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 including RA for All's EDI Statement.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Monday Discussion: Flights of Fancy

The staff here at the BPL is crazy for the HBO series Game of Thrones and the George R.R. Martin books in the Song of Ice and Fire Series on which the TV show is based.

While these books are decidedly fantasy, many non-fantasy readers who enjoy epic historical fiction also read them.  They are set in a world much like the time of the War of the Roses and the magical elements are definitely there but they are not at the forefront.

As a result I have readers coming in who are surprised that the books are in the fantasy section.

On the other hand, I had the penultimate class for the semester last week and I showed the same NoveList training video I always show.  In it a patron describes his personal reading tastes in his own words.  A few times he mentions how he likes westerns because they are "fantasy."  I stress with the students that while we know it must have magic to be a fantasy, to this reader, westerns are so far removed from his day-to-day life that they are fantasy to him.

These two situations paired together got me thinking about what I like to read when I want some "fantasy."  But not only the magical kind.  I am talking about when I want a book to take me somewhere completely different.

I think for me, true textbook "fantasy" usually has a darker, more macabre (or horror) element, like the Locke and Key series which I love!  But I think I also frequently read historical fiction for its "fantasy" like my video patron mentioned above.  A recent book that I found to fit this fantasy appeal for me was The Known World.

What about you?  For today's Monday Discussion let me know what you consider a "fantasy" read.  It could be plain fantasy or "fantasy to you."  Types of books or specific titles are fine.

For past Monday Discussions click here.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

2012 Edgar Awards

The biggest awards in crime fiction were given out this weekend.

There are many posts about it everywhere, but here is the link to the official announcement:

Friday, April 27, 2012

ARRT Program on eBook RA and Collection Development

On Tuesday afternoon I headed out to the 95th Street Branch of the Naperville Public Library to attend the ARRT Spring Program entitled, "eBook Readers' Advisory and Collection Development."

The presenters were Jessica Moyer Assistant Professor, School of Information Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Bleue Benton Collection Development Manager, Oak Park Public Library.  The talk was broken into 2 parts.

 1. Who is the eReader?

Jessica went first and set the stage by focusing her talk on the break down of the rich data collected by the Pew Internet and America Life survey that focused on the rise of eReading.  You can click here for the report's summary which also has links to the full report.

The highlights very briefly (in bullets) with my added comments (indented below the bullets) are:
  • People are reading more in general because of eBooks.  72% of American adults read a printed book last year.  21% read an eBook, but of the 72% if adults who read, 29% read an eBook too.  To flip it further, 88% of those eBook readers also read a printed book
    • Yeah! eBooks are increasing people's reading numbers overall.  Five years ago we were seeing numbers in the 20 percents of adults who had read a book in a given year.  And eBook readers don't only read eBooks.  This is also good news. 
  • The increase in people reading an eBook on a typical day since 2010 is 4 fold.
    • These big increases are because we were at 0 a few years ago, so this growth is not surprising.  At some point, however, it will level off like all new formats do.
  • The vast majority of eReaders are between 18-49 with almost another 1/4 in the 50-64 range. But all of them prefer to buy their eBooks rather than borrow them.
    • We are seeing that 50-64 range coming into the library for help, but the 18-49 are either doing it from home or just by-passing the library altogether. Not good for us.
    • It is too difficult to download from the library (lots of steps) and the demand is so high, there really is nothing available immediately.  Since eBook readers also seem to be more affluent, they don't mind buying their books.  But they are reading on average 2 a month, so eventually it will get too expensive.
  • eBook readers read for all sorts of reasons: pleasure, information, current events (especially magazines) and work or school.
    • This made me think for the first time how key it is going to be to move our magazine subscriptions to a electronic model.  I love my New Yorker and InStyle on the iPad; I don't know why I never thought of it for the library.  Maybe because I am not a big magazine borrower.
  • The mass market paperback is the format being made obsolete by eBooks
    • Jessica pointed out that the mass market paperback is not very old as a format anyway.  The hard cover is not going anywhere though and that really is the library's main print book format.
  • People who read eBooks get their suggestions for what to read next from everywhere but the library.
    • We need to be more relevant here.
Again, this is a very brief overview of her overview.  The full report is here and I highly suggest you take a look at it.

In terms of Jessica's RA suggestions when it comes to eBook readers, she reminded us that eBooks are simply another format.  We need to be format neutral and remind patrons that we can help them find their next good read no matter the format.  We need to start advertising that we offer eBooks more and can provide the same services for eReaders as we do for print readers.

She pointed out that many people bring their eReaders into the library to use our wireless to download books they are purchasing.  Even if they are going to buy the books and not borrow them from us, we can still help them to pick a book based on their reading tastes.  We need to remind them of how much they need us.

2. eBook Collection Development

This data set the stage very well for Bleue who focused on the collection development issues of eBooks.  This is the area where I think we all need the most guidance.

She began by explaining the ever changing issues about which publishers are allowing their books to even be checked out at libraries.  Of the Big 6, 2 don't allow it right now, and the others have serious restrictions, but this is an ever changing issue.  Bleue explained why it is so difficult for the publishers and the libraries to work out a fair model.  I appreciated how she explained the issue from all sides.  It is very complicated, but the short answer is, everyone needs to keep working through the issues together and soon it will all be resolved.  We are talking about huge changes in pricing and delivery models.  The publishers still need to make money or they will no longer produce any books.

