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, March 16, 2018

All About Books Podcast Featuring Me

Last month while I was in Nebraska to do a training, I made a trip out to Lincoln to the studios of NET, Nebraska’s PBS and NPR Stations. I was invited as a guest on the show All About Books, a weekly broadcast and podcast hosted by Pat Leach from the Lincoln City Libraries.

From the All About Books website:
Going far beyond book reviews, we invite people passionate about books and reading to give their personal stories and insights into the larger world of words and ideas.
Pat asked me to come prepared to talk about one specific book and then we chatted about RA Service and how I got to be a “horror” expert. Pat was especially excited for me to talk about RA Service because she was sending some people to my training and she was hoping that when the community heard this episode [a few weeks after the training] they would be excited about RA and would come in and ask for help with their leisure reading needs.

Click here to listen
Here is the link to my appearance where I talk about In the Valley of the Sun by Andy Davidson

But more importantly, I wanted to promote All About Books in general. This program has been on the air for decades, airing across the state. I love that a librarian is the host. It is a place where book conversations happen out in the world, curated by a librarian. What a fantastic resource. And the people who come in are from all walks of life, all ages, and suggest every kind of book you would imagine.

The site also has bonus material by area professors. For example, here is a link to one on Graphic Novels which leads to both an interview with Richard Graham, Associate Professor of Media Studies, and an annotated list.

And now I leave you with this awesome rabbit hole to go down. Click here for the archives and spend your day listening to hundreds of people talking about books! [What do you think I have been doing all morning?]

But seriously, when I train people to booktalk, I stress how important the listener is in the experience. We need to practice talking about books by focusing on the feel of the book, not the plot, but we also need to practice listening to people talk about books. How do our patrons describe books and what things do they focus on when they are telling us what they like?

You can actually learn more about how to help readers by listening to book talks by others than you can by giving hundreds yourself. Why? Because when we listen to others, we understand what they want to know about the books we are suggesting.

So while I am promoting All About Books today because I was on, I want to use it as a reminder that listening is as important as talking in our work. I have a much longer post on this topic from my Call to Action Series entitled, “LISTEN!" here for those of you who want more from me on this topic.

Now I’m off to do more listening.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Barbara Hoffert’s PLA 2018 Adult Galley Roundup

I will not be at PLA from March 20-24 because I leave on a big trip with my family on 3/25 [I will be at ALA in June though]. This is often a problem for me as I would love to attend every PLA, but I only have a few years left when my kids are on the same Spring Break schedule and we can easily use that time to be together, just the four of us. Soon though, they will be in college and you will all be sick of me showing up at every conference.

However, I know I am not alone. Many of us, for a wide variety of reasons want to be in Philly for PLA, but cannot be there. One of the best things about PLA is learning about all of the upcoming new books because everything being promoted at the entire conference is only for us....the public library worker.

Thankfully, Barbara Hoffert, from Library Journal, is helping everyone on that front, whether we can make it there or not with this roundup of the hottest adult titles being promoted at the conference.

Now, if you are not there in person, you can’t use her guide to grab physical copies of these titles, but you can go on over to Edelweiss or NetGalley and grab an eARC for many of them. Here is how courtesy of LibraryReads.

Also, last year, I wrote this post on how to make lists of upcoming titles start working for you immediately, even if the books aren’t out for months, even if you don’t have a copy at all. Read my post first and then look at the Galley Guide. Then be prepared to be busy.

Don’t underestimate how good a resource this Galley Guide is for those of us at home.

Finally, if anyone out there goes to a really great program at PLA and wants to write up a summary for me, let me know. I am always looking for reports on great programs that can help my readers improve their skills.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Why Readers’ Advisory Matters via Molly Wetta

As I mentioned in this post earlier this week when congratulating and celebrating Robin Bradford for being named a Library Journal Mover & Shaker:
This is also one of the few times that the excellent work done by library workers for leisure readers is acknowledged as important enough to be deemed at “Mover & Shaker” level. No, Robin is not the only one who focuses on providing “fun” items to be honored ever, but it is important to note that the work she does, that all of you reading this do, is usually held to a lower standard of importance in the greater library world. This is so counter intuitive though because what we do is at the heart of the entire library.
I have been telling you why RA matters for over 10 years. Seeing friends like Robin being honored makes me hopeful that helping Adult find things for fun through the public library will be valued as the essential service it is.

