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, April 29, 2016

The NFL Draft and Edgar Awards Collide [Complete List of Winners Included]

Last night I was watching the NFL Draft on ESPN and following the Edgars on Twitter [#Edgars2016] at the same time when this Tweet popped up in both my librarian stream and the Edgars one:

I think I gave away the punch line by saying it popped up in both my curated streams because of course, I was not the only one doing this.  Quite a few bookish people chimed in [myself included] that we had the TV on with one event and the computer refreshing with the other.

I was happy to see this, but it also got me think about a combo bookish/NFL event that happened this week, one I had thought of posting about, but I thought after last night, it was fitting to combine it with my annual recap of the Edgars.

Speaking of my deep love for this award, you can read an entire post about that from last year [one of my most popular posts ever] to explain why these awards are among my favorite RA Tools.

But first, my NFL-book news. I was going to do an entire post on it, but the Booklist Reader got to it first. [Thanks for reading my mind and saving me some time.] Earlier this week, Andrew Luck, QB for the Indianapolis Colts and big time reader himself, started a book club for kids. What is so brilliant about this club though is that he offers books for “Rookie” and “Veteran” kid readers-- so no one is left out. He is also committed to actually being involved in this book club, not just licensing his name to it. That commitment can be seen in the fact that he plans to designate someone else to run the book club during the season.  Click here for the Booklist Reader’s post about it with links to the club’s homepage.

Now on to the main event, The Edgar Awards 2016.  Here is the complete list of finalists with the winners highlighted. But I did want to point out a few things about last night's awards beyond listing who won.

-- I mentioned it above, by I have a lot to say about why these awards are fantastic as an RA tool. Please go back and read the post.  I am not exaggerating when I say I use the Edgar database regularly to match a wide range of patrons with good reads.

-- Remember last week when I wrote about genre blending being the biggest trend in ALL fiction and used The Sympathizer, winner the Pulitzer Prize, as my case in point? Well, it also won Best First Novel at the Edgars. This genre blending trend is real. I love that this novel is now a Pulitzer AND Edgar winner. That combo speaks volumes to the trend and also proves my point that many of the most interesting books out there today are genre blends.

-- As a result of following the #Edgars2016, I also saw this Tweet this morning:
I was quite impressed with Schlow Library. They took each winner and turned it into a Tweet with their catalog record for that item. I let them know I thought they did a good job. Here is their reply:
Well done Schlow Library. While I think doing these types of Tweets on a more regular basis is a good idea, if you want to start doing this at your library, using the buzz around a major award announcement is a great way to get noticed.  To get the most impact, please make sure you use the award hashtag and the link to your specific catalog record.

-- Finally, don’t forget that while your patrons may be rushing in for last night’s winners today only to find that someone else beat them to your copy, the very well organized and easily searchable Edgar Awards database is standing by with hundreds of backlist options, a great many of which most libraries own. You can still send them home, happily, with an Edgar winner today.

Now get out there and start suggesting some weekend reads for your patrons.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

RA for All Roadshow Comes to Green County Wisconsin

Today I am taking a road trip to Green County Wisconsin to help train the library workers of several staffs and even a few of the area school librarians.

While I love speaking at all in-service days because I am able to impressed upon the entire staff of a given library the importance of RA as a way to energize, inspire, and encourage the entire library staff, I double heart when I am able to do these combined training sessions for a few key reasons:
  • There are over 12,000 public libraries in America. The vast majority of those are tiny. They cannot afford-- both in dollars and in number of staff-- to do the same things that the showcase huge libraries are doing. BUT, every one of these libraries can serve their leisure readers to a very high level. It is a core service. This is an area in which any library can start to shine with little more effort than having me to come in and give them some direction, and, more importantly, a pep talk.
  • While I keep my rates down as much as possible (remember, this is my job), it is not free to bring me to your library. I have a speaking fee, but also there are travel costs that need to be covered. By combining forces, smaller libraries can share the cost of bringing me out.
  • Back to the first bullet, small libraries can do more by working together to serve all of their patrons. Beyond the cost savings, they can split the load of the work. In fact, I structured today's training to specifically address this.
  • Often, staff are so busy in small libraries, that they have little time to leave their buildings and actively converse with their neighbors. Sometimes, you don't even know that, for example, the library down the street is doing great things with graphic novels and you are behind but have a growing interest. Well, instead of scrambling to catch up, you could enlist their help--- if only you knew. When you bring the staffs of different libraries together, there is much to be gained by everyone.
That is why I love doing training sessions with the staff from multiple libraries, but specifically with this training, the fact that they also invited a few local school library media specialists is brilliant. This takes the last bullet point up a notch. Well done Green County.

To help encourage their next level thinking I wanted to also provide the link to RA for All: The School Library Edition. Please note, I gave this talk for the first time in December 2015. It has not been updated since. But it will be due for a major overhaul this Fall when I will be presenting it at the ISLMA pre-conference. Please consider inviting the local school librarian to your next public library in-service though.

Thanks to the Libraries of Green County Wisconsin for inviting me. I can't wait to get started later today. Below is your specific schedule with links to slides and handouts.

But first, for all the rest of you, I have a question-- What are you doing to improve your service to patrons? I'm not saying everyone should hire me because different libraries have different needs, but you need to do something.

Green County [WI] Half Day RA In-Service TrainingNew Glarus [WI] Public Library: April 28, 2016

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

What I'm Reading: City of Mirrors and The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror

Today I have my draft versions of two reviews that appear in newest issue of Booklist

The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin

First published May 1, 2016 (Booklist)
Four years after The Twelve ended with a cliffhanger, fans will rejoice as Cronin returns with the final installment in his bestselling, post-apocalyptic trilogy. The action picks up 98 years after the destruction of society, soon after the showdown in Iowa where the original twelve virals and their spawned armies were destroyed. Humanity has settled into a calm normalcy that no one alive has ever experienced. We catch up with old characters and observe a new generation coming into adulthood without the constant fear of attack. But while the walls are coming down and people are beginning to populate new settlements, Patient Zero, is secretly readying for a final attack to destroy humanity once and for all. The bleak and menacing atmosphere, nerve wracking tension, twisting plot, and intense battle scenes keep the pages turning as in the first two books, but this final novel also adds a saga-like quality to the entire trilogy, one that may resonate with fan’s of Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves. Readers of the series will be satisfied with the conclusion, appreciating not only the resolution of the conflict, but also the explanation of how humanity rose from the ashes to prosper again, of which readers had previously only seen fleeting glimpses.