In terms of specific collection development, Bleue had many good points and suggestions.  Again, the highlights are below:
  • We are so busy trying to keep up with demand on new titles, that we are forgetting to build depth in our e-collections. The mid list is especially underrepresented, and this is an area where libraries excel in print.
  • Currently, there is NO weeding going on with eBooks.  This is because there is currently no way libraries can weed in OverDrive, but also, since most of the buying is through consortia, weeding needs to be done collectively.
  • Because weeding is impossible right now, Bleue reminded us that we should be careful about buying eBooks like law and medical titles which do need to be weeded frequently.
  • An issue I never even thought of--- some day we will be able to weed eBooks, but think about when we weed print books now.  We can resell them in our Friends used book sales.  We get a good deal of revenue from these sales (at Berwyn we get about $300 a month).  With eBooks, you simply delete them from a virtual place and they are gone forever.
  • Since consortia are the most popular sharing model right now, there needs to be better pricing models which place a larger burden on the bigger users.  In Oak Park's consortia (which Berwyn is a part of) they are the biggest user (in the thousands) while the smallest user had less than 10 downloads.
  • She ended with a few purchasing suggestions for building better collections.
    • When buying, keep your orders small.  Don't go crazy buying too many titles at once.  Take the time to see how the titles you are buying are going over with patrons before adding more.
    • When you have time, consider adding the back list titles of popular authors.  This will build your back list.
    • Use a hold management system to automatically add titles when demand necessitates it.
    • Buy lots of inexpensive titles to get your quantity up.  Everything they put on sale that your patrons would read should be bought.  Specifically, she mentioned that romance titles are very popular and a good value for the money.
    • Don't forget that short genres do very well in the "e" format: poems, essays, and short stories.  They actually do better in "e" than print.
    • Try to think of your "e" collections as a part of your entire collection and don't buy just by format.  In other words, consider the authors and titles you are adding to your collections on their own merit and then buy in all the formats you want for your patrons.
This last point was the most useful thing I learned at the workshop.  I am guilty of this problem.  We get so wrapped up in the new formats that we forget to consider the whole picture of our collection.  Our collections need to be consider as their own beast, regardless of format.  The same people selecting fiction should be selecting it for print, audio, and eBooks.  Too often this does not happen (it doesn't happen at Berwyn).  I think with the increase in popularity of eBooks, now is the time to remind our selves of this important point.

So that's my report with comments.  It is not everything, but the points I thought were most pertinent to a large audience.

Please remember to go back to the full Pew report.

Also, No Shelf Required is still the best place to stay on top of "e" news.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

RA and Marketing

How many of you out there working at a service desk at your public library took a marketing class?  I am guess none-2 is the range here. But, how many of you are finding that marketing yourself and your fabulous services has begun to suck up more and more of your time?  Here I am guess most of you would answer in the affirmative.

I have never had professional marketing training, but over the years I have made an effort to learn more about marketing and how to use it to promote library services and programs.  One way I have stayed up to date is by teaching 1/2 of 1 class in my RA course on Marketing each semester.  It is not much, but it forces me to keep up.

Over my 12 years in public libraries as a librarian, library educator, and library trustee, I have also seen more and more libraries adding full time non-library marketing people to add to their staffs.  Many of them are then sent to library school after being hired (I have taught more than a handful of these people).  We need the marketing expertise so badly now, we are willing to sacrifice the library knowledge in the short term.

The point here...marketing is becoming an essential part of our jobs, but we are all hunting and pecking for the skills we need to fill this huge chasm between what we are trained to do and what we are actually being asked to do.

Thankfully, I have found a new resource to help bridge that chasm: 658.8 Practical Marketing for Public Libraries.  Run by Susan Brown, the marketing director at the Lawrence Public Library in Lawrence, KS, 658.8 is a forum for her to  share her passion about readers’ services, social media, and marketing and merchandising for public libraries.  For more on Ms. Brown, click here.

She regularly posts useful advice and resources which can be quickly understood and implemented by any librarian.

What I like about 658.8 is how she is able to look to the outside world for marketing inspiration, but is constantly making the library specific connections for you.  I barely have enough time to help patrons and order new fiction some days.  I need to be thinking outside the box for marketing, but honestly, it falls by the wayside to more pressing demands.  But by subscribing to 658.8's feed, I don't have to feel bad anymore.  I am letting Ms. Brown come up with the ideas and advice, and I can apply it to my specific community.  Thank you 658.8.

Anyone working at a public library, but especially those in RA, should check out 658.8.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Trending: Social Reading

Joyce Saricks passed this article on to me.  It happens to be by a Dominican student (although not one who took our class).

Entitled, What Is Social Reading and Why Libraries Should Care, Allison Mennella defines social reading and discusses at length how libraries can promote and encourage reading and the sharing of books across digital platforms in their communities.

Now social reading is not that new of a trend.  People have been using Facebook and Goodreads to have conversations about books for years now, but libraries have been slow to join in.

This trend is growing and it is one I have been particularly interested in too.  As noted here in my 10 Rules of Basic RA Service, I have seen "bridging the physical-virtual divide" as developing into a key issue in RA service.

For me, however, I am less focused on the social networking for its own sake, and more interested in how we should think of our virtual work with leisure readers as the other side of the same coin of the work we are already doing to help the readers who come into the physical building.

I see the key to any success with the library's involvement in social reading coming only if we keep the book at the heart of it all.

But take a look at Allison's article on social reading.  She has a lot of good ideas on how the library can connect virtually with readers throughout their community.

For those who are interested, I will be talking about this issue at greater length next week at Reaching Forward, and I addressed it briefly in this article for NoveList RA News.

Click here for more Trending Articles.

New York Public Library Changes

I don't know if many of you are following the controversy currently going on with the New York Public Library, but I feel it is important to point out since it pits those who want the library to be used for research vs those who want the public to enjoy all the system has to offer. [I am sure you know which side I am on.]

The new President of the New York Public Library, Tony Marx, has waged an active campaign to make the entire system more democratic.

Before I go into more detail, I want to begin by saying I was a big Marx supporter before he became the President of the NYPL.  He most recently was President of my alma matter, Amherst College, where he fought to make access to an elite private education more accessible and affordable to everyone. Click here for articles about his work in this area.

So, when the NYPL hired him, I assume they were saying they wanted similar changes to happen for them.  Currently, Marx has spearheaded an ambitious plan to change the main library from a place solely for scholars to work into a true place for the public.  You can click here for the full details and controversy it is causing.

