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, September 30, 2013

Monday Discussion: 1980s Popular Materials

We are fully entrenched in Ready Player One mode here at the BPL as the Berwyn Reads! programming has begun in earnest. 

Tomorrow, Kathy and I are hosting an 1980s themed Trivia Night at Garv Inn at 7pm.  

Although the questions have already been prepared, I thought I would continue the 80s fun here on the Monday Discussion and let people list their favorite books, music, TV and movies from the decade.

But help add to these lists.  For today's Monday Discussion share your favorite 1980s popular culture moments.

Click here for past Monday Discussions

Friday, September 27, 2013

Whole Collection Wide Angel View of Arts Engagement

The National Endowment for the Arts published the key results from 2012 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts. From their press release:
How do Americans participate in the arts in the course of a year? What kinds of art forms and activities do they engage with, and in what numbers? The NEA investigates these questions and more in the 2012 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA), the nation’s largest population survey of arts participation trends. Today the NEA released an initial report of the survey's findings. A more comprehensive report will be available in 2014. 

You can click through to see more results, but here are their key books related findings:
 Reading Books and Literature
  • More than half of American adults read a work of literature or a book (fiction or nonfiction) not required for work or school. However, adults' rates of literary reading (novels or short stories, poetry, and plays) dropped back to 2002 levels (from 50 percent in 2008 to 47 percent in 2012).
  • Older Americans (65 and older) now have higher rates of literary reading than any other adult age group. 
However, I really think the information found here is useful to anyone working with leisure readers.  You can get a snapshot picture of how people engage with the arts during their free time.  This information will help you to think beyond the Dewey Divide and consider all leisure options, TV, Books, Films, Digital, etc...

It really made me think more big picture and that broad thinking will lead to happier patrons.  Check it out for yourself.

Cover image for 2012 SPPA Highlights Report

Thursday, September 26, 2013

RUSA Form-Based RA Conversation Archive Ready

Yesterday, the RUSA CODES email conversation on form-based RA finished up.  I am still making my way through the emails, but for those of you who did not subscribe or even for those of you who want to just clean out your inboxes ASAP, the archive is now available here.

When you have some time, I highly suggest that you go through the conversation.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

What I'm Reading: Series Round Up-- The Last Word and Countdown City

Oh, it is not even funny anymore.  I am so far behind in reviews.  No apologies.  I have dropped the ball.  So today I am doing a quick Series Round-Up to get 2 off the queue.  Both are mystery series, both are among my favorite series, and yet, both share very little appeal.  Ahh, proof that we librarians have just as crazy to figure out tastes as our patrons.  Seriously, look at your own weirdness before you are shocked by a patron's tastes.

The Last Word is the 6th installment in Lisa Lutz's funny PI series featuring Izzy Spellman and her crazy family of San Francisco Private Investigators.  As Izzy would say in her distinct narrative voice, I am not going to spend time brining you up to speed on the series. Instead I refer you to the previous documents.

Now back to this novel specifically. Izzy's narrative style is what drives the series and this book in particular.  Yes, like the previous books, Izzy talks directly to us, the reader, as if she is giving confession, but in The Last Word, Izzy is very self-reflective. She must come to terms with some serious things going on in her life and her career. Izzy is forced to deal with life in many major ways, and for a girl who goes through life avoiding anything difficult this is a big deal.

I don't want you to get the wrong idea that The Last Word is a downer because it is not. It is just as fun as previous books, but Lutz has managed to move the series from its single joke premise (Izzy refusing to grow up) and brought the series into its maturity.  I feel good about reading this series going forward.

Again in true Izzy fashion, if you want more details you need to check the previous reviews. [If you read the books you would get the joke]

Three Words That Describe This Series: humorous, strong first person narration, quirky characters

Readalikes: Again, I love this series and have had much to say about possible readalikes here, but with each new book I like to add a new readalike or two. So here are some other witty and upbeat mystery series worth a try:
  • Michael West's Teeny Templeton series seems to have the same screwball comedy feel as Lutz's series.
  • Donna Andrews is also a perennial favorite for her offbeat bird themed mysteries featuring Meg Langslow.  Fans of Izzy in particular will have an affinity for Meg too.
Now for something completely different.  Ben Winter's second book in his original and thought provoking pre-apocalypse trilogy, Countdown City.

Again, this is book two in a trilogy, so for more detail check out my review of book one, The Last Policeman. But the basic set up is easy.  This is an old school hardboiled detective novel, except our detective has been laid off. Why? Because an asteroid is weeks away from hitting the Earth and killing at least 50% of the world's population.

Yes, this is a pre-apocalyptic novel.  Last time we were introduced to a world where people go "bucket list" and basic services begin to deteriorate.

Now, things are even worse. We re-enter the story as Hank is trying to find his childhood babysitter's missing husband, but along the way, Hank [and those of us reading along] find out a whole lot more about what is going on in this pre-apocalyptic landscape.

Like last time, Hank's sister plays a part here.  In fact, it is a similar role, that of the conspiracy theorist. Although her ideas are beginning to seem a lot less crazy as the series goes on.

There is not much more to say without giving things away, but I will share that the ending of Countdown City takes us somewhere completely new from which the final installment will soon begin.

All the appeals are the same here.  Hank is still an endearing, if slightly naive and inept policeman. The story is intricately plotted, off beat, and thought provoking, while still being a whole lot of fun. I know that may sound odd. The world is going to end, but this book is fun to read. There are some heart breaking moments and some observations about the brutality of humanity under dire circumstances, but yes, over all, this book was so original and quirky that reading it was fun.

