CLICK HERE for quick access to the materials for the 2016-17 Speculative Fiction Genre Study.
The website now features UNRESTRICTED access, including notes from our meetings; however, in order to attend the meetings in person, you must be a member of ARRT. Click here for information about how you can join.


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.

Friday, April 21, 2017

“Read" More About Books By Watching These TED Talks About Books.

Today’s post is a reminder of one of my Ten Rules of Basic RA Service, one which I think sometimes gets lost in the shuffle of the daily grind of serving patrons:

Reading about books, just books and stories in general, is very important. Often we are so worried about reading actual books and get too focused on our TBR piles that we forget how much we can learn by just taking in information about books and reading in general. And as we enter the busy season for library conferences and book buzz panels with all of the ARCs we will be gathering, now is the time for me to caution you about this fun, but not always the most helpful, singleminded focus.

However, we can’t just read about books in a vacuum. We want to make sure that when we are “reading” about books that we are getting as wide a perspective as possible. We need resources that have this wide a perspective in terms of genre, point of view, and geography. Because of the increased thoughtful consideration of diversity in our work, thankfully this is slowly getting easier to do. 

But, reading about books is not just about knowing the titles that represent the most points of view. We also need to take a step back and consider books and storytelling in general from as broad a perspective as possible.

That’s why a couple of times a year I spend the day at the TED Talks topic page for Books. What I get from this archive is all of the talks that have anything remotely to do with books, by people from all walks of life, all professions, and from all over the world.

I want to say this clearly so there is no doubt on how I feel about this issue-- Everyone who spends anytime helping leisure readers needs to take a few moments and watch some of these talks. As many as you can. Watching these videos is essential to giving you the foundation you need to do your job, no matter who you are or where you live.

These talks will explain why authors write the stories they do, what books mean to readers, why “story” is important to human life, etc... All of the big issues around why our jobs exist. And because TED Talks are giving by a wide net of people, you can see a worldwide perspective on why reading matters.

By listening to these talks you are actively engaging in “Reading about books.” You are also learning about readers. You are actively training yourself both to understand how to help readers AND how stories are constructed. You have everything to gain and nothing to lose here.

So today, or some time soon, let these videos run while you work off desk. If your boss gets upset that you are “watching videos,” blame me. Tell them Becky told you to. Pass this blog post on to them. 

Now stop reading and start watching.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Best Summer Books WITH BACKLIST! [Or, why Becky Hearts the PW Best Lists, Always]

It seems like every April I gush about how much I love how Publisher's Weekly displays their best books of summer. Case in point, last year's post. But I do love it. Here's why. They think about every type of reader when they make this list:  Kids, teens, adults, genre readers and literary fiction readers, people who want the newest books, and MY FAVORITE, people who want any proven good summer read, even if it is *gasp* from the backlist.

That's right, they include the backlist, and it's front and center too.  See for yourself:

This is one of the "Staff Picks" titles, in other words, one of the "Top 10" titles for summer and it is 100% genre. There is also a kids' graphic novel, a debut novel, nonfiction, a blockbuster bestselling author, a collection of Proust's letters, and more. I wasn't kidding when I said there was something for everyone.

You can click here to access the Best Summer Books 2017 page directly to see for yourself.

But the best thing about this site is how they truly put the reader first. Yes PW is the main professional serial for the publishing and bookstore world. They are there to promote and sell books, BUT I am always pleasantly surprised how reader friendly they are-- more so than the publishers tend to be. [You can read this rant I had in October about why the publishers do not help us in the ways we need to be helped.]

We know that people read more in the summer, which also means there will be more variety in the tastes of this increased number of readers. We need the widest net possible to help all of these readers. PW understands this and gives us a wonderful variety to use as our RA conversation starting point.

This is important because when we are helping patrons who only come to the library a few times a year, we really need to shine, but we also have to do it quickly. Resources like the PW "best" lists are a way to do that.

Let me explain in more details by paraphrasing what I said about the 2016 list last year here.

As you can see you have this year’s best summer books on the front page.  On the aqua bar across the top you can then choose to see more by genre. AND, you can do the same thing for summer books each year back to 2012!

But wait, there is more. You can do the same thing for their BEST of the year lists too.  ALL FROM ONE PAGE. They have both bars right at the top for super easy navigation and quick access.

Do you all realize what a treasure trove of information this is? Do you realize how happy you will be able to make a patron with just a few clicks?

And, each book comes with an annotation. You can do everything from identify a good book AND book talk it all from one resource.  You will look like a book wizard-- because you are if you use the site to help readers.

Yes, it is great for us to know about the big books of summer ahead of time.  We can make sure we have them ordered, we can start preparing “while you wait” readalike lists for some of the more popular ones like the new Lincoln Child [which is a werewolf story by the way], and we can talk them up to patrons in advance and enourage them to place holds.