The backlash is coming from famous scholars, but it is best summed up by a former colleague of Marx's here:

“The library is being repositioned less as an institution that thinks of research and scholarship than as a kind of fashionable place for intellectuals that is more about entertainment than depth of knowledge,” said Ilan Stavans, a professor in Latin American and Latino culture at Amherst College, where Mr. Marx was formerly president. 
“Research is going to pay a heavy price with this change,” he added.
Then on Sunday, Edmund Morris wrote an op-ed moving the argument even further into the obnoxious category. In the piece, a man who I already thought of as full of himself (remember he wrote this official biography of Reagan where he made himself a character) look like a total elitist, jerk, arguing that the main branch of the NYPL is meant for serious research.

Okay, I am trying very hard to stay civil here, but OMG, did they forget that this is the new York PUBLIC library.  Like any public library it is paid for with the tax dollars of those who live and own businesses in the city.  It is the people's library.  The focus should be on the people and what they want from their library.

Marx gets this.  I assume the NYPL Board gets this too or else why did they hire Marx?  This is what he does.  He makes elite places open to all.

I could go on about this for hours, but I urge you to educate yourself on the issue.

I will leave you with this final point.  Please remember the library, its content, and services all belong to the people whose tax dollars pay for it.  Our services should reflect their needs.  It should be open and relevant to the people.

Oh, and as a post script I want to say something as a proud New Jersey native-- researchers, stop complaining that many of the lesser used materials will be shipped to NJ for storage.  It is close and quite pleasant there.  And what's your hurry Morris.  It takes you years to write a new book; what kind of difference is a 24 hour wait for your materials really going to make.  Especially if moving those documents that someone needs once every 10 years means the actual residents of NYC will get to enjoy their beautiful main branch library with the materials they want and need.  Sorry you have to mix with the peons dude.

Thanks for letting me rant.  I feel much better now.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

World Book Night Recap

So we had a successful World Book Night here at the BPL.  I was unable to go hand the books myself due to family obligations, but our fearless leader, Kathy and Jose from Circulation, along with 2 patrons hit the Depot District to hand out books.

One of those patrons, Alena, has her own blog and posted this great recap of how the night went, along with pictures.

It was a great night of handing out free books to people.

Thanks to all those out there who participated.

Leave a comment and let me know how your World Book Night went.