It is a true genre mash-up. It is mystery, SF and literary all rolled together. It is a series for anyone who is willing to ponder the question-- what would you do if you knew the date and time on which the world was going to end?

On a personal note, I usually hate 2nd books in trilogies, but not here.  I liked Countdown City more than The Last Policeman. It was a fast read too.  I can't wait for book 3.

Three Words That Describe This Book: hardboiled, pre-apocalypse, thought provoking

Readalikes:When I reviewed The Last Policeman, I listed a wide range of readalike options here.

A few more that come to mind (and why) are:

  • I found this great list of "weird detectives" that are NOT paranormal on Goodreads.  This captures the appeal of Hank perfectly.  If you don't need the apocalyptic setting but loved Hank's oddness check out the list.  The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon [read pre-blog] and The City and the City by China Mieville are both on the list and make for good choices.
  • One book that is a long time favorite of mine that also has an odd detective is Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem.  Click here to see my Browsers' Corner post on this book.
  • Hank is trying so hard to be hardboiled, it reminded me of the child detective in Huge by James Fuerst. The books are very similar in feel and the mysteries both have a family angle.
  • If you are looking for another book with an original science fiction premise try The Man in the Empty Suit by Sean Ferrell which I described as "The best episode of Dr. Who you haven't seen." 
Look for more reviews in the coming days.  At least, that is the plan. We will see...

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Book Lover's Club Tonight

Just a reminder that it is the last Tuesday of an odd numbered month, so join me for Book Lover's Club.

Here is the link to the BPL's page with all of the details on when and where, plus past month's lists of the books people talked about, including notes on what they said.

I am going to talk about Life After Life by Kate Atkinson tonight. It is hands down the best book I have read this year.

Happy Dr. Sleep Day and Place of Horror in Literature

This is a cross post with RA for All Horror.

Whether you are still a huge Stephen King fan, or you got bored with him years ago, everyone has to admit that today's release of Dr. Sleep is a big deal.

While The Stand is still King's best work ever, at over 1,000 pages, it is not the place most people begin to read this American storytelling master.  Rather it is with The Shining that people new to King most often (and should) begin.

The Shining is still the best example of a modern (post 1970) ghost story.  It has set the bar for all haunted house stories since, and it established that King was not a fluke. With The Shining the world took notice of King's talent, and he has rarely disappointed us in the three and a half decades since.

King is also a very popular choice with advanced readers, and with its young protagonist (Danny), The Shining is also popular with teen readers.

All of this being said, after 36 years of waiting, there are millions of people who want to see what has become of Danny in the years since he battled both his father and the ghouls at the Overlook Hotel.

So, it came as no surprise to me that on Sunday, the New York Times Book Review ran Dr. Sleep as their front page review.  But what did come as a happy surprise was that the fabulous and intelligent Margaret Atwood wrote the review.

Look, even if you don't think you need to read the review as a librarian because you already know who likes King at your library and you already know it will be in huge demand, you still need to click through and read this review because she goes into a longer discussion of King's place in the history of American literature AND talks about horror's importance in general.

From the second page:
Some may look skeptically at “horror” as a subliterary genre, but in fact horror is one of the most literary of all forms. Its practitioners read widely and well — King being a pre-eminent example — since horror stories are made from other horror stories: you can’t find a real-life example of the Overlook Hotel. People do “see” some of the things King’s characters see (for a companion volume, try Oliver Sacks’s “Hallucinations”), but it is one of the functions of “horror” writing to question the reality of unreality and the unreality of reality: what exactly do we mean by “see”?
That is just a taste; there is more here.  Thank you Margaret Atwood.  I already loved you, but it is nice to have you join my fight.

Even if you don't plan to read Dr. Sleep, read this review. I promise, you will learn a lot about the appeal of horror. And, that information can only help you to help your patrons, especially as Halloween draws near.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Banned Books Week Begins

I am interrupting the regularly scheduled Monday Discussion this week to focus your attention on Banned Books Week, the annual week every year where libraries take a moment to Celebrate the Freedom to Read and expose the terrors of censorship.

I mean, come on people who want to ban And Tango Makes Three all the time. It is NONFICTION for goodness sake.  The author did not make up a gay penguin story.  This really happened.

But that is an aside.  Click here for the official Banned Books Week site. But I did want to take a moment to point out a few specific virtual events.

Since 2011, Banned Books Week has sponsored a Celebrity Read Out. There is one planned again for this year.  Click here for the press release with information on how you can participate and here for the You Tube channel.

But the newest edition to the BBW festivities is an official Twitter Party. From the featured events page of the BBW site:
Banned Books Week 2013 Twitter Party
For the first time this year, Twitter parties will help promote the message of Banned Books Week. A party will be held on Monday, Sept. 23, from 10 a.m. to noon, Eastern Time, and Wednesday; a second party is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 25, from noon to 2 p.m., Eastern. Supporters are urged to tweet using the hashtag #bannedbooksweek. And additional tags: #bannedbookparty, #heroes, @OIF, @KidsRight2Read, @freadom, @FTRF.
Sample tweets include:
“Three cheers for the #bannedbooksweek #heroes. Thanks to all teachers, students, activists who stand up against #censorship” LINK
It’s #bannedbooksweek and I’m/we’re reading [insert banned book here]. Check out www.bannedbooksweek.org!
Finally, here is the link to the ALA's Ideas and Resources page for BBW.
So get out there and start celebrating your freedom to read whatever you want, whenever you want, always!

