I can come to your library, book club meeting, or conference to talk about how to help your readers find their next good read. Click here for more information including RA for All's EDI Statement.

Monday, October 31, 2016

The Problem With Major Publishers and Horror aka Becky Has A Halloween Rant

Happy Halloween. Here is the final 31 Days of Horror post. It’s an ornerey one:

Those of you who regularly read RA for All know that I have been channeling my professional frustrations into my popular Call to Action posts.  They generally run on Mondays and you can read the archive here; however, due to my increased work load during this Halloween season, they have been on hiatus.

That hiatus has come with a price because between the lack of an outlet through those posts AND my annual anger build up with the big five publishers and their dismissal of horror as not worth their time, I am ready for a full blown rant today on Halloween-- my final day of the blog-a-thon.

Hold on to your hats. Here we go...

Look at this screen shot from the Penguin Random House’s main page.  What the what? Where is the horror? This is their main recommendation engine. Will they not even consider recommending any to me?  I don’t know why because I know they have published horror books. For example, Slade House by David Mitchell. It came out last year, it is set during Halloween, it sold well, and it is widely consider an excellent horror option for a wide audience. I wrote this review in Booklist. I would guess that at least 90% of public libraries in America have this book in their collection. They could even use that newer title to build off of other horror titles they have in their stable-- like House of Leaves-- another modern classic.

Instead of promoting that title, I got this email targeted to librarians promoting classic horror titles.  Come on. Give me something fresh and new. We are not stupid, we know about Frankenstein and Dracula. But thanks for insulting our intelligence and our desire to read and suggest modern titles.

This makes me so angry. I don’t mean to only pick on Penguin Random House. It is all 5 of the big publishers. Why do they hate us? More importantly, why do they ignore us?

Some may argue that the big five have imprints that do horror. That’s fine, but why didn’t they give those imprints the spot light leading up to Halloween?

Okay, maybe the answer is they need to focus promoting on the main pages on the newest hottest books. Fine. But what about the library marketing teams? The ones who say they are looking out for us. Really? Hmmm. I don’t think so.

Macmillan’s library team is consider one of the best. So they should be helping us get ready with lists of their awesome new horror titles. Since June of this year year they have had two, big selling, 100%, super scary, horror titles [neither of which they marketed as horror by the way] Pressure by Brian Keene [marketed as a SF thriller] and The Motion of Puppets by Keith Donohue [marketed as “a suspenseful tale of romance and enchantment”]. But have I seen anything about those two titles leading up to Halloween?

No. Here are the posts they had leading up to Halloween:

Really? Thanks for not helping. In the days leading up to Halloween our biggest requests at libraries are for scary books. You are the library marketing team. You should know that.  I shouldn’t have to tell you. So I get animals, cookbooks, and writers? Yeah, that makes sense. *sigh*

Now it comes back to me.

One of the reasons why I have to work so hard is because they ignore all of our horror readers and their needs. I have met the library marketing people from major publishers, multiple times. They always forget who I am. After their memory is refreshed-- you know I am the one covering your books all over the place only because I care about helping readers-- they ask how they can help me. I say, help by promoting your horror titles better. They respond by offering to throw books at me. I DON'T WANT YOUR FREE BOOKS. I want your help promoting horror. 

Part of the reason they always forget me is that I refuse to suck up to them. I won’t gush over getting free books. They will not get my respect until they stop thinking all library workers want are boxes of free books delivered to our doorsteps. What we want is to help readers. Help us help ALL of our readers.

I am a reviewer of horror for Booklist; my reviews are signed so they know who I am if they cared. I am THE library world’s most visible horror expert. I get 500,000 views a month [on average] on RA for All where I actively publish my regular Booklist horror reviews there. I have proven I can get the word out about their horror titles even when they don’t care. I’m sorry, is our library money not good enough for you?

I gave Slade HousePressure, and The Motion of Puppets all great reviews!!! Macmillan quoted my star review on the page for The Motion of Puppets and for Pressure too! So they saw them. I did a spotlight interview of Brian Keene in Booklist and Pressure made the Top 10 Horror of the year in that same issue. I did the interview with Keene not through any help from Macmillan but only because Keene is a nice guy. I contacted him because I knew he had things to share with library workers. I even donated the money I was paid for that interview to Keene’s favorite charity as a thank you to him for his time. I did not profit from it in any way. I just wanted to connect horror writers with readers.