BPL Book Discussion: I Capture the Castle

I Capture the Castle
Last week, the BPL book discussion group met to discuss the 1948 classic novel by Dodie Smith,who is best known for 101 Dalmatians, I Capture the Castle is the captivating story of a British family at a cross roads.  From Reading Group Guides:
The glorious return of one of the century’s most beloved novels! I Capture the Castle is as brightly witty and adventuresome today as it was when it was first published fifty years ago. Long unavailable in American stores, it has been lovingly passed down from generation to generation. Until its reissue, it enjoyed the rare privilege of being one of the most requested items of used bookdealers.
I Capture the Castle tells the story of seventeen-year-old Cassandra and her family, who live in not-so-genteel poverty in a ramshackle English castle. Here she strives, over six turbulent months, to hone her writing skills. She fills three notebooks with sharply funny yet poignant entries. Her journals candidly chronicle the great changes that take place within the old castle’s walls, and her own first descent into love. By the time she pens her final entry, she has “captured the castle”--and the heart of the reader--in one of literature’s most enchanting entertainments.
Now on to our discussion:
  • We had a lighter crowd this month, which was fine since things have been getting a bit crowded at book club.  7 people liked the book, 4 were in the so-so category, and only 1 disliked it.
  • Many people of the 11 who liked or were so-so thought that it started off slow.  Since it is written as the journal of a 17 year old girl (who experience wise, is much younger than her years) they felt it was a bit slow to start.  A few people said there was too much detail.  However, they all found Cassandra charming so kept going.  As she improved in her writing skills the readers had more interest.  Also, later I outright asked the group if the rest of the book would have been as enjoyable if the first section was not as detailed.  They all agreed that the detail was needed for the reader to understand the characters, why they lived in poverty in a castle, and why they make the choices they do at the end.
  • Speaking of the journal.  This novel has a unique style which we discussed at length.  It is written in three parts, each part being a different journal Cassandra fills up.  The journals get more expensive as the family's fortune's pick up.  A few members have been life long journal writers and they shared their experiences.  They appreciated the detail but noted how writing a journal gives you insight into yourself. They saw Cassandra grow in this regard throughout the book.
  • Another person mentioned how the journal style allowed us to see the perspective of poverty from someone who had plenty when younger but now had to go without so much.  This participant drew comparisons to families going through hard times today.  Yet another brought it up to today by noting that they didn't think young people could write journals with this much insight and detail today.  Someone brought up the very first scene in the book as an example.  Cassandra is sitting on the drain board by the sink and simply trying to "capture" her family, each person, their surroundings, and their daily routines.  She patiently sits and records and goes back to fill it all in after the fact.  It was quite remarkable.
  • Characters: We talk a lot about the eccentric, rich, quirky and well developed characters throughout this novel.  Here are some of the things that were said about specific characters.
    • Cassandra: our narrator.  Her clarity and maturity came from her journaling, but she was still a child in many ways.  She wondered about things. She was close to nature.  Many participants mentioned the beauty of the scenes when she writes about swimming around the moat at night with Neil (one of the American brothers who enter their lives) and the Mid-Summer's Eve ritual she begins alone and finished with Simon (the other brother).  Even though Cassandra is our only point of view here, it did not feel one-sided.  No one longed for the voices of the other characters because she did such a great job "capturing" everyone.
    • Rose: Cassandra's big sister and the one who gets engaged to the rich American, Simon Cotton.  She came across as shallow but we forgave her because she had so little life experience.  She was extremely beautiful.  All Rose knew about love was what she learned from old novels.  In Jane Austen's time the only option for a woman was to get married.  She also thought she needed to marry up to help her family.
      • Interestingly, Rose and Cassandra together show how women's options were changing, we decided. Rose eventually marries Neil, the wilder brother and moves to America, still raising her family's financial standing, while Cassandra rebuffs Simon's love.  We think she would go on to become a writer.  She hints that she will one day write her father's biography.
    • Speaking of Neil and Simon and the love triangle with Rose.  Only three of us figured out before the end that Rose and Neil were really the ones in love, not Simon and Rose. We decided it was hard to figure out because we saw everything through Cassandra's eyes and she had no idea what was truly going on.  What she doesn't notice, we don't notice.
    • The Cottons were interesting.  Their $$ opened doors for Cassandra and her family. Simon was so infatuated with all things English, Mrs Cotton was infatuated with Cassandra's father the recluse author, and Neil, well he seemed to like none of it, but actually he loved Rose.
    • The Father: the famous author of Jacob Wrestling.  The family is in poverty because after an incident where he went to jail briefly, he never wrote again.  His masterpiece, Jacob Wrestling, and especially its popularity in America had kept them going for many years. Throughout the novel, the plot of Jacob Wrestling is referred to but never discussed at length.  We deduced that it was probably a pre-James Joyce modern novel.  It was probably an obtuse retelling of the biblical story of Jacob wrestling with the angel.  By the end of I Capture the Castle he is writing a new novel which is an attempt to recreate the development of thought in children and their learning process into narrative form
      • We talked about why it took so long for the father to break his creativity drought.  Some of us were upset that he let the family almost starve while he did nothing.  Could it be depression.  The intellectual attention of Mrs Cotton seemed to snap him out of it.  But a few others noted that when the Cotton's came into the picture, the family also started eating regularly and that could have done a lot to make the father more productive as a writer.  There is also a lot in this novel hinting at the beginnings of psycho analysis.  Mrs Cotton became a therapist for him, in a way.
  • The book has a very open ending.  While Neil and Rose go off to America and get married, we don't know what will become of Cassandra and if she will marry Simon one day or not.  In the face of open endings, we always vote.  We were 9-3 in favor of Cassandra and Simon remaining close friends (with Simon writing literary essays about the father's work and Cassandra possibly writing his biography) but not marrying.  We supported our opinion because in the novel Cassandra is challenging Simon to grow up.  She thinks it is appalling that he asked her to marry him even though he is still in love with Rose.  We also decided that she needs a Stephen/Simon hybrid guy.  Those 3 who thought they would marry some day confessed to being romantics.
  • We talked about the title some. Cassandra talks about using her journal to "capture" her family and their life.  But someone else mentioned how the title reminded them of the game "capture the flag." This enhanced Cassandra's playful and whimsical side to that person.  We also felt that Cassandra captured herself too.  Her writing helped her to come of age and find herself.
  • There are many class issues in this novel.  The family is poor but they are still considered from the upper classes.  In the beginning when they are trying to figure out a job Rose or Cassandra could get, none are deemed appropriate for them.  I was thinking that one of them could go to London and be a nanny, but that was not even mentioned.  Though Stephen, their houseboy, who was never paid, except in room and board, can easily go work on the neighboring farm and use his salary to run the household.  That is just one example of the myriad of class issues subtly outlined here.
  • We were all touched by the conversation between Cassandra and the Vicar toward the end of the novel.  We loved his description of God and how the Vicar felt it was more important to be spiritual than religious.  He told Cassandra to go sit in the empty church and see what she felt.  We talked about this conversation and Cassandra's spirituality at length and decided that the conversation between the two of them could still happen today.  It was very well done and struck us all as important.
  • We ended by talking about why this novel is still appealing to readers.  Here are some of the reasons people gave:
    • it's timeless
    • dreams come true
    • it is a coming of age story
    • a book about a writer
    • romantic
    • great descriptions, especially of the castle.
  • Finally I asked  why post-WWII readers found this novel appealing.
    • It was a nice story for escape after the horrors of war
    • England as a whole went through extreme poverty after WWII, so readers there could relate
    • For many American readers, English society, especially castles, has always been of interest
    • Finally, the English/American dichotomy set up here would have been timely after fighting side by side in WWII
Readalikes:  As I mentioned here, Cassandra reminded me of Flavia de Luce.  But another member also mentioned how much this novel reminded her of watching Downton Abbey on PBS.  And still another member was very interested in reading more about old English castles. Just click on the links in the previous sentence to access more information about these readalike options.

Cassandra and her sister Rose often comment that they feel like they are in a Jane Austen or Bronte sisters  novel.  You can use the links for more suggestions.  Also, our book club will be reading Sense and Sensisbility by Austen in June.  We planned this to come after I Capture the Castle for discussion's sake. Come back the third week of June to see how that went.

A few other suggested novels would be*:
  • A Brief History of Montmaray  by Michelle Cooper which is narrated by a 16 year old girl who chronicles her life on a tiny island as a German researcher visits right on the brink of WWII.
  • Cold Comfort Farm  by Stella Gibbons which follows another eccentric family, the Starkadders, as a distant cousin visit their Sussex farm.  The cousin sets things in order, which ironically puts the family into chaos.
  • The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice is set in 1950s England, also in a crumbling mansion, and involves a friendship which catapults the poor girl into London's high society.
  • Don't forget the work of L.M. Montgomery also.  Most would be a good readalike, but think beyond Anne of Green Gables and turn to Emily's Quest.  Set in the early 1900's on Prince Edward Island, this novel is the last of the Emily Star trilogy and follows Emily as she learn what it means to be in love.
*suggestions found with the help of NoveList.  Use link for access for Berwyn Public Library card holders with their library card number.

Monday, April 23, 2012

World Book Night

I will not have a Monday Discussion today because I wanted to promote World Book Night.