However, these books are not going to be on the shelf now, both because they are not released yet AND because this advance buzz will mean people may have to wait.

But, never fear, Publisher’s Weekly has your back. Yes this list of Summer 2017’s best are not going to be available ASAP, but last year’s, or the year before’s will be.

wrote about this at length here in regards to end of the year best lists, but the advice holds true for summer reads too:

Again, you need to remember that they just want a “best” book. Most of them do not care when it was “best.” Trust me. I have done this switcharoo dozens of times over the last 15 years. People love it. They often feel like they got a “secret” best book when it is one I found from a previous year’s list.
Most patrons will be happy with any "Summer" book. Yes, many will want to read the new Lee Child Jack Reacher novel, of course, and they should, it is going to be good, but while they wait why not give them the hot Summer Mystery/Thriller from 2014, I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes- also very good and still a great suggestion three years later.

Speaking of Mystery and Thrillers, again I want to point out how AWESOME it is that PW gives specific lists of summer reads for genre readers and kids. This makes the site so much more useful to us as we help actual readers and doesn't worry as much about what the critics say are the best books we should be reading.

So right now, use the page to make sure you have these hot titles ordered. If they made the PW site it means that the publishers will be going all out on these titles.  Your patrons will see and hear plenty of media buzz on these books, so get them on-order now.

But then, bookmark the page for use all year long, to find patrons a “best” book.  Between this backlist trove and the Library Reads lists, you have hundreds of sure bet options complete with a quick book talk right at your fingertips. You have years and years of proven titles and they are only a click away.

Anyone who can click a mouse on the Internet can turn these pages into effective service to leisure readers.  Give it a try.

Finally, I think it is important to not that I have all this love for PW and it is one of the only review journals I do NOT write for, meaning they have never paid me a dime, meaning this is true best list love.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Not You Typical Diversity Program Announcement

I am so excited to announce this program which I have been organizing for ARRT with Heather Booth. We wanted to have a program promoting why we need to consider diversity in everything we do at the library. We have been inspired by our colleagues like Robin Bradford, who is joining us via Skype. Robin eloquently and bluntly [yes you can be both at the same time, and that is why I love and admire her so much] discusses the need for diverse representation in library all the time. You can follow her on Twitter, or read this recent article where she clearly explains why diverse collections matter to all.

Also, locally, Skokie Public Library, home to presenter and ARRT Steering Committee member Annabelle Mortensen, is leading the way in implementing a whole library plan to serve their extremely diverse community. Annabelle and Mimosa Shah are going to share what that means in practice, why it is the natural thing for all libraries to do and how it is working---honestly.

Finally, last year, Heather saw Mikki Kendall speak and when we found out she lived in the Chicago area, Heather contacted her immediately to see if she would ever present for us. We just had to find a reason.

Heather and I took our inspiration from these female librarians and educators, who, unlike the two of us, live these issues from both a personal and professional position. Together, our goal is to give you something new. This is not going to be your typical diversity program as you can probably tell from the description below. We are going to be blunt, it might make you uncomfortable, but we don't care.

This program is our ENOUGH IS ENOUGH moment. Diversity in library collections is not a political issue; it is a people issue. It is a serving our communities issue. We are not paying lip service here. We are going to give you some tangible and authentic reasons why every single person, no matter your skin color, sexual orientation, political leanings, etc.... why every single person needs to be served by a library that serves all. Why ALL points of view, from all sides, benefit all.

This is a bigger issue than representation or buying for target audiences. This is about our mission as libraries- to provide a window to the world through access to materials. And last time I checked, the world is very diverse. And I know the world is not 80% white ladies like our profession, myself and Heather included there [see below].

We hope you can join us in Skokie on June 16th. Space is limited and the sign up info is below. We will be live Tweeting the event for those who cannot make it. We will also be advertising Robin's appearance at ALA later in the month to talk on a similar topic for RUSA.

Those of you in Illinois, we are also hoping to bring a version of this program to the ILA conference in October with updates from the Skokie team and 2 new panelists.

See below and keep reading RA for All for more on this topic in the months to come.
Click here to register. Space is limited!

Join us at the Skokie Public Library on Friday, June 16, from 10 a.m. to noon, for Dealing in Diversity: Proactively Serving Communities Through Authentic Representation.
Let’s lay out the facts: 80% of librarians are white women. Does your collection reflect your community or does it look more like you? What about the material in your programming and reader’s advisory practice? Join ARRT as we grapple with solutions to this touchy subject. Our panel of experts will share straight talk, real world experiences, and practical strategies for diversifying your library in meaningful, authentic ways.
Robin Bradford – Collection Development Librarian, Timberland Regional [WA] Library
Mikki Kendall – Writer, Diversity Consultant, and Occasional Feminist
Annabelle Mortensen – Access Services Manager, Skokie Public Library
Mimosa Shah – Adult Program Coordinator, Skokie Public Library

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

ARRT Book Club Study: The Yiddish Policeman’s Union is 5/3/17

There is still time to join us for the next ARRT Book Club Study. Since it is an older title, you may have already read it. If not, you still have 2 weeks.