As I said on Twitter here:

In this very brief thread and the post celebrating Robin, I am trying to make the larger world argument for why RA matters. However, recently, my colleague Molly Wetta made this argument more eloquently than I just have with this post on her blog, “Why Readers’ Advisory Maters.” I asked her if I could share her wisdom with all of you. She agreed.

Molly posted this argument as part of a staff training for basic RA skills she was tasked to do at her library. While Part 2  gets more into the nitty gritty of providing RA, this first piece, as Molly writes is essential:
 "Before diving into training and spending time honing your readers’ advisory skills, it’s important to establish why this is even something that’s needed and why libraries should be in the business of readers’ advisory."
Molly lays out 7 reasons as to why RA matters and every single one is vital to the work we do at libraries.  Read her post. Pass it on, especially to your administrators. Make helping adult find items that they want for FUN a key part of your library service. As Molly explains, there are real reasons beyond just being the matchmaker between all the books and the readers. Reading has some huge benefits for the people who engage in this activity, and those benefits extrapolate out into society as a whole.

Click here to read Molly’s post right now, and start using her arguments to advocate for the important work we do. Don’t let others belittle you anymore.

Thank you to Molly for sharing her arguments with us. And thank you to everyone out there who is advocating for RA service. We are helping to make the world a better place.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

RA for All Virtual Roadshow Time Travels to Australia

For the second time in my life I get to time travel later today. How? Well, I will be opening the Readers’ Advisory Annual Conference for New South Wales, Australia, and while I am presenting at 5:30pm on March 13, 2018 here in Chicago, I will be viewed LIVE at 9:30 am on March 14, 2018 in Australia.  Time travel baby!

This year’s conference is a “Back to Basics” theme.  I will be opening the session with my signature RA for All presentation which follows my 10 Rules of Basic RA Service. You can access it with this link.

But today there is news for all of my readers [besides the fact that I get to time travel]. This presentation effects every one of you all over the world. Later in the day, Duncan Smith will be at the conference in person to work with the attendees on using NoveList to help readers.

And that is why this presentation is news for everyone. NoveList is expanding throughout Australia and as a result, they are beefing up their Australian author content for everyone.

You may have already noticed but they have included more Canadian content recently too.

In both cases, NoveList has partnered with the largest databases of the country they are working with to gain access to reviews and content from the native sources.

Opening up American library workers to more international authors is vital. International fiction is very popular right now. Now, the countries in questions are majority English speaking, but since we have to guarantee that the books will be available in English this makes sense. However, both Australia and Canada have a lot of indigenous literature, and they both have translations of books we may not have access to here in America. Putting them in NoveList will increase demand and hopefully trigger more American editions of all of these titles. That being said, Amazon does offer .ca and .au options that we can order from if our patrons want the book.

The overall point here is that NoveList’s expansion will help us all learn about different and more diverse titles. Yay.

I can’t wait to kick off the day of learning for the live attendees. “See" some of you today/tomorrow.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Robin Bradford is a Mover & Shaker!

Today LJ started unveiling their 2018 Movers & Shakers with the Advocates and a friend of RA for All, heck a friend of all of us who do RA or Collection Development, especially this of us who advocate for the place of genre, indie publishers, and self publisheed books, and anyone who has fought for diverse books needs to rejoice because Robin Bradford is on the list!

Robin has been the main voice for ALL of these issues for years, so many years in fact, I have no idea why it took so long for her to be acknowledged.  Click here or see below for specifics.

This is also one of the few times that the excellent work done by library workers for leisure readers is acknowledged as important enough to be deemed at “Mover & Shaker” level. No, Robin is not the only one who focuses on providing “fun” items to be honored ever, but it is important to note that the work she does, that all of you reading this do, is usually held to a lower standard of importance in the greater library world. This is so counter intuitive though because what we do is at the heart of the entire library.

Robin is one of our most vocal advocates and I cannot be happier for my friend and also, for all of us who fight the same fight Robin does, but on a smaller scale. Let’s keep up the conversation about diverse books, let’s keep defending genre as worthy, and let’s remember to provide access to titles NOT only by the Big 5 in our collections. Let’s show the library establishment how much “readers” still matter.