Here is the official World Book Night press release for givers as edited for the BPL specifically:

Who is helping to give out half a million free books all across America on one day? 
The Berwyn Public Library Is!
WHO: From Kodiak, Alaska, to Key West, Florida, in 6,000 towns and cities across America, 25,000 volunteers will give away half a million free books on one day: April 23, 2012.
WHAT: World Book Night U.S. is an ambitious campaign to personally give out thousands of free, specially printed books across America. Volunteer book lovers like myself will help promote reading by going into our communities and handing out free copies of a book we love to new or light readers, reaching them especially in underserved places – and even some fun spots. Volunteers will be picking up the books at a local bookstore or library in order to go out and share them in locations as diverse as VA hospitals, nursing homes, ballparks, mass transit, diners, and more.
We are very proud to be a part of the first World Book Night in the U.S., following the impressive launch of this campaign in the UK and Ireland last year.
On April 23, 2012 with 20 copies of The Hunger Games, 10 copies of The Kite Runner and 10 copies of Little Bee  we have a group who will be handing books out at the Metra Station from 5:30 until we run out.
For more information about World Book Night, please go to www.worldbooknight.org
How did we get 3 books to hand out?  Well, we asked to be a giver as the library and then a patron and her mother also signed up to be givers.  They traded half of their books to each other, giving us 3 titles to handout. 

If you live in Berwyn, look for our givers on the train platform this evening.  If you live anywhere in the US, please be on the look out for strangers giving away books.  If someone puts a book in your hand tonight, please take it.  If you don't want it, pass it on.

If you want to share information about your World Book Night Activities, please leave a comment on this post.

And to all the book lovers out there, enjoy this day to celebrate the power of a good read.  I hope it is successful and that we can do it again next year.  A special thanks to all of the sponsors for providing free copies of 500,000 books.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Historical Novel Society's New Site

Over on her historical fiction blog, Reading the Past, Sarah Johnson announced the complete reboot of the Historical Novel Society's website:

Under the guidance of founder/publisher Richard Lee, a small group of us have been working out the organization with our web designer, moving much of the existing content over, and inputting and categorizing a large number of reviews from the print Historical Novels Review magazine. 
At present, over 2400 reviews are online.  You can search or browse them by various criteria - author, title, subgenre, historical period, century, publisher, reviewer name, and more.  The newest material went online first, and we plan include the rest as well - since 1997, the HNS has published over 12,000 reviews of historical novels and selected historical nonfiction.  It's a big project! 
Many of the feature articles and profiles from back issues of HNR andSolander are also online, in addition to original content commissioned for the website.  The HNS's list of forthcoming historical novels is online too.  Coming soon is a special members-only section, with additional content, discount codes, and a place for members to post their website URLs, blog details, and more.  
I finally had a chance to head on over, and I have to say, I am quite impressed.  I rarely used the old site because it was cluttered and difficult to navigate.

This new site is clean and crisp with the review indexes clearly found in the top right corner.  I can now use the site to locate materials for my patrons quickly and easily.  When you click on a review search category, such as "Genre," you are presented with a tag cloud.  You then click a tag, like "epic" and a list of options appears.

I already have a few patrons in mind who I will use to put this newly renovated site to the test.  Nothing shows a resource's worth more than seeing whether or not it can answer a patron's actual question.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Berwyn Public Library Introduces Reading Maps!

Thanks to our wonderful intern Christi, the Berwyn Public Library has officially begun to create reading maps.  Chrisit got us started with 9 maps, but more importantly, she created a template for all of us to use. 

The goal is for the BPL RA Dream Team of six to each create a map, using this template, by the end of the summer.  And then, beginning in 2013, we will each sign up to create 2 new maps a year.  This means we will average a map a month.

Here is a linked list of what we have so far:
I have also archived this list on my Reading Maps page along with some of the better maps my students have made over the years. By the beginning of May you will be able to find all Berwyn Library Reading Maps on their official home page over on the Browsers Corner Blog.

Christi and I will also have a detailed article about how to create a reading map coming out in NoveList's RA News in July.  So if you have questions about how to do this at your library, we will have answers soon.

Finally, look for my map on Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter coming this summer.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Pulitzer Fiction Backlash

No, I haven't been ignoring the no Pulitzer Fiction Prize stuff, I have just been waiting for more info and reaction.

And, anyone who reads this blog knows I am sad for Swamplandia!  I adore that book.

There is a great interview on NPR with one of the jurors who picked the 3 finalists.  She said she would have been happy if any one of them had won.

But instead of giving you a ton more links, I will point you to this nice roundup of the backlash from Shelf Awareness.

I am bummed, but hey, remember this year because someday it will be the answer to a Jeopardy! question.

Escaping Into a Good Book

Ahh, it is so wonderful when a serious newspaper validates the importance of leisure reading.

Earlier this week, The Wall Street Journal's Cynthia Crossen, otherwise known as, Booklover, wrote this wonderful essay on the importance of "escapist fiction."

I love how she argues that any book can be an escape, even something that most people would deem "serious literature."  It simply matters if you are using it as an escape.

She also argues that reading for escape is important for everyone.  Read what you want for whatever reason you want.

In my work providing RA service to patrons and training librarians to better their RA service, I am constantly arguing that reading, anything, for any reason, has intrinsic value.  We cannot judge anyone's tastes as higher or better than another person's.  It simply does not matter.

I just want you to read a book you will enjoy.  That is the mission behind my entire professional career.

Everyone should feel free to read whatever book they want from genre fiction to 1,000 page histories without having to explain why they are reading it.  No one but you should care why you are reading the book you are reading.

If you come to me, or any well trained RA librarian, you should expect to get help matching your reading tastes with the huge mass of books currently sitting on the shelves at your local public library.  I will not tell you what you should read because I honestly believe what you should read is based on what you are currently in the mood for.  It is that simple.  Really.

So thanks Booklover.  Thanks for making my case in the mainstream press.  Thanks for all of your wonderful columns (click here to access).  And thanks to my husband for passing the article on.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

RA for All Roadshow takes on Crime Fiction in Missouri

All day today I am in Independence, MO just outside of Kansas City, presenting a workshop on Crime Fiction.  I have posted everything on my "Recent Presentations" page, but to make it easier for the attendees and any of you out there who are interested, I have re-posted it all here today.

A few notes about the resources.  The Resources Handout is an update of this post here on the blog.  So this is now my most up-to-date Crime Fiction resource guide. Also, the Bridging the Physical Virtual Divide post has been updated. The link will take you to the old post, but I made changes this past week.