More From Becky: Readers of this blog know that I loved The Passage. The Twelve though, was only okay. Now to be fair, I am not a fan of 2nd books in trilogies in general, so that did not surprise me.

This concluding novel though, was very good. It is satisfying both in how it wraps up the epic story, but also in how it spends time going back to explain where it all began. No spoilers, but there is a large section in the first third of the novel which goes back to explain the entire life of "Patient Zero" up to the point at the beginning of The Passage. This section is written in a different tone and style than the rest of the book, but to me, it fit perfectly because it is set in what was a different world from the world of the series. It also serves to answer many questions, which left unanswered, would have made this trilogy's conclusion less satisfying.

Another question I am getting is with the long time span between books 2 and 3, do you have to go back and re-read book 2 before beginning The City of Mirrors? My answer: no. Honestly, if you read the Wikipedia recap of The Twelve and combine that with the excellent job Cronin does incorporating some refresher information into the story, you will be fine.

And for those of you who have waited to even begin this award winning series until it was complete, you are in for one heck of a fun ride.

Three Words That Describe This Book: menacing atmosphere, returning series characters, satisfying conclusion

Readalikes: My suggestion of Seveneves in my draft above, did not make the final cut review, but I definitely thought of the Stephenson novel when I finished The City of Mirrors

Mira Grant's Newsflesh trilogy or Parasitology series are also great options for fans of scientific thriller/horror hybrid storytelling with strong characters, intense tension, and a menacing atmosphere.

You can also go back to my original review of The Passage for many more readalikes-- including the most obvious one, The Stand by Stephen King.

The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror by Joyce Carol Oates
First published May 1, 2016 (Booklist)

In this collection of six previously published stories, Oates has created a book of intense tales filled with unreliable narrators. Using an economy of words to produce an overflow of feelings, in particular extreme unease and tension, Oates ropes you in, seduces you, takes you on a dark and twisted ride and then pulls the rug out from under you, over and over again. Often you start to see the twist coming, but that is not her purpose, obscuring the denouement. Rather these stories are all about the anxiety, tension, mood and the extremely damaged, unlikable characters who keep your eyes glued to the page. When the story ends, you are both gasping for air and rushing to turn the page to begin the next story. The first, “The Doll-Master” may be the most predictable of the bunch, but the creepy feeling it produces lingers, casting an anxious shadow over the entire collection. Stories four and five, “Equatorial” and “Big Mama” build the collection to an intense climax, with “Big Mamma” in particular proving that Oates can be the best macabre writer in the world when she want to be. The final story, “Mystery Inc.,” a love letter to crime fiction and bookselling that could be The Storied Life of AJ Fikry’s evil twin, makes for a fun and unsettling conclusion. This is a collection with wide appeal especially for your fans of compelling and intense psychological suspense as found in the stories of Shirley Jackson, last year’s Slade House, or Gillian Flynn.
More From Becky: If you haven't read Oates ever or in a while and you prefer her more macabre stuff, this collection is worth your time. It is VERY good. [FYI I still am holding out for both her and Haruki Murakami to win the Nobel Prize, but genre bias is real.]

Three Words That Describe This Book: extreme unease, twisted, damaged and unlikeable characters.

Readalikes: I mention 3 above and you can use the links I provided to posts and reviews I have written to find many more.

For those of you who specifically want more short stories of the dark, creepy and twisted variety, check out any collection edited by Ellen Datlow.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Booklist Top 5 Preview: Horror

Later today I will be a part of the newest Booklist and NoveList RA Conversations Live Event. Here is a sneak peek of the first slide for the presentation:

The genres will be Thrillers, Horror and Science Fiction (In that order). The video of the entire presentation as well as the slides and handouts will be made available via Booklist soon, but here on RA for All, I am posting my Horror portion of the handout.

Even without me explaining it all, this handout is a good resource. But it will be better when you match it with the video later.

Becky Spratford on Horror: 

“Horror is a story in which the author manipulates the reader’s emotions by introducing situations in which unexplainable phenomena and unearthly creatures threaten the protagonist and provoke terror in the reader.”

Five Classic Authors 
* Stephen King (The Shining)
* Dean Koontz (Odd Thomas)
* Anne Rice (Interview with a Vampire)
* H P Lovecraft (Cthulhu Stories)
* Ramsey Campbell (Nazareth Hill)

Five Must-Read Books (To understand 21st Century Horror) 
* The Rising by Brian Keene
* The Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle
* John Dies at the End by David Wong
* The Keeper by Sarah Langan
* The Terror by Dan Simmons

Top Five Trends in Horror 
*Weird Fiction Re-Emerges As a Subgenre: Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer; Kelly Link
*Science Fiction and Horror Team Up: Justin Cronin Passage Trilogy; David Wellington
*Horrific Women: Tananarive Due and Sarah Pinborough
*A Return to a Pulp Sensibility: Richard Laymon and Brian Keene
*Horror on Audio: Ghost Radio by Leopoldo Gout and Locke and Key by Joe Hill

Five Up and Comers 
* Joe Hill (NOS4A2)
* Jonathan Maberry (Rot and Ruin)
* Sarah Pinborough (Mayhem)
* Jonathan Janz (Children of the Dark)
* Paul Tremblay (A Head Full of Ghosts)

Becky’s Five Favorites [Besides NOS4A2
* The Ruins by Scott Smith
* House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
* Bird Box by Josh Malerman
* Anything by Shirley Jackson
* The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell

Monday, April 25, 2016

Data You Can Use: Why People Buy Books

One of the newer topics I have become obsessed with is using data to improve service to readers. In fact, I have started a new blog tag, “data” to track this topic and my feelings about it here on the blog. I am also in the process of creating a few new presentations that incorporate my thoughts on how data can be best used to improve our library service to leisure readers.