On the other hand, there are the horror authors. They know I am there to help them. They know that I put horror titles on library shelves. 

The Horror Writer’s Association-- the group representing the authors-- is honoring me as the FIRST EVER librarian special guest of honor at Stoker Con 2017. They are having an entire Librarians' Day to court all of us. This is a big deal. I am on a poster with George R R Martin. This is not a small thing.

The Horror Writers are flying me to California and putting me up in a hotel to help them get horror titles in readers’ hands. But the publishers.....they could care less. I don’t exist to them. And guess what, that means that by extension any of you who help horror readers don’t matter either. And forget your readers themselves. They might as well not exist.

The small presses are constantly reaching out to me. They want to know what I think. They want to know how they can work with library patrons who want horror. They want to get their books in your hands. They want to share their stories. And, their first instinct is NOT to send me piles of books. Their first instinct is to ask how libraries order books, what our patrons want, and if I can help them put the right books on library shelves.

If I didn’t have a platform that could help match books with readers, I wouldn’t be this upset. But my blog and my reviews in Booklist and my 2x a year horror column in Library Journal have proven that I help sell books. I have heard directly from authors that this is the case. Here is an example of a Tweet from author Brian Kirk whose debut We Are Monsters appeared in my 2015 Library Journal column. That is the tip of the iceberg on the thank yous I have received from authors for simply reviewing their books.

The hate that the major publishers have for horror-- and by extension-- its readers, runs so deep that they actively ignore me-- the person who could be their biggest ally, a person who has proven results putting horror books in readers’ hands, a person who accounts for many of the sales of their horror titles to libraries.

Thankfully I am devoted to you, the library workers and library patrons, and I ignore the obvious slight to work to find you the nest books for your readers. But if we only had a tiny bit of help from the major publishers, our job would be a lot easier.

Thank you for letting me rant. Unforntuatley, they all ignore me, so they won’t see this. Horror doesn’t matter to them even though we all know how busy we have been trying to find enough books for our readers this month. 

Now I am going to get ready to celebrate Halloween with my Bernie Sanders and Billie Joe Armstrong dressed kids, attend my last ever elementary school Halloween parade, and host a party for the kids and their friends later tonight.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday. It was a pleasure to share this month with you and help you to help your scariest readers.

Friday, October 28, 2016

What I Was Reading in October of 2007 and Why It’s Useful to Your RA Work to Walk Down Memory Lane

Today I spent some time with my 9th grade daughter [who had a day off of school] in the morning and the went to my 6th grade son’s school to volunteer at the school library all afternoon.

All of this kept me away from a computer to post, but it also got me thinking about how fast time flies. They are so old and self sufficient. Even my daughter was feeling a bit nostalgic today and she ventured, with a group of friends, over to her old Junior High after it let out and went in to visit her old teachers.

When we all finally made it back home this afternoon, I was thinking about the 9 years I have been doing this blog and my thoughts quickly wandered to figuring out what I was reading 9 years ago this month.

Back then, I posted once a month about the books I was reading. So here is the “What I’m Reading” post from October 2007. Interestingly, all three books I chose to write about are still worth a read today.  Click through and see.

That month I also read, and led a discussion on, Water for Elephants. Talk about blast from the past.

My next stop down memory lane was to take a peek at my list of the favorite books I read in all of 2007. Here is that post. And again, every single one of those books can still be handed out as a good read [to the right reader] today.  I would also bet that every book on that list is still on the shelf at most public libraries in America.

Besides being fun, this trip down memory lane got me thinking about who I would suggest these books too. I was also getting upset at myself for forgetting about some of these awesome titles. And that is what led to me writing this post.

No, I did not plan to simply bore you today by making you look at my old reviews, rather, I am using myself as a very important example.

If you have been keeping track of your own reading for any amount of time, you can and should regularly look at the books you read in the past. Jog your memory about these titles. Get them out of the dark recesses of your brain and move them to the front-- prime real estate for making suggestions to patrons!

Seriously though, we all should be writing down something about the books we read so that we can use that information later-- way later in some cases. We all read and encounter so many books and titles. The newest and most newsworthy are dominating the book world and, as a result, are on the tips of our tongues. But there are plenty of wonderful titles we have forgotten.