Please remember that this is not only your chance to be a participant [and not the leader for once] in a book discussion, but also, we have plenty of time for everyone to discuss the problems and issues they are currently having with their groups. For example, last time we had a therapeutic and useful discussion of the problems patrons create in regards to the serving [or not serving] of food at book club.

Speaking of last time, if you cannot make it, or are not a member and just like to use us for our notes [don’t worry, we don’t mind, in fact, we encourage this behavior], we have the notes for past discussions here [most immediately past] and here [archived]. We separate them out by the notes on the discussion of the books vs the notes about our designated leadership topic. This means you can more easily target the information that is most useful to you.

From the email we sent to members with links and details:
On 05.03.17, the ARRT Book Club Study will be gathering to discuss The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon.  You can find details about the book, location, and discussion on the website here. 
We'll be having a unique location this time around:
National University of Health Sciences Library in Lombard05.03.17, Wednesday2-4pm 
A tour of the library, our first academic discussion site, will be available after the discussion. 
The leadership topic, lead by Bill Stephens, will be about how to recruit new members while retain current members.  However, bring any other questions or topics you'd like to discuss about leading book groups! 
Please RSVP to Debbie Walsh at   
All current members are welcome to attend!  If you need to renew your membership, you can find information here.   
Also, please remember that the notes for previous discussions can also be found on the website!  We'll announce when the notes for this discussion are available as well. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Call to Action: Go Read a Poem [or 2]

Each year I try to post at least once about poetry during National Poetry Month and each year I try to remind myself [and all of you] that poetry is a good read more times a year than just April. But like many of you, I have the best intentions in April and then, I forget about poetry.

Having school aged children reminds me often that as a kid I regularly read poetry and liked it. Both my kids are exposed to poetry in their school curriculum and it’s not the boring stuff. They are reading and learning about all kinds of poetry from the obvious dead white males of yore to current, modern poets.

My son, like many middle school kids loves books by Kwame Alexander, and the fact that they are written in verse doesn’t phase him. I also recently caught both kids (middle and high school) having an in-depth conversation about their favorite style of poetry and the rhythmic patterns they prefer as both writers and readers [interestingly both prefer a difference if they are consuming vs creating a poem.]

I used to be like them too. I would read and [at least try] to write poetry much more regularly. I don’t know why I stopped [well I know why I stopped writing, but not why I stopped reading]. Shel Silverstein was my favorite author as a kid. I spent hours reading and rereading his poems, listening to the audio of him reading them, memorizing them, reading them to others, etc... Every time I am asked who my favorite author was as a child, Silverstein is my answer. It is my immediate response because it is such an honest truth.

I had so much joy from poetry as a kid. Silverstein’s poems led me to other poems. I LOVE Beowulf. It was one of the best experiences I had in high school with an assigned text. A joy that intense doesn’t just evaporate. So then why don’t I read more poetry?

I am not sure, but National Poetry Month is a good time to try to suggest poetry to myself and others. I can’t be alone here. And the recent best selling popularity of authors like Alexander, proves that there is a mainstream interest in verse as a storytelling format.

But thankfully this is what these Call to Action posts are all about-mcalling us all out on the things we lose sight of in the day to day grind of working with leisure readers. To shake all of us, even me, out of our complacency.

So, to inspire all of you [and myself] to consider more poetry, here is a list of poetry resources and posts that I think will help you to help leisure readers identify poetry options, now and all the year through.

  • Here are 30 Ways you can celebrate National Poetry Month, but please note, you can do these any time of the year to celebrate poetry.
  • Here is the direct link to all of my posts about poetry on the blog.
  • Here is a link to everything from The Booklist Reader tagged poetry.
  • Here is the link to the poetry start page on Goodreads. If you are interested in suggesting something to a patron start here. There are the newest titles and the most popular. All have reviews so we can see the comments of those who love them and those who hated them. If you are not sure which type of readers you should suggest poetry to, start by reading the reviews of those who liked a newer collection and see what they have to say.
  • Finally, the link I would keep handy all year long, The Millions “On Poetry” archives. Unlike me, The Millions has articles and essays about poetry all year long, and they have for over 10 years. They began by simply posting in April, but over the years, they have added more regular coverage on poetry. Look, they wouldn’t be doing this if there wasn’t an increase in general interest in poetry, so spend some time reading what they have. From discussions on how poems are written to new books worth a look and everything in-between, On Poetry can help you find suggestions, stay up to date on trends, and keep you in the poetry loop all year long.
For past Call to Action posts, click here.