Friday, September 20, 2013

BPL Book Discussion: The Art of Racing in the Rain

On Monday, the BPL Book Club met to discuss what has become a huge book club favorite, The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein.  From the publisher:
Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver.
Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn't simply about going fast. Using the techniques needed on the race track, one can successfully navigate all of life's ordeals.
On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through: the sacrifices Denny has made to succeed professionally; the unexpected loss of Eve, Denny's wife; the three-year battle over their daughter, Zoe, whose maternal grandparents pulled every string to gain custody. In the end, despite what he sees as his own limitations, Enzo comes through heroically to preserve the Swift family, holding in his heart the dream that Denny will become a racing champion with Zoe at his side. Having learned what it takes to be a compassionate and successful person, the wise canine can barely wait until his next lifetime, when he is sure he will return as a man.
A heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a beautifully crafted and captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human life...as only a dog could tell it.
Discussion: Please note that all comments are from multiple people in the group. "I" refers to the anonymous speaker, not me, Becky.  I do note where I means Becky though. 
  • Liked: 13, Disliked: 0, So-So: 1-- The So-So person just couldn't get past the whole dog as narrator thing. Someone else said, I had to force myself to suspend disbelief, which is hard for me, but once I did, I loved it.
  • The "Like" voters all wanted to change their vote to "Love." I encouraged them to share some initial "Love" comments:
    • I love dogs.  But more than dogs, this book had everything: joy, sadness, humor, all aspects of life
    • Denny did not always make the best choices, but he was a very realistic character in that way.
    • This was a very spiritual book. I saw Denny as a modern day version of Job, but since dogs don't follow human religion, Enzo did not refer to religion directly.  I liked that spiritual quality of the book.
    • I read this book for the first time when my dog was dying and I still loved it then,
    • I loved the scenes where Enzo is watching TV. It was very revealing too see what a non-human could put together of human behavior and culture from such a small snapshot of what was seen on TV.  Very thought provoking and enlightening.
  • Question-- How did you feel about the entire book being from the POV of a dog?
    • I enjoyed it.
    • He was so on point with the in-laws.  Calling them the evil twins was great.  To Enzo they were so similar in their hate and ugly actions that he could not tell them apart.
    • It was interesting and at times frustrating to only see Denny's decisions and actions through Enzo's eyes. It was obvious that he cared so much for his daughter, but we were not privy to everything.
    • The POV gave me a greater appreciation of being human.  For example, I don't think about my thumbs hardly ever, but Enzo is obsessed with not having them.
    • Although Enzo wished he could talk, I appreciated what a great listener he was. I wish I could be that good a listener.
    • I loved observing humanity from a removed perspective.
    • It added complexity to the situation where Eve wanted to die at her parents' house with Zoe there but not Denny. It leaves so many questions about Eve's true wishes for Zoe. Since Enzo is not there we can't know what Eve was really thinking.  It was a great example of the author's restraint. He never switches the POV to make telling the story easier. We still have questions, but appreciate how he worked it through to the end.
  • This line of discussion led quickly into a longer one about the "evil twins" and their custody battle for Zoe after Eve dies.
    • They were not very loving
    • But, from a literary standpoint, their inclusion is brilliant. They bring up things about Denny that are valid (if exaggerated). It puts a small doubt about Denny in the story, doubt his loyal dog alone could not muster.
    • We were all impressed with the funeral scenes. The evil twins kicking Denny out, Denny going up the hill with Enzo to watch the funeral from above, with dignity. Going back down after everyone leaves.
    • The in-laws had a lot of anger at Denny. They blamed him for Eve's illness. As a mom, said one person, I know you only want the best for your children.
  • Question-- What about Enzo's world view of racing as a metaphor for life?
    • I liked the idea of the experience of totality he feels with the union of you, the vehicle, and the track.
    • The idea of not wining on the first curve, but making it possible to lose the race there was thought provoking.  It makes sense in the story, explaining how Denny handles his personal fight for his daughter, and in life in general.
    • "That which you manifest is before you." This one confused me
      • another chimed in, I think it means that if we want something, we have to go out and get it.
      • It's interesting that Enzo believes this because Eve does not.  This causes tension between the two of them. Also, they are both loved by Denny, yet are so different.
  • Question-- How is Denny like a traditional flawed hero?
    • Denny is so good hearted that he is not always critical enough of others.
    • He was more naive and guileless than flawed.
    • He was almost too good to believe, said someone. But as the leader, I countered, that we have to remember that we are seeing Denny through the eyes of his dog, who is probably seeing him as better than he is too.
    • We liked the way Enzo described the entire episode with Annika that almost led to Denny's downfall.  Very well done.
    • Racing is the all consuming thing in Denny's life.  He missed the birth of his daughter because of it. That is a flaw too.
    • But, Enzo is also showing us that when you have a passion for something that can make you a better person.
    • Denny did have a deep goodness and an intense love for his family.
    • The way he solved the Annika problem was brilliant. He did it without anger or violence. He appealed to her sense of justice.
    • Throughout the custody and criminal proceedings, we see Denny's transformation in how he deals with people.
  • Question-- What's with the zebra?
    • Someone jumped right in and said-- it symbolizes jail! The stripes are the bars. More specifically imprisonment, something menacing.
    • Dogs are color blind, so can only see things in black and white-- literally and figuratively.
    • Each time Enzo sees the zebra, something bad is going to happen.
    • The zebra is a symbol of evil.
    • It is our fears, our destructive nature, the worst part of us.
    • But each time Enzo sees the zebra he grows and changes:
      • First time, when Eve leaves Enzo alone for 3 days when she is first so sick and Denny is away. Enzo destroys all of Zoe's stuffed animals
      • Second time, when Enzo is allowed to visit Zoe without Denny. Enzo barely contains himself from attacking the zebra.
      • Third time, when Denny is about to sign papers giving up custody of Zoe.  Enzo sees a zebra on the pen.  This time, he knows it is evil. Whatever Denny is doing must be wrong because the zebra is there.  He grabs the papers and pees on them!
    • With each zebra sighting, Enzo changes and matures. He also comes closer to be human with each time. 
  • Question-- Do you look at your dog differently after the book?
    • surprisingly there was not much conversation here.  Just a lot of yeses, and a few stories about specific dogs.
  • Ending-- Part 1: The Death of Enzo
    • Since the entire book is Enzo's death bed confession of sorts, it is nice closure to the book that he dies peacefully knowing that Denny and Zoe will be together.
    • I really liked Denny giving Enzo permission to die.
    • We talked a little about prolonging life unnecessarily and who it is for. One lady shared a story about a family who prolonged the life of a dog and it prompted the mother to talk to her daughter about not doing that to her when the mother's time came.
    • We liked that he died at home.  It was appropriate to the theme and philosophy of the book. He died on his own terms.
  • Ending--Part 2: Flash forward 8-10 years
    • Denny lives in Italy with Zoe (now a young woman) and is a successful race car driver. Is the young boy (his biggest fan) really Enzo reincarnated as a human (as he always thought he would be)?
      • 13 yes it is Enzo
      • 1 no it is not [Interestingly it is not the 1 who voted so-so above]
      • As the leader, I reminded them, we are not voting if the boy is REALLY Enzo because none of the books is REAL.  I love discussions where I have to remind the group that it is all fiction. When we get wrapped up in the characters and think of them as real, you know the book is written well.
    • Other things people said about the ending overall:
      • spiritual
      • perfect ending
      • the problems between Denny and Enzo the boy communicating in Italian and English mirrored their dog-human communication problems.
      • It was happy
      • I felt a connection
    • Words or phrases to describe the book
      • "Art"- that word was great in the title. It denotes the complexity here. I also felt like I experienced a work of art.
      • spiritual
      • hopeful
      • perfect
      • eyes and sight
      • to be able to truly see
      • love
      • humane
      • control
      • sentimental
      • poignant
      • extraordinary
      • listening
Readalikes: I want to start by making a personal statement. Although most people who like this book are huge dog people (see this list of similar reads from fans), I am not, but I still enjoyed this book.  What I liked about it was watching the family drama as it unfolded from a unique perspective.  In many ways it reminded me more of a book like The Language of Flowers or Silver Sparrow [two other recent book club reads] than it did a book like Marley and Me. But that being said, I will not forget about the dog people. [Those people should click here.]