While you can look for those thoughts here on the blog in the coming months, today, I want to share what I learned when thanks to today’s  RA Rundown, I was pointed to this article, “8 Reasons Why People Buy Books."

From the article:
Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been reporting on observations that Jellybooks has made about readers after collecting data about when, where and how they read. Do readers rant or rave about books? Do they read fast or slow? Do they even finish the books they begin reading? 
One of the more interesting phenomena we observed was that there are books that sell well but are not read, or at least they appear not to be read by many of the people who buy or otherwise acquire them. Our first reaction was to ask, “Can we trust the data?” But we then came to the conclusion that, indeed, we could (more on data integrity, sampling bias and statistical validity in a future post). Having convinced ourselves that the observations were genuine, we started wondering as to the reasons and started thinking in more depth about the question, “What motivations do readers have for buying specific books?” Below, we outline some of our thinking on this topic, which is also a manifesto of sorts for future research. 
1. Entertain Me Now2. Entertain Me in the Future3. Inform Me4. Obligation to Read5. Social Pressure to Read6. Makes Me Look Smart7. Need for a Gift8. Impulse
The article then goes on to look more closely at reach type of reader. Go and read it for yourself and then come back because I have a few thoughts about how to make this article work for you-- the library worker who helps leisure readers:

  1.  Ignore the fact that this is about why people BUY books. Look at this list with a wider lens and think about why people read in general. There are some observations, specifically about what readers expect to take away from the reading experience that will help you to better serve your leisure readers.
  2. You can turn most of these 8 reasons into actual RA Conversation topics.  For example, think about all of the readers who come into your library to read the book everyone is reading-- aka-- social pressure to read. Is the person you are helping at the library there to get A book or any book? The answer makes a difference in how you will help that person. 
  3. We can take data about why people read the books they do and use it to craft better passive RA service such as displays or our online promotions.  This is a topic I am currently developing into a program. I will have more to share in June including concrete examples of how to use data to improved service to readers.
  4. We need to be paying a lot more attention to the work Jellybooks is doing for us. The publishers are giving them ebooks that they then turn around and offer to readers for FREE in exchange for the consent to collection data on HOW the readers are reading. This is information we can use in libraries too.
  5. The founder of Jellybooks, Andrew Rhomberg has written and will continue to write more articles on the topic of data, readers, and publishing, and I think we should both be reading his past works and keeping an eye out for new information too.
Again, this is an ongoing conversation and one of RA biggest trends right now-- using data to improve service to leisure readers. Think of today’s post as the beginning of our conversation.

My goal is to make the idea of front line, public service desk using data less scary. Goodness knows the idea scared me at first. But data is no longer just for administrators and tech services.  RA for All embraces the idea that every library worker can help leisure readers-- well let’s explained it to data for all! 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Reminder: EXTRA! EXTRA! ARRT Audiobook Program Flyer and Registration!!!

Today, I am reposting my announcement about the fantastic Audiobook Listener’s Advisory Program I am helping to organize for ARRT. We are just over 2 weeks away and already creeping past half capacity. Please do not wait to register. We will have a full house.

We are using Eventbrite, but please note, you can choose to pay at the door if you do not want to charge it.

Your very affordable ticket price ($20 nonmembers/$15 members) comes with thirty minutes of light breakfast and networking time, a free PRH audiobook, and a copy of AudioFile Magazine. You are getting more than $20 worth of stuff PLUS the presentation from some of the best people in the business.

Also, if you have joined us for ARRT programs in the past, please note that this one has a morning start time.  We normally only have morning programming when we do our all day events. We hope this change of time and day of the week (we normally don’t have programs on Mondays either) will help to fit into some of your schedules better.  We have heard from members that switching up the days of the week we offer programs makes a huge difference in terms of who can attend. We appreciate the feedback and are listening [pun intended].

See below for links to registration with all of the details. I hope to see a lot of you there.
Click here to register

Click here for more information about ARRT.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Mystery Trends and Titles from LJ and a General Comment On These Genre Spotlight Features

I have been in meetings most of the last two days. They have all been good and productive library meetings, but they have not allowed me to finish the in-progress blog posts I have been working on.

But, Library Journal has saved me today with their annual Genre Spotlight on Mystery. This article takes a look at the year that was, assesses trends, and then talks about what is coming up.  I really love these genre spotlights because they are a mix of essay and annotated reading list. You get the key titles, the new titles, and a lot of really helpful RA advice.  You can use what is in this article to help a patron right now.

So, excuse my passing of tieback today, but this is an article worth your time.

You can also click here to pull up the other genre spotlight articles.  I particularly rely on these to help me with the genres for which I am least familiar. Not only do they give me a list of titles to suggest to patrons, but the description portions of the spotlight articles give me the vocabulary, focus, and confidence to actually work with a fan of the genre.

Try it out for yourself. Click here and pick your least favorite genre, find a patron who likes that genre, and start talking books.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Genre Blending Is The Biggest Trend in ALL Fiction Featuring THE SYMPATHIZER as Exhibit 1

I have said it hundreds of times and thousands of librarians have heard it [I have data to back that up], but the biggest trend in all fiction is genre blending.

That statement was further bolstered this week by the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction being given to The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen.

This novel is remarkable in many ways. It is a debut novel. It received a star review when it was first released from every major review journal-- even Kirkus! It is technically well written yet compulsively readable.