All week the Movers & Shakers will be released with this link by category. Check in daily to see everyone else, but I can’t imagine there will be someone more in synch with what all of you are doing on a day to day basis.

Congratulations Robin!

Robin Bradford


Collection Development Librarian, Timberland Regional Library, Tumwater, WA


JD, Indiana University School of Law, Indianapolis, 2008; MSLS, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 2000


Photo by Douglas Gritzmacher


Barrier Breaker

Whether she is tweeting her latest collection find, speaking to the New York Times about diversity in romance (“A Genre of Romance, Not Diversity,” 10/10/17), presenting at professional conferences, or pushing libraries to purchase self-published (indie) books, collection development librarian Robin Bradford constantly campaigns for readers’ needs. “You never know when someone will actually hear you,” Bradford says. “So I try to advocate for things as often as possible, whether that is romance books, or diverse books, or indie books, or all of the above.”
Bradford is a national leader in an ongoing conversation aimed at raising awareness about diverse books, indie books, and respecting readers of romance and other genres. She presents at major conferences including the American Library Association, BookExpo, Bouchercon World Mystery Fiction Convention, Romance Writers of America (RWA), and RT Booklovers. In 2016, Bradford was named the RWA Cathie Linz Librarian of the Year. She has twice judged LJ’s SELF-e contest, writes reviews for recently launched review publication Indie Picks, and has contributed to LJ.
Bradford began to purchase self-published books for libraries before the indie explosion. “Seeking out indie books is important…because that is where a lot of [authors] shut out of traditional publishing are raising their voices,” Bradford says. “[We need] authors from all backgrounds to be published so that we can hear stories from a lot of perspectives [and] interact with people across all walks of life.”
When it comes to indie titles, Bradford says many libraries have let patrons take the lead in finding great books that are self-published. “It’s time [librarians] got back in the game and started discovering indie books that fit their collections,” she says.
Most recently, Bradford has helped inform Timberland library staff about multicast GraphicAudio Books on CD, so staff will be better able to connect readers to what they love across genres and formats. For example, she says, a patron with an appetite for Westerns might enjoy a multicast audiobook or indie Western film released to DVD. This level of readers’ advisory goes beyond the entry level and breaks “barriers to [customers] finding their next great book,” she says.
Bradford’s advocacy extends to mentoring newer librarians, “just as more experienced librarians helped me when I first got started,” she says, “and to increasing diversity in librarianship itself.”

Friday, March 9, 2018

Library Reads: April 2018

Yesterday was Library Reads day Library Reads Day means three 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.

And remember, every single one of you can and should be suggesting titles, especially those by marginalized voices. For example. this month I see Swanson and Wolitzer on the list. Great books to be sure, but they will have plenty of press. Instead, let’s find some titles that don’t get the recognition and show the publishers that we want these POC titles by promoting them ourselves. If we get our patrons excited about less mainstream titles before they come out, the publishers have to pay attention. 

We have more power than you think. Your choices matter. I often say this when I visit libraries in person, but it bears repeating here today-- By voting for a title for Library Reads you are not proclaiming to the world that it is THE BEST book you ever read. You might even personally enjoy the mainstream title more, but that doesn’t matter. You are not voting for your personal favorite book. Use your vote to boost a title that is wonderful but may not have as a good a chance to stand out from the crowd without your help. That is the point of this venture. No one will hold you to this being your all time favorite book. [People actually worry about this; they have told me.]

Please also reconsider how you vote. Many of you have told me that you vote for the “Big” name titles and the smaller ones. THIS DOES NOT HELP. You are simply adding to the big vote getters total and diluting your vote for the diverse title. If every single one of my readers laid off of voting for the more mainstream titles for 1 month and instead voted for a more diverse title, many of those mainstream titles would still get in, but maybe a few more marginalized voices would too. Can we try it?

Click here to for the very easy to follow directions on how to participate. You get access to unlimited eARCs.