Click here for a reading map which contains a wide range of read alike options from novels, books for dog lovers, to racing titles.

We also talked about how this novel is an intense family drama like one would expect from Jodi Picoult, but since we get everything from the dog's point of view, the melodrama is more in check.

The Art of Racing in the Rain does have bit of a bittersweet, sappy edge to it, but in a good way.  It's is kind of like the crowd pleasers of Nicholas Sparks in that way. 

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski and the Spencer Quinn Chet and Bernie mysteries are both examples of great stories narrated by dogs.

The Alex Barnaby romances by Janet Evanovich feature race car drivers.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Berwyn Reads Kick Off This Weekend!

As I hinted here, Berwyn Reads is set to begin! We really go all out every other year to offer this One Community, One Book Event in Berwyn. And for the first time ever, the BPL RA Dream Team was given the task of choosing the book.  We took the entire process very seriously and are now both nervous and excited to begin.

Well, the wait is over.  The Kick Off will happen this Saturday, September 21 at Berwyn's Oktober Fest.

The full 12 page brochure can be seen here, and it has ALL of the details.  It includes programming info, a letter by Ernest Cline, and many readalike options. I think it is fantastic in both look and content.

I also just posted the wonderful reading map  Intern Elizabeth did for us in preparation of Berwyn Reads.  Much of her work can also be see throughout the brochure.  Click here to see more from Elizabeth. Click here for the Ready Player One Reading Map or here for a full archive of the Berwyn Public Library reading maps

Many of us at the BPL are hard at work trying to make this bi-annual event a success, but as for me specifically, I will be leading the book discussion on November 4 as well as participating in running the 80s Prom on November 16th. And, as I mentioned here, in early October I will be interviewing Cline via Skype.  As soon as the video is available I will provide a link to it.

I hope you can join us either in person or virtually at some point over the next 8 weeks.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

New Issue of "The Corner Shelf" Now Available

Booklist Online has released a new issue of The Corner Shelf: Where Readers' Advisory Meets Collection Development.

Since Rebecca Vnuk has taken over as the Editor for Reference and Collection Management [in what was, at time, a brand new position], Booklist, has been at the forefront of covering RA Service in its entirety-- from acquisition to weeding and all things in between.

Yes, we spend most of our time matching books with readers, but as I have said on this blog many times before, you need a efficient and effective collection of books in order to best serve your patrons.  Deciding what to add and, more importantly, what to get rid of, makes your job easier and your patron's experience more pleasant.

Thanks to Rebecca for seeing that gap in the resources and filling it with a useful and informative newsletter. You can click here for the archive of past issues--which now goes back 2 years-- to see for yourself.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

RA for All Roadshow: Up Coming Appearances

I mentioned yesterday that I am feeling a bit overwhelmed, but a large part is that is due to 3 upcoming appearances and my annual 31 Days of Horror Blog-a-Thon over on RA for All: Horror.  Also, today I am finishing up a brand new read alike article on Jennifer Egan for NoveList.  You should be able to access that by the end of the month on NoveList.