So whether I am with you right now in Missouri or you are anywhere else out there, I hope these resources help you to help your patrons find their next good crime fiction read.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Monday Discussion: The Inspiration for Today's Characters

Later today my book group is discussing I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith.  This classic British story first came out in 1948 and has delighted readers for many years.  I will have a full report on our discussion later in the week.

But today I want to share something I was thinking of as I ready the novel.  The book is written as journal entries by a 15 year old girl named Cassandra.  But the entire time I just kept thinking, she is just like Flavia de Luce from the Alan Bradley mystery series.  Click here to read how much I adore Flavia.

In fact, if I only had 2 minutes to describe I Capture the Castle to someone, I would begin by asking if they like Flavia and move on from there.  I would describe the older book in relation to a Flavia novel.

However, I had to keep reminding myself that Cassandra is not like Flavia, rather, Flavia is obviously inspired by Cassandra.  Both are young girls who used to be wealthy, living in dilapidated grand homes in the British countryside during the same era (1948 and 1951).  They both are quite bright, but still naive, which makes them extremely compelling as narrators.  Also Cassandra's sister totally reminded me of Flavia's sisters.

Personally, I like the Flavia books more, but it is mostly because of the writing style.  Since the Flavia books are written now, they have a more modern story telling technique.

The similarities were astonishing to me, and yet, I never read an interview or review of Bradley's work which mentions the connection.  And I have read a lot about Bradley since I like Flavia so much.

This got me wondering how many other characters out there now, remind people of characters from the past.

So for today's Monday Discussion, let me know of any past characters who you see reflected in some of your favorite characters today.

For past Monday Discussions, click here.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Titanic Reads

100 years ago today, the Titanic was still sailing along with the passengers having no idea that they and their boat would become a pop culture touchstone forever. Which reminds me, we still have space available to anyone who wants to come to the BPL's Titanic program on Sunday, April 22 at 2pm.  Click here to register.  But do it soon because this one will be popular.

But back to talking about books.  As I mentioned here, along with thousands of nonfiction books about the tragedy, there have been dozens of novels inspired by the Titanic.

I have had a lot of fun working with Christi on our Disastrous Fiction display, which went up on Wednesday.  [Again, I want to remind people of the Monday Discussion where people suggested their favorite disaster novels.]  We have disasters of all kinds represented on the display.  But, I was in charge of highlighting some "Titanic Reads" specifically.

I tried to have a mix of books, so you will find old and new and a variety of genres presented.  Let me know if you have a favorite Titanic inspired novel too.  Also, libraries, feel free to use this list to help your patrons.  I just ask that you attach the permalink (click here) and keep the BPL info at the bottom.  Otherwise, pass it out to as many people as you want.  Also, a big thanks to Connie, part of the BPL RA Dream Team, for forwarding me the list from our server.  [I took today off and didn't have the list as I had planned].  Have a nice weekend.

Titanic Reads

This month marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.  Many authors, in all genres, have used the tragedy as inspiration for their novels.   From recently released titles to old favorites, there is much to choose from.

Alcott, Kate. The Dressmaker
It is 1912, and Tess is a British maid with dreams of entering the world of high fashion.  She gets the chance to emigrate to America as the personal assistant to a fashion designer, on the Titanic! Tess survives the disaster, but that is only where he journey begins. Readers will follow both Tess’ personal struggle in a new land, and the aftermath and official investigation into the Titanic disaster.  This solid debut is a good option for fans of immigrant fiction.

Cussler, Clive. Raise the Titanic
In this older Dirk Pitt novel, it is 1987 and the American and Russians are in a race to get to some precious metals held in the sunken ship’s hold.  Expect military and historic detail unfolding with fast-paced action as we follow Pitt on a seemingly desperate mission as he ultimately saves the day. This novel is also credited with laying out the ideas that scientists eventually perfected and used to actually “raise the Titanic.”

Harper, Molly. Nice Girls Don’t Date Dead Men
Jane Jameson is an out of work librarian and recently turned vampire dealing with a best friend who is frantically getting ready for his Titanic themed wedding and a grandma who has begun a new relationship with a man who has a troubling trail of dead wives in his past.  This hilarious paranormal romance with a touch of mystery is perfect for fans of Mary Janice Davidson or Charlaine Harris.

Lehman, Yvonne. Hearts That Survive
Friends Lydia and Caroline are having a grand time planning Lydia’s wedding as they sail aboard the luxurious Titanic. They survive the ordeal but the aftermath haunts them.  The story jumps ahead to the present where the troubled descendant of a novelist who died when the Titanic sank meets Caroline’s granddaughter.  It is this contemporary story which is the most compelling part of the novel.

Llywelyn, Morgan. 1916
This novelization of the 1916 Easter Rebellion recounts the story of the failed fight for Irish independence using fictional characters and actual historic figures.  Most of the novel unfolds through the eyes of 15 year old Ned Holloran, who lost his parents and almost his own life aboard the Titanic.  This is the first in Llywelyn’s compelling and richly detailed Irish Independence series which continues up to 1999.

Steel, Danielle. No Greater Love
20 year old Edwina loses both her parents and fiancee while they are travelling aboard the Titanic. Following the wishes of her dying mother, Edwina returns home to care for her five younger, now orphaned siblings.  This is a compelling story that follows Edwina and her family into the exciting early days of Hollywood. And as Steel fans know, the long suffering Edwina will eventually get her chance to find true love.

Todd, Charles. Watchers of Time
In this, the fifth installment in the popular post WWI British Mystery series featuring shell-shocked veteran and Scotland Yard detective Ian Rutledge, an investigation into the murder of a priest leads Rutledge to unravel a secret involving a woman who died aboard the Titanic.  In their trademark writing style, the mother-son writing team known as Charles Todd provide another psychologically haunting mystery that probes at what lives just below the surface of everyday life.