But it is NOT remarkable in that it is unclassifiable by genre. In fact, it is typical of all of the very best fiction being written today in that it uses the best of many genres to tell a moving, thought provoking, and compelling story.  Here is a list of the genres you could file The Sympathizer under:

  • literary fiction
  • psychological suspense
  • espionage thriller
  • historical fiction
It is not any one of these though. It is all of them. And this idea of books having to always fit into a single genre box is untenable today. As I discuss at length in my popular Working With Genre Readers lecture, readers don’t live in genre boxes and author’s don’t write penned in my them.  I go on to expand that point further by citing Michael Chabon in Chapter One of this nonfiction book, Maps and Legends, where he says that the best writers today are those who write on “the borderlands,” whose works cannot be pigeonholed into a single genre. That is where the best storytelling is happening-- both from a “best” books point of view and from a reader enjoyment standpoint.

The Sympathizer’s Pulitzer is a great opportunity for us to engage in a conversation about genre blending with our patrons and amongst ourselves.  While it might seem on first glance that all of this genre blending will make our job of matching leisure readers with the best book for them much harder, in fact, I would argue that it can make it easier. 

Think of yourself as a reader. I bet you probably don’t like only 1 kind of story. Take me. Yes, I like horror but I also enjoy literary fiction, psychological suspense and historical fiction. I even enjoy a bit of science fiction, fantasy, and mystery thrown in.  And the books I tend to LOVE combine these genres (maybe not all at once, that is a bit too much) more than any single title that is just 1 thing.

Thankfully, since genre blending has been a trend for awhile now, there are a few resources geared specifically to helping you to identify the right mix for the reader in front of you.

For those of you who have access to NoveList, they recently introduced an “Appeal Mixer” that you can use to concoct the perfect blend of book for the reader in front of you.  Here is an article about it that anyone can access.

Megan McArdle is also the author of a great RA guide focused on Genre Blends [full disclosure, it’s the same series as my book]. And she also has her own virtual "Gender Blender" that you can use to identify titles here.

So embrace the trend. Talk to your patrons about all the genres they like. Find them books that can be tailor made for their own unique recipe of genre blend.  The Sympathizer is already the book of the moment. Use the conversation opening it is presenting to start the genre blending conversation-- again with patrons and with each other.

On a side note, I will be traveling around Northern IL in September for RAILS, leading book discussions and helping book discussion leaders set up networking groups in their region [see this article for an explanation] and The Sympathizer will be the book we will discuss at each stop. As well as being discussable on its own, it will also help us to have a larger discussion of this genre blending trend.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

What I’m Reading: Mr Splitfoot

Becky’s Soundbite Review of Mr Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt:
Creepy and compelling, this contemporary Gothic has much to offer a wide range of readers. Ruth and Nat are orphans living in a severely religious and corrupt group home who begin conducting seances to contact the dead or missing parents of their fellow orphans. Many years later, Cora, Ruth’s single and pregnant adult niece awakens to find her Aunt Ruth, who she has not seen in many years, has returned, mute, to lead Cora on a journey across northern NY State on foot.  Where are they headed? Where has Ruth been all these years? The skillfully told dual narratives, move back and forth between the two time frames, compelling readers to join Ruth and Cora, following both the women and the clues from the past into the present.  Plot twists, lyrical language, and a heartbreakingly beautiful ending make this a satisfying read.
Further Appeal Notes: For such a lyrical novel, with sentences that beg to be re-read, and for one with such a focus on the characters-- particularly Ruth and Cora-- this is a surprisingly compelling novel. It could have been much more methodically paced since much of the action in Cora’s storyline involves her and Ruth simply walking, with only Cora talking because in the present storyline, Ruth cannot or will not talk. [Don’t worry, this “or” question is resolved.] But it is not slow at all. Much of this is a result of the well constructed dual storylines. Each separate storyline is intriguing, but it is the frequent switching back and forth that drives the action and keeps readers turning the pages. Readers are compelled forward to find out what in the past is driving the storyline in the present. And rest assured, there is no confusion here because the Ruth of the past and Cora in the present are such unique and strong narrators that you clearly know which storyline and time frame you are in at all times.

This is also a story about a journey, about the limited choices poor kids have, especially poor women. It is a novel about the place, far upstate NY, too.  There is a reverence for the natural beauty of the place, but it is balanced with a sadness about what it is like to live there too.

I cannot stress enough how beautifully this novel ends. It may not be a typical or standard example of a closed ending, but it is resolved beautifully and movingly. Readers who enjoyed the journey will be satisfied.

This is a surprising book in that it is not your typical story in any way; however, I do think it would appeal to a wide range of readers nonetheless. As I mention below, it reminded me greatly of Karen Russell and Wiley Cash, two authors who I would also describe this exact way.

Three Words That Describe This Book: atmospheric, parallel narratives, lyrical

Readalikes: The publisher says Mr Splitfoot is for fans of Aimee Bender and Kelly Link.  I agree with that, but I felt more of a connection to Karen Russell and in particular, Swamplandia! Both are atmospheric and follow young women on the outskirts of “normal society” who are on a journey. They are also equally as lyrical with a strong sense of place [just different places]. They are also offbeat with a slightly mystical or magical element.

Also, I don’t like the idea that a female author can only trigger female author read likes because the first author I thought of when reading Mr Splitfoot was Wiley Cash. Here is a sample of what I said in my review of his debut novel A Land More Kind Than Home:
This is a beautifully wrought story that at every turn gives you more than you expected.  The "plot" involves the killing of a mute child at a prayer "healing" by the creepy preacher mentioned above.  But we know from the first pages that the child will die.  Thus, this novel is not about the murder.  It is about rural communities and the intimate links between the people who live there.  And it is about the setting.  In the end this is a story where a drama unfolds, a conflict which has it roots back a generation from the current murder, and once we reach the last page, everything has changed and yet, at the same time, we are back to the way it always was.
Much of the commentary here about the appeal of this story also holds true for Hunt’s novel.

Finally, try Delicious Foods by James Hannaham. How the stories are told with a manipulated time frame, the overall ominous tone, and the theme of lives lived on the edges of “normal" society, are all shared here.