Friday, April 14, 2017

RA for All Road Show visits Cedar Rapids [IA] Public Library

Yesterday, I hit the open road to travel to Cedar Rapids Public Library to facilitate their library inservice training day, today. Personally, this marks the first time I have really delved into the state Iowa since moving to Illinois 20 years ago [up to this point I have only been to Dubuque, which is literally on the other side of the Mississippi River from IL].

In case you didn’t know, Cedar Rapids Public Library is currently a Finalist for the 2017 NationalMedal for Museum and Library Service. Why am I telling you this? Well, if a library that is doing this well still takes a break to train their staff, every library should.
I make that statement as a former library worker who craved more training, as the person who runs many of these trainings, AND as a trustee who has final say on a library’s budget.
With tight budgets, staff training is often the first thing to get axed. Please, if you are at a library that does not have staff training days, please show this post to your Directors. Ask them to contact me. As I said above, I am uniquely suited to advocate for staff training dollars since I understand all sides of this complex funding issue. I don’t even care if you hire me as a result, but one of my missions to to make sure library administrators understand what they are losing in service to their communities when they cut staff development dollars.
Again, if Cedar Rapids makes time for staff training, your library has no excuse not to.
Okay, I will get off that soap box now. Let’s look at what we have in store for today’s training.
8:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.  RA for All: Readers Advisory belongs in every library, no matter its budget. The implementation of this vital service is the responsibility of every staff member-- from pages to directors, from those behind the scenes to the ones on the front lines. This program will remove the mystery behind providing great RA service. Using her “Ten Rules of Basic RA Service” as a guide, Becky Spratford will use your own love of your favorite books to show you how to help any patron find their next great read. It's not as hard as you think. But more importantly, you will learn why a staff that can harness the power of sharing a great read will become a stronger team and improve service to all patrons.

10:20-10:30 Break
10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Booktalking: Harnessing the Power of Sharing Books with Patrons: Booktalking is at the heart of what we do with patrons each and every day at the public library. Whether we are sharing books informally at the services desk, presenting a prepared list of books, or posting information online, talking about books is something we do each and every day. It is a core service, but it is also hard to teach. Booktalking is more of an art than a skill, but with the right guidance and some practice, it can go a long way toward engaging your patrons and re-energizing your staff. Join experienced Readers’ Advisory Becky Spratford as she shares the secret behind delivering great book talks, giving you tips and tricks you can begin using right away to hone your own skills. Rediscover the power and joy that comes from sharing books with patrons.

Lunch 11:30-12:30
12:30-1:30  RA Rethink: The Displays Edition: Becky Spratford brings the display portion of her popular new “RA Rethink” series to you. In this presentation Becky will show you how to “rethink” your displays to make them more engaging for patrons without increasing your workload; in fact, she will help you to create better displays in half the time. While Becky will provide many examples and suggestions, this training will be highly interactive. Participation is expected with the goal of you leaving the session with a few display ideas all set and ready to be put out immediately.

This talk includes 1:30-1:45  Creating Your Own Reader Profile: Becky will help you take what you have learned to craft your own personal reader profile and start you on your first RA journey-- suggesting a good book to a fellow staff member.

All slides are accessible to anyone.

This schedule is also a great example of the type of interactive training I offer for ALL library staff. You can mix and match any of my programs to fit your librarys needs. I also will create a new program just for you. My past and upcoming programs as well as an updated statement on my availability can be found here.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Library Reads: May 2017

This is your monthly Library Reads announcement.

Library Reads day means 3 things here on RA for All.
  1. I post the list and tag it “Library Reads” so that you can easily pull up every single list with one click.
  2. I can remind you that even though the newest list is always fun to see, it is the older lists where you can find AWESOME, sure bet suggestions for patrons that will be on your shelf to actually hand to them right now. The best thing about Library Reads is the compound interest it is earning. We now have hundreds and hundreds of titles worth suggesting right at our fingertips.
  3. You have no excuse not to hand sell any Library Reads titles because there is a book talk right there in the list in the form of the annotation one of your colleagues wrote for you. All you have to say to your patron is, “such and such library worker in blank state thought this was a great read,” and then you read what he or she said.
So get out there and suggest a good read to someone today. I don’t care what list or resource you use to find the suggestion, just start suggesting books. 

One final note, the No. 2 book on this list is one I read back in January and have been telling everyone I meet to put on their May to list read...Radium Girls.  Click here to read my review. This nonfiction title is going to be a book club favorite for many years to come.

