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.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Horror For Beginners

Our Trick or Treat Greeter
Happy Halloween!  Phew, I made it to Day 31.  Well, I still need to make it through tonight with four, 9 and 10 yr old boys sleeping over our house.  Thank goodness there is plenty of candy!

I had a great time talking to everyone about horror, yesterday.

As I discussed in the presentation, my specialty is helping librarians feel more confident as they help horror readers, but there are plenty of you out there who don't usually read like horror and want to give it a try.

How do you help the horror newbie?

One answer to that question can be found here in a post by my fellow ALA Editions author and Genre blending expert, Megan McArdle.

The post is appropriately titled, Horror for Beginners.

Don't forget to keep using this blog as a resource all year long.  Horror fans read scary books all the year through.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Slides for Today's Horror Fiction Webinar

As I posted a few days ago here, today is your chance to hear me talk about why reader's love horror...for FREE. 1pm Eastern/Noon Central. 

I have planned 30 minutes of talking and am willing to take questions for 30 more minutes, so bring your tough horror questions.

The presentation with the live links is available here, or just click on the first slide below.

Can't wait to give you the Halloween pep talk!

Use the slides to find a way to contact me.  I don’t hide in the shadows.

Click the slide to go right to the presentation

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

BPL Book Discussion: Tale for the Time Being

Last week we met to discuss the AMAZING novel A Tale For the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki.

Here is the publisher's summary [It's a long one]:
Amid the garish neon glare of a district of Tokyo known as Akiba Electric Town, sixteen–year–old Naoko Yasutani pours out her thoughts into a diary. She is drinking coffee in a cafe where the waitresses dress like French maids and a greasy–looking patron gazes at her with dubious intent. The setting is hardly ordinary, but Nao, as she is called, is not an ordinary girl.
Humbled by poverty since her father lost his high–income tech job in Silicon Valley and had to move the family back to Japan, Nao has been bullied mercilessly in school. Seemingly unmanned by his professional failure, her father, Haruki, has attempted suicide. Nao herself regards her diary as a protracted suicide note—but one she will not finish until she has committed to its pages the life story of her 104-year-old great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun named Jiko. 
Years later on the other side of the Pacific, shielded from damage by a freezer bag and a Hello Kitty lunchbox, Nao’s diary washes up on the shore of British Columbia and falls into the hands of a writer named Ruth, who becomes captivated by Nao’s revelations. As Ruth’s fascination grows, however, so does her sense of dread: Has Nao followed through on her suicidal pledge? If not, is there still time to save her? Or has Nao survived her bout with adolescent angst, only to be swept away to her death by the cataclysmic tsunami of March 2011? 
Moved to compassion by the young girl’s words, Ruth ransacks the Internet for a trace of Naoko Yasutani or her father. She finds almost nothing there, but the mystery deepens when she discovers a second document in the same packet: a collection of letters from Haruki’s uncle, Jiko’s son, who was conscripted against his will in 1943 to serve the Emperor as a kamikaze pilot. Slowly Ruth pulls the pieces of the mystery together, learning about the lives of an extraordinary family whose history is both inspirational and tragic. 
Day by day, in her quest to save a girl she has never met, Ruth begins to acquire the wisdom that just might save herself. And above all the mystery and drama stands the presiding spirit of great–grandmother Jiko, an Eastern saint whose prayers and paradoxes point the way to a more settled sense of self.
Unflinching in its portrayal of the deep conflicts in Japanese culture, equally incisive in its assessments of the West, A Tale for the Time Being exposes a world on the edge of catastrophe. Simultaneously, with exquisite delicacy and an intimate sense of human motivation, it reveals its characters as kind, compassionate, and worthy of deliverance from the evils we do to ourselves and to one another.
Ever mindful of the small, A Tale for the Time Being also contemplates the large: quantum mechanics, Zen meditation, computer science, climate change, and the nature of being all pass beneath the author’s thoughtful gaze. A novel about both the near–impossibility and the necessity of communication, A Tale for the Time Being communicates a love of life in all its complex beauty. 

Before I get to the discussion itself, I have a few general comments. This is one of the best novels I have ever led a discussion on.  This is a book that is BEGGING to be discussed. I will recount all of the opinions and ideas expressed in our discussion below, but this is just a tip of the iceberg.  We could have kept going for 2 more hours easily.

