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, July 29, 2016

RA for All Guest Post: Annabelle on Diversity in Library Collections

Todays post features Annabelle Mortensen, the Collection Development Supervisor at Skokie [IL] Public Library and a member of the ARRT Steering Committee.
Annabelle has a frank post about how her library is trying to put the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement into action. As she point out below, it is her job to figure it all out, but as she also shares, it is hard to do correctly.
Read what she has to say, but also Annabelle, is asking you to share what you are doing. Please help all of us to do better.  Thanks.
It’s been two years since the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement launched and everywhere you look in libraryland, the discussion continues. Last year, Becky reported on the findings of the Lee and Low diversity baseline survey and the RUSA CODES diversity conversation. In recent months, more works by authors of color were showcased at BookExpo America and ALA; Booklist made an open call for diverse reviewers; and Kirkus increased transparency on their practices in reviewing youth books and romance. In ARRT, we’re trying to include a broader range of writers and books in our current Speculative Fiction genre study and are looking toward future programming touching on this issue. 
As a profession and as individuals, we should be looking at ways to address this call to action. At my library (Skokie Public Library in suburban Chicago), we’ve identified equity as a core value, and are beginning to work on a three-year diversity objective for collections and programs to “ensure adequate representation of different groups and cultures and to foster equitable access to learning and leisure materials.” This is particularly important as we serve an extremely diverse community (more than 70 languages are spoken in local households).
How are we going to accomplish this? As collection development supervisor, that’s one of the things I need to figure out. We’ll likely conduct baseline surveys of the diversity of our collection and media used in storytimes, book discussions, and movie screenings, and then identify some benchmarks and strategies to acquire and promote diverse collections. 
Like many libraries, we’re already involved in promoting diversity: Our collection development plan touts the need for diverse materials. We aim to showcase diverse books year-round, not just saving them for heritage month displays. And we do buy many diverse books already, going beyond review journals to social media and websites such as the excellent Read in Color to fill gaps.
But these are scattershot approaches, not taken on in any coordinated way. How do we tie our collections to our advisory staff and to our patrons? How do we define diversity? How do we work on promotion and increase the bottom line (i.e., circulation or turnover)? If we weed books with LGTBQ themes or those written by people of color, are we replacing them in kind?
The last bit is the trickiest element of all. The “We don’t buy much X because it doesn’t circulate well” argument is a real problem for libraries, and I think we have to balance bestsellers with materials that allow readers to see themselves in the pages of books. In some cases and communities, circulation will follow. In a lot of cases though, we need to find ways to promote these books and put them in the hands of all readers. And while some of it involves forces larger than ourselves (what gets published, what gets marketed, what gets a good cover), we also have to make efforts from our end of the spectrum.
If your library is working on a similar initiative or if you have any strategies you use to promote diverse titles, I’d be eager to hear them, either in the comments or directly at amortensen [at] skokielibrary.info. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

RA for All: Guest Post: RA at Small Libraries

Today’s post comes from a former student of mine, Leanne, who has not only gone out into the world to do go work in the name of serving leisure readers, but she has also kept in touch to let me know how things are going.

Leanne has written guest posts for me before, but I asked her to reintroduce herself:
Leanne Pavel has been the Circulation Services Manager at a cozy western suburban Chicagoland library for eight years.  She graduated from Dominican University with an MLIS in January 2011, though she still loves to learn through free online courses and community park district classes.  When not helping patrons with front desk tasks and exploring new reading genres, she likes to spend time with her family and friends, reading, and pinning new recipes to try from Pinterest boards.  Slow cookery is fast becoming her favorite mode of heating food. 
One of the things I want to highlight about Leanne is that because her library is so small, as the Circulation Services Manager, she is the RA person. The Circ desk is where the RA magic happens at her library and hundreds of small libraries all over the country. Hers is an important voice because she represents many of you out there. I know this because I have met many of you, talked to you about it, and/or visited your small libraries.

So today’s post by Leanne is for all of you library workers in small libraries who make RA a priority not because you work in a department that is assigned to do this work, not because your supervisors gave you a raise to do it,  but because if you don’t do it no one else would and the patrons need it.  