Without further ado.... May 2017 LibraryReads

Eleanor Oliphant Is
Completely Fine:
A Novel

by Gail Honeyman

Published:5/9/2017 by Pamela Dorman Books
ISBN: 9780735220683
“I loved this book about the quirky Eleanor, who struggles to relate to other people and lives a very solitary life. When she and the new work IT guy happen to be walking down the street together, they witness an elderly man collapse on the sidewalk and suddenly Eleanor’s orderly routines are disrupted. This is a lovely novel about loneliness and how a little bit of kindness can change a person forever. Highly recommended for fans of A Man Called Ove and The Rosie Project – this would make a great book club read.”
Halle Eisenman, Beaufort County Library, Blufton, SC

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women

by Kate Moore

Published: 5/2/2017 by Sourcebooks
ISBN: 9781492649359
“This is the story of hundreds of young, vibrant women who were sentenced to death by their employers. The so-called “Radium Girls” painted luminescent faces on clock and watch dials using a paint mixture that contained radium. Instructed to “lip-point”their brushes as they painted, they absorbed high doses of radium into their bodies. When the effects of the radium led to horrific disfigurement and pain, the company refused to take responsibility. This heartrending book was one I could not put down.”
Catherine Coyne, Mansfield Public Library, Mansfield, CT

Since We Fell: A Novel

by Dennis Lehane

Published: 5/9/2017 by Ecco
ISBN: 9780062129383
“Rachel is a journalist who, after her online breakdown, becomes a recluse scared to resume her daily life. She is recently divorced and meets an old friend who wants to help her overcome her fear. They fall in love, marry and appear to have the perfect life, until Rachel ventures out of the house one day and sees something that makes her question everything she knows about her new husband. Once a reporter, always a reporter and Rachel has to get to the bottom of her story.”
Michele Coleman, Iredell County Public Library, Statesville, NC

The Leavers: A Novel

by Lisa Ko

Published: 5/2/2017 by Algonquin Books
ISBN: 9781616206888
“One morning, eleven-year-old Deming Guo’s mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant named Polly, goes to her job and never comes home. Deming is eventually adopted by two white college professors who move him from the Bronx to a small town. This is a poignant story of a boy who struggles to find his footing in a new world. It’s also an unflinching look at the difficult decisions a mother faces. This novel explores what it means to be a family and the duality of lives, especially through adoption.”
Jennifer Ohzourk, St. Louis Public Library, St. Louis MO

Ginny Moon: A Novel

by Benjamin Ludwig

Published: 5/2/2017 by Park Row Books
ISBN: 9780778330165
“What an amazing debut novel! Ludwig effectively captures the voice, thought process, and behaviors of a young autistic girl who has escaped a harrowing living situation and has finally settled into a new”forever”home. Unfortunately, she becomes obsessed with returning to her old home to find her “baby doll,”jeopardizing both her own and her new family’s safety. Ginny truly is an original, and readers will be captivated by her story.”
Vicki Nesting, St. Charles Parish Library, Destrehan, LA

Saints For All Occasions: A Novel

by J. Courtney Sullivan

Published: 5/9/2017 by Knopf
ISBN: 9780307959577
“Sisters Nora and Theresa Flynn leave their home in Ireland for a new life in 1958 Boston. Each adjusts to life in America in her own way. Steady Nora watches younger Theresa, until choices made by each woman drive the sisters apart. We follow the story from 1958 to contemporary New England, Ireland, and New York, exploring how siblings and children relate to their parents and each other as they age. Novels about Irish immigrant families and their American descendants are a weakness of mine and the way this story unfolds from everyone’s perspectives is very satisfying!”
Trisha Rigsby, Deerfield Public Library, Deerfield, WI

White Hot: A Hidden Legacy Novel

by Ilona Andrews

Published: 5/30/2017 by Avon
ISBN: 9780062289254
“After rereading the first Hidden Legacy book, I plunged immediately into White Hot. I wasn’t disappointed. Nevada is trying to return her life to a semblance of normal, “normal” being without powerful, sexy, and very dangerous Prime Rogan. Rogan hasn’t stopped thinking about Nevada and hasn’t stopped wanting her. And what Rogan wants, he eventually gets. The action in White Hot was faster, the plot more intricate, and the characters became even more real. I cannot wait to read book three!”
Heather Cover, Homewood Library, Birmingham, AL

Sycamore: A Novel

by Bryn Chancellor
Published: 5/9/2017 by Harper
ISBN: 9780062661098

“A newly divorced woman is starting life over in a small Arizona town. She comes across the skeletal remains of what the locals think is the body of a seventeen-year-old girl named Jess who disappeared almost two decades ago. The discovery forces community members to recall memories and secrets that have been buried a long time. Readers are treated to a cast of characters with distinct personalities who, with each piece of the puzzle, form a patchwork that reveals the truth surrounding Jess’s disappearance.”
Sharon Layburn, South Huntington Public Library, Huntington, NY

