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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Using Awards Lists As a RA Tool: Lambda Literary Awards

As I have mentioned many times [but first here], awards lists are among my favorite RA tools. Of the four ways I outline on how you should rethink your use of awards lists as a tool to actively assist readers, my two favorite, the two I use regularly to help readers, are "Collection Development" and "Resources."

Today I want to talk about those two uses for ANY awards list but I will use the announcement of the most recent Lambda Literary Award Winners as the frame for this post.

Let's start with Resources. In general the webpage for any group giving an award is the BEST PLACE to go for information on that genre, format or special reading area.

So let's delve into this further with Lambda Literary. I love their mission statement because it is simple, to the point, and can work for many reading experiences:

Click here to see the full page
This is also the point where I remind all of you that LGBTQ [or African American, or Asian America, or whatever] is NOT a genre. That is one of biggest pet peeves with helping library workers improve. I have been preaching this since 2004 when I started teaching the RA course. I made my students read from an under represented group and called it "Special Reading Interests." You would never say all white people books are one genre OR all female authors are the same genre. Of course not. So don't do this. It's just dumb.

LGBTQ framed titles encompass every genre and that is the first point I want to make about using the Lambda Literary homepage as the best resource for information about literature with a LGBTQ frame. Just a quick click on the Reviews tab reveals that they have information about every type of book you can think of. But their resources go beyond giving you reviews of books worth your time.

Lambda Literary has their history [which is a great history of LGBTQ since the late 80s in and of itself], interviews, features [including news and opinion pieces], a curated list of literary links separated into categories, and much more. The point is everything you need to know about the world of LGBTQ literature is here or there is a link that will take you where you need to go.

One of my most important training tips is that you should make an effort to stay in genre shape all year long. Yes, I know I said LGBTQ is not a genre, but this genre training program works for special reading interest area too; in fact, I included special reading interests as one of my categories in my personal genre a day plan, and where I worked LGBTQ was one of my most popular special reading interest areas.

Just spending an hour or two, 2-3 times a year looking at  resources, lists, news, trends, and award winners for any genre or reading interests area, like LGBTQ, keeps you in fighting shape. If you cannot help a reader off the top of your head, your work will at least have prepared you on where to go to find the best book. For LGBTQ I always begin lambdaliterary.org.

Which leads us to Collection Development. One of the best ways to keep up with a reading area where you are less familiar is to look at what the people who are most involved with that topic think is the best. This is how you can identify the bare minimum you should have in your collections. But don’t just consider adding or suggesting the winners only. Every book that makes the long list, from this year and past years, if something you can suggest with confidence. Head on over to Goodreads to learn more from people who gave it 5 stars or 1 stars- then you can see the things people love about the book and hate all in one place.

In our example we have the Lammys, which were given out last night. Here are all of the winners, including one of my favorite reads of last year, Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn- which by the way is a great choice for any book club made up of any people who have ever been on a vacation at any resort, ever- whether they are specifically looking for a Lesbian read or not.

But here is the list of every book on the long list for this year- in over 20 categories! And here is the very easy to use index of every list of winners and finalists for the 28 previous years of this award.

These lists are a great place to start as you assess your LGBTQ holdings. But even if you do not do any collection development with your job, they are also an excellent place to go to for suggestions if you have a patron who enjoys “Gay Mysteries” and you are not sure where to even begin [hint, begin here.]

You can do this for any award, but the point is, you need to use the experts to keep you informed AND to feed you the best suggestions. If you know where the experts live, you can find your readers the perfect book with only a few clicks.

Congrats to all the 2017 Lammy winners and nominees. And if you haven’t read any of the books on this list, give one a try. There is literally a book for every reader on the Lammy lists- from literature to nonfiction, to poetry, to mysteries, romance and SF/F/Horror.

Now get out there and find some awards lists to use as a RA tool.

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