So take yourself on a trip down memory lane to jog your memory of past books you enjoyed. You will come away from the trip with a whole bunch of fresh title suggestions to wow your patrons with.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Post Where Becky Asks You To Tell Me What You Want for the PLA Best Books Webinar

Last year I was contacted by the Public Library Association to deliver their annual holiday gift to members-- a free Best Books Webinar.  Click here for the slides from that program last year.

I took this assignment very seriously. When they contacted me I was very clear that I would NOT deliver a run of the mill “best” books program where all I did was list the best books. Rather, I focused on how we can better use best books lists to help our patrons find their next good read. Obviously the argument was more complicated than that. You can click here for the original blog post that inspired the entire program, “Attack of the “Best Lists”: Becky’s Advice to Stay Ready and Look Smart."

That was 2015. As we enter the "Best Books” season for 2016, PLA has contacted me again to provide the “Best Books” webinar for all of you [December 7th]. However, I will not repeat what I did last year. Yes it was very successful and we had wonderful feedback, but I am not going to waste my time or yours. I am all about moving forward.

I think I have an idea of how I am going to “attack” [pun intended] the webinar this year, but before I get too set in my ways, I want to throw it out to all of you.

What do you want from me as your end of the year “Best Books” wrap up? What kind of information will help you help readers better? Do you want me to focus on genre, rather than literary? Or do you want more about how to use best books lists to your advantage in terms of displays and programming? Do you want me to include movies and TV more obviously? Do you have strong feelings about “best” books [positive or negative] that you want to share?

This is your webinar people. PLA is giving it to you as a gift, and I want you to be happy with it.  So, let me know. I REALLY want to know how you feel and what you want. You can use the comments or Twitter or email me, but please let me know.

Thanks in advance.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Book Discussion Report: Everything I Never Told You

Below are my notes from the most recent ARRT book discussion. Please go to the ARRT Literary Book Discussion and Leadership Training website for more information, previous discussion notes, and upcoming discussion information.  We are currently in the planning stages for our four 2017 discussions.


On Tuesday, September 27, 2016 we met at Niles Public Library for a discussion of Everything I Never Told by by Celeste Ng led by Greta Ulrich.


Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos. A profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing,Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another

CLICK HERE to access the notes on the discussion of the book.

As always, discussion of the book includes a nuts-and-bolts session devoted to sharing practical solutions to the problems and concerns of book discussion leaders.

The Leadership Training Discussion, led by Becky Spratford will directly address the We Need Diverse Books movement and how and why we should make sure the books we are offering our groups represent diverse voices. Please come prepared to share some titles and discussion experiences.

If you are interested in learning more about this topic ahead of time, Becky compiled the notes from the March 2016 RUSA CODES conversation on diversity here.

CLICK HERE to access the notes on the leadership topic.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

ILA Conference Wrap Up and Handouts on Diverse Books and Graphic Novels

Last week I was the the Illinois Library Association Annual Conference and had a great time.

I had this post about my day of presenting and I did a ton of Tweeting and Retweeting from the actual conference. Whether or not you use Twitter, you can click-- #ILAAC16-- and read every tweet from the conference. [This is truly a wonderful resource to library workers everywhere. I highly recommend clicking.]

I also wanted to pass on the handouts from 2 specific programs that I think would greatly benefit my audience no matter which state you live in:

Using Diverse Books in Library and School Programs was useful, honest, and very easy to implement.

You can click here for the first listed handout and here for the second one.

Click on above picture to enlarge and read the full program description


The Graphic Novel smackdown was so much fun. And, even I, someone who knows about a reads a wide range of graphic novels for all age groups, learned about new titles in the program.

But the best part of the program is actually this handout! They had too large a group for everyone to get every title in, plus as moderator, Mike was very strict with his 5 minute timer [with The Hulk as his buzzer- so much fun]. He didn’t even let himself talk at all.

However, they had everything they mentioned, Mike’s Picks, AND LOTS MORE in the handout.

Please use it to check your collections, place your orders [as each person included up coming titles they are excited for], and update your offerings across all service reading levels.

There were many other wonderful things I learned by attending the conference. Plus, I got to meet a bunch of you, my readers. I hope this post reminds you to gather your notes on what you learned last week, or if you live somewhere else, inspires you to try to attend a local library conference.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Trend Alert: African Horror

This is a cross post with RA for All: Horror. The series will be for three days on that blog only, but I thought that this introductory post was too important not to be seen by the largest audience possible.

