others.  Also, there are certain times of year when updating a specific are makes more sense than other times; for example, in July for Graphic Novels because of Comic Con.

How I handle this is that I begin each year with the schedule as a clean slate.  As I have spent time with a genre, I cross it off the current year’s list .[By the way, I keep the list in the cloud so I can access it everywhere and at any time.] Then, as the year goes on and I find that I again have free time on a Thursday, but I have already looked at Romance, Women’s Fiction, and Gentle Reads, I move to a genre that has not been crossed of yet.

At the end of each year, I look back to see where I spent the least amount of time and try to begin there in the next year. Conversely, I try to hold off on the genres I spent the most time on.  So for me obviously horror is an ongoing thing that doesn’t need much attention, and with my current ARRT Crime Fiction Genre Study work, there is no need to spend extra time on that area.

So even though I have used the same “schedule” for 14 years, the experience I have with the genres and my own training is unique each year. I am not stuck in a rut only learning about Audiobooks every Friday, rather, I have a rich and varied experience each year.  But most importantly, I have found a way to make my personal continuing education fun and fresh.

Feel free to use this idea to get yourself started. And, if this is not for you, not to worry, I have 3 more training tips post coming later this week. 

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