Here are the discussion notes:
  • This is a challenging novel, but I had warned the group about that in advance.  Still, I was a bit nervous asking for a group vote on the book.  I should have known better than to underestimated the ladies.  10 Liked, 2 disliked, 2 so-sos. [2 votes were came in via email or phone as they had to miss the meeting but loved the book too much not to vote.]
    • One of my so-sos voted that way because of how long it took her to "get into it." This comment caused another to say, that was why she voted liked-- once she got to the Jiko character she felt like the book was worth the wait.
    • No matter how people felt, we all agreed it took until part 2 starts (about 100 pages in) until we felt comfortable.
    • I liked the spiritual experiences here.
    • I felt like the book portrayed the Japanese personality well.
    • I loved how the lines between "fiction" and nonfiction blended in the novel.
    • It was an uncomfortable read at times with the horrific bullying, sex industry, and talk of suicide, but it was never gratuitous.  It made you think about these issues.
  • Right at the start a few people mention asking themselves, "Why did I have so much trouble getting into this novel?" I thought this needed to be discussed:
    • It is an entire book about the collaborative nature of reading.  There is a key quote about it on page 109.  The novel's story line is a study in a reader and writer working together to unravel a story. Ozeki involves us by making us experience it too.  We all agreed that this active participation by us, as readers, improves the story and our experience reading it.
    • We talked about this for a bit and then came to the conclusion that the end of the novel was perfect because the end wasn't the end. It keeps going, like life. Very satisfying.
    • I think once we talked about how the novel is constructed in a way that is challenging but for an ultimate goal of our enjoyment of the story, people felt better about how hard they worked.
  • As I am sorting through my notes, I am remembering how philosophical our discussion was.  here are some topics we brought up and discussed at length:
    • What is reality?
    • What is my reality?
    • How does my perception of reality shape my reality?
    • What is the present?
    • What is time?
    • We had a discussion about Quantum Physics using the Appendix which explains the theoretical physics of  the Schrodinger's Cat Paradox. Click here for more on that. This led to discussions about how we think and create in the "time being." and how what is happening around us is dependent upon who is observing the happenings.
      • It is NOT coincidental that a key action in the book involves a box being opened at different times and people finding something different in it at different times.
  • Now, this is a book where what is happening on the page is open to interpretations, As a result we all posited different thoughts as to what was “really” going on:
    • Ruth and Nao are not 2 separate people but rather 2 halves of the same person.
    • Or they are 1 person but one of them conjured the other to cope.  Who conjured whom though?
    • Ruth is a writer in the beginning stages of Alzheimers and the whole novel is her story of the novel she is writing and the process of writing it.  Clues from her husband’s comments as they “read” Nao’s story together, the slow speed at which she “read” Nao’s diary, and the blank pages at the end.
    • This truly is a story told on different planes of reality a la quantum physics
    • Everything that happens can be taken literally and it is a magical realism story.
    • In the end we decided that it means what you think it means and that THAT comment is the entire point of the book.
  • We all loved the Jiko character. 
    • She unites everyone, both readers and those in the story.  That is why she is there.
    • When the stress or conflict in the story escalates, Jiko comes back to calm things down.
    • She is there to nourish the soul.
    • We wish all children could be given a “supapawa" like Jiko gave Nao.
  • We did talk about the ending at length.
    • The ending was very happy, but was it too happy?
    • Ruth needed a happy ending.
    • The reader deserved one too after working so hard
    • The ending was very “quantum” as we had a few possible endings here.
    • The ending is happy because Ruth is celebrating the end of writer’s block and finishing the book
  • We talked about the theme of loss in this story
    • There are many times when they lose power or communication with the outside world
    • Things being erased from the Internet
    • Alzheimers
    • A lost cat
    • A lost child
    • Lost homes (America vs Japan; NYC vs the Canadian island)
    • Whaletown lost its whales but kept its name
    • The free store-- the dump where lost things go
    • Life is an accumulation of losses
  • Of course we talked about time:
    • It’s a “tale” for the time being. The entire book is a tale not the truth. It is not meant to be taken literally.
    • “Tale" invokes fairy tale
    • Time itself cannot be more than a tale because it has no beginning or end.
    • Someone shared a quote from Thich Nat Hahn: "The present moment is where life can be found, and if you do not arrive here, you will miss your appointment with life.
  • Other issues we brought up briefly:
    • Pacifism
    • Environmentalism-- contributed to the theme of loss as we are losing the health of our planet.
    • Radiation issues with Fukushima.
    • Social media and bullying
  • We started to wrap things up with a return to the beginning-- Why was this book so hard to get into?
    • Because it a book that is like life and life can be hard and difficult but is worth it.
    • This book fanned out.  As book went on it blossomed and opened up and turned into a beautiful contemplation of Life.
  • Words or phrases to describe this book:
    • zen
    • spiritual
    • Supapawa
    • writer-reader combo
    • ugliness of human nature vs the redeeming nature of other
    • thoughtful
    • intricate
    • layered
    • mind-blowing
    • magical thinking
    • supportive relationships
    • 4th Dimension
    • challenging
    • loss
    • life- live
    • passage
    • unforgettable
    • philosophical
    • time
    • beauty of pacifism
Readalikes: This one was easy for me. Although the novel was unique, it also reminded me of other metafiction books and/or authors that were thoughtful, stylistically complex, and character driven:
Finally, for watch alikes we had two movies about alternate realities and popular quantum physics applications come up:

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Listen to Me on Circulating Ideas Episode 53

My favorite library related podcast is Circulating Ideas by Steve Thomas. Why do I like it so much? Because of it’s subtitle: The Librarian Interview Podcast.

With this podcast, Steve is able to bring the thoughts of librarians from all over the country right to you.  I subscribe so that I can hear different perspectives and opinions from my colleagues on my own time. Circulating Ideas provides, for me, the type of experience I used to only be able to get by attending a conference-- a place where I can learn from my colleagues, hear opinions and ideas that are outside of my personal experience, and “meet” new and interesting people in my field.

This is why I invited Steve to the Illinois Library Association Conference where he presented two fantastic programs.  One on podcasting for libraries and another on using Kickstarter to build your community. [Links go to his slides]. He has been able to take his own interest in learning more about what other librarians are doing and working on and has made it available to all of us.

I not only like the podcast because it is well done and useful, but I feel like Steve is doing the same thing I aimed to do when I started this blog back in 2007.  I wanted to bring together the desperate voices and work in the RA field and highlight them all in one place.