Please click here for the original post.

31 Days of Horror: Day 24-- Trend Alert: African Horror

Today marks the beginning of a 3 day series on the very hot trend of African Horror. While this trend is still emerging in America, it has already begun to move into the mainstream as a popular subgenre of British horror thanks in large part to the work of Nigerian-British author, BBC contributor, and lawyer, Nuzo Onoh. Onoh is not only one of the most heralded writers of African horror, she is also its biggest promoter. She has made it her goal to educate the world on this thriving and vibrant subgenre.

We will hear from Onoh herself in a guest post written to you, the American library worker, tomorrow, but for today, I wanted to give you a very quick primer on African horror, point you to a few resources to explore on your own, and give you authors to check out.

 Let’s start with a primer. What is African horror? Well, in 2015, Onoh had this wonderful top 10 list explaining what African horror is and also, very importantly, is not
1. African Horror is not a reference to AIDS, famine or Ebola, just as Indian Horror is not a reference to rapes or honour killings. African Horror is a literary genre in its own right, a sub-genre of horror that has existed for centuries, albeit without a formal title till my book, The Reluctant Dead, began spearheading the term, African Horror. 
2. African Horror encompasses several horror sub-genres like supernatural horror, psychological horror, demonic/occultic horror, sci-fi horror (popularised by Nnedi Okoroafor) slasher/gore/splatter horror and paranormal romance to mention a few. My books are focused on African supernatural horror, specifically, ghosts and hauntings. 
3. Just like the old Japanese Kaidan tradition, African Horror stories are geographically targeted, depicting the core traditions, beliefs and superstitions of a particular village/tribe within a horror context. Thus, my books, The Reluctant Dead and Unhallowed Graves will resonate with anyone familiar with The Ring or The Grudge. 
4. African Horror is usually steeped in the moral values of individual tribes, with most stories reinforcing these values and the dire consequences of ignoring or abandoning them. Thus, in Unhallowed Graves, we witness the terrible events that befall a grieving mother who goes against the village traditions and attempts to resurrect her son buried in Ajo-ofia, the unhallowed burial ground of people deemed to have died an unclean or bad death. 
5. African Horror has a strong cinema presence in Nollywood films, a Nigerian film industry that produces popular drama, depicting terrifying supernatural events within an Igbo/African setting. 
6. Amos Tutuola, the famous author of The Palm-wine Drinkard and My Life in the bush of Ghosts, is the father of African Horror. His books are considered modern classics today and have been translated into several languages. 
7. Africans respect, fear, revere or abhor their Medicine men. Some cultures refer to them as Juju-men, Root-healers, Voodoo-men or witchdoctors. By whatever name they go, they all boil down to one thing - powerful men (and at times, very rarely, women) whose actions, good or bad, always impact on the daily lives of their people. No African Horror story is ever complete without reference to these powerful and controversial Medicine-men. 
8. The Gullah culture of the American South has very strong ties to African culture and their horror stories are very similar to African horror. Today, Eden Royce, author of the book, Spook Lights and one of the few people that still speak the Gullah language, is spear-heading the Southern Gothic Horror, steeped in Gullah beliefs and culture. People that love Southern Gothic Horror will enjoy African Horror too. 
9. African Horror stories are not Folktales, contrary to popular conception. These days, modern African Horror is written in prose and style similar to mainstream horror, which readers from all over the globe can relate to. My last book, The Reluctant Dead, enjoyed wide readership from fans worldwide, proving that true horror does indeed cross all boundaries. My latest book, Unhallowed Graves, follows in the same style, while retaining its distinct African voice. 
10. Finally, African Horror books and films are out there for anyone interested in discovering the terrifying tales from our mysterious continent. Unfortunately, due to the unsatisfactory classification of literary works, one is likely to find African horror books under "Multicultural" rather than under "Horror". Hopefully, in the near future, an overhaul of the classification system will see more horror works by Africans writers and non-African writers writing African Horror, classified under their rightful category - Horror.
In that list, Onoh mentions the late, Amos Tutuola whose works can be found in many American public libraries, but I would bet you don’t have a horror sticker on them.  Back then, we classified these books as African “Mythology,” but they are horror-- loud and proud. Yes, Tutuola’s works, like many African horror writers use the monster from folklore as a starting point, but so do Western authors.  How soon we forget that the entire concept of a zombie began in Haitian culture. Yes, it has evolved from that kind of zombie in the last few decades, but that is where it began. Yet, we do not call zombie tales “mythology.”