April 2018 LibraryReads


by Madeline Miller

Published: 4/10/2018
by Little, Brown and Company
ISBN: 9780316556347
Circe follows the banished witch daughter of the Titans as she practices her powers for an inevitable conflict with one of Olympus’s most vindictive gods. I found myself pondering motherhood, mortality, and feminism. For readers of historical and mythological drama or anyone who loves a strong female lead.
McKelle George, Salt Lake City Public Library, Salt Lake, UT

Other People’s Houses

by Abbi Waxman

Published: 4/3/2018 by Berkley
ISBN: 9780399587924
“The story follows a stay-at-home mom. There is a satisfying rhythm to the book. Crazy things happen, and the next day the kids have to get to school and soccer practice. The shifting point of view, from the mother to various people living in the town is successful in imparting a snarky tone, bringing to life the gossipy small town setting.”
Claire Sherman, Clearwater Countryside Library, Clearwater, FL

All the Beautiful Lies: A Novel

by Peter Swanson

Published: 4/3/2018 by William Morrow
ISBN: 9780062427052
“The latest from psychological thriller master Swanson is a whirlpool of darkness, taboos, and secrets. When his father commits suicide, Harry Ackerson returns home to Maine. Harry finds more questions than answers as he faces his attractive young stepmother, the attentions of a seductive stranger, and the many questions posed by the local investigators.”
Sharon Layburn, South Huntington Public Library, Huntington Station, NY

How to Be Safe: A Novel

by Tom McAllister

Published: 4/3/2018 by Liveright
ISBN: 9781631494130
“This novel uses fiction as a tool to show how guns and violence are affecting contemporary society. Anna’s fictional experiences illustrate the real-life hypocrisy, lack of leadership, and fear of expressing controversial opinions. Great fiction for readers who tend to stay in the nonfiction lane.”
Marilyn Sieb, L.D. Fargo Library, Lake Mills, WI

Then She Was Gone: A Novel

by Lisa Jewell

Published: 4/17/2018 by Atria Books
ISBN: 9781501154645
“Part psychological fiction, part ghost story, both tragic and uplifting. A decade after the disappearance of her teenage daughter, Laurel Mack meets a charming single father with two daughters, the youngest of whom reminds Laurel deeply of her lost daughter Elle, and she becomes obsessed with her unanswered questions.”
Linda Quinn, Fairfield Public Library, Fairfield, CT 

Unbury Carol: A Novel

by Josh Malerman

Published: 4/10/2018 by Del Rey
ISBN: 9780399180163
“This horror novel, set in the Old West, is creepy, atmospheric, and suspenseful. A husband has nefarious plans for his comatose wife Carol. James Moxie, a legendary outlaw, sets off on The Trail to save her. Hot on James’ tail is a sinister hit man with a thirst for murder-by-fire and a supernatural entity, Rot, who wants to collect Carol.”
Sonia Reppe, Stickney-Forest View Public Library, Stickney, IL 

The Female Persuasion: A Novel

by Meg Wolitzer

Published: 4/3/2018 by Riverhead Books
ISBN: 9781594488405
“A complex coming of age story. A college student finds herself transformed by her experience with a renowned feminist and activist in the center of the women’s movement. This is a story of women finding their way and making mistakes in the world of men. This is a novel that makes you feel and think in equal measures.”
Chris Markley, Hawkins County Libraries, Rogersville, TN 

You Think It, I’ll Say It: Stories

by Curtis Sittenfeld
Published: 4/24/2018 by Random House
ISBN: 9780399592867

“A collection of ten short stories from the author of Eligible. Literary fiction with young adult appeal. Well-developed characters in fascinating circumstances. Poignant, timely, sad, funny, and cohesive. Sittenfeld shows her craft in a new form.”
Leanne Milliman, Charlevoix Public Library, Charlevoix, MI 

My Lady’s Choosing: An Interactive Romance Novel

by Kitty Curran and Larissa Zageris

Published: 4/3/2018 by Quirk Books
ISBN: 9781683690139
“A choose-your-own-adventure romance with Jane Austen flair. You are a spirited but penniless heroine in eighteenth-century society and courtship season has begun. Go!”
Victoria Catron, Neva Lomason Memorial Library,
Carrollton, GA 

The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After

by Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil

Published: 4/24/2018 by Crown
ISBN: 9780451495327
“Wamariya has written a heartbreaking account of her survival of the Rwandan genocide. In 1994, she and her sister fled Rwanda and spent the next six years migrating through Africa, looking for a safe haven. Told in alternating chapters, between her harrowing escape and her arrival in the US as a refugee.”
Janet Kowal, Connetquot Public Library, Bohemia, NY

Thursday, March 8, 2018

RA for All Virtual Roadshow: 2018 RA and Collection Development Trends Webinar for PCI

This year instead of doing a year end wrap up webinar, I switched gears and created a “What’s To Come” webinar instead. Both types of programs have a short shelf life, but I felt like it was more valuable to spend my time prepping you all for what is coming rather than focusing on what we already went through.