Willis, Connie. Passage
Psychologist Joanna Lander teams up with Neurosurgeon Richard Wright to create a pill which will recreate Near Death Experiences (NDEs).  Joanna tests the pills herself and keeps ending up on the Titanic.  Mr. Mandrake is also studying NDEs and publishing false reports on his own fabricated experiments.  Lander must make sense of what she finds on the other side and keep Mandrake from ruining her research.  Add to the tale a whopper of a plot twist which will keep you reading the last 100 pages in one gulp.  With Passage, Willis shows off her expertise at creating compelling and accessible Science Fiction with a touch of humor and romance.

Berwyn Public Library
2701 S. Harlem Ave.,  Berwyn, IL 60402

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Audiobook News

I love listening to audiobooks.  Why?  Mostly because I can still read while doing the dishes, folding laundry, or vacuuming.  Serious, it is hard to hold a book while doing those things.  I simply love chores when I am in the middle of a good story.

I also enjoy audiobooks when I am dealing with a book with lots of foreign words (see my review of The Girls With the Dragon Tattoo for details).  I get the story without the pronunciation struggle.

I do still encounter people who think listening to an audiobook is "cheating," and that it is not the same as reading.  I completely disagree with this opinion and, back in 2007, had this post which goes through my feelings on this. I cannot stress enough how strongly I believe that listening is the same as reading from the leisure reading perspective.

This week, I saw two audiobook related posts that reminded me it has been awhile since I mentioned audiobooks specifically here on the blog. So I thought I would point them out.

First, the 5th Annual Tournament of Audiobooks is going on now on Audible.com.  It is a March Madness style bracket system pitting critic picks against fan favorites.  This week they are down to the final four titles.

Second, the Audio Publishers Association just released their nominees for Audiobook of the year.  Click here for the press release.

As a final thought, if you want to learn more about audiobooks AudioFile Magazine is the best overall resource.

In case you were wondering currently, I am listening to The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson.  I just finished listening to Flashback by Dan Simmons.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

National Library Week 2012

I forgot to mention that it is National Library Week.

There are many tributes and celebrations going on all week.

Here is the official page from the ALA.

And here is the link to Random House's week of interviews with authors talking about their love of libraries, including BPL fav, Karin Slaughter.

If you are doing something great at your library to strut your stuff this week, let me know by leaving a comment.

What I'm Reading: Smooth Talking Stranger

So back in January, I posted my reading resolutions here.  One of those resolutions was to read 2 new (to me) contemporary romance authors.  A month later, in this post, I solicited author and title suggestions for my first novel.  Today, I am fulfilling the first half of this resolution by reading AND reviewing Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas.

First, why Kleypas?  Well when her name came up in the comments I realized right away that I knew her name, knew she won awards, but had never even picked up one of her books.  So, she was the obvious place for me to start.

Second, why this title? We own many of her novels at the BPL.  I picked Smooth Talking Stranger because it got solid reviews, is part of a \series, and it had an inviting cover.

So, what did I think?  Well, I have not been converted into a romance fan by reading this novel, but that had nothing to do with the quality of the book.  As a contemporary romance goes, I think it had everything readers would want and a little bit more.

A good romance follows a formula, and that is not a bad thing.  You have the damaged but independent heroine, the hero who shouldn't be right for her but their connection is strong, conflict or obstacles that keep them apart, and the final resolution which brings them together in marriage. Smooth Talking Stranger added a bit of a wrinkle in that it had a bit of Women's Lives and Relationships undertones. 

Let me set the stage.  Ella has not had an easy life.  No father, an emotionally abusive mother, and an insecure sister, Tara, who may have been the victim of sexual abuse by one of their mother's boyfriends as a child.  Somehow, Ella has managed to get out, get a good job as a relationship advice columnist, and has a relationship with a very laid back, sensitive, vegetarian, live-in boyfriend, Dane.

However, one day Ella's mom back in Houston calls to say Tara has abandoned her out of wedlock newborn (Luke) at their mother's house.  Ella is pulled back into the family drama.  But in her journey to find Tara and identify Luke's father, she meets Jack Travis, a millionaire playboy and member of one of Houston's most wealthy families.  As Ella's feelings for Luke grow, Jack also tries to teach Ella how to trust and love a real man.

Ella needs to figure out what she wants, but as the story goes on, it appears both Luke and Jack will have to be a part of her life if she wants to be truly happy for the first time in her life.

Smooth Talking Stranger is part of the Travis series.  For those of you who are not big romance fans, I should point out that since a romance must end with the couple getting married (or else it is not a romance), series in the genre are different than other genre series.  Romance series tend to take characters who pop up as secondary characters in one book and then give them their own story in another book.  So, for example, this series follows the wealthy Travis family in Houston, giving each member of the family their own chance to find true love.  The same characters pop up in all of the books, but since entry each has its own complete story, you can read the novels in any order.

In terms of appeal, this is a steamy contemporary romance with a dash of humor.  There is a lot of sex here.  The story lends itself well to it too, since Ella has only ever been with her wimpy college boyfriend, Dane, so Jack needs to "teach" Ella a lot.  However, the steamy scenes are nicely balanced by Ella's growing relationship with baby Luke.  She truly needs to find love with Jack and Luke in order to develop into her true self.  It is as if she was merely existing before and by the end of the book, she is truly living.

I found Ella to be a compelling heroine, although I felt she got a bit whiny at times.  She really needed to grow up and drop her guard a bit.  For someone who claimed to have had a lot of therapy, I felt she was not as self-aware as she could be.  However, I was happy with how she finally pulled it together.

Jack is a great character that romance fans would love.  He is rich by birth, but self-made at the same time.  He is sweet, kind, and loves Luke.  But he is also sexy, kind, and understanding.  

The sub-plot involving Tara and who Luke's father is added a bit of suspense to the story.  It involves a mega church.  I identified the red-herring and the true father quite quickly, but it was still a nice subplot.  

The banter and bickering between the hero and heroine is moderate.  Enough to create tension, but not overwhelming.  Honestly, Ella had more reservations about Jack than I did.