Also, since humans have lived on the African continent far longer than here in America, they have a huge number of awesome monsters in their storytelling tradition to draw off of.

In fact, I would like to argue in this post today that if you have a typical American horror fan, especially one who has “read it all,” your best place to take that reader is to the rich and vibrant history of African horror and its awesomely terrifying world of monsters. 

Click here for a list from Mental Floss on 11 legendary [and terrifying] monsters from all across Africa with an attribution to their country of origin. This is just a glimpse into the source material for an entire continent of horror fiction inspiration.

Please do not worry about a white person from a typical American suburb not being able to relate to these African tales. That is a cop out. If your reader is a horror fan already, that is all of the necessary background he or she will need to fall right into these stories and love the terror that follows. It all is based on the same appeal factors. It is just the monsters themselves who are a little different.

I should also point out that I am mostly writing about African horror written by authors from Nigeria and South Africa because their work is the most easily found in English.

You can click here to read about a brand new anthology of African horror writers with 10 authors you can read right now, including Onoh. Here is the table of contents with links to the authors’ Goodreads pages [where applicable]. The links will lead you to more authors and more story compilations by the very best African horror authors today:
“Daughter Dearest” by Chioma Odukwe – A woman who has just lost her husband finds herself in danger of losing her daughter as well and goes to desperate lengths to keep her in this unusual zombie story.
“Shame” by Nerine Dorman – A biracial couple try to find acceptance during South Africa’s post-apartheid transition period but find themselves confronted with a devastating horror instead. 
“Sleep Papa, Sleep” by Suyi Davies Okungbowa – A mistake made during a taboo trade leaves a young man in modern Lagos desperate to rid himself of something terrifying from beyond the grave. 
“Blood and Fire” by Sawaleh – Religious corruption in one of Africa’s largest Megachurches provokes an ancient and unspeakable horror that seeks to punish, corrupt and feed. 
“Koi-Koi” by Raymond Elenwoke – One of Nigeria’s most prevalent and persistent urban legends is given an origin story in this frightening interpretation of the Lady Koi-Koi mythos. 
“Eaters Of Flesh” by Ezeiyoke Chukwunonso  – A young university student is confronted by mysterious events involving his parents that threaten his sanity and his life. 
“Afin” by Edwin Okolo – Twisting the Snow White fairy tale in surprising ways and transposing it to pre-colonial Nigeria, the court of a king is thrown into disarray when his older wives pit themselves against his youngest. 
“Hadiza” by Nuzo Onoh – A man’s greed and lust lead him to divorce his faithful and loyal wife, an action that has dire consequences in this Nollywood-Horror style tale.
“The Wild Dogs” by Mandisi Nkomo – A Swedish woman volunteers to help fight a strange disease consuming Cape Town and comes faces to face with monstrous inhumanity. 
“Udu” by Damilare Falowo – A village girl and her newborn child are thrown into a cursed forest to die but in the forest she finds vengeful things that are worse than death. 
with an Introduction by Wole Talabi
I wanted to end by reminding you that there are some bigger name African writers of dark speculative fiction who you have in your libraries and who take the time to promote their lesser known colleagues including Lauren BeukesSarah Lotz, and Nnedi Okorafor. [Not surprisingly, 2 out of those 3 are white.] Let’s start with the known authors, and begin to branch out from there. You don’t want to miss out on this trend. Take advantage of its spike in popularity to grab some new reads for your patrons.
Tomorrow, Onoh, the true expert, will be here with a guest post, and then Wednesday, I will have a review of her latest novel, The Sleepless, which has already garnered heaps of praise across Great Britain. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

LJ's Annual Collection Development Survey-- PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE Participate

I am not going to waste much time introducing this because it is so important. Please be a part of this vital survey so that all of us can get the fullest picture of what our patrons want.

If you are not the person in your organization who is the best one to complete the survey, please forward the link to them.

I am very rarely this adamant about something you HAVE to do, so please know I am serious out this.

Thank you in advance.

Here is the direct link to the press release with all of the live links and details you need:

Library Journal

Dear Collection Development Librarian,

Every year LJ tracks public library purchasing and circulation trends by format, genre and subject and our Prepub Alert editor, Barbara Hoffert, distills the results into a compelling feature. Please help Barbara uncover the latest trends by answering LJ’s 2016 materials survey.