Please click on the links for both the authors and the specific titles in this readalike section to find many more readalike options.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Nominate Yourself or Your Peers for Excellent RA Service And Why This Award Is Important To Everyone No Matter Where You Live

I know I have readers from all over the world on this blog, but if you will all excuse me for a moment, I have a local announcement, but, I promise at the end of this post I will have information for all my readers.

As you all know, I am on the steering committee for the oldest RA Networking group in the country, the Adult Reading Round Table. A few years ago, we started the process to honor excellence in service to leisure readers in Illinois with its own award. We love our Reference Services Forum friends, but RA had been hidden within their award for many years, and as a result, some wonderful services to patrons were going unnoticed.

Well, as I mentioned on the blog back in 2015 here, we were able to co-sponsor a new award with our Reference Forum colleagues. And, last year, Downers Grove Public Library's wonderful Book Genie won first ever ILA Readers' Advisory Service Award conferred by ARRT

The entire process was a huge success.  You can click here to learn more about the winners.

And now, we accepting submissions for the second annual award!

This award recognizes excellence in the planning, development, or delivery of RA services to adults or teens.  Nominees can be individuals, departments, teams, or entire libraries so long as the person (or their library) is an ILA member.

ARRT knows a lot of exciting RA work is being done in Illinois.  This award is a perfect time to recognize all the innovative ideas being explored.  We'd love to have  large application pool, so the more nominations the merrier!  The recipient will be selected by a subcommittee of the ARRT Steering Committee and the ILA Reference Services Forum.

Okay, so that’s my local announcement. By the way, you can nominate yourself. We encourage it because sometimes you are the only ones who know about the great work you are doing. Also, if you don’t live or work in Illinois, but know someone who is doing great RA work in our state, as long as 1 person you are nominating or the library itself is an ILA member, you can nominate them.  You do not need to be a member yourself to nominate anyone.

But now for the rest of you non-Illinoisans who have been patiently waiting to read this.  I hope this post serves as a public service announcement to you for your locations.

At ARRT we were tired of complaining that RA work wasn’t being recognized, so we did something about it. We put our money where our heart was.  We collect membership dollars and sell our training products to NoveList in order to have funds to “develop” and “promote” service to leisure readers in Northern IL. Using our money to fund an award that highlights RA work is the perfect service to our mission.  Last year we had multiple nominations, and while we could only pick one winner, we have now identified some great RA work happening places we did not know about. We are getting a full picture of who is doing great work in our state and how we can help develop and promote RA services for everyone.

But there are even more important results from our work to advocate for and fund a RA award at the state level. The higher ups in the Illinois Library Association leadership were impressed with the number of nominations we were able to get. It made them realize how important RA service is to our state. Here are some tangible results from our work with this award:
  • More RA focused programming was accepted at the conference last year because they knew there would be an award.
  • We got to have the stage to ourselves and present a separate award in front of the entire ILA Community of library workers.
  • The ILA Reporter, the official publication of our statewide organization, noticed how popular RA Service was and dedicated an entire issue to the topic, including an article by me, and interview with me, and an article about last year’s winners of our award. Click here to access that issue.
  • ILA is currently reviewing program requests for the 2016 conference, but anecdotally, I have heard more RA focused programs were submitted than in previous years. I myself submitted 2.
Now think about your area? What are you doing to help promote service to leisure readers among your colleagues.  In many cases that is just as important as the promotion we do to our patrons.  I hope our example of success will inspire you to identify and honor your colleagues who are going above and beyond to serve their leisure readers.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Publisher’s Weekly Best Books of Summer-- 2016 and Backlist Options

Readers of the blog know that while I like lists of the best of new or upcoming books, I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE when those lists include a link to backlist options. And if said list includes a breakout of genre fiction too, I am in danger of exploding with happiness.

That is exactly what we have today with the annual Publisher’s Weekly Best Summer Books 2016 list and corresponding website.

Click here to see the site, but here is a quick screen shot of how awesome it is for us as a tool to help readers:

As you can see, all in one place you have this year’s best summer books on the front page.  On the green bar across the top you can then choose to see more by genre. AND, you can do the same thing for summer books each year back to 2012.

But wait, there is more. You can do the same thing for their BEST of the year lists too.  ALL FROM ONE PAGE.

Do you all realize what a treasure trove of information this is? Do you realize how happy you will be able to make a patron with just a few clicks?

And, each book comes with an annotation. You can do everything from identify a good book AND book talk it all from one resource.  You will look like a book wizard-- because you are if you use the site to help readers.

Yes, it is great for us to know about the big books of summer ahead of time.  We can make sure we have them ordered, we can start preparing “while you wait” readalike lists, and we can talk them up to patrons. But, these books are not going to be on the shelf. Some of out readers may come in for The Fireman by Joe Hill in May and have to wait until July to read it. [It’s worth the wait by the way].

But, Publisher’s Weekly has your back. Yes this list of Summer 2016’s best are going to not be available ASAP, but last year’s, or the year before’s will be.

I wrote about this at length in November in regards to end of the year best lists, but the advice holds true for summer reads too:
Again, you need to remember that they just want a “best” book. Most of them do not care when it was “best.” Trust me. I have done this switcharoo dozens of times over the last 15 years.  People love it. They often feel like they got a “secret” best book when it is one I found from a previous year’s list.
Most patrons will be happy with any best book. Yes, many will want to read the new John Hart, of course, and they should, it is going to be good, but while they wait why not give them the hot Summer Mystery/Thriller from 2014, I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes.

So right now, use the page to make sure you have these hot titles ordered. If they made the PW site it means that the publishers are going all out on these titles.  Your patrons will see and hear plenty of media buzz on these books, so get them on-order now.

But then, bookmark the page for use all year long, to find patrons a “best” book.  Between this backlist trove and the Library Reads lists, you have hundreds of sure bet options complete with a quick book talk right at your fingertips.