Thank you.

Here is Leanne...

The thick paperback novel held me in its spell; it had been a long time since a story entertained me with colorful descriptions of royal clothing in the Tudor Court, the spies and the intrigues between courtiers and ladies in waiting, the executions by skilled swordsmen. 
I am a pragmatic type of person.I went through library school knowing I was an avowed non-fiction reader, that flights of fantasy and esoteric concepts in literature were not for me.  If I couldn't see myself using it in daily life, what was the point of filling my head when there was only so much bandwidth for my daily tasks? 

Working at a circulation desk at a public library soon challenged my assumptions and my reading habits.  People were looking for recommendations on certain authors and titles.  I wanted to better join in the conversations that people were having around certain types of fiction, join that community, and contribute my own opinions.  So, being the practical type of person that I am, I went back to my Readers Advisory lists from a course in library school and decided that for the year of 2015, I was going to prioritize reading a book from each genre and finish reading that list in one year. I used the Joyce Saricks' 5-Book Genre Reading Challenge and documented the books on the Goodreads site.  Side note: It is now 2016, and I am still reading and enjoying my adventures in fiction reading.

Like a string of first dates or job interviews, I have enjoyed and hated some of the books that I have read.  I have given horror, suspense, thrillers, and fantasy a fair chance and at times have been pleasantly surprised.  The nursery crime humor in  The Big Overeasy by Jasper Fforde appealed to both my sense of mystery and wordplay.  Other times, I have found that some books just needed a second chance from me at a different life stage, as in the case of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay by Michael Chabon.  Other books have spurred me on to read more about the history behind certain situations, such as the Boleyn  sisters in a Philippa Gregory novel.  

However, I have rediscovered the sense of community of readers as I delve more deeply into my list.  Finding out that a volunteer at my library enjoys the adventuresome and historical Sharpe's Tiger by Bernard Cornwell gives me a common ground to converse with him.  Reading can also strengthen family relationships as well-I have found that one of my cousins enjoys historical fiction novels as well!   I found myself talking with Vietnam War veterans about different duties in tunnels after reading Black Echo by Michael Connelly and developing a more profound respect for those difficult times.

The book that kept me awake turning pages was The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory.  I am looking forward to the next big summer surprise reading.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

RA for All Guest Post: Let’s Raise a R.U.C.K.U.S. in Readers’ Advisory

Day two of Jenny Reid. Jenny is the community engagement librarian and a proud member of the R.U.C.K.U.S. committee, which stands for Readers Using Common Knowledge for Ultimate Service, at the Indian Trails Public Library in Wheeling, Illinois.

In today’s post, Jenny talks about the team work Indian Trails Public Library uses to provide exemplary RA Service. I love how R.U.C.K.U.S. allows the staff to come together, share the load, but still increase their service to leisure readers as a library. Well done raising a R.U.C.K.U.S.

Take it away Jenny....

Let’s Raise a R.U.C.K.U.S. in Readers’ Advisory
by Jenny Reid

Readers’ advisory has been more prevalent in professional articles and conversation as of late, and many of us owe thanks to Becky Spratford for creating a platform specifically focused on this library art. Connecting readers to awesome materials is one of the most important, and fun, responsibilities within the library profession. While working at the Indian Trails Public Library, I have had the pleasure to collaborate on a truly positive project that allows everyone in our Adult Services Department to be involved with innovative readers’ advisory services.

And what is this project? We’re creating a R.U.C.K.U.S. at the Indian Trails Public Library.

R.U.C.K.U.S., which stands for Readers Using Common Knowledge for Ultimate Service, is our readers’ advisory committee that came into being about a year ago. It is comprised of four staff members in Adult Services: Jenn Hovanec, Assistant Manager of Adult Services; Sarah Heimsoth, Teen Librarian; Carla Lasky, Adult Services Library Assistant; and myself, Jenny Reid, Community Engagement Librarian.