I debuted this program in a 90 minute version for RAILS here.

Today will be the final time I give this program, and I have shortened it to 60 minutes. Basically, I went through and reassessed what is the most important information and kept that.

This program not only highlights some of the most important trends in RA and CD but also, I go into detail on how to stay on top of trends all year long. Heck, if I can do it as a 42 year old suburban white lady, you can do it too.

While this webinar will run live from 2-3pm eastern today, PCI does provide archive access for all of their webinars.  Click here for details.

You can click here for the slide access for this afternoon’s webinar and here for the handout which contains all of the links.

Click Here for Slides Access

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Your Annual Reminder-- The Tournament of Books Starts Today!

This is your annual reminder that the Tournament of Books is beginning today. Every year I repost my explanations as to why it is a fun and valuable RA resource. This is not your average book award and not only because it is a battle between the books as judged by other writers using a bracket system.

With ToB we also get the most diverse list of “best books” you will see anywhere, both diverse in authorship and genre. With ToB you not only learn about great books and why they are wonderful, but you also learn about the judges themselves, also a very diverse group of people throughout the publishing industry.

Each “battle” has a full write up which gets to the heart of the two books’ appeal and structure. These essays give us valuable information on who would like the book and why. Readalikes are also often mentioned.

Oh and the comments. The readers who follow along religiously and have entire discussions about each pairing of books for pages and pages are THE BEST. Following just the comments is like reading a novel itself.

And don’t forget the back list. 13 previous years of backlist tourneys to be exact. Each with their own full bank of the above mentioned information and more! Every single page of ToB has the links to every past year [bottom right].

There is plenty here to make a display for “March Madness,” and The Morning News did all the work for you. You can even print out a bracket for your displays.

Click here for every ToB post on RA for All or see below for last year’s.

Make sure to stop by the ToB site daily for the next 2 weeks to see what’s going on. Also please consider supporting their sponsor, Field Notes. I not only visited, but I also placed an order. [Side note, as the mom of 2 lefties, I highly recommend their lefty notebooks. My kids love them.]


MONDAY, MARCH 13, 2017

Fill Out Your Brackets....Book Brackets: ToB XIII Is in Full Swing

Many of you are spending this morning signing up for NCAA basketball brackets and contemplating your choices between schools you have never heard of let alone knew they had a basketball team that was any good. [I’m looking at you Winthrop.]

Seriously though, even people who never watch any sports get in on the fun of “March Madness.” My husband loves to tell the story of his non-sports watching friend who in college filled out his bracket and chose the winners based on whose mascot would defeat whom. He won the whole thing by the way. So truly, anyone and everyone can do this.

Now, I am all for filling out a basketball bracket. It is tons of fun and gives everyone a rooting interest in the tourney, but people we are book experts. Thankfully for 13 years, the folks over at The Morning News have been running the Tournament of Books and it is amazing!

Click here to see this year’s tournament [currently on day 4] and to have easy access to the previous 12 years of tourneys. But first, read below where I have re-posted my comments from last year on why I love the ToB and how to use it as a resource. Yes it is fun AND can help you do your job better.

I would also like to point out that ToB is one of the most diverse best books discussions- both in the diversity of the authors and in the inclusion of multiple genres. And, it has been that way for 13 years; they are not bandwagon jumpers on this issue; they have led by example for over a decade.

This is a hotly contested tournament and conversation between the books and the book lovers. You should follow along both because it will help you to help readers and because as a book lover, this is your big time “bracketology."

Maybe when your friend sends you that invite for the NCAA bracket, you can send them the link to ToB.

And if you need help with your basketball brackets, just do what all of us here in Chicagoland are doing....pick Northwestern.



Today marks the start of the 2016 Morning News Tournament of Books.  The 12th annual! What is ToB?  It is what is sounds like-- a March Madness style tourney but with books battling it out. 

However, it is also  so much more.  