Please click on the link below to download and fill out the survey. As a thank you for participating, we're offering a chance to win your choice of a $300 Apple Store gift card or a $300 American Express gift card! 

Please respond by November 7.

You may estimate spending and circulation percentages, where applicable. If it’s easier for you, fill in the actual numbers, and we will calculate the percentages. Questions about the survey or deadline extension requests can be emailed to Laura Girmscheid at lgirmscheid@mediasourceinc.com.

This survey is recommended for individuals who are involved in the selection of books and/or media for public libraries. If this does not describe you, feel free to forward this invite to someone better able to answer for your library.

Survey results will be published in LJ’s February 15, 2017 Spring Announcements issue. Thank you in advance for taking part in this major research effort!


Rebecca T. Miller, Editorial Director 
Library Journal

To download a working copy of the survey, please click here. Don’t forget to click on the above survey link when you are ready to record your answers online.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

RA for All Roadshow Stops at ILA Annual Conference

Today I am presenting at the Illinois Library Association’s Annual Conference with two different groups directed at two difference audiences. This post has all of the information with links to the slides.

First, from 11:15am -12:15pm I am presenting RA Rethink with Amanda Blau [YS] and Heather Booth [YA]:
You can live without a 3D printer, but without readers’ advisory, you’re not doing your job. Readers’ advisory belongs in every library, no matter your budget or size. A robust and modern program that embraces whole collection discovery is one that inspires staff, engages patrons, and builds stronger library communities. Reconnect with this core service and empower staff at all levels to connect users with your collection. A panel of Readers’ Advisory advocates will address the needs of children, teens, and adults, offering “rethinks” that will harken back to the basics of this core service and incorporate 21st Century possibilities.
This program is geared toward all public library staff who work with any age level of leisure readers.

Click here for slide access

Then from 3:15pm - 4:15pm I am excited to announce my first time presenting to an Academic Library Staff audience-- I Want to Read a Book for Fun!: Successful Readers’ Advisory Techniques in Academic Libraries which I am co-presenting with Carolyn Ciesla from Prairie State College:
Academic libraries function as the closest library for two sets of patrons-- the students and the employees. As circulation and reference stats decrease, libraries are increasingly looking for ways to bring users into the building. One way to increase library use is by reminding library patrons that on top of fulfilling the traditional, educational role, the library offers leisure reading options as well. This presentation will highlight ways academic libraries can enhance their popular materials collection and increase patron use and involvement, including marketing and outreach opportunities. 
Click here for slide access

I hope to see some of you there.

I can also come to your State Library Conference. Contact me for details and questions.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Resource Alert: YourNextRead for Visual Book Recommendations

I am always looking for new book discovery resources to pass on to all of you. My theory is the more varied the sources we consult, the better chance we will discover more appropriate titles for our readers.

I am also learning to be more aware that different people process information in different ways. For example, I am a text driven person. I am sure you can tell that by the layout and design of this blog. It is clean, crisp, and word driven.  However, one of my best friends is an extremely visual person [she was an electrical engineer and now is a professional potter]. We joke about how she can barely write a coherent paragraph and I cannot do origami to save my life.

But my conversations with her and my years of helping thousands of different people find their next good read has reminded me to search out not only resources that have a different book matching philosophy, but also those that express their results in different ways. And specifically, I force myself to consider more visually based options, ones I would not be naturally drawn to myself. I take the ALL in RA for All very seriously. I want to help ALL, all staff and all readers.