Astrophysics For People In A Hurry

by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Published: 5/2/2017 by W.W. Norton & Company
ISBN:   9780393609394
“Tyson’s writing style is always approachable and entertaining, and his latest book is no exception. Clear and concise, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry gives readers exactly what the title promises, a basic understanding of a deeply fascinating subject. Highly recommended for readers who want to understand our universe better.”
Mary Vernau, Tyler Public Library, Tyler, TX

The Jane Austen Project: A Novel

by Kathleen A. Flynn

Published: 5/2/2017 by Harper Perennial
ISBN: 9780062651259
“The Austen fan genre is expanded by an original new novel set both in the past and the near future. Two employees of a time travel company are assigned to go back to Austen’s day, ostensibly to retrieve the full copy of “The Watsons,” lost for all time…until now. The blending of historical fiction, fantasy, and romance with a beloved classic author thrown in the mix is a daring combination which succeeds.”
Leslie DeLooze, Richmond Memorial Library,Batavia, NY

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

NoveList Conversations: Informed Browsing Webinar Archive

Click here to go straight to the webinar
Today, I am simply passing on this webinar which was live yesterday. Every single one of you, whether you use NoveList or not, needs to watch this. Why? Because it is the next step for what we do. It's the Netflix-afication of identifying leisure materials.

You will learn more about proving RA Service in 2017 by watching this today than from anything I could write.

Besides the links to the webinar and slides, there are other resources so please explore. 

Webcast: Informed Browsing: Explore Your Library’s Collection with Metadata

Want to engage your readers -- wherever they are? Need tools to explore the depths of your collection, and to offer that almost-forgotten book to the reader who will love it? Hear about how the Reader Services Department of New York Public Library makes use of readers’ advisory-focused metadata to discover books in exciting new ways, with a few behind-the-scenes stories about the supporting work performed by librarians at NoveList.

This webcast is archived. Click here to watch the recording

Resources from the presentation:



Lynn Lobash is the manager of Readers Services at New York Public Library. She spends her days recommending books to all kinds of readers. She earned her MLIS from Rutgers University in 1999 and has been with the library for 14 years. When she is not reading and recommending books, she is watching her children do something amazing (look mom!) or petting her needy cats.

Victoria Caplinger leads the team of librarians in NoveList’s Book Discovery department, which creates readers’ advisory content in many forms. After finishing a four-year tour of duty on ALA’s Notable Books Council, she is now indulging heavily in genre reading, dividing her time between science fiction and horror, with the odd multi-volume fantasy series thrown in for good measure. Petting needy cats goes without saying.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A Book Suggestion For You on National Library Worker Day

Happy National Library Worker Day!

For this celebratory post I am featuring two of my Booklist colleagues to recognize their great work and because they have something to share with you today.

First is my friend Robin Bradford, who today on Twitter not only wished us all a Happy Library Workers day but made this succinct and eloquent statement about how our work is noble but that doesn’t mean we should be paid less for it. 

I salute all of you who work in a library. I did it for 15 years in a community where money was tight for the library and the citizens. I know first hand what a difference every single one of you makes in people’s lives and just how hard you work for your patrons.

And now, I am honored to now work for all of you, the Library Workers, trying to help you help patrons better.

Which leads me to the second colleague I am featuring, Sarah Maguire, who is Rebecca Vnuk’s featured Notes From the Field interview in the current issue of her Booklist Online’s Corner Shelf Newsletter:
Although I don’t play favorites, Susan Maguire is right up there as one of my best reviewers—not only because she’s a fantastic writer but she covers the women’s-fiction titles I personally like! She’s also my dream self: both a librarian and a romance author, writing under the pen name Sarah Title (yep, you have to search the author field for Title!). Her new series for Kensington, Librarians in Love, is gathering rave reviews and lots of attention—the first book in the series, The Undateable, was published in February 2017, and the next, Falling for Trouble, is due out in June. You can find out more about her books at
You can click here for the entire newsletter and here for just Sarah’s interview.

In that interview, Sarah not only mentions her romance novel (which I just put a hold on!), but she also suggests a lot of good reads in a variety of genres from romance, to science fiction to literary and more. See, we library workers ARE awesome. Sarah could just be promoting herself and her library, but instead she is also promoting better RA Service.