While Steve was at the ILA Conference, I helped him to arrange a few interviews with interesting folks in the IL library community.  So look for those coming soon.

But first, there is my interview.  I am first because while most of the interview is about how I approach RA in general, there is a little about horror too.  What better week to listen to my interview than now?

So if you want to hear my philosophy on RA in a nutshell, click through to the interview.

And if you want to keep your mind open to different people and ideas throughout the entire profession, subscribe to Circulating Ideas, and listen no matter who is on.  In fact, I often pay more attention when it is someone from outside my normal experiences.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Monday Discussion: How Are You Going to Celebrate Halloween?

This is a cross post with RA for All: Horror

We are in the home stretch now. It is time for the Monday Discussion one last Halloween themed time.

Today's question is easy, how are you going to celebrate on 10/31/14?

Me first.

I have a lot planned this year.  Friends from out of town are bringing their 2 yr old to watch my 4th grader (who will be going as a zombie doctor) in his school parade. I love watching the 600+ kids trot by one after another.

Then after school, his friends are coming over for some gross grub and trick or treating with 2 dads supervising.  I usually make a very chunky and red chili for Halloween.  It looks gross but tastes yummy.  However, with 4 little boys over who may be picky eaters I am switching to a giant pot of macaroni and cheese with cut up hot dogs and broccoli chunks. Still looks gross, but will be better suited to a 9 and 10 yr old palate.

My 7th grader (going as a mime) will be out with friends trick or treating.  I am glad she still is getting dressed up and participating.  It helps that the Jr High threw a Halloween costume party this past weekend.

I will be answering the door in a scary mask with a witch hat thrown on for good measure, while drinking a zombie dust beer and toasting that I have made it through yet another crazy October.

Here at the BPL, we will also have trick or treating at all of the service desks available all day on the 31st.  Feel free to dress up and show off your costumes here at the library.

What about you.  Are you dressing up? What as?  Do you have special plans since it is on a Friday this year?  Share them here.

For past Monday Discussions, click here.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Horror Blog Updates

I know it is Sunday and I don’t usually post here on the weekends, but we are getting close to Halloween and many of you do not read the horror blog regularly, so this a reminder to go check out my 31 Days of Horror over on RA for All: Horror.

Most importantly for general RA followers is my brand new review of The Quick by Lauren Owen which is a fantastic Halloween suggestion for readers who want vampires but also enjoy literary fiction.  It is a WAY better choice than The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.

Click through to see why.

Back tomorrow with a final Halloween themed Monday Discussion.

Friday, October 24, 2014

FREE Halloween Webinar with Me Next Week

Today's post is to tell you about the FREE webinar I am doing in conjunction with my publisher, ALA Editions on Thursday, October 30th.  Click here for all of the details and to sign up for FREE!

I have reposted the important info with links below.  But here's what you are going to get:

30 minutes of me doing a prepared talk on WHY people love horror with a few author examples.
30 minutes of live questions from any of you asking me about specific books or horror related issues at your library.

Remember, this is sponsored by my publisher, so I am going to be pushing the hundreds of title suggestions available in my book, and on this blog, which is your FREE update to the book.

In fact, to get you excited for signing up and possibly buying the book, click here to get a preview of my slides which includes a coupon on slide 2!

I hope to "see" you there next week. It can be your lunch break! Well, only if you can handle talking horror while eating.  I can, but I know I am weird that way.


Horror Readers' Advisory for Halloween!
with Becky Spratford
Thursday, October 30, 2014
1:00pm ET | 12:00pm CT
11:00am MT | 10:00am PT 

60 Minutes
 Halloween is right around the corner, and the demand for horror books is peaking! In this free webinar, horror expert Becky Spratford will teach you the basics of providing great readers'- advisory services for students and patrons of all ages.
You'll learn how to provide age- and community-appropriate resources for your readers as well as how to avoid potential problem areas. Don't miss this opportunity to learn! Becky Spratford has been a Readers' Advisor for patrons ages 13 and up for over 14 years at the Berwyn Public Library (IL). She has taught at the graduate level and trains librarians all over the world. Spratford runs two popular and critically acclaimed blogs, RA for All (raforall.blogspot.com) and RA for All: Horror (raforallhorror.blogspot.com) and writes content for EBSCO's NoveList database. She is the author of The Readers' Advisory Guide to Horror (ALA Editions, 2012) and is a proud member of the Horror Writers Association.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Norwegian Librarians Are Coming....

No that is not a joke.  They are actually here already. Seriously, I am picking them up at the train station in less than an hour.

Let me back up a bit, though.  Next month, Joyce Saricks is headed to Norway to conduct RA training.  In preparation for her trainings, a couple of Norwegian librarians have come to the Midwest to see RA in action. While in the Chicagoland area, Joyce asked ARRT to help facilitate some tours and experiences for them.

Yesterday, they travelled out to the Geneva Public Library and attending the ARRT Literary Book Discussion and Training (a quarterly members only event).

Today, I have the pleasure of showing them the Berwyn Public Library and the La Grange Public Library.  And,  I have even arranged for them to have lunch with the President of the Illinois Library Association, Jeannie Dilger (my local library Director).

Tomorrow, they will be touring Skokie Public Library.

We are all very excited to have the chance to showcase RA Service to those from overseas.

In honor of their visit, here is a link to all my posts where I mention the first thing you thought of when I mentioned Norway, Nordic Noir.  [Admit it; you know you did.]