Anyone who can click a mouse on the Internet can turn these pages into effective service to leisure readers.  Give it a try.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

How Do You Keep Your To Read List? Request for Assistance.

I am at the Glenview Library waiting for the next meeting of the ARRT Speculative Fiction Genre Study to begin. Today we will be doing our Science Fiction Bootcamp.

But that is not the topic of this post in any way.  I have been spending way too much time thinking about how I keep track of what I want to read. Much of this has been forced upon me because Shelfari shut down and made me switch to Goodreads.

I have nothing against Goodreads.  I use it all of the time as a resource, however the point of Goodreads is for readers to interact with each other. It’s a social media space for book lovers. What I loved about Shelfari is that it was first and foremost about the books. It was a space to keep a virtual bookshelf.  It was cumbersome to interact with other users, but that’s why I liked it. I was using it to keep track of what I had read but more importantly, what I wanted to read next.

The switch to Goodreads has been unsatisfactory for me on many fronts. For example, although Shelfari and Goodreads were the same company, when I did the approved import from Shelfari to Goodreads, my dates when I read all of my books were lost.  It now looks like I read hundreds of books this year.

Now that is only mildly annoying. I have more complaints, but my biggest one is how terrible Goodreads is for keeping my to-read list. I used to rely on Shelfari as the place where I kept my large to-read list. I put the books on a shelf virtually and regularly went back to “pull" one off the shelf and place a hold at the library. I could easily browse my shelf-- that looked like a book shelf-- and pick my next reads.

I am not enjoying using Goodreads for this. Again, I think it is because the strength of Goodreads is in the social aspect and I want it to be a place to park my lists. 

Beyond being annoying, I have noticed a HUGE problem with my lack of a reliable to-read list-- I am not reading as many backlist titles as I have in years' past. I think that is because I am relying on placing pre-pub books in my library catalog holds queue. They won’t all come at once because they are not out yet. But older titles will come right away. I don’t want that. So what is happening as a result is that I am not reading backlist titles at all.

That is not good. So now, I am ready to take action.

As you can see, I have spent far too much time thinking about this topic. I need to stop. That’s where you come in. Today, I am asking all of you, please let me know what you use to keep your to-read lists and if you like it by leaving a comment.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Halfway to Halloween: I'm Making it a Thing

For the third year in a row I am trying to make Halfway to Halloween a "holiday," at least a holiday for library people to celebrate. And the centerpiece of my celebration is my annual April take over of Neal Wyatt's Readers' Shelf Column in Library Journal.  Here is the link to this year's list. The topic is hot upcoming horror titles.

I am only half joking about Halfway to Horror too. It really should be a library thing. Why? Well, April is the perfect time to do your major Horror collection development for a few key reasons:
  • April is when the Bram Stoker Awards are announced. You always want to check the nominee and winner list each year for all major genre awards, so why not check it when it comes out? I advocate doing your Graphic Novel collection development in July for the same reason [Comic Con and Eisner Awards]
  • Horror is unique because, while it is popular all year long, there is definitely an influx of interest and an increase in checkouts from late September through early November. Assessing the state of your current horror offerings, ordering replacements, weeding, and adding new books takes time.  Starting 6 months before gives you the time to accurately address your collection.
  • Working on your horror collection now, also serves as your prep for the Halloween rush. While you are "celebrating" halfway to Halloween by working on your collection and browsing the resources, you can take notes, gather titles for future displays, and make lists for the Fall. September is always a busy month at the library and waiting until then to plan for the Halloween onslaught is too late. You will be too busy. You will not put your best horror foot forward and you will lose a great opportunity to serve your patrons. Halloween is easy people. We know patrons are thinking about trying a horror book. Put up a few displays and make a few lists and you look like a RA superstar. Don't miss out.
This year in particular April is an especially good time to work on your horror collections because I just wrote a brand new "Trends in Horror" article for NoveList [up on site soon]. I will also be one of the presenters at this event:

Five Things to Know in Top GenresDate: Tuesday, April 26th at 2 p.m. CSTLocation: RAILS Burr Ridge, 125 Tower Dr, Burr Ridge, IL 60527
Panelists: TBA.Description: Based on the popular “Top Five” programs at recent PLA conferences, this program offers a quick rundown of the top things to know in some of the most popular genres, including each genre’s top five authors, trends, and benchmark books. 
Sponsored by: NoveList
I will be presenting on Horror-- of course, but I will also be doing a general talk on "Staying in Genre Shape" using NoveList products. They are a sponsor of the event with Booklist. This event will be video taped and available for free to everyone. I will also post all of the handouts on the blogs for everyone.

So right now, start celebrating Halfway to Halloween  with my Library Journal column. And spread the word about this library holiday. Heck, put up a display and get your patron's in on the fun too. Then join me for the Booklist/NoveList event to learn the current state of horror. Heck, I'm doing all the work for you. What do you have to lose?

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Weeding Tips for Youth Collections

Yesterday my Corner Shelf email newsletter came via Booklist Online and I dutifully read it. However, little did I know that I would be using one the the articles the very next day....today...as I worked my regular volunteer shift at the elementary school library.

Let me back up a bit and explain.

I help out 2x a month at my son's elementary school library. We are very lucky to have a MLIS librarian on staff and she is very good, but she is also very busy.  One of the ways I help is with some basic cataloging and collection development, most notably, to help with weeding.

Recently, she had a volunteer go through a few Dewey areas and pull things that "looked old." She then asked me to go through the cart and look at everything more closely. While I was starting on this project today, the library assistant asked what she thought was a very easy question, but all of you will know that it is not:

How do you know what to weed?

Well that opens a whole can of worms, doesn't it?

Weeding is a complicated library topic, but it is also an essential duty. I have posted about this many times. You can pull up all of those posts with this link.

