One of the most important things every single one of you can do to be better at RA service is to stay on top of the book world news. Or as I say in Rule 5 of my Ten Rules of Basic RA Service:
Look, I know that reading widely is important for our job, but honestly, it is not as imperative these days as it used to be. Why? Well because you can learn a lot about many different types of books by speed reading “about” books.
Let me explain further. In my signature RA for All training, I still show people how to speed read a book for appeal; however, I am finding that I also give this advice-- “You can also replicate this speed reading for appeal with the physical book by fully reading the NoveList entry for that title.” It’s even better if you follow some of the links. And, if you also go to Goodreads and read the 5 star and 2 star reviews [1 star ones are sometimes too mean and petty to be useful for our purposes], you get a full picture of the appeal of the book with an example appeal statement from the book’s target reader and those who also disliked it and why.
This is a great way to “read” books in genres that you dislike personally or just don’t have the time to stay on top of. You get objective information about who the book most appeals to on NoveList and then actual opinions from readers via Goodreads.
However, staying in the know on the general book world news is about more than speed reading select titles. We also need to be aware of trends in all of pop culture in general and still stay on top of the most pressing book news.
One thing I hear- frequently- from library workers all over the country is that they try so hard to stay up to date, but Twitter is too “noisy" (even when I show them how to make lists) and they get overwhelmed by their RSS feeds from all the blogs and book news sites they follow that way. I regularly get calls for help from people with thousands of posts to sort through in their RSS feeds.
Many of you are so inundated that you are sinking. I see it all of the time. Library workers who have the drive to stay in the know, but they cannot find the time to follow everything as it is happening quickly, in real time. So instead, they give up.
I get this response, I really do. But, it is not an option people. I will be your life jacket. It’s not that hard. Today, I will share my easy way to know the bare minimum about the most pertinent information.
First, I highly recommend everyone read Entertainment Weekly every week. Not online, the actual magazine. Seriously, you can write off your subscription to the magazine as a business expense. But also, if you work at a library you can spend 1 lunch break with the current issue each week [or read the digital copy if your library, work or home, subscribes]. A quick page through of the magazine will let you know what the current pop culture/mass media trends are. You will be alerted early to books being made into movies or tv shows. You will see what books are getting the most buzz. You will even see actual book reviews. But the biggest thing you will get out of it is a wide angle picture of what, in general, is popular right now-- week by week. Not only do these trends extend into all areas of leisure media consumption, but also, knowing what people like overall will help you craft book suggestions based on what is popular overall.
But that is just for general trends and very specific titles of interest. In order to stay on top of the deluge of daily news while making sure to filter out what doesn’t matter so you only spend time reading the "news you can use" take my second advice--
Sign up for 3 daily newsletters. That’s it. Just these three I scare them in my email every day. Yes, there is overlap, but that is actually helpful because then I know what is MOST important-- if it is repeated 3 times I really pay attention. It maybe takes 10 minutes total to get through these emails, but the knowledge I gain keeps me in the know:
- Shelf Awareness for Book Trade Workers [That’s you]. This daily email covers all age levels of books and gives you a heads up on author media appearances as well as general industry news. [Media appearances always lead to book requests from patrons].
- PW’s Daily newsletter, although if you click here you can see a full list of all of their free newsletters. You can pick the ones that are most relevant to you on top of the general “Daily.”
- Library Journal’s Book Pulse, a daily update designed to help collection development and readers’ advisory librarians navigate the never-ending wave of new books and book news. The link will take you to the main page. In the left gutter, LJ has "Book News." There is always the most current Book Pulse in that list. Click on it to read. Follow the links to sign-up.
What I have found is that while some bigger news may break more quickly on Twitter, if it is important enough, it will make it through to these two newsletters that next morning. I have been monitoring this consciously for a few months now and I am confident in this advice.
Let them sort through all of the noise for you. That’s what these editors are paid to do. You have enough going on at your libraries to add this to your daily to-dos. Use the links I provided, give your email address to them, and start each day with a recap of what you need to know from book news, to upcoming titles, to reviews. Again, the beauty of this solution is that someone else is doing this work for you. You then only have to read a very short email with the most pressing information.
You need to stay in the know. You cannot avoid it. So instead of being overwhelmed by everything and/or just ignoring it-- both very bad ideas-- please take my advice here today. The outcome is that you are more informed, less stressed, and have happier patrons. See, you have nothing to lose.
For past Call to Action posts, click here.