I haven’t met Sarah before, but with just this quote from her interview, I know we would get along smashingly:
My evil plan is to make our patrons realize that they actually do like genre fiction, they just don’t know it yet—mwa-ha-ha-ha, etc.
So today, celebrate yourself. Pick out a book to read for FUN. Something you want to read. Not something you have to. Take one of Sarah’s suggestions or one of mine. I have hundreds here or here.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Call to Action: National Library Week

After a few week's hiatus, the Call to Action is back and this week it is an easy one. It's National Library Week, the week when we, as an institution, spend the most effort getting our message out in the public. This is when you will see the most news stories about libraries and their immense impact in the general media. This is the week when we are closer to the front of the average American's mind than any other time all year.

Now, I know that every single one of you reading this who is working at a library is doing SOMETHING in your buildings to commemorate this week; however, I bet most of you are NOT thinking about what you can do outside of the library.

That's my Call to Action for this week. Sometime this week, whether it is during work hours on on your free time, take a moment to tell someone outside of the library building that it is National Library Week and that you are a library worker. Then ask that person a question to start a dialog about the library. Yes, you need to do more than just inform people that we exist. I am asking you to encourage conversation. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • What do you think of when you think of the library?
  • What can your library do for you? How can it be relevant to your life? [I love this question because often the person has no idea that the things they want and/or need are already at the library. I have converted at least a dozen nonusers to regular library users- most virtual users-- in the last year.]
  • And the best question you can ask-- It's National Library Week and I am a real life library worker- what do you want to ask me?
As you can probably tell from my comments in that question list above, these are questions I often ask people when I am out and about. Seriously, whenever I meet someone new and they ask what I do, I right away ask them a version of these questions. My favorite is to ask the person a version of that last question. People have some crazy questions for librarians, especially the random people I meet at airport gates, but those questions are for another post some day.

Too often people think the library isn't for them, or they never walk into the library building and don't realize how much they can use us without every stepping foot in the building. Or they don't realize how much of an impact the library has on their community in general whether or not they ever use it.

Look, we cannot make them come to us, so let's go to them. Obviously, I am a bit crazy and do this all of the time [to the chagrin of my kids]. I am not expecting that level of insanity from all of you. BUT, this week, this week you can join me.

This is National Library Week. Flaunt it. Spread the word about our awesomeness.

I am challenging you to engage at least 1 stranger in a conversation about the library with the only rule being that you must not be on the library property when you do this.

You have the conversation opening-- it's National Library Week. I have given you some conversation starters. And, here is the official ALA resource page with more ideas and talking points.

You have no excuse on this one people. Get out there and start talking us up.

For the Call to Action archive, click here.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Lots of "After you finish S-Town” Suggestions

I was on a family vacation when the new podcast S-Town premiered and I could not make an excuse to put in my headphones and ignore everyone.

However, the second we got home all bets were off. Like many of you, I had a serious problem, a S-Town obsession problem. I couldn’t stop listening. My family was making fun of me, walking around the house doing post-vacation chores, lost in the world of S-Town. I hadn't been this obsessed with listening to a story since I listened to Seveneves.

Let me back up a second for anyone who doesn’t know what I am talking about. S-Town is a brand new nonfiction podcast from the people who make This American Life and Serial and it is drawing in thousands of listeners. If you need the details, I am not going to repost them here, instead, you can click here for the first of Booklist Reader’s posts recapping the show. Click here for all of their posts about the podcast.

Back to me. Why was I so obsessed? Well, I had just returned form a vacation where I was in Alabama not very far from Woodstock, AL where the series takes place, but that was not all.  I liked it because although it was nonfiction, it unfolded like a novel. For example, because they worked on it for 3 years and then made the show, there are literary techniques like foreshadowing, used by Reed to great storytelling success.

This article in The Atlantic also gets as to why I was so hooked.

But I think in the end, I loved S-Town so much because its appeal is the same as all the stories I already love. And I chose the word “stories” on purpose because no matter the format, a good story is a good story.

Sometimes we get too caught up in matching formats, but you know what I have learned over the last few years observing popular reading trends? We, the library workers, are the only ones who separate everything by format and genre. We create these divisions and walls. Readers don’t care nearly as much as we think they do. Maybe we can use S-Town’s popularity to shake us out of our old ways.

So today, here are my suggestions for what to consume after S-Town. I have fiction, nonfiction, and TV. And, I had to force myself to stop or I would have been up all night adding more. Here goes.

One of the biggest appeals in the podcast is John, the eccentric subject of the show. On Booklist Reader, Karen Kleckner suggests After S-Town: 10 More Eccentric Characters.

There are also the obvious authors to mention, the ones John tells Brian Reed, the host, to read- Shirley JacksonFlannery O’Connor, and Guy de Maupassan.