Weeding is hard but necessary. It is a huge part of your collection development; just as important, in fact, as your new purchases. Also, as I said in a post back in 2010:
Weeding is a customer service. Having your shelves neat, in order, and as efficient and effective as possible, helps users. They should not have to, for example, wade through 10 out of date biographies to find the 2 that are the best and most respected. They should be able to come into the library knowing that the collection in front of them (or at least the catalog is the book is checked out) represents the most current and best received materials of general interest. That is, considering population size, budget and spacing. But this is why libraries hire professionally trained librarians instead of just general book lovers.
 And this all brings me back to the Corner Shelf. [Admit it, you thought I forgot.]

In the most recent issue, Erin Downey Howerton, the Children’s Manager at Wichita Public Library and a Booklist Advisory Board member, shared her very practical advice on how to best weed a children's collection. From the article:
Lots of popular weeding guides give detailed information about how to maintain a library collection. Although general advice is always useful applied to diverse collections, sometimes you need to think about collections for youth a different way. When my friends at the Northeast Kansas Library System told me that they were designing lunch-hour-sized webinars for their libraries to learn about different topics, I suggested the topic of “Weeding Youth Collections.” Here are some of the suggestions we shared during this continuing-education opportunity.
Click here for the rest of the article.  But because I had read it last night, I was able to talk to the library assistant about some of the specifics about weeding a youth collection and I sounded super knowledgeable.  Thanks Booklist, Rebecca, and Erin!

Spring is a great time to think about cleaning out your "MUSTIE" collections too, and Erin's article is a great place to start getting inspired to take action.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Library OnCon is April 14th: It’s Virtual and Free!!!

Today I want to use the space here at RA for All to promote the 3rd annual Library OnCon, this year with a focus on you...the library worker and how you can take control of your career.

Not familiar with OnCon.  Click here for their “About” page, but here is a small excerpt from that page:
Unlike other virtual conferences and webinars where participants passively observe speakers, we wanted to create a model that was interactive and engaging.  The small group hangout sessions led by moderators from various parts of the library field, encourage open communication, networking, and inspiration. 
Anyone with a computer and Internet access can participate, but don’t wait until Thursday to get on this. Spend some time today over on the website and plan how you will participate and attend so that you are not caught up in any technical snags.

Below, I am reposting a shortened version of the Conference Day page which has all of the details and times for Thursday’s presentations. Please note, you need to go to the Library OnCon page to access the content. I am only posting this for information purposes to show you what is scheduled.

Also, some of the presentations come with the option for smaller group discussions. Take advantage of these.

Finally, if you still have questions about the conference, why it exists, and how it works, you should listen to Episode 70 of the Circulating Ideas podcast in which one of this year’s presenters interviews the founders of this conference.



Learn from someone whose actual job title is "Learning Scientist"! Peter Wardrip will share a framework to support learning in library makerspaces. This framework is intended to provide guidance to design, implement and assess maker-based learning experiences. He will discuss ways to document learning in your space. Whether you are new to makerspaces or a seasoned maker veteran, you will take away critical questions about your own space or potential space and new ideas for ensuring that learning experiences support goals program and library-wide.


Finding your niche in your career means keeping your eyes open and your ear to the ground, and not being afraid to take chances. More than that, it means not being afraid to be yourself. Join a former weird, nerdy kid who grew up to be a weird, nerdy adult as we talk about seizing opportunities and bringing your passion with you when you show up to work. 


 Jennifer Drinka, Head of Youth Services at the Crystal Lake Public Library, inspires you to take your career to the next level by embracing change and going into new environments with a fun and fearless attitude. You will explore your career path, what makes up your core self, and how to know when you are ready to make a change.


This session will give you a plan to identify, pursue, and develop your career by using your passion and unique abilities as a guide. We will explore ideas from a host of authors and speakers to help you thrive in a position where what you are good at intersects with what you love. A discussion will follow to address specific questions.


Negotiating your salary can seem intimidating, but the earnings difference it makes over the course of your lifetime is dramatic.  The key to a successful salary negotiation is knowing what to say and how to say it.  I’ll give you all the tools you need to get comfortable advocating for your compensation.


Do you struggle to promote yourself? Marketing and branding your work doesn't have to be awkward or boastful. We will cover tips for authentically branding and defining yourself in person and through your online presence to help further your career!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Booklist's Top 5 Nonfiction at PLA and More Coming Soon...

Yesterday, Rebecca Vnuk from Booklist hosted her popular "Top 5" program at PLA for the 4th time in a row! This year the topic was all Nonfiction-- with the 5 "genres being Microhistories, History, Popculture, Sports and Essays.
For four Public Library Association conferences in a row now I’ve been joined by a panel of rock-star readers’ advisors for a program we like to call the “Top 5.” This is where we take five fiction genres or nonfiction categories and give you a quick-and-dirty list of books and authors you should know about, even if you don’t read in that area. No one has time to read everything in our collections, even if we wanted to, but patrons expect us to be knowledgeable about every book and author. I’ve always championed the idea that the best way to get around this is by knowing a little bit of good stuff about a lot of your collection, and the Top 5 programs were born as a way to give librarians some fast knowledge about a variety of books and authors. 
Here are links for this year’s handout. You can also access the nonfiction handouts from 2014 and the fiction handout from 2012.
300 people came to see this one, but whether or not you were there, you can still access the handouts.

Also, look for me to join Rebecca and Kaite Stover on a computer screen near you later this month as we do a mini version of this popular program with three completely different genres and some information on how to stay better up to date on any genre, all the time.

Because although I love Rebecca and this program, every other year is a little too long to wait....

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Library Reads: May 2016

This is your monthly reminder that the Library Reads List is out, and I am feeling good about loving The Fireman, giving it a star review in Booklist, because many of my colleagues seem to have loved it too. 

[By the way, never have I seen horror so high on the Library Reads list. Maybe all my writing and lectures telling all of you to not be scared of horror is finally working.]

Don't forget, from a helping leisure readers perspective, the past Library Reads lists are a lifeline. There are now hundreds of pre-approved titles for every type of reader, complete with their own soundbite booktalk, and the kicker, the further you go back, the more chance these great reads are on your shelves...RIGHT NOW!