As I am putting the finishing touches on these 3 program appearances, I thought I would let you know where I would be and what I would be talking about in case you either wanted to join me, or you were looking to see what my newest offerings were for your 2014 planning.  And that is important because my 2013 is closed for appearances (even virtual ones).  Also, I am booked solid for March 2014 already (more on that in a few months).

So if you are interested in having me come to your library, conference or training, either in person or virtually, please contact me for February, April, May and/or June 2014 by November 1.  I do not present in July and August in order to spend more time with my kids over the summer.

Now back to my up coming appearances.

First, in the coming weeks I will be writing a lot about the Berwyn Reads selection and programming this fall.  We pick one book for the entire community to read every other year.  This year it is Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Click here for my full and glowing review of this novel.  Mr. Cline has agreed to let me interview him on Skype at no cost to us in October.  Currently, we are working on the interview date but I do know the interview will feature questions from the students at the local high school who are reading the book right now in class.  We have Mr. Cline's permission to film the interview. I will post it here, and the high school students will all have a chance to gather together to watch it.  While the interview is my only "appearance" for this event, I will be busy most of the Fall, along with the rest of the BPL RA staff, hosting programming, book discussions, and an all ages 80s themed prom to close the Berwyn Reads program. The festivities begin October 1. I will be posting out awesome promotional materials here soon. I just saw the proofs yesterday and they are GREAT.

Second, as I mentioned here, I will be interviewing Luis Alberto Urrea for the Fox Valley reads program.  I have already talked about this, so please refer to this post for details and to sign up.

It is important to note that for both community read events, you do NOT need to be a resident of the community to participate in any of the programming.

Finally, I have just finalized the details of my scheduled in person my appearance at the Southeastern Pennsylvania Library Association Annual Meeting on November 12.  They contacted me last spring with an interest in making readers advisory the focus of their meeting. I will be presenting the keynote to the meeting in the morning where they have requested a 2.5 hour version of my Bridging the Physical-Virtual Divide talk.  This will be a great opportunity for me to develop a more detailed talk on this topic.  I will also be doing an afternoon breakout session with a streamlined version of my 10 Rules of Basic RA Service.

I hope to see some of you at these events in the coming weeks. And if you cannot make it, I will have materials and information about all of these appearances available to everyone here on RA for All.

Now back to Jennifer Egan for me.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Monday Discussion: Short Story Collections

I just checked out the brand new Tom Perrotta shot story collection Nine Inches. It made me think about having a Monday Discussion on short story collections.  I did a quick search, and it turns out, way back in June of 2010 [the first month I hosted the Monday Discussion] I had this post soliciting your favorite story collections.

I figured 3 years is enough time to revisit the discussion. Plus, I am feeling a bit overwhelmed at the moment and a nice short story collection sounds like the perfect medicine.

As I said, you can click here to see my favorites back in 2010.  But here is a list since then of the short story collections I have read and enjoyed.  All links go to my review:

Now it is your turn.  For today's Monday Discussion, please share your all time or recent favorite short story collections.

Finally, if you are looking for another take on short stories, scoot on over to the archive for the podcast Books on the Nightstand where they are running Project Short Story for all of 2013.  From their website:
At Books on the Nightstand, we’re dubbing 2013 “The Year of the Short Story.” In celebration, Ann is reading one story a day, for the entire year. We’ll also be highlighting new story collections, lit magazines, and online resources for short fiction. Below are links to all of our posts tagged “Project Short Story”
 For past Monday Discussions, click here.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Library Reads: October 2013

It's month #2 for Library Reads.  The list is below. Remember you can pull up all past lists by using the "library reads" tag.

For the record, I am already on the hold list for Longbourn (see below), and I am NOT a huge Pride and Prejudice fan.

October 2013 LibraryReads List


The Rosie Project: A Novel

by Graeme Simsion

Published: 10/1/2013
by Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 9781476729084
“Don Tillman, a brilliant geneticist, thinks that having women fill out a six-page, double-sided questionnaire before a date is logical and reasonable. Rosie Jarman, an impetuous barmaid, thinks Don should loosen up and learn to live a little. Follow the unlikely pair in this laugh-out-loud, feel-good story of unexpected joys, discovery and love.”
Paulette Brooks, Elm Grove Public Library, Elm Grove, WI

Longbourn: A Novel

by Jo Baker

Published: 10/8/13 by Knopf
ISBN: 9780385351232
“Using Pride and Prejudice’s familiar setting and characters, Baker tells a very different story of family, love and self-discovery. Bold and intelligent, Sarah is an orphaned housemaid whose days are filled with hard, body-punishing work. Baker doesn’t sugar-coat. A beautiful, uplifting novel full of mystery, hope and romance. Highly recommended for Austen fans and historical fiction readers.”
Jenifer May, Secaucus Public Library, Secaucus, NJ


The Lowland: A Novel

by Jhumpa Lahiri

Published: 9/24/2013 by Knopf
ISBN: 9780307265746
“Spanning the oceans from India to Rhode Island, this is a story of brothers and allegiances, mothers and challenges, families and turmoil. Lahiri fleshes out her characters and events with such exquisite prose that I find myself rereading sentences just for the experience of their impact. Another literary triumph for Lahiri!”
Jeanne Altman, Darien Library, Darien, CT


Cartwheel: A Novel

by Jennifer duBois

Published: 9/24/2013 by Random House
ISBN: 9780812995862
“College student Lily Hayes is an accident waiting to happen. While studying abroad in Buenos Aires, she becomes the prime suspect in her roommate Katy’s murder. DuBois’s haunting story captures a family shattered by their young daughter’s imprisonment. A well-written novel highly recommended for book clubs.”
Karen Kilbride, Hennepin County Library, Minneapolis, MN