New Genre Study Notes Are Available

Those of you following the ARRT Genre Study on this blog, we have our notes from the October 2, 2014 meeting up.  They are password protected with your password AND you should have received them via email late yesterday.

Also, this is your 6 week reminder that we will be discussing the thriller subgenres of Espionage and Forensic on December 4th at the Glenview Public Library.  Anyone, member or not, can click here and use the assignment to run their own genre study. Please just credit ARRT and the genre study website.

If you are interested in more information about this genre study in particular, or in running a genre study on any genre, you can contact me.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

ILEAD U: Using Technology to Tackle Community Problems-- A Bridging the Physical Virtual Divide Example

A few years ago, the Illinois State Library started a program that has now taken off in a few others states.  It is called ILEAD U.  Here is some general information on the program:
Problem Statement: Librarians must expand their leadership abilities by using participatory technology tools to address the needs of their patrons and foster greater community involvement and civic engagement. Examples of participatory technology tools might include digital audio/podcasting, digital photography and video, blogging tools, instant messaging, photosharing (e.g., Flikr), RSS, social networking (e.g., Facebook), videoconferencing, virtual reference, virtual worlds (e.g., Second Life), web conferencing and Wikis. The entire library community may benefit if the successful application of these tools results in the development of an easy-to-replicate program. 
Innovation: The Illinois State Library applied for and received a three-year Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to develop ILEAD U as a national model for participatory technology training. Eight five-member teams representing multitype libraries across Illinois take part in three, three-day in-person seminars over a period of nine months. Teams are assigned mentors who keep participants motivated; offer expertise; and provide guidance and advice. Teams identify a single group project of the team’s design that will address at least one identified need within their communities of users. Teams use the skills and training acquired throughout the sessions to develop, implement, manage and evaluate the projects. 
Progress: The first group of 8 teams who participated in 2010 are using Web 2.0 technology to address issues such as unemployment and job searching in central and southern Illinois; addressing the informational needs of law students in Chicago; providing outreach to people whose second language is English in the Chicago collar counties; and addressing economic development along the I-80 corridor from Rockford to Joliet. The second group of 8 teams is currently engaged in ILEAD U. Like the first group, the teams represent all geographic areas of Illinois and all types of libraries, and they are learning to use participatory technology to address issues such as developing job searching skills; providing quality library programming; fostering digital literacy; establishing an online platform to promote local history; and providing government information. In addition, 12 individuals from state libraries around the nation are participating as observers with the intent of importing ILEAD U to their states. States participating in 2011 are Iowa, South Carolina, Montana, Utah, Colorado, Georgia, Arkansas, New Jersey, Indiana, Michigan, Tennessee and Ohio.
The program continues today. At the BPL we have had a few employees go through and work on a team to complete a project, and this year I have been part of the mentor team for someone at my home library.  

This year's group of participants will be wrapping up their year of work  next week in Springfield, IL, but I thought I would share what the team I have been in touch with is working on.

They have called their project "Traveling Tablet Tour For Illinois Libraries." Here is their mission: 
To provide Illinois librarians the opportunity to borrow a set of iPads for use in children's, family and teen programming and to establish a forum for resource sharing.  

Here is the website they have created to facilitate this program. And go to the end of this post to see the adorable video they have created.

One of their biggest challenges was figuring out how to send the iPads between libraries.  In the beginning of their project I suggested that they look into using the already established Library System ILL trucking.  This is a free service for libraries to share resources and since their mission was "to establish a forum for resource sharing," I thought they could convince the systems to help.

I was correct, as Rachel, a team member told me:
One of our biggest successes so far is that RAILS has agreed to work with us to ship the set of 5 iPads that we will be purchasing. If RAILS wasn't willing to deliver the iPads, we would have had to set aside quite a bit of money from our grant to cover shipping costs. The majority of our grant money is going towards the iPads and accessories, such as cases, toggles so libraries can hook the iPads up to a projector, and a container to ship the iPads in. We also used some of the money for a .com and the rest will go towards an Apple gift card to purchase apps and replace any accessories along the way.  
Any library who receives RAILS deliveries can request to borrow our set of iPads for up to one month. We’ve already received one request! If you’d like to pass along the word to any library friends that you know that may like to take advantage of this project, please do. We also have an app database on our website, where library staff can search for program ideas and age appropriate apps, even if they don’t borrow our iPads; it’s a opportunity for resource sharing.
But what does all of this have to do with RA?  Well, I am showcasing this project because I think it is an excellent example of the on-going conversation I am trying to have with the library community about being better at bridging the physical virtual divideClick here for more posts on that issue by me, including entire programs on the topic.

I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised that the Library System did agree to help because in the past, they have stood firm on only sending materials specifically requested between libraries,  This idea was outside the old rigid box, but I am glad that others are focusing on the service, in this case resource sharing, and not the rules from pre-digital days. 

For more information on ILEAD U please contact the Illinois State Library.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What I’m Reading: The Troop

Recently I reviewed the brilliant Bird Box by Josh Malerman. Well, today’s review makes for an interesting pairing because Nick Cutter’s The Troop has an equal sense of dread and claustrophobia but is on the exact opposite end of the gore spectrum. [Hint-- look at that red cover] I loved both, but I appreciate that for some library patrons this will matter.