Jenn saw a need for this committee as two of our long-time readers’ advisory staff retired and their positions changed to part-time. It became necessary to spread the readers’ advisory wealth among our department, and such a committee could help in a twofold manner: first, to match up our community members with good reads and second, to help staff feel more comfortable with this service and with sharing their media opinions with each other. Over time, staff have become more confident and adept at developing these services among ourselves and for our community members, and below you will find the various projects implemented to help on both of these levels.

First, the committee works on projects to help suggest good reads to our members. ​One of the first projects that was implemented was monthly shelftalkers. Each person in the Adult Services Department creates two shelftalkers per month to be placed in the fiction and/or nonfiction areas​. To best serve all types of readers in our community, we ask staff to vary their suggestions across genres and formats. The idea is to promote older titles and help members discover new books and authors. Sarah was pleased to report that this past January, 12 of the 26 shelftalker books were checked out. Our members have certainly been taking notice and appreciating the in-the-stacks suggestions.

Our department has also been working towards upping our display efforts. We now all rotate monthly display responsibilities. This way, everyone is given the opportunity to come up with an engaging theme, pull the appropriate media items, and create fun signage. Then, it’s up to the rest of the department to help keep the displays replenished during the month, thereby allowing each of us to look for media regarding topics that we may not be very familiar with. With these displays, we have brought advisory services to a new and visible level, moving from two displays to five separate display areas that span both floors of our library and are featured in several public areas and departments. We are moving out from behind the desk and into the community and with visible results. The displays have been popular, and we’re seeing materials go out that had previously been collecting dust.

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These monthly displays also add a personal element to our readers’ advisory services, as one person each month is in charge of a Help a Staffer Out display. Staff pick three or four types of genres they like to read, which can be as simple or as complicated as they like (i.e. memoirs, romances featuring sizzling cowboys, etc.), and pull the initial display materials. Throughout the month, staff then fill it with their suggestions within these genres. Another creative and collaborative aspect to this display is the involvement of our Graphics Department. Our awesome designers created unique signage for this display using fun photos we took earlier in the year. Developing this type of display has been an entertaining way to promote different types of collections. We also hope that by seeing our approachable faces on the signage, our members will be encouraged to ask us about those sizzling cowboy romances while we are working at the service desk, thereby increasing our personal connections with our community’s readers.

Because our committee members are extra passionate about readers’ advisory, the four of us also have the awesome opportunity to create a special monthly display using fun props and decorations​, which we have named our Prop Up Display.​ As this display project is done without a corresponding budget, we involve the entire department by putting a call out during the previous month for related props. Everyone has enjoyed looking through closets and finding unused items that can be put to work at the library. The same responsibilities as the regular displays then apply to these as well, with the added benefit of some extra pizzazz and flare.

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In addition to shelftalkers and displays, Carla has also been working on revamping our Fan Club, the library’s automatic holds service for bestselling authors. She has been updating the list, adding more contemporary authors such as Jojo Moyes and Kyle Mills, and working on a way to make the process more user friendly for both community members and staff. She is hoping to roll out the new and improved version in the next few months, which will include an online form for members to place their requests.

Additionally, our group also helps staff to get more involved with advisory services. Our committee members initiate a weekly readers’ advisory email​ entitled Whatchya Recommendin’ Wednesday, in which staff can detail what they are currently reading, listening to, or watching. We have provided two general options for staff to follow while crafting these emails. First, we can describe a book, magazine, movie, tv show, etc. that we have enjoyed this week. For these recommendations, we suggest that staff list the title and author, upload the cover image, and write a short description of the item along with appeal terms and readalikes. While this is the prescribed format, staff do not have to follow it if they don’t want to. Second,​ we can discuss a readers’ advisory trend that we have noticed in our community. ​Overall, we ask that these weekly emails be a platform for conversation. We hope that staff will share what media they’re enjoying this week and also respond to each other’s suggestions with follow-up comments and/or questions. Staff are starting to become more engaged with the discussion​,​ and we’re seeing growing weekly participation among the department. We also hope to see more staff using these emails as conversation starters with our members, thereby elevating our customer service level. For some highlighted examples of what staff have been writing, take a look at this linked document.