Which is all a long winded way to introduce a new [to me] resource, YourNextRead. From their "Further information" page:
At YourNextRead we only feature books you have told us you have read, enjoyed and recommended for others to read. If you do not understand what you are meant to be looking for then YourNextRead is for you...! There are many ways to search for your next read, here are some of the most common ways to get the best recommendations:  
Books or authors you have already enjoyed  
Search for a book you have already enjoyed and we will give you other people's book recommendations. There should be quite a few book recommendations to go through and each one has descriptions and reviews from Amazon and goodreads (with more to come in the future). We have tried to make the sources of the information as clear as possible. If you would like to see information from any other book sources you know of then please let us know at feedback@yournextread.com.  
A book you have heard of being talked about  
Search for the title or author of the book. Our collection of books is large so hopefully you should be able to find it. Click on the book and we will give you the recommendations from your fellow YourNextRead readers.  
How do we find these books?  
We find these books because you tell us about them! We believe that people are the best analysers of the intangible connections which link great books together. So we thought of a simple way to recommend books - the thumbs up/down button you see in our "map of books". By clicking on the thumbs up/down buttons you tell YourNextRead and, more importantly, the world that these two books are recommended as similar. If you don't like any suggestion you see on the screen, then you can always click on the thumbs down button, though please only do this if you have read both books :D  
Keep discovering and sharing with YourNextRead...
The focus here is clearly on book lovers sharing what they like. It defies the logic we try to put into book suggestions because sometimes people like what they like even if all of our professional resources say those books are completely opposite of each other. So just for this reason alone-- allowing readers to be readers and simply say what they enjoy without trying to make readalike matches-- this source has value to us.

But the reason I am drawn to using it more is their Beta “My Map” feature. Below is a screen shot with the help window open:

Click here to pull up the map
These maps are a complicated web of community connections that you can personalize and save. You can visually see every possibility, or only the ones you have made yourself. The more you personalize it, the better the results.

This is a wonderful reading recommendation engine for visual processors.  Think about Goodreads which tries to incorporate lots of graphics, but in reality, it is driven by text reviews and tags to connect books. YourNextRead is completely visual.  For this reason using it makes me-- the text processor-- anxious. I can’t focus and it doesn’t help me. But think about my friend; it is perfect for her.

So today, I hope you not only look at YourNextRead and try it out, but you use this post as an example and inspiration to make sure you are considering all of your patrons’ learning preferences and embrace resources that take into account how we all take in information best in completely different ways.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

New Issue of The Corner Shelf Is Out

This week is the Illinois Library Association’s Annual Conference. I will have more to say about the conference tomorrow but today, I wanted to pass on the link to this month’s Corner Shelf. I have included editor Rebecca Vnuk’s introduction below.

This is a particularly great issue [and I am saying that without it featuring me at all]. Not only is the interview with Ike Pulver and the program he shared very interesting, informative, and totally possible to replicate at your library, but the issue also features the debut of Neil Hollands' first RA column, taking over the reigns from Joyce Saricks. I have known Neil for years and am excited that he will have such a wide audience with which to share his expertise.

Please click through and check it all out. I promise you will learn something-- probably a lot of somethings.

This issue features an interview with Ike Pulver, Director of Saratoga Springs Public Library. Ike and I met while on the first selection committee for the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction, where he impressed me with his vast book knowledge. I'm sure you'll enjoy getting to know him. He also contributes this issue's "RA Showcase," talking about the Book Buzz programming at Saratoga Springs Public Library.  

I'd like to draw your attention to two new features you'll find both in print and on Booklist Online: the first is a new feature you'll be seeing more of, "Trend Alert." Think of these as siblings of our famous "Core Collection" features, Trend Alert showcasing newer titles on hot topics while Core Collection brings together essential books in perennially popular areas. I'm a fan of microhistories, and right now, food books are hot, so it was a natural fit for our October Spotlight on Food. The second feature I'd like to showcase is our new readers'-advisory column, "Every Book Its Reader," from Neil Hollands. Neil has taken over the reins from Joyce Saricks, and we hope you'll love his new column as much as we know you loved her "At Leisure" features.  

Please drop me a note if you have any comments about Corner Shelf, if you'd like to contribute a feature on what great collection things are happening at your library, or if you'd like to offer yourself or a colleague up as a "Notes from the Field" interviewee. I'm always looking for new contributors. Tell me about the great RA things you're doing at your library!  

Rebecca Vnuk, Editor, Collection Management and Library Outreach, Booklist
Click here to access the entire newsletter with links to all of the articles.

Monday, October 17, 2016

RA for All Roadshow goes to Huntsville Madison County [AL] Public Library

Good morning Huntsville. We have a fun day planned. All of your links and slides are here.