Set on an isolated, uninhabited island a few miles of the mainland of the equally isolated Prince Edward Island, Canada, a troop of boy scouts and their leader have their survival excursion interrupted by the appearance of a stranger who is completely consumed both physically and mentally by hunger.  Once “the Hungry Man” enters their world, their fight to survive-- the disease he carries, each other, and those trying to contain the biological incident-- really begins. Featuring a fluidly shifting narration and monsters both of this world and unearthly, the anxiety of The Troop never stops, the panic keeps intensifying, and the gore is bountiful. But there is more than just visceral horror at work here; there is also the desperation of knowing you are trapped, contagious, and doomed.

The story begins with a narration by “The Hungry Man” himself. We then switch to the island where we see things unfold through the eyes of the troop leader and then the boys themselves. In fact this is where the story telling goes from good to GREAT. The boys, their personalities, their places in the troop pecking order, and their backgrounds all come to influence how they manage this horrific situation, how they choose to take charge, and how they treat one and other.

As the anxiety builds and the situation goes from bad to worse to unimaginably horrific, the pov switches become key.

There is also a great side plot here involving the evil scientist who has created the vector which created The Hungry Man. This is a 100% fatal disease that spreads person to person and violently consumes its victim. As readers we are allowed to follow the trial that takes place in the aftermath of the horror that happens on the island. The result is a winning horror combination of a supernatural and human evil that keep the chills and thrills rolling through this extremely fast paced story.

Besides the gore as a limiter, I also need to mention that there are many child characters here, and this story has a high body count. I am sorry to provide a bit of that spoiler, but I think just saying that previous sentence to readers who are unsure if they would like to read this novel is a good idea.

This is pulp horror at it’s best. It is a throwback to the best of the 1980s but with a 21st Century sensibility. [Read during this time of Ebola at your own risk though.]

As a final aside, it is important to note that Nick Cutter is the pseudonym used by acclaimed, Canadian, literary fiction writer Craig Davidson for his horror novels.

Three Words That Describe This Book: gory, intense sense of dread, isolated setting

Readalikes: Obviously Lord of the Flies is in play here. Many readers will see a connection and might want to revisit the classic Golding novel.

The Ruins by Scott Smith and Castaways by Brian Keene are two of my all time favorites. Both share the isolated setting and high gore level. Click on the titles for more details. Hint/small spoiler, all three books share a very high body count, and while The Troop comes close, The Ruins is still the winner in that category.

Two other fantastic horror novelists who go heavy on the gore but don’t sacrifice the storytelling in its wake are Richard Laymon and Jack Ketchum. Laymon in particular was a master of the extremely isolated setting. Cutter has obviously read them and learned from their expertise.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Monday Discussion: What Do You Need To Survive A Horror Movie?

Today I am running the Monday Discussion on both blogs because it is a good one.

Let me have the person who suggested it set the stage for you:
As Halloween approaches many rituals go into full swing. Costume hunting, pumpkin carving, and of course, scary movie watching. No matter how many times you see the same story, you still get a kick out of it (or still scream at the ghostly scene). While watching these movies I always find myself thinking, you know, if she didn't go into the basement alone she might have made it. Or better yet, if you're gonna go in a dark forest you might want to have fresh batteries in your flashlight first, right?
We are looking for bloggers like you to create a post talking about the things they would want to have if they were stuck in a spooky movie. Whether it's garlic to ward off vampires, a shovel to thump zombies with, or a goofy sidekick who you know you could outrun, we'd love to hear what you'd have in your crate to make it through the entire movie.
What a fun idea from the people at Man Crates.  They even provided a cool graphic which I have embedded below to help get your creative juices flowing.  It is kind of small, so I also uploaded a nice clear pdf that you can read in a larger format by clicking here.

So for today's Monday Discussion... what would you put in your "survive a horror movie" crate?

I'll go first.  I would definitely have extra batteries for everything. The batteries always seem to run out on phones and/or flashlights all of the time in those movies.  In fact, I am going to say 5 extra flashlights and 2 extra cell phones, plus a mess load of extra batteries should do it.  Some granola bars to stave off hunger (they are light to carry and yummy to eat) as well as a wooden spear or bat.  I don't know how to shoot a gun and would probably hurt myself with a knife or sword, but a club or bat made of wood with a sharpened end could do a lot of damage to a wide range of monsters.

Your turn. Leave a comment with what you would put in your Horror Movie Survival Crate.

And thanks to Man Crates for getting in touch.  This will be fun.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Soon to be Famous Illinois Author Project-- Author Appearance and Year 2 Submissions Begin!

Last year I was a judge for the first ever Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project.  [Click here for access to all of my posts on it].  It was a smashing success.  In fact, this week at the ILA Conference we celebrated their success as our first winner, Joanne Zienty, appeared, the committee spoke about how they pulled it all together, and David Vinjamuri, the inspiration and mentor of the project, reprised his talk “It’s a Mad, Mad Publishing World.

Joanne has already begun her tour of Illinois libraries to talk about the process and plug the second year of the project.  In fact, tomorrow at 2pm she will be appearing at the Berwyn Library to kick off our Friends of the Library Week celebrations.  Click here to see where Joanne is going and where she has been.

But that was last year.  The Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author Project is fully entrenched in kicking off year 2!  Click here for details, but the basic info you need to know is ANY IL LIBRARY can accept ANY BOOK by ANY self published author.  You do not have to have read it, or deemed it worthy, that is a job for the judges.  And you don’t have to officially join Soon to Be Famous; just by being a library you are already part of the team! The point is to encourage the connection between self published authors and their local libraries.

