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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

ALA Annual 2018 Report: LibraryReads 101

One of the programs I was most excited to attend at ALA Annual was Library Reads 101. As my readers know, I love LibraryReads, but I have also never been afraid to provide the group with constructive criticism. Since the steering committee hired their first Executive Director, Rebecca Vnuk, I knew the entire organization was committed to making meaningful tweaks to this wonderful program, and I wanted to be there to her all about it.

Before I start my recap you can see the color slides here or the black and white pdf for easy printing here.

The program began with the why you should participate. I have found that this is the highest hurdle to getting people to be a part of the process. Seriously, as I travel the country and try to convince library workers to participate, it is harder for me to convince them why their voice is needed. Once they start and realize how easy and fun it is, they never stop.

I really appreciate the time the panel spent on this WHY. Here is the slide with the bullet points:

Now, let me elaborate a bit. The things on this slide are important, but I have heard these and passed them on to you many times. The panelists shared some other tidbits that really got me excited, so I thought I would pass them on to you.

Stephen mentioned one reason right at the beginning that I loved-- The kid and YA book world are so good at creating excitement. Adult books rarely reach that level of excitement. Adults deserve some excitement too. Who better to do this than us? We are the adult book pushers. That is why we have LibraryReads.

Speaking of, at its outset 5 years ago [!] LR was a little loose about including YA, but they are very strict now about not allowing it. They want to focus on fiction and nonfiction meant for adults. Adults deserve great reads as much as kids. We are the book experts who can lead them there.

Speaking of excitement, I learned another great reason to participate, actually it was my favorite and the MOST important [in my opinion]-- the reason the nomination deadlines are so early is because the publishers want to be ready to promote the book WE are so excited about. Yes, they actually do care what we like because there is now hard data that the publisher see a clear boost in orders for the books that make he list.

Please do not underestimate this as a reason to participate. We are making our collective voice heard. Sometimes we identify a book that the publishers were not planning on pushing too hard, but then when they see we loved it, they literally switch gears and get behind that title, big time. Guys, this is important information.

I know I have been encouraging you NOT to vote for the big names, but rather put your votes behind less mainstream, more inclusive titles, but all without proof that it would make a difference with the publishers. Now I have proof. [I also have more to say about the big author issue below.]

The fourth bullet point-- “Enhance your RA skills”-- is also a big one and the panel spent a lot of time on that one later in the program, but first let me share the easy “how-to” participate that the panel shared.

Please use the links above to follow the easy step by step screen shots on how to participate but again I have a few comments to add:

  • You can vote for books coming out in any month. Yes, you can vote for books for the next list, but you can also vote for a book for a list not due out for months from now. There is no limit to how early you can vote, just how late you can.
  • You have to click “REVIEW” to vote. But, you do not have to actually review it. What you need to do in the “review” dialog box is go to the top right corner of the box where you could write a review and click on “Submit to.”
  • “Submit to” is what a vote is. So you would choose “LibraryReads” if you want to vote for it.
  • You can also “Submit to" the publisher at the same time. “Publisher” is a box you can check. You can check as many boxes as you want. 
  • I honestly was “meh” on sharing with the publisher and wasn’t going to advocate either way for you, until....
  • ...the day after this program I was chatting with Golda, the library marketing person for Norton, and she said she wished that more LibraryReads voters shared their votes with her. She wants to know [good and bad] how library workers feel about the books she has on her list. It helps her to promote the correct books to our audience and she can share our thoughts with the larger corporate structure. She has no idea how we feel about titles that don’t make the LR list unless we tell her. Please share with the publisher.
This final bullet point was a mind blow for me. I never thought of Golda’s point from the larger perspective. Only 10 books can be on the LR list each month, but hundreds of books garner votes. However, unless we choose to share our vote with the publisher, they don’t see those runners up.

As I reported earlier, the publishers have seen our voice makes a difference in sales for the “winners,” but what about those titles that still get a lot of votes, titles the publisher wasn’t really focused on previously, but that don’t win. Well, if we let them know with every single vote by clicking the “Submit to” publishers box every time we click “LibraryReads,” well, we can make our voice heard on even more titles.

Thanks to Golda for this important insight. 


Now back to the “Reviews.” Many people tell me they can’t possibly write such eloquent annotations  for the books as the ones they see on the final list. But guess what I found out...no one can! Ha. If you want the chance to have your review show up on the list, Lynn had some great advice.