Overall, as a R.U.C.K.U.S. committee member, I have seen our readers’ advisory services grow very nicely this year, and I look forward to our future work. With many exciting things on the horizon, I hope to write a follow-up post, so stay tuned. In the meantime, go raise a readers’ advisory ruckus at your library!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

RA for All Guest Post: A Panoply of Podcasts

Today I have the first of two guest posts by Jenny Reid. Jenny is the community engagement librarian and a proud member of the R.U.C.K.U.S. committee, which stands for Readers Using Common Knowledge for Ultimate Service, at the Indian Trails Public Library in Wheeling, Illinois.

Today Jenny contributed a post about podcasts and how to help patrons discover them. Podcast Advisory?!?! Tomorrow she will be featuring the aforementioned R.U.C.K.U.S

Here’s Jenny....

A Panoply of Podcasts
by Jenny Reid

I have recently discovered the wonderful world of podcasts and never want to go back! I listen to them in both my personal and professional life and have found them to be immensely useful for learning more about readers’ advisory and the library profession in general. I wanted to take this guest blog post as an opportunity, therefore, to briefly discuss how to listen to podcasts with a goal of upping your readers' advisory skills. They’re also fun to suggest to patrons, so if you have a couple ready at your disposal, you can start sharing the podcast love with your community as well.

With that in mind, here are a couple types of podcasts that I like to listen to as well as ones I've been wanting to check out.

​Look for podcasts . . .  

By your favorite authors! 
It's a great way to connect with authors in addition to reading their books. One that I really enjoy is Happier with Gretchen Rubin. I’ve read all of her books about happiness, and now happily listen to her and her sister share advice for a more content life on a weekly basis (sometimes more, when I binge-listen to archived episodes!).

About your favorite tv show! 
Who doesn’t want to continue a tv show obsession off screen? For those of you looking for more ways to geek out about your favorite series, you should definitely try the podcast route. For example, one of my coworkers recently recommended a new podcast called The West Wing Weekly. Joshua Malina (Will Bailey on the show) and Hrishikesh Hirway (a composer and known podcaster) co-host this weekly podcast, during which time they discuss one episode of The West Wing. They hope to have other former castmates on the show in the future, and my coworker is currently eating it up.

To ​learn about a specific genre.
One that I have been listening to lately to improve my romance readers' advisory skills is ​D​ear ​Bitches, S​mart ​Authors, which is part of the blog Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. I’ve learned a lot not only about current romance authors but also about gender, sexuality, and sensuality. The ladies who host this blog and corresponding podcast really do abide by their taglines of ​”all of the romance, none of the bullshit” and “where we talk about romance novels and cause all sorts of trouble.”

About the ​library ​profession in general.
Podcasts about librarianship are a great way to learn the ropes outside of your library’s four walls and to hear about the work being done not only in other libraries within your sector but in different areas as well (in my case, learning about what’s new in academic and special libraries). A great podcast to check out for all things library is Circulating ​I​deas​. I’ve listened to several episodes and learned very useful information about networking and learning opportunities, such as the Library OnConference, and the inner workings of the American Library Association. Additionally, their Circulating Ideas website also has a nice list of Podcasts ​of Interest​. Now that I am totally hooked on this media, I already see other podcasts from here that I’d like to try, such as Beyond the Stacks and Cardigan Rippers.

That’s a wrap for my brief, introductory list of different podcast types for your listening needs. Now, I’d be interested to hear about the podcasts you rave about to your co-workers, friends, and family. Feel free to comment below and put your podcast readers’ advisory skills to work!

Monday, July 25, 2016

RA for All Guest Post: Sonia on Book Talk Videos

Today’s guest post is my friend and colleague, Sonia. Sonia was inspired by one of my talks about booktalking. She was also feeling a little bit angry that all of the popular “BookTubers” [people who post longer book talks on You Tube] were NOT from libraries. So instead of simply complaining, Sonia decided to just give it a try for herself.

Sonia took a trial and error approach as she developed her book talking videos-- from deciding what to talk about AND the technical difficulties of learning how to film, edit, and post videos.  She graciously offered to share what she has learned to help all of you.