But I’ll send you to their site for the most up to date info, including the link here where you can submit a book for the judges to consider.

Don’t believe me about how easy it is? Watch the video below to prove it!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

ILA Conference: How to Take Your Friends From Drab to Fab

Today is the last day of the conference, and later this morning, I will be presenting a program that has to do with the other hat I wear at the BPL-- the Friends Liaison.

Along with my colleagues Nikki Zimmermann and Carmen Higgins, we will be giving a pep talk to all of the other Friends Liaisons in Illinois.

Entitled, How to take Your Friends from Drab to Fab, our program is an attempt to organize this diverse group of librarians.  All of us have other job duties besides working with FOL groups, and often, our FOL work is forced to come second.  Obviously, for me this is 100% true.

We are fixing to end that today.  Our program will focus on how the three of us have made positive changes to our groups in three different libraries [click here for the link to see it for yourself].

But the main outcome we are hoping to achieve with this presentation is to start a community of Friends Liaisons.  We are leaving time for discussion in our program and, if you go to the last slide of the presentation, you will see that I have set up a listserv for all Friends Liaisons so that we can keep the conversation going.

Click through and go to the last slide for the link.  RAILS [our library system] has graciously set this listserv so that anyone, from anywhere can sign-up.  I am the moderator, and would like to encourage anyone who works with friends groups to join us in a positive, supportive environment where we hope to share our successes and work together to get through failures.

I know this is a RA themed blog, but if you could let your FOL Liaisons know about our attempt to build a community, please pass this link on.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Follow the ILA Conference in the Twitter Widget

As I have mentioned numerous times, I am in Springfield at the Illinois Library Association Conference all week.  The blogs are both soldiering on due to the benefits of being able to write ahead and schedule things, but I did want to check in to remind people that I am not blogging about specific programs.

Instead, I am tweeting everything.  But I wanted to stress that you do not need to be on Twitter to access my comments and reports from #ilakick.  Readers of the blog can simply scroll down, and look in the right gutter under my book cover to see my Twitter feed.  It has its own scroll bar and the links are clickable.  You can also click on the hashtags to pull up more information without logging onto Twitter.

I’m trying not to duplicate information while still respecting my loyal blog readers.  I hope this is working for people.  If it is not, please contact me and let me know.

What I’m Reading: Bird Box

This is a cross-post with RA for All: Horror.

Back in the summer when I finished Bird Box, the debut novel by Josh Malerman, I knew I had encountered a special book; not only one of the best I have read this year, but one of the best I have read in awhile.

You could feel it as you were reading. I rarely encounter a story as well crafted, with suspense, interesting characters, and an amazingly creative premise.

And it wasn’t just me. Everyone in the library was inhaling and loving this taut and tense novel. From Youth to Adult Services, Circ staff to pages, employees all over the library were talking about how great this novel was.

So what was all the fuss about? Are you sure you can handle it?

Bird Box is a terrifying story set in a world where an unknown threat has killed off almost every person on earth. We don’t know what the threat is though because everyone who sees it kills themselves. So, the only way to protect yourself is to never open your eyes. EVER. Not even a peek people.

What this also means is that everyone who can narrate the novel also has never seen the threat, or else they wouldnt be alive. They all just know that they cannot, under any circumstances, ever open their eyes.

The story opens by introducing us to a mother and her two young children who live alone in a house near the river. They are preparing to set out into this world of unknown horrors and pilot a boat down the river to a possible (but not guaranteed) place of salvation, with-- you guessed it-- their eyes firmly shut.

Then, in alternating sections, the reader is taken back to see this young woman on the day it all began, four years before, when the world as we know it ceased to exist. We see the same house full of people and know that in the story’s present they are all gone. We read compulsively both to find out what happened before and also, to see what will happen now. And the best part of the novel is, we know things are going to end badly, but we cannot stop turning the pages.

Oh, and the ending is just about perfect--resolved by no means settled.

The claustrophobia of this story is oppressive, intense and terrifying from the first page, and it only builds from there. There is also no gore here, but that makes the fear you will feel even more intense.

I dare you not to read this book.

Three Words That Describe This Book: oppressive, dread, anxiety

Readalikes:  This is absolutely my favorite type of book, horror or not, one that is oppressive, terrifying, anxiety driven, and with a constant and intensifying dread hanging over everything. Here are some other books I have read and enjoyed that also fit this profile with links to my reviews for detail. It is important to note that they are not all horror books.

I also recently finished Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. This is also a fantastic readalike option for Bird Box for the same reasons. More details in my review of Station Eleven on RA for All soon.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Art of Booktalking Link Now Live

I may be at the ILA conference, but the RA world keeps spinning.  Yesterday, the newest issue of The Corner Shelf, a Booklist free newsletter came out, and it features some fantastic RA articles.