If I had to put S-Town in a genre, I would classify it Southern Gothic. Yes, I know that is a classification for fiction and this podcast is 100% nonfiction, but remember when I said it is us library workers who are the ones creating the obstacles based on our “rules?” Here is an example. S-Town is more like a Southern Gothic novel than anything else. Full Stop. Get over it. Moving on.

I happen to love Southern Gothic. Of course the father of it all is Faulkner, but I have talked about newer examples of the genre many times on the blog. You can click here for all of those titles and authors but I would like to specifically point out Wiley Cash for the clicking averse among you.
S-Town also has the feel of a character driven, literary thriller. For that appeal, I would recommend The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt which while much, much longer than the podcast is also haunting and driven by an eccentric main character. For more about The Goldfinch including further readalikes along these lines, see my review.

There is a recent spate of nonfiction books about rural America, specifically white rural America, which Reed points out is exactly what he encounters in S-Town. Some suggestions: White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg or Hillbilly Elegy: A  memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance

And then there is the huge appeal of clocks. John is a master clock repairer, a horologist actually [someone who studies the science of time]. I immediately thought of two other titles which feature clocks prominently: Nick Harkaway's Angelmaker and The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. This led me to NoveList’s entry for Angelmaker where I clicked on the "clocks and watches" subject heading. This simple search revealed the Pulitzer Prize winning, Tinkers. I wasn't surprised that it had info about clocks, that the main character was a clock repairer I remembered, but I was surprised by what a perfect readalike it is. I never would have thought about it without that search.

Both S-Town and Tinkers are character driven, thought provoking, lyrical, reflective, and haunting. Both are also relatively short, in fact, Tinkers has a great audio version that clocks in at just under 5 hours [2 hours shorter than S-Town]. 

Which reminds me to mention that some readers may want to try any suggestions in audio to recreate some of the S-Town listening experience. In fact, I noticed as I was making suggestions from my own reading, I was drawn to titles I had listened to myself.

Now how about some watch-alikes. I immediately thought of Boardwalk Empire, the HBO series which follows the life of one complicated and eccentric man. The entire time I watched this series, I felt like it was more of a novel than a show.

Other shows that could work are:

  • The Knick which I have written about in detail here.
  • The first season of True Detective which is also has a Southern Gothic appeal
  • The Wire because it is the best. Oh, and it really feels like a novel about the city of Baltimore and the people who live in it, just like S-Town does for its town
  • Justified for its rich sense of place and complicated characters 

Okay, I am stopping now because making the list of suggestions is becoming obsessive.

I want to wrap this post up by acknowledging that there is some conflict in the library world if we should be recommending podcasts since they are free and available outside the library. Some argue, fairly, that if we provide help to patrons with identifying podcasts, yes they will be happy with our service, but we are doing ourselves a disservice since many library's base funding off of circulation statistics and this advisory work creates NO circulation of our materials.

However, I think doing work like I have done with this post promoting more similar storytelling experiences you can get AFTER finishing S-Town will generate lots of circulation of our wonderful collections. Promoting what we have to fill the hole in your lives after you finish S-Town [man I was feeling that earlier this week] is a service our patrons need today. 

This is also why you do not see any other podcasts on this list. I am focusing my work on what you can circulate at your library because this is work everyone can and should do. Also, this is work that libraries are uniquely suited to do, work Google can't replicate. An "If you liked S-Town" search brings up tons of podcast suggestions but very little else. We need to fill this gap.

I don’t want to be the final word on this topic, I want to be a small part of a huge conversation. So, please feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments, or better yet, use this post as an inspiration to create your own lists and displays at your library.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Speculative Fiction Genre Study Update

Later today is the next meeting of the ARRT Speculative Fiction Genre Study. Due to an after school event for my kid [and to the fault of traffic between Glenview and my house], I will be missing out. But, as I always say here on the blog, no matter where you live, ARRT allows you to still follow along and participate. We have everything, from past assignments to the detailed notes from every meeting, posted here for all to view.
Reminder: we would love for you to use our assignments and notes, in full or part, to guide your own genre study, but please do credit us as your source. That is all we ask. 
And here [and below] is the assignment the group will be discussing later today.
Doorway: LanguageApril 6, 2017, 2-4 PMGlenview Public Library 
Featured resource: Peruse the website of the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction. 
Assignment:1) Read a book from two different authors from the list below (two books total). Preferably, both authors will be new to you:Nick HarkawayJo WaltonJasper FfordePatricia McKillipLord DunsayGene WolfeSamuel DelaneyTananarive Due 
2) As you read, think about the genre/subgenre of the book and additional appeal factors for the book besides language.
I can't wait to read the notes to see what I missed. I will post them on the blog, along with the next assignment when they are ready. However, you do not have to wait for me. The Speculative Fiction Genre Study page is open for your clicks 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.