Also, I have never been to Houston, but there is a lot of detail about the city and neighborhoods here.  That might of interest to some people.  In fact, it is probably of interest to a lot of readers since there seems to be a wealth of contemporary romances set in Texas.

One thing I did not like was how obviously wrong for Ella Dane was.  It meant their was no tension about which man she should choose.  Even when Dane basically gives her up without a fight, Ella still feels she owes him something.  From the start though, Dane does not want Ella to help out with her nephew because it is not "her" problem.  Of course it is her problem, it is her nephew. Luke is her blood.  She must help him.  Dane sets himself up as "the bad guy" right from the start with this attitude.

Also, I did not appreciate how the Travis family were assumed by Ella to be nasty just because they were rich.  I felt that was a big character flaw in Ella, one that I had trouble over looking. On the other hand, I appreciated how Kleypas spent the time to introduce the Travis family to us and did not resort to stereotyping them.  Each was developed enough so that you would want to read another book in the series about them.

Overall, I would have no problem suggesting this book to any contemporary romance fans.  I am glad I read Kleypas and will pass her books on to readers more frequently now.  And it did have a nice, resolved, happy ending with an epilogue that shows Ella and Jack a few months after the action of the story ends.

I however, have not been converted into a romance fan. I think ultimately, I do not care about the tension between the characters.  Usually, the women annoy me because they are too weak in my eyes.  I wanted to shake Ella and be like, get over yourself.  So your childhood sucked, but you are a strong, professional woman who deserves a good man. Go out and get it lady!  But that is just me.  Also, I think the real reason romance doesn't work for me is that I like ambiguity in my fiction.  Romance is all about clarity.  You know what happens and why and the ending is clear.

However, to each their own.  I still have one more contemporary romance to go this year.

Three Words That Describe This Book: steamy, families, character-centered

Readalikes:  I am going to focus here on authors.  Here is a list of contemporary romance writers, who write steamy stories with well developed characters and humor:

Rachel Gibson (less steamy)

Also, check out some of Sandra Brown's older romances from before she moved exclusively to romantic suspense.  They would be a good match and many are set in Texas.

The authors listed here are all ones for which I have read at least one of their books.  Now, I will start trying to pick another contemporary romance author who is "new to me."  Your suggestions are appreciated.  This time, I am looking for less steamy so that I can have a range of experiences.  I am leaning toward Katie Fforde, but if you are a fan, let me know.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Book Is Finally Here

After a day of meetings today, I came home to a package from ALA Editions containing 10 copies of my book!

I won't say much more about it here, except to tell you that you should order a copy for your library.

But I do want to remind you that you can find out more about all things horror over on RA for All: Horror.

In Service

We are having an in-service day all day at the Berwyn Library today.  I am in meetings and catching up on book orders.  I will have a post at some time today.  Stay tuned

Monday, April 9, 2012

Monday Discussion: Rejuvenating Reads

With the Easter and Passover holidays and the early Spring here in Chicago, I have rejuvenation on the brain. Also, when I was working on my annotated list of Titanic books last week, I noticed that many of those books also had a rejuvenation theme; most were about how people moved on after surviving the sinking.

So as an antidote to the Disastrous Fiction display I mentioned last week (which goes up in the Library on 4/11), let's talk rejuvenation today.

A book I just finished (but have not written my review for yet) that popped immediately into my head was The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey.  This novel is set in 1920s Alaska and is based on an old Russian folktale where a lonely, childless couple create a child out of snow.  The two main draws to this book are the amazing descriptions of the landscape and the theme of rejuvenation.  The novel reads like an old fashioned fairy tale itself.  While the ending is not happily ever after (which we are warned will happen multiple time throughout the novel), the ending is bittersweet and heartwarming, with the snow child being responsible for the rejuvenation of many characters.  I will have a full review soon.

But enough from me.  Monday's are all about you.  What book popped in your head when I ask for a "rejuvenating read?"  It can be like my suggestion, a title which is all about rejuvenation or may be it is a book that rejuvenated you when you read it.  Whatever the reason, share your thoughts.

For past Monday Discussions click here.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Graphic Novel News

The Graphic Novel Reporter released their Core List for Spring 2012.  Click here to access it.  This is one of my most beloved collection development tools for evaluating and choosing graphic novels for our collection.

The 2012 Eisner Award nominees were also just announced.  You can click here to access the long list of categories. Looking at this list every year reminds me of how many people it takes to create a graphic novel, and just how wide the range of offerings there are in the format.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

National Magazine Award Finalists Announced [Controversy Alert]

I have posted before about how to help long form journalism readers find their next good read, most recently here.

One of the best tools we have are the National Magazine Awards given out each year by the American Society of Magazine Editors.  Click here for this year's list of nominees.

The New York Daily News' book blog posted this article bashing this year's list for not including a single female nominee.

Yikes!  Thought I'd pass it on.

International Thriller Writers Announce 2012 Thriller Award Nominees

These are among my favorite award nominee lists since there are no genre distinctions here.  All that is required is that the book is suspenseful.  In their own words:
The International Thriller Writers is an honorary society of authors, both fiction and nonfiction, who write books broadly classified as “thrillers.” This would include (but isn’t limited to) such subjects as murder mystery, detective, suspense, horror, supernatural, action, espionage, true crime, war, adventure, and myriad similar subject areas.
See for yourself.  Via Criminal Element:

The International Thriller Writers has announced the finalists for the 2012 Thriller Awards.  The winners will be announced at ThrillerFest VI on July 14, 2012.

Best Hard Cover Novel:
Joseph Finder - Buried Secrets
Jonathan Hayes - A Hard Death
Stephen King - 11/22/63
Michael Koryta - The Ridge
Marcus Sakey - The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes

Best Paperback Original:
Jeff Abbott - The Last Minute
John Gilstrap - Threat Warning
Helen Grant - The Glass Demon
Steven James - The Queen
John Rector - Already Gone

Best First Novel:
James Barney - The Genesis Key
Melinda Leigh - She Can Run
Paul McEuen - Spiral
H.T. Narea - The Fund
Leslie Tentler - Midnight Caller