First, I’ll get the self promotion out of the way, because this issue does have a live link to The Art of Booktalking program of which I was a part. Click through and watch, but here is Rebecca Vnuk’s summary of what you can expect:
Booklist recently had the great pleasure of sponsoring a program with Rowman & Littlfield on the topic of booktalking in libraries. The conversation was graciously recorded by the Reaching Across Illinois Library System, and can be viewed here. Jennifer Bromman-Bender, librarian at Lincoln-Way West High School (New Lenox, IL) and author of several books on booktalking, including R&L's Booktalking Nonfiction: 200 Sure-Fire Winners for Middle and High School Readers (2013), spoke about how to present nonfiction books to middle- and high-school students. She also gave a presentation of some of her most popular booktalks. Katie Mediatore Stover of the Kansas City (MO) Public Library (and author of several ALA Editions RA titles) was up next, with a ton of practical advice on how to booktalk informally—while in the stacks, or out in the community. She also discussed how to pull out the best elements of a book in order to sell it to a reader. Kaite incorporated a lot of RA tips (talking about tone, mood, warning the reader what to expect) on how to do what she calls a "bookmercial." Becky Spratford, author of ALA Edition's Readers Advisory Guide to Horror (2012) and librarian at the Berwyn (IL) Public Library, gave advice on how to get your staff comfortable with booktalking, and why booktalking is so important. Becky then finished up with a selection of her favorite horror books for booktalking.
But wait, there is so much more.

Kristi Chadwick and Anna Popp write about creating a regional RA team in Western Mass, Libraryland’s “blurb Queen,” Robin Beerbower is this issue's interviewee, and there is a core collection column on Gay and Lesbian Romance Novels [a trending area that needs revamping at many libraries].

Click through for more.

ILA Conference: Leveraging Your Librarian Influence

As I mentioned in this post, I am at the Illinois Library Association Conference all week.  I am going to try to have some posts to share, but I did pre-load some posts, like these just in case.

This morning, I will be presenting Leveraging Your Librarian Influence Through the Power of Reviews with Rebecca Vnuk and Kara Kohn. You can click here for the post where I have details on the program itself.

You can click here to access the slides.

Monday, October 13, 2014

RA for All Training with Bucks County Free Library

Today is the Columbus Day Holiday here in the US and many libraries are closed.  Some, like the Bucks County Free Libraries, are holding staff training all day.  And they invited me.

I am happy to be a part of their day as I will be appearing (on a 100 inch screen!) to present my very popular RA for All training:
From shelvers to directors, this program is aimed at any staff member in the library who interacts with patrons.  Being able to provide good RA service from any desk in the library will help staff communicate effectively and ensure satisfied patrons.  Using her "Ten Rules of Basic RA Service" as a guide, Becky will show you how to help any patron find their next good read.
I love this program because it is 2 hours of hands-on RA training and the set up we have will be fantastic.  Everyone can see me and I can see them. Until recently, I thought this was a program I could only do in person, but now, I am excited that I will be able to offer it virtually to more people.

Whether you are a part of today's training or not, this post is a reminder that my 10 Rules of Basic RA Service, which serve as the guide for this RA for All training program, are always available here for you to use for yourself and your staff. I have also ended this post with the rules themselves [but for the entire handout, go here].

Back tomorrow with 3 days in a row of horror novel reviews...

Becky's Ten Rules of Basic RA Service

1.   Betty Rosenberg: “Never apologize for your reading tastes.”
      A non-judgmental list of what you should read"
2.   Suggest don’t Recommend.
3.   Everyone reads a different version of the same book.
4.   Write down adjectives about what you read; plot you can find.
5.   Read widely (at least speed read widely).
6.   Read about books (RSS feeds).
7.   Share what you read- with staff and patrons.
8.   Never let a patron leave unsatisfied.
9.   Get out from behind the desk.
10.Bridge the physical-virtual divide.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Library Reads: November 2014

I can't believe it is time for the November Library Reads.

Remember, I have all the lists available here with one click.  And this is your monthly reminder to not only use the newest list to prepare yourself for the best of what is about to come out, but also use past lists as a sure bet suggestion option.

Check your pre-orders and start placing holds...

November 2014 LibraryReads List


Us: A Novel

by David Nicholls

Published: 10/28/2014
by Harper
ISBN: 9780062365583
“Every once in a while you stumble upon a book that makes you wish you could meet the characters in real life. This is the case with Us, the poignant story of a middle-of-the-road British family spiraling out of control, and one man’s attempt to win back their love. Quirky, delightful and unpredictable, the novel delves into what makes a marriage, and what tears it apart.”
Kimberly McGee, Lake Travis Community Library, Austin, TX

Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover: The Fourth Rule of Scoundrels

by Sarah MacLean

Published: 11/25/2014 by Avon
ISBN: 9780062068514
“Having lost her innocence in a teenage love affair, Lady Georgiana is a social pariah. Trying to save the tatters of her reputation, she must marry and marry well. By night, she is Anna, the most powerful madame in London, and a powerful seductress in her own right. Will Georgiana succeed in re-entering society, or will her past catch up with her once and for all?”
Emily Peros, Denver Public Library, Denver, CO

Lives in Ruins: Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble

by Marilyn Johnson

Published: 11/11/2014 by Harper
ISBN: 9780062127181
“Johnson takes a fascinating look at the field of archeology, profiling a number of archaeologists at work. She visits sites as diverse as an army base, Rhode Island, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean and Peru, but the best part of this book is learning about the archaeologists and their passions. A fun, interesting read that may cause an uptick in field school applications.”
Jenna Persick, Chester County Library, Exton, PA

The Burning Room

by Michael Connelly

Published: 11/3/2014 by Little, Brown and Company
ISBN: 9780316225939
“In this page-turning procedural, the veteran Harry Bosch is paired with a rising star in the cold case department. Bosch may be nearing the end of his service in the LAPD, but he still has many tricks of the trade to pass along to his young partner, who has a personal stake in one of their investigations. Another great entry in the Bosch series.”
Elizabeth Eastin, Rogers Memorial Library, Southampton, NY