Hawthorn & Child

by Keith Ridgway

Published: 9/23/2013 by New Directions
ISBN: 9780811221665
“Ridgway has taken the ‘partner cops’ and ‘troubled cops’ sub-genres to new levels. Hawthorn is a haunted man with a callous worldview. Child is his apt foil: humane, funny and insightful. Set in contemporary London, the story draws readers quickly and completely into a complex, seedy world of crime, madness and despair.”
Margaret Donovan, Cary Memorial Library, Lexington, MA


The Stop: How the Fight for Good Food Transformed a Community and Inspired a Movement

by Nick Saul & Andrea Curtis

Published: 9/24/2013 by Melville House
ISBN: 9781612193496
“Nick Saul chronicles his years spent as director of The Stop, a community food center in Toronto, Ontario that reinvented itself by starting several innovative programs to combat poverty and hunger while building community in the process. Read this book and be inspired to create change in your own neighborhood!”
Melissa DeWild, Kent District Library, Comstock Park, MI


We Are Water: A Novel

by Wally Lamb

Published: 10/22/2013 by Harper
ISBN: 9780061941023
“Annie Oh, a newly famous artist, sends her family into a tailspin when she announces her intention to marry her powerful gallerist, Viveca. While Annie’s husband Orion is devastated by the loss of his wife of 27 years, her children’s responses range from delight to denial. Good writing and distinct characters, personalities and voices.”
Katie Karkheck, Valley Cottage Library, Valley Cottage, NY


The Goldfinch

by Donna Tartt

Published: 10/22/2013 by Little, Brown
ISBN: 9780316055437
“Fans of The Secret History will rediscover the Tartt they loved back in 1992. Readers who love the novelist for her richly developed, dark, multi-layered characters and thoroughly researched topics will not be disappointed. Tartt pulls together many threads of a story across a long span of pages and into a complete masterpiece.”
Kim Dorman, Princeton Public Library, Princeton, NJ


The Tilted World: A Novel

by Tom Franklin & Beth Ann Fennelly

Published: 10/1/2013 by William Morrow
ISBN: 9780062069184
“The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 is the backdrop for one of my favorite historical novels of the last few years. Bootleggers, revenuers, an orphaned child, extreme weather, a disintegrating marriage and romance. There are no dull characters or moments in this beautifully-written story.”
Janet Lockhart, Wake County Public Libraries, Cary, NC


Hunting Season: Immigration and Murder in an All-American Town

by Mirta Ojito

Published: 10/15/2013 by Beacon Press
ISBN: 9780807001813
“Ojito, a former New York Times reporter, chronicles the events leading up to the 2008 murder of an undocumented Ecuadorian immigrant on Long Island, detailing the reactions of family and community members, government officials, civic leaders and public library staff. A nuanced and in-depth look at hate crimes, and a powerful story that deserves to be told.”
Anne Lee, Free Library of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA

Friday the 13th!

This is a cross post with RA for All: Horror

Happy Friday the 13th. I find the celebration of this day on the calendar a bit cheesey myself, but I also know many a librarian who claims that the patrons act funky on full moons and Friday the 13ths.

But Friday the 13th is a great day for some horror B-Movie appreciation and I have the perfect book to suggest to you if you are looking for a fun way to celebrate.  Crab Monsters, Teenage Caveman, and Candy Stripe Nurses is a new book by Chris Nashawaty that celebrates on the of the kings of B Movies.  From the book jacket:
Crab Monsters, Teenage Cavemen, and Candy Stripe Nurses is an outrageously rollicking account of the life and career of Roger Corman—one of the most prolific and successful independent producers, directors, and writers of all time, and self-proclaimed king of the B movie. As told by Corman himself and graduates of “The Corman Film School,” including Peter Bogdanovich, James Cameron, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert De Niro, and Martin Scorsese, this comprehensive oral history takes readers behind the scenes of more than six decades of American cinema, as now-legendary directors and actors candidly unspool recollections of working with Corman, continually one-upping one another with tales of the years before their big breaks.
Crab Monsters is supplemented with dozens of full-color reproductions of classic Corman movie posters; behind-the-scenes photographs and ephemera (many taken from Corman’s personal archive); and critical essays on Corman’s most daring films—including The IntruderLittle Shop of Horrors, and The Big Doll House— that make the case for Corman as an artist like no other.
My local library has a copy on order.  I have a hold already placed and will be back with a review during my 31 Days of Horror.

Happy Friday the 13th!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Fox Valley Reads: Luis Alberto Urrea and Me

Fox Valley Reads is an annual one book, one community collaboration of 5 Illinois libraries in the far Western suburbs of Chicago, including Aurora, IL, the second largest city in the state.

Last year, I was asked to interview Erin Morgenstern when the book was The Night Circus. You can click here for coverage of that event.

This year, the book is Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea.  Last month, Magan, the Popular Services Librarian from the Aurora Public Library, wrote this guest post about the program.

You can click here for all of the scheduled events, but as for me, I will be having a conversation with Urrea on stage at the Copley Theater in Aurora at 7pm on October 24th.  This year, they are doing something a bit different to fit in with the bilingual nature of the book.  On October 23rd, Jacqueline Camacho-Ruiz a local author and entrepreneur will be having a conversation with Urrea in Spanish.

We are working very hard to make the evenings as similar as possible, except for the language they are conducted in that is. Fox Valley Reads does request that you register.  You can click here to sign up for the English conversation or here for Jacqueline's Spanish language event.