On a personal note, I am so excited for Sonia. She took this idea and ran with it. She didn’t let not knowing how to make or post videos stop her. She knew she was a good book talker and she let that guide her. She is truly illustrating what I say in my talks-- just let your skill as a RA librarian guide you as you take your services into virtual spaces. Trust in your training; the platform issues will get resolved as you move through. Sonia is proof that it works.

At the end of her post, there is a link to all of her videos.

Now here is Sonia....

Hello RA FOR ALL!  I am going to share with you how we at Stickney-Forest View Public Library went about starting up book talk videos (also known as BookTube), and you can do it, too! 

I am Sonia, Reader’s Advisory Librarian (under the department of Popular Services).  I have been a devoted RA FOR ALL disciple for the three and a half years that I’ve been in RA, and I have been inspired by Becky’s Blog in many ways, especially when she speaks about the power of sharing books.  

I myself love watching Booktube videos, hearing someone talk about a book that they are excited about or getting introduced to a book that sounds awesome that I had never heard of.  But could I make my own videos?  Would I need special equipment?  How would I go about it?   

I took this idea to my boss, Leighton Shell, Head of Popular Services, who was looking for ways to increase our library’s social media presence.  He was all for it, and began to put a plan in action:  I would write up an outline, and do a practice run that he would record on his iphone, and then we would do the real recording and he would edit it with Camtasia, which our library purchased.  He asked some good questions:  How many books are you going to talk about per video?  Would they be new books?  How long would the videos be?  10 minutes?  How frequently do we want to do them?     

Becky was very helpful when I reached out to her for her opinion, convincing me to talk about backlist titles, preferably ones that our library owned.  I decided to talk about three books with a common theme, and aim for a running time of 5 to 6 minutes, and do this once a month. 

The Technicalities:  One of the main concerns is lighting.  You want to be well-lit, and the first two videos that we put out don’t look as good as the subsequent ones when I had more lighting.  We didn’t have professional equipment for this and it wasn’in the budget to buy some, so I brought a lamp from home—a multi-head floor lamp, with adjustable goose-necks arms, so you can shine all three bell-shaded heads in one direction, like mini spot-lights.  This lamp was from Target and it works really well for video lighting for booktalking purposes. 

The other small adjustment in the latest video we made was for sound.  To get louder sound, Leighton filmed me with the library’s iphone and recorded the audio on another iphone (his) which was placed closer to me, to better pick up my voice.  Then when he imported the video to Camtasia, he muted that audio and imported his audio file and synced it to the video.  It was slightly louder, but didn’t really make too much of a difference.  A booktalker with a loud voice won’t need it, but one with a soft voice might want to have this option.  Finally, we upload the video to our library’s youtube channel and share it on our library’s Facebook page. 

The Books:  I have found that the amount of preparation for me, the booktalker, is 1 to 2 hours.  Sometimes picking the theme and deciding what books to talk about is the hardest part, especially because I try to only talk about books we have here at the library.  Once I pick the books, I skim through them to refresh my memory.  I keep in mind to choose diversely for my booktalks, in regards to ethnicity of the authors, ethnicity of the characters, gender of the authors and gender of the main character.  Depending on the theme, if you can throw in different genres, that is great.  For instance, in my booktalks of “Books that became movies,” I chose three different genres.   

A few more tips:  It looks best when the booktalker is in front of a shelf of books, so I recommend this.  If you want to use notes, try putting them on a whiteboard and placing it behind the camera.  This is a better option than looking down at a notebook.  (In preparation for our first booktalk, I wrote my notes on a white board, but found I didn’t use it).  Also, before recording a booktalk, do a test recording of a few seconds and then watch it, to check your appearance.  You want to make sure your hair is not looking crazy and your blouse is not bunched up, etc…I recommend wearing some eye make-up, and some powder, especially on the forehead for a matte look.  You don’t want shine.  I also wear foundation on booktalk days, but everyone will have their own preferences.  Finally, I always pick books that I really like, so my enthusiasm can grab people’s interest.   

As you can see, this process is fairly easy and anyone can do it.  Heed Becky’s advice and “Booktalk every chance you can get” and spread the joy of a great read.  

To watch all of our book talk videos click here