Mortal Heart: His Fair Assassin Trilogy #3

by Robin LaFevers

Published: 11/4/2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 9780547628400
“Annith has been forbidden from leaving the convent of St. Mortain, so she breaks the rules to find out why. On her journey, she meets someone unexpected: the leader of the Hellequin, a group of dead souls repenting for their past wrongs and trying to track down those who are left wandering the earth in order to help them cross over. This is the best of all three books!”
Hannah Berry, Aurora Public Library, Aurora, IL

The Ship of Brides: A Novel

by Jojo Moyes

Published: 10/28/14 by Penguin
ISBN: 9780143126478
“Moyes presents a different take on the war bride novel, telling the story of four Australian women who must travel to their husbands in England at the end of World War II. It is a difficult journey under the best circumstances, but for the 650 brides making the trip, it is almost unbearable. These four are the last of the brides to be shipped out on an aircraft carrier.”
Ilene Lefkowitz, Denville Public Library, Denville, NJ

The Forgers

by Bradford Morrow

Published: 11/4/2014 by Mysterious Press
ISBN: 9780802123213
“Narrator Will and Adam Diehl have something in common: they are both forgers, able to produce and sell authentic-looking inscriptions of Arthur Conan Doyle and Henry James’ books. When Adam is found bludgeoned and missing his hands, Will is inevitably drawn into the murder investigation. The clues and horror mount until realization bursts upon the reader at the end.”
Nancy Russell, Columbus Metropolitan Library, Columbus, OH

In the Company of Sherlock Holmes: Stories Inspired by the Holmes Canon

edited by Leslie S. Klinger and Laurie R. King

Published: 11/24/2014 by Pegasus
ISBN: 9781605986586
“A unique, engaging collection of short stories written in honor of Sherlock Holmes. It’s wonderful reading all of the different styles with twists on the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle tales, such as a Facebook-type narrative and a story written from the point of view of a horse. Sherlock aficionados will appreciate the whispers of the great detective on every page.“
Paulette Brooks, Elm Grove Public Library, Elm Grove, WI

Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas: Being a Jane Austen Mystery

by Stephanie Barron

Published: 10/28/2014 by Soho Crime
ISBN: 9781616954239
“Jane, her sister Cassandra, and her mother are spending Christmas with her brother’s family at Steventon Parsonage. They’re invited to visit the Vyne, where the weather and then a murder (or two) keep them houseguests. Jane’s personality and all of those around her shine throughout this story. I’m now planning to start back at the beginning of the series.”
Kim Storbeck, Timberland Regional Library, Tumwater, WA

Mermaids in Paradise: A Novel

by Lydia Millet

Published: 11/3/2014 by W.W. Norton & Company
ISBN: 9780393245622
“This delightful book starts out as almost chick-lit, turns into a fantasy adventure, then leads into an underdog heist. The tone reminds me of Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens, with just enough absurdity in a tropical location to keep you on your toes. Protagonist Deb’s husband, Chip, is a total babe (in a nerdy way) and her BFF, Gina, is the best kind of snarky. A highly entertaining read!”
Amanda Monson, Bartow County Library System, Cartersville, GA

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Reminder: A New RUSA CODES RA Conversation is Coming...

So I knew the new new RUSA CODES conversation was about to begin because on 9/24 I did the post embedded below. But, with all the work I am doing leading up to ILA Annual, I forgot the 2 events will overlap.

So today, I am here to both remind you and publicly say that even I, who will be helping to oversee an entire conference, will be monitoring this conversation.  I know there are always people in the conversation complaining about the number of emails, but I want to stress that you don’t have to participate in the conversation in order to learn from it.

Yes, there are hundreds of emails coming in quickly, but I can honestly say that they are worth it each and every time RUSA holds one of these email conversations.

To that end, I would also like to point you to this post I did in 2013 reminding you how you can get the most out of the conversation no mater how overwhelming it may seem.

Have a great conversation next week. I will be there, lurking and enjoying all of the new things I am bound learn.


New RUSA CODES RA Conversation

From my email box to your computer screen....
A new CODES Conversation begins October 14th  and will run through the 15th. If you wish to take part in the discussion you do not need to take any further action as you are already subscribed. 

RA as a Technical Service
RA does not just happen in the stacks and at the public service desk. It happens in the catalog, in collection development, and in materials processing. Join a community of over 500 librarians interested in all things RA as we discuss how to make sure that the RA service that happens behind the scenes of public service gets the attention and focus necessary to make all of RA as robust and useful as possible.
Some of the topics we will address include:

How best to calculate, and what factors to consider in setting, holds ratios?

Genre Headings: How (if at all) do catalogers/patrons/advisors agree to what constitutes a genre? How many headings do we want/need in an age of genre blends?

What features of the catalog support and enrich RA?

How can the collection development staff help the public services staff keep up with new titles and genres?

What use are stickers on books? How do they work with genre blends?

Should we interfile or have divided collections?

How do we ensure the best access to paperbacks? And speaking of paperbacks has the format flipped to some degree to ebooks?

CODES Conversations are focused electronic conversations on current issues facing collection development and readers’ advisory librarians—or anyone interested in those areas. The free, moderated discussions are open to all – just subscribe to the discussion at http://lists.ala.org/sympa/subscribe/codes-convos, then follow and contribute (or lurk!) as you wish.