Click here to access all of the lists in reverse chronological order here on RA for All.

May 2016 LibraryReads List


Britt-Marie Was Here:
A Novel

by Fredrik Backman

Published:5/3/2016 by Atria Books
ISBN: 9781501142536
“Britt-Marie is a woman who is used to her life being organized. But when she leaves her cheating spouse and takes a temporary job as caretaker of the recreation center in the tiny town of Borg, her life changes in unpredictable ways. With its wonderful cast of oddball characters and sly sense of humor, this novel is sure to capture readers’ hearts. Highly recommended.”
Vicki Nesting, St. Charles Parish Library, Destrehan, LA

The Fireman: A Novel

by Joe Hill

Published: 5/17/2016 by William Morrow
ISBN: 9780062200631
The Fireman is a novel that will keep you up reading all night. No one really knows where the deadly Dragonscale spore originated but many theories abound. The most likely is that as the planet heats up, the spore is released into the atmosphere. Harper Willowes is a young, pregnant nurse who risks her own health to tend to others.This is her story and I loved it! This is one of the most creative takes on apocalyptic literature that I have read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Highly recommended for all Hill and King fans.”
Mary Vernau, Tyler Public Library, Tyler, TX


Everyone Brave Is Forgiven

by Chris Cleave

Published: 5/3/2016 by Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 9781501124372
“Set during World War II and loosely based on the author’s own grandparents, this was a strikingly honest look at the changes that war creates on a country’s landscape and its people. These changes were so strongly shown by the progressive style of this novel. Bit by bit, we are privy to each character’s transformation. What a great tribute to what they endured. War gives birth to many endings, also to many beginnings. Bittersweet.”
Lori Elliott, Kershaw County Library, SC


Sweetbitter: A Novel

by Stephanie Danler

Published: 5/24/2016 by Knopf
ISBN: 9781101875940
“At her new job at one of NYC’s posh restaurants, Tess falls for a mysterious bartender and negotiates the politics of the service industry while building a social life. Danler drew from her own experience and the writing is vivid and stimulating.I’m always interested in a story about a girl trying to find her place in the world and her adventures, but anyone who appreciates writing that pulses with life will drink this down.”
Sonia Reppe, Stickney-Forest View Public Library, Stickney, IL


I Let You Go

by Clare Mackintosh

Published: 5/3/2016 by Berkley
ISBN: 9781101987490
“Five-year-old Jacob is killed in a hit and run, an event that sends the police in search of the driver. Jenna Gray flees to Wales to mourn the loss of her son and recover from her past. As the anniversary of Jacob’s still unsolved death approaches, a tip to police results in an arrest and a very different picture emerges. This self-assured debut combines jaw-dropping moments with complex, believable characters and an ending that is hard to see coming.”
Jennifer Winberry, Hunterdon County Library, Flemington, NJ


Smoke: A Novel

by Dan Vyleta

Published: 5/24/2016 by Doubleday
ISBN: 9780385540162
“In an alternate historical London, people who lie reveal themselves by giving off smoke but the rules of how this works are complicated.There are some people who can lie and not trigger any smoke and this lends an interesting element to the story. The rules we are given are changeable. The setting lends itself well to the story.The writing is descriptive, and the tone is atmospheric. Similar authors that come to my mind were Neil Gaiman and China Mieville. This is a dark, delicious tale.”
Jennifer Ohzourk, St. Louis Public Library, St. Louis, MO

redemption roadblog

Redemption Road: A Novel

by John Hart

Published: 5/3/2016 by Thomas Dunne Books
ISBN: 9780312380366
“In Hart’s new suspense novel, we meet veteran detective Elizabeth Black, who is facing possible suspension for a suspicious shooting. At the same time, former police officer Adrian Wall is released from prison after serving time for the murder of Julia Stange. Stange’s son wants Adrian dead. Adrian has always claimed his innocence, but after his release, a couple of new bodies turn up at the church. This is a thrilling page-turner that starts at a rapid-fire pace and doesn’t let up. Great book for literary and thriller lovers alike.”
Kelly Currie, Delphi Public Library, Delphi, IN

city of the lost blog

City of the Lost: A Thriller

by Kelley Armstrong
Published: 5/3/2016 by Minotaur Books
ISBN: 9781250092144

“When Casey Duncan and her friend are invited to Rockton, a town for people who need to disappear, she’s skeptical. Could it really be the haven it promises? She soon finds that Rockton has its own particular set of problems, including a designer drug and a murderer. As the town’s new detective, Casey is soon plunged into the hunting of a killer in a town built on secrets. Armstrong introduces a fascinating setting and an intriguing cast of characters. Readers will find themselves hooked.”
Elena Gleason, Coos Bay Public Library, Coos Bay, OR

Wilde Lakeblog

Wilde Lake: A Novel

by Laura Lippman

Published: 5/3/2016 by William Morrow
ISBN: 9780062083456
“As Lu, the newly elected state’s attorney in Howard County, prepares for a trial of a woman found murdered in her apartment, she begins to uncover secrets from her past. Bringing her back to the night her brother saved a life at the cost of another, Lu begins to question everything she’s known about the events and her childhood. Lippman’s newest standalone is sure to be another hit, perfect for mystery fans.”
Annice Sevett, New Hanover County Library, Wilmington, NC


Sweet Lamb of Heaven: A Novel

by Lydia Millet

Published: 5/3/2016 by W.W. Norton & Company
ISBN: 9780393285543
“An arresting story about a wife manipulated and what she goes through to escape her husband’s desperate means to keep her. When her daughter is born, Anna starts hearing a voice in her head that may suggest the supernatural or the divine. She and her daughter hole up in a motel where all the guests seem to hear a similar voice in their heads. The author jolts the reader into reading something unexpected and the effect is eerie and memorable. Highly recommended for a book discussions.”
Andrienne Cruz, Azusa City Library, Azusa, CA