But why I am posting all of this today, six weeks out from the event. There is a reason others than sheer promotion of my appearance.  Today Mr. Urrea called me so we could have a chance to talk and get to know one and other.  For the Morgenstern interview, I was able to spend 2 hours with her before the event, but due to the back-to-back night appearances this year, that will not be possible.

After our conversation this morning I am happy to report that Mr. Urrea was wonderful. He is personable and interesting.  He took time out of his very busy writing, touring, and teaching schedule to talk to me today and I appreciate that.  Also, I am happy to say he is a big horror fan too.  We traded many a book suggestion for each other.  In fact, as soon as I finish this post, I am taking his advice and reading this book.

To see an interview with Urrea right now, go to his website.  Between watching that and talking to him myself, I feel confident that our event will go very well.

I will have a review of Into the Beautiful North up on the blog in the days leading up to the October 24th event, but in the mean time, check out the events the Fox Valley Reads Committee has planned and sign up to participate.  You do not need to be a member of these communities to read the book and attend events.  The more the merrier.

And, after talking with Mr. Urrea, I am confident that this will be an awesome author event.  I hope to see you there.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Top Audiobooks for Libraries

Thanks to Booklist Blogger Mary Burkey for re-posting Overdrive's list of the most downloaded audiobooks of 2013.  Click here for details.

Overdrive is the platform we use here at the BPL to deliver our ebook and audiobook downloads to our patrons.

This list is not in order by how many downloads, but that is not a problem [although their alphabetization by title is a problem; they have all the titles starting with "The" together; arrggghh].  The idea here, whether you use Overdrive at your library or not, it to get a wide-angle snap shot of what is most popular from a large provider of audiobooks to many libraries from across the entire country.  It is a quick way to see what's popular everywhere.

We can always use our local systems to pull local data, but often, we get too focused on what is popular at our library that we loose track of the larger picture. A larger perspective reminds us to think outside of our local box.

Another point to make here too is that if you have someone new to audiobooks and they are not sure where to begin, try suggesting something that you know is popular.  Hand them the list and let them choose one that suits their fancy.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Announcement of New RUSA CODES Conversation

It is time for another RUSA CODES email conversation. From RUSA directly
From September 24-25, 2013, readers advisory experts from CODES will facilitate a focused online conversation entitled “Form-Based RA: What Asynchronous RA Can Teach All of Us (even those not offering such an option) About Service, Appeal and Working With Readers.” All adult services librarians are welcome to join and follow the conversation, and contribute ideas or just listen in.
You do not need to be a RUSA member to participate. 

I have myself signed up for ALL of these conversations, so I get them in my email box automatically. But I do want to warn everyone on the best way to handle what becomes a very busy couple days of messages. Here are some tips to keep you from being overwhelmed and to get the most you can out of the conversation.

  1. Use a different email account.  Do not use your main email for this conversation. Or, if you do, use a filter to get everything into one folder away from your daily messages. There will be a lot of messages, and due to different time zones, they will come in over the course of about 18 hours throughout the day.  I have everything go to my Gmail, which I mostly use for blog business and Google based things like my You Tube subscriptions. It is not an account I need for daily interactions with people (like my hotmail or work email), so the huge influx of messages does not effect my work.
  2. Do read the supplementary material before hand.  RUSA has posted this excellent resource guide in advance of the conversation.  It contains material and information that will help you to prepare for and get the most out of the 2 day email fest. Please take the time to look this over. RUSA has prepared well and I for one do not want the moderators to have to spend the time going backward in this conversation.  Forward march! Read the resource guide
  3. Don't' get stressed by the number of messages.  There will be a ton of messages.  Say it again....There will be a ton of messages.  And you will not be able to read and respond to all of them in a timely fashion.  Again, you WILL NOT get to all of them as quickly as you want.  There are RUSA designated moderators whose job it is to respond frequently and keep the conversation going.  They are on shifts.  Even they cannot reply to everything.  Instead of going bonkers over the number of messages, look at it as a positive.  You have so many more perspectives on the topic, from all over the country, from others who are doing what you do.  I guarantee if you stop fussing about how many messages there are and just read what you can, you will take away something you can use to better help your patrons. And you can respond to any thread at any time.  If the that thread seemed to have died out half a day ago, you can still post to that topic.  I bet there are others who are just getting to it late like you.
  4. It's okay to lurk. Heck, that's all I do on these conversations.  I do it mostly because with this blog, I feel like I do all the talking. So with these conversations, I sit back and see what everyone else has to say.  It is my chance to shut up and listen. But for everyone, it is okay to simply read the messages. If you don't have time to keep up with the conversation, you can still get a lot out of your passive participation.
  5. Follow online etiquette. If you feel overwhelmed by the number of messages, don't post to everyone.  Please take the time to contact the administrator separately.  Or, just ignore the the messages and delete them.  Also, if you disagree with someone, write a response clearly stating why you feel differently. You examples, not accusations. If you feel as if your counter opinion is not being hear in the midst of the larger conversation, email the moderator and the person with whom you disagree outside of the conversation.  Look, the email conversation model is not perfect, but the benefits far outweigh the negatives. Just think before you post.  Nobody likes a whiner.  We only have 2 days and I for one want to hear what people have to say about the topic on the table, not about the problems you personally are having with the system or a specific person.
  6. Continue the conversation after the 2 days. I have this blog.  So sometime after the conversation ends, I will digest my thoughts on the entire process and post my personal takeaways.  But many of you don't have a blog.  Still, I would suggest jotting down your takeaways for future reference and/or to present to your co-workers (I will also be doing this).  Don't forget, you can always contact someone whose posts intrigued you for more information after the conversation ends.  Start up an email conversation afterward.  I have done this after past CODES conversations and as a result have made some great contacts.
  7. Have fun while you learn something.  These CODES Conversations are a great way to network with colleagues from all over the country.  You can do it on your own time, from anywhere, even while wearing your pajamas. Meet new people, learn new tips, and enjoy the camaraderie of being an RA librarian. Click here to get started.
If you want to share a tip, please leave it in the comments.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Monday Discussion: Meh Books