Back in 2014, I wrote a post entitled “Why Your Should Follow The Tournament of Books: A RA Perspective” that explains that “so much more” part a bit better. From that post:
“...if you are a fan of reading...anything...for will love following the ToB. I promise.  If I am wrong, you are a liar and you don’t love reading as much as you think you do. 
Each day they have 2 books from the previous year, so in this case 2013, squaring off in a March Madness bracket style, so that the titles get narrowed down to 1 final winner.  The final match is judged by all of the judges for fairness.  Click here to see the entire 2013 ToB IX. 
There is a judge, normally themselves an award winning author, who writes a long commentary on how the two book stack up against one and other.  Each official judge’s commentary and ruling is then followed by a commentary on that specific match and how it played out by The Morning News editors, Kevin Guilfoile and John Warner.
Here’s why this process is so great for you as a reader.  First, these books are not judged in a vacuum.   All of the books in the tourney have already been through that process and have been determined among the best books of the previous year.  Reading another author’s take on how a specific book fairs when paired with another specific book is fascinating.  Is it unfair? Probably, yes.  Depending on what you are against and by whom it is being judged, both of those factors can help predetermine the outcome. 
But, is it fun? Heck yeah.  As a book lover and reader, I simply adore reading the judge’s commentaries themselves.  Because the matches are judged by award winning authors, I often feel like the commentary they provide to pick a winner reads like a short story in and of itself. Also, since it is so arbitrary, the entire thing both validates and satirizes the awards process-- simultaneously.  I love that too. 
And Kevin and John playing the part of the “regular reader” is great for placing the match within the context of the entire tourney and the larger literary world.
So even if you are not a traditional literary fiction fan, I highly suggest you follow the ToB because doing so is like reading a novel about the best novels of 2013. It is the most fun year in a review you will even experience. 
I even think it is worth going back and re-reading the commentaries from past years.  Why? You will find many good backlist options for your patrons.  And, because the commentaries are so well done, you will gather great appeal information about the titles, making it easier to book talk them to your readers.  And, with older titles, there is sure to be a few lurking in the stacks. 
Wow, that was a lot of “Ands.”  But seriously, the ToB, all 10 years of it, is a gold mine of fabulous reading suggestions, with annotations written for you by other awesome authors.  This is almost too easy!  So start using the ToB as your new RA tool, and keep using it all year long."

Yes, as a book lover, following the ToB is fun. You can root for your favorites. You can follow the commentaries. You can post your own comments.  [Speaking of the comments, side note, the comments are also very rich with useful RA material. There is almost an entire separate tourney going on in the comments. So at least read them, if not participate yourself.]

But the ToB is, as I said 2 years ago, an awesome RA tool.  I regularly use the ToB websites from all previous 11 years to help readers.

Try it for yourself.  Click here for the introduction post to this year’s contest, which includes a run down of what to expect. From that link you can access the entire tournament for this year and every single past year.

Enjoy the tourney for yourself, but don’t forget to also use it to help your readers find their next great read.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Understanding and Articulating Appeal Through the Example of “A Love Letter to Saga"

One of my newest talking points when I visit libraries to provide RA training is to stress the importance of having conversations with patrons about books in general. Stop worrying a out the transaction of giving them their next read and instead focus on simply talking about Books. It is hard to get people to talk about what they like to read and why. The fact that we library workers are surprised by this is shocking to me. Why? Because when I ask them to talk about a book they really love, but to do it without relating the plot, they think it is impossible.

Of course I get them to do it and show them how easy it was once they tried. But the point I try to make is that we get frustrated that our patrons cannot articulate why they love something and what it means to them. Without that information, our job is a guessing game. And yet, we who are attuned to the issues, also struggle with it. 

Appeal is personal. We have to learn why we love what we love and practice articulating it to others. This serves as practice for us, yes, but it also is a way to model behavior for the readers we would like to assist. We can’t expect them to get better if we can’t do it ourselves.

But we also have to know what questions to ask our readers in order to help them to be more comfortable verbalizing what they like and why. In others words, we can practice and model all we like, but we still need examples of others articulating their feelings about a book so that we can practice being the listener as well as the talker. When we listen, we gather more experiences about how different books make people feel. We can hear the range of emotions and feelings that others associate with their favorite reads, giving us more examples to draw off of as we help others.