First, there are many slides in the presentation devoted to how to write better annotations, beginning with this one:

Slides 12-20 go into great detail about how to write a great LR annotation.

But here’s the thing, the second thing I learned-- just try your best. It is great way to practice your RA skills. Use their advice in these slides to try to capture why you are so excited about this book. The practice alone is worth it.

And third, NO ANNOTATION IS EVER TAKEN EXACTLY FROM THE VOTE AND USED WITHOUT A CHANCE TO IMPROVE IT.

Seriously, I didn’t know this either. Lynn is one of the Steering Committee members whose job it is to go through all of the submitted “reviews” for the winners and identify ones that are promising. She then works with the person who submitted it to edit the annotation. This is great for two reasons. First, Lynn said they find the person who is very excited and who has good reasons, first. The enthusiasm is key. Then they can work together on the exact wording. And second, the LR annotations can have a general standard which makes them a better resource going forward because a steering committee member is involved.

Since the LR Steering Committee merely oversees the entire LR voting process and do not have any say on who wins, this is where they can help make their mark on the list as a valuable resource in perpetuity.

So while I will not make a stand here to tell my readers they MUST do a review in order to vote. I did like learning that anything you add might get you tagged to work on writing the official review and, most importantly, you will be helped through the process. Every annotation you see has been edited. So don’t be afraid you aren’t “good” enough at writing them. Give it a try. You might get your annotation up on the list. But before you try, I highly suggest using slides 12-20 to get you started and headed in the correct direction.

The program then moved into ways you can use LR for Collection Development and RA. Again click here to see slides 18 and 19 where this is addressed. Many of the things Rebecca talked about here are things that I have mentioned many times on this blog but I think she summed it up making the following points which I tweeted out:

 LR wants to help you be better at your job. You cannot possibly read every book, but by using the list, you can know about a lot more of them. And in this case, they are “pre-approved” by your colleagues.
The panel ended by reminding us that this fall marks LibraryReads 5th Anniversary. Wow! And now with Rebecca as the first paid employee of the organization, many changes are coming.

A few changes like making the voting even easier and revamping the website are obvious, but two big changes I want to talk about really speak to the feedback and constructive criticism I, and others, have been giving them.

The first one is HUGE. LR is going to create a “Hall of Fame” list of authors. This addresses the issue of the big name authors getting so many of the votes. Since LR is strictly based on who gets the most votes, it makes sense that better known authors with a new book will garner a lot of votes. Many library workers don’t realize that they are diluting the votes for the smaller titles when they vote for people like Louise Penny. Who doesn’t love Louise Penny? We are all excited when she has a new book, but that is the point...we all know about her.

So rather than not letting you vote for authors like Penny, you can still send all your love for them. However, authors who always end up on the list [there will be some rules about this] will be acknowledged as LR “Hall of Fame” for that month. They will still get to be a LR pick. BUT, they will not take up a top 10 spot. This frees up another spot on the list for a less well known author. This is brilliant. Now authors big and small can still get the recognition they deserve. I am beyond happy about this change.

And second, LR is going to start expanding their reach beyond the list. They will begin offering programming both in person regionally and online with the ultimate goal of LR also reaching out to all of the regional organizations that provide RA CE [like ARRT] so that LR can act as a single clearinghouse where library workers can go to see all of their options for training, all over the country, in one place.

After listening to the program I asked a question that came up during the presentation. It was mentioned by a panelist that it is very hard to get some of the smaller publishers onto Edelweiss or NetGalley so they can be eligible for the monthly list. As LR works right now you can ONLY be on the list if your titles are on those platforms. Now, LR is looking into other ways to include smaller presses, but it appears that the biggest hurdle for the smaller presses is that the member fees for Edelweiss and NetGalley are cost prohibitive. So when the question portion came I asked the panel what we could do as library workers to help these smaller publishers. How can we advocate for them and ask Edelweiss lower their fees? Those of us in the room brainstormed a few ideas. One idea we all liked was to encourage them to adopt a “per capita” model like databases do for libraries, where we pay based on our population. The LR Steering Committee promised to think about it and get out some ideas to all of us. I trust them because many of the other concerns I have passed on to them over the last 5 years are being addressed. They listen.

As you can see, there was a lot of very useful information in this 101 program. I highly recommend you take some time to look at the slides, consider this additional information in my report, and then start participating in LibraryReads because Library Reads is us.

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