One of my favorite things each week is the NY Times Magazine "Meh" list.  If you are unfamiliar with it, click here, but basically, each week the New York Times Magazine has a list of the things that week that were not great, not terrible, but just in the middle. Our whole family, even the kids, like to see what is deemed "meh" each week.  We find it amusing.

However, when I think about "meh" as it could refer to books...that is not as fun.  If I read a book and love it, I know exactly who else to suggest it too.  On the other hand, if I really hate a book, I usually can figure out why I disliked it and turn that into figure out which patron would love it. Feeling strongly about a book makes me think about what kind of reader to give it to.

But what about when I finish a book, and all I feel is...meh.  This is hard.  Who do I give it to? How do I talk about the book.

When I went back and looked on my Shelfari to see some books that I was conflicted about in the past, I saw two things.  First, I really don't suggest these books very often.  I hand sell way more books I have hated than those I have been meh about. Second, when I do suggest these books, I do it with a lot more hesitation.

Take One Amazing Thing by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni.  This might be my ultimate meh book.  I liked it as I read it, but I really felt the ending was weak. It was as if Divakaruni just stopped writing.  If the book hadn't been as strong, maybe the ending wouldn't have been so troubling.  It might have been an outright dislike for me.  But instead, it gets a "meh."

I know lots of readers who would enjoy 90% of this book, but I am hesitant to tell them to read it knowing they will probably close it feeling similarly to me.

As a result, I never offer this novel to readers.  Instead, I only talk about it if the patron asks directly about it.  And to them I say, it is a novel filled with stories the characters tell about one amazing thing from their lives.  Some of the stories are mesmerizing, the characters are interesting, but the ending left me feeling cheated.

Not a big endorsement, but I can't give the book out without this warning.

I know this has happened to others out there. I need a better solution for to how to sell meh books. So, I am asking for your help.

For today's Monday Discussion, tell me how you talk about those books that leave you stuck in a "meh" kind of mood.

For past Monday Discussions, click here.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Library Journal Webcast on LGBTQ Books and a Comment on Specialty Presses in General

I am in the process of making my may through the archive of this webinar.  Click here to access it. You simply need to sign up for access, it is free.

If you don't have time to get through the webinar however, I wanted to pass on the websites of the publishers who took the time to alert us, the collection development librarians, of their new titles in LGBTQ fiction.  I want to thank them for reaching out to us. Now you thank them by visiting their pages:
Use this webinar and the websites to assess your current LGBTQ offerings. I know I will be doing this in the coming weeks. Oh, and by the way, one of the best things I learned today was that the paranormal craze in general fiction is also going full force in LGBTQ fiction.

In general, speciality presses often get left behind in our rush to order the most popular titles.  They are not reviewed heavily in the mainstream collection development resources.  However, every library has special niches of readers who would love many of the books these publishers can offer.

At the BPL, we happen to have a healthy LGBTQ readership, so I will be exploring some of these offerings to add to our collection.  But maybe at your library the niche is different. Maybe you have a lot of Arab American or Inspirational readers, for example.  Well, there are speciality presses for those interest area too.

There is a specialty press for just about every niche.

I am not advocating for blindly ordering from the small presses for all of your purchases though.  What I am saying is, if you have a special reading interest area in your patron base, don't forget to look outside of the traditional publishers to serve their reading needs.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Are You Ready For Some Football...Books?

I know I am not the only one-- librarian or patron-- who is psyched that tonight marks the beginning of FOOTBALL!!!!

There are lots of us out there, men and women, who love the NFL.  Take me for instance.  I spent my high school years at just about every NY Giants home game (and a few away ones) and now as an adult living in Chicago, I am a Bears season ticket holder. This weekend I get to go to a game live and still get home in time to see the Giants on TV.

I am also in a few different football pools and one long standing, fairly competitive fantasy football league.

Again, I am not alone.  The NFL only runs for a few months, but it generates huge interest, ratings, and dollars.  A visitor to Chicago during any season would be hard pressed not to see at least a handful of people sporting Bears clothing or accessories.

So take advantage of all of this interest and get a quickie display up this weekend.  Here are some lists and ideas to help you:

This should be enough for you to make a nice display.  Mix up the fiction and nonfiction and throw in a few movies if you can. This link will take you to the IMDB list of the 642 movies and TV shows that have the keyword "american-football." You are bound to have a few at your library.

Then, sit back and watch the displayed items fly off the shelves as excitement builds for a new season of the NFL.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

BPL: Coolest Library in the Land

Look at what Kathy and I found when we got to Trivia Night last night!

The BPL has its own drink special. We are so proud.

Our goal for the RA Dream Team  is to be the librarians that think outside the box for services. We want to provide the traditional services of a librarian, like reference and RA, but in unique ways. 

With the one two punch of trivia (reference) and giving out Friends of the Library donated books as prizes (we do quick RA interviews to match the books we have to the winners as best we can) this qualifies.  And add to the fact that it comes with its own beverage special...go us.


*This post was updated on 9/5. Original post was done quickly from the mobile blogger platform.