I create this experience in my training sessions by having participants book talk the same book multiple times over the course of the day to different people. I make them move around and be somewhere physically different each time, doing the best I can to make each experience unique even though the book they are sharing is the same. But the book they listen to, that changes each time. I then have the participants think about how different each conversation was even though one half of it was the same each time.

But this is one day. We need to have as many examples as there are readers so that each of us can improve as listeners. So that we can have conversations that truly get to the heart of the feel of that book to that specific reader. To that end I have suggestions of how to practice here [Rule 10], but also, just below that I talk about using Goodreads 5 star and 2 star reviews as a way to eavesdrop on patrons. See what real readers who had strong feelings about a book have to say about it.

Much of what you will notice is that these readers do not focus on the plot. They talk about how the book made them feel, or that it helped them through a hard time [for the 5 stars]. And the 2 stars, they talk about emotions too-- anger, disappointment, disgust. It’s not what happens in a book that is why we love it-- it is how the book makes us feel. This is something we need to understand and internalize if we want to be better at providing RA service.

Today, thanks to my Book Riot daily email which summarizes what’s been on the site, I came across one of the best examples of someone sharing their pure emotional response to a series that I have ever read-- "A Love Letter to Saga” by Laura Sackton. From the letter’s opening:
Dear Saga, 
You were my first. Before you, I’d hardly given comics a thought. I’d read Fun Home, and Maus, and Persepolis, but beyond that I’d never bothered to foray into graphic storytelling of any kind. Then, because I was intentionally diversifying the kinds of books I read, and because several friends recommended you, I picked you up.
Click here to read the full letter.

Ms Sackton takes on a complicated series, one I also personally love very much, and beautifully explains why she loves it-- feelings which are also complicated.

But “listening” to her complicated feelings is extremely instructive. Read it as a professional who matches books with readers. Never anywhere does she mention the plot. Never is what happens in the series the focus. This is what we are trying to do with our own patrons, get to the heart of why they love a certain story so that we can help them find this joy again, in something new.

Ms. Sackton’s example of expressing these feelings as a “love letter” is brilliant. It liberates the speaker from using plot. Love is not ever bound up in facts, it is about emotion, emotion that is sometimes irrational or doesn’t make complete sense, but you feel it nonetheless.

I am going to try to internalize Ms. Sackton’s example of articulating the appeal of a book you love as a "love letter” into my own book sharing; I am going to encourage those I train to think of it that way too; and finally, I am going to try it out on patrons. It is a lot easier to ask a reader to tell me what you would say about your feelings for a favorite book in a love letter than it is to ask them what they like about the, for example, characterization. We want them to share their feelings about their favorite reads, well then let’s ask them in a language everyone understands.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Two Webinars To Start Your Week [and a Teaser for a Third]

I am back from 5 days away at StokerCon. I will have a full update on the horror blog of what I learned at the conference including the full list of Bram Stoker Award winners, later today. [ed note: I will insert link here when I am done].

However, while I catch up on paperwork and emails I am listening to the archives of 2 free webinars today, so I figured I would pass them on to you too. Both were from Library Journal.

First is Sleeper Hits for Spring featuring titles from HarperCollins, Soho Press, and Severn House. I love these upcoming titles webinars because not only do I get to hear about new books so I can both order them and have some idea of who they would be good for, but when you see more than one publisher present a book buzz in the same program, you cannot help but see some larger trends emerging.
Second is a webinar that I cannot wait to dive into. Here is the link to view the recording and the program summary:

Recorded Books recently launched a streaming video service that allows your library patrons to binge-watch their favorite shows without breaking the library's budget. Now, your patrons can get unlimited access to all shows—not just a single show at a time. Initial services include Acorn TV® (the best in British TV) and four other offerings—with additional services coming soon.  
In this free webinar, you’ll hear library industry veterans Jim Schmidt and Brad Gray explain Recorded Books’ innovative streaming video offering, and how it differs from any other services offered to libraries today. 
What You’ll Learn:
  • Unlimited streaming video access—your patrons can watch all the shows they want
  • Extremely low cost—4+ times the content for the same price as other vendors
  • Wide range of streaming video services—including Acorn TV
  • Add to your collection efficiently—you only pay for usage
PanelistsBrad Gray, Solutions Engineer, Recorded BooksJim Schmidt, Vice President of Sales and Business Development, Recorded BooksModeratorRebecca Jozwiak, Library JournalPresented by: Recorded Books & Library Journal

Our patrons love to stream content through the library, this we know. But what we also know is that there are very high fees for us to offer this service. As the summary eludes to, we cannot budget accurately for these services because we cannot gauge how popular it will be. I have been involved with situations where streaming was offered to patrons and then we had to pull it before the end of the year because we couldn't afford to keep paying the per view fees. It is very upsetting to have to discontinue a popular services, but we cannot go broke over it either. The doors need to stay open and the lights need to stay on.

If you are going to PLA I am sure there will be more information available. I can't wait to see this product in action. It reminds me of PLA the last time it was in Philly when I saw the demo of a brand new product-- Hoopla!

Finally, while we are speaking of webinars, I will be giving one later this week, but later today I will be in a planning meeting for a brand new webinar with people from NoveList. It will be coming to a computer near you in April, so stay tuned!

Friday, March 2, 2018

Rogue Book Group Choices

Last week, I was sad to have to decline being on the Booklist/NoveList Live Event panel on Rogue Book Group Choices [I was traveling to Omaha that day].

But, they did great without me as you can see for yourself in the recording of the event. And I want to give a special shout out to Kathy Sexton, my former colleague and all together excellent RA librarian who appeared on the panel.

Click here to watch Rogue Book Group Choices for yourself [or another one of these events, including others featuring me] or, if you just want to see a list of the books without watching the recording, Susan Maguire from Booklist posted the titles on Booklist Reader here.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

StokerCon Librarians’ Day Publisher Book Buzz Slides

I am coordinating the entire Librarians’ Day today with Kristi Chadwick. Here is our full schedule for the day:
Librarians’ Day Programming 
8:30 to 9: Welcome/Registration  
9 -10am: Dacre Stoker, a direct descendent of Bram Stoker, will present “120 Years of Dracula: From Novel to Stage to Large and Small Screens.” 
10-10:50 am: Becky Spratford will be moderating a panel entitled, “Why Horror Matters: A Conversation With Experts on the Genre and Its Practitioners” featuring Eric Guignard, Les Klinger, Grady Hendrix, Andy Davidson, and Christopher Geissler, a librarian from the John Hay Library which holds the papers of H.P. Lovecraft among other horror legends. 
11- 11:50 am: Bram Stoker Nominated author Mary SanGiovanni will be moderating, “A Panel of Fresh Voices for Your Collections.” This panel will gather newer authors who many library workers may not have heard of before but whose works are a great choice for public library collections, including Nadia Bulkin, Stephen Kozeniewski, Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, and Morgan Sylvia.  
12 – 1:30 pm: All attendees will enjoy a lunch together with time for networking, socializing, and the chance to participate in an AMA [Ask Me Anything] with Becky and Kristi.  
1:30- 2:20 pm: After lunch, J.G. Faherty, the Library and Literacy Coordinator for HWA will moderate the panel, “Horror Programming at Your Library,” featuring Christopher Golden and his partner in the Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Festival, Haverhill [MA]  librarian Liz Rieur, as well as Grady Hendrix who in partnership with Quirk Books has presented at numerous public libraries across the country.
I will be taking furious notes for every panel, even the one I am moderating. I promise to write up a summary to post on the horror blog tomorrow.

But first, I want to start with the final session of the day, beginning around 2:30, Kristi and I will be moderating a Book Buzz for upcoming titles for your horror fans featuring publishers from huge to small [with a few who fit in between].

When they asked me to run Librarians’ Day I knew offering a Book Buzz was the most important part of the day, both for the publishers to have a chance to share their horror tittles and for the attendees, actually, for everyone out there who reads this blog to see what is coming down the pike. These are titles that every library should consider purchasing and promoting. Plus, Book Buzz slides are easy for me to share far and wide, even for those of you who couldn’t join us in Providence today. 

Those in attendance are going home with totes, posters, pens, and books courtesy of the publishers, but everyone can learn about these great titles today.

Below, you can click on the name of the publisher to see their slides complete with book covers, appeal statements, ISBNs, and more.

StokerCon 2018 Librarians’ Day Publisher Book Buzz
March 1, 2018
Biltmore Hotel
Providence, RI