Huntsville Madison County [AL] Library In-Service Day: October 17, 2016 
  • 8:30-10:30: RA for All-- Details in Becky’s 10 Rules of Basic RA Service.
  • 10:45-12-- Booktalking: Harnessing the Power of Sharing Books with Patrons:
    • Booktalking is at the heart of what we do with patrons each and every day at the public library. Whether we are sharing books informally at the services desk, presenting a prepared list of books, or posting information online, talking about books is something we do each and every day. It is a core service, but it is also hard to teach. Booktalking is more of an art than a skill, but with the right guidance and some practice, it can go a long way toward engaging your patrons and re-energizing your staff. Join experienced Readers’ Advisory Becky Spratford as she shares the secret behind delivering great book talks, giving you tips and tricks you can begin using right away to hone your own skills. Rediscover the power and joy that comes from sharing books with patrons. SLIDES [Features a NEW book talk]
  • 1:15-2:45 RA Rethink: The Displays Edition: Becky Spratford brings the display portion of her popular new “RA Rethink” series to you. In this presentation Becky will show you how to “rethink” your displays to make them more engaging for patrons without increasing your workload; in fact, she will help you to create better displays in half the time. While Becky will provide many examples and suggestions, this training will be highly interactive. Participation is expected with the goal of you leaving the session with a few display ideas all set and ready to be put out immediately. SLIDES

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Enormous RA Boon of Bob Dylan Winning the Nobel Prize in Literature

By now you heard yesterday’s announcement of Bob Dylan as the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. Not surprisingly, there have been a wide range of strong opinions throughout the literary and library world about this announcement.

But today I am here to tell you to put aside your personal feelings [be they positive or negative] and welcome this news as an amazing chance to do some whole collection marketing at your library.

Bob Dylan is the absolute best Nobel winner EVER for libraries because promoting this award means we can showcase the full range of what the library has to offer to our patrons. Bob Dylan, that’s a topic tailor made for the American public library.

You can make a display with books [at all age levels, fiction and nonfiction], music, and movies featuring Dylan, yes, but you can also have side displays on topics that intersect with him like, but not limited to:

  • songwriting
  • protest music and/or poetry
  • Dylan's influences
  • those influenced by Dylan
  • 1960s or 70s- height of his popularity
  • outside the box award winners [in all fields, not just literature]
For these topics you can also have displays of books, movies, and/or music too. 

The possibilities are endless which means you can do just about anything. Don’t fool yourself. We probably will never have this popular a Nobel Laureate again. Take advantage now.

And since the public equates the library with literary prizes already, they will be coming to see what we have for them. Juts Dylan winning will drive traffic into the library. There is so much by and about the man that many people will have no idea where to begin, but they willed to the library for help.

So let’s get ready people. And let’s get ready to shine! We got this. Let’s show off the breadth of our collections, the variety of formats we own, and our wonderful staff by embracing this announcement and using it to showcase our awesome selves.

And while people are visiting for the Dylan inspired displays, remind them that you are always there, right in their neighborhood to help them find their next good read. They don’t have to have a reason to come visit.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Library Reads: November 2016

[Editors Note: Today it’s the November Library Reads. I’ll post about Bob Dylan and the Nobel Prize tomorrow.]

Library Reads day means 3 things here on RA for All.
  1. I post the list and tag it “Library Reads” so that you can easily pull up every single list with one click.
  2. I can remind you that even though the newest list is always fun to see, it is the older lists where you can find AWESOME, sure bet suggestions for patrons that will be on your shelf to actually hand to them right now. The best thing about Library Reads is the compound interest it is earning. We now have hundreds and hundreds of titles worth suggesting right at our fingertips.
  3. You have no excuse not to hand sell any Library Reads titles because there is a book talk right there in the list in the form of the annotation one of your colleagues wrote for you. All you have to say to your patron is, “such and such library worker in blank state thought this was a great read,” and then you read what he or she said.
So get out there and suggest a good read to someone today. 

November 2016 LibraryReads List


A Novel

by Alice Hoffman

Published:11/1/2016 by Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 9781476799209
“With only a touch of her usual magical realism, Hoffman crafts a tale that still manages to enchant. In Faithful, a young girl who survives a car accident that almost kills her best friend spends the next decade doing penance to try and alleviate her guilt. Despite her best efforts to avoid it, love, hope, and forgiveness patiently shadow her as she slowly heals. Shelby is a complex character and through her internal growth Hoffman reveals that she is a person worthy of love, a bit of sorcery that readers will hold dear. Simply irresistible.”
Sharon Layburn, South Huntington Public Library, Huntington Station, NY

The Fate of the Tearling: A Novel

by Erika Johansen

Published: 11/29/2016 by Harper
ISBN: 9780062290427
“It’s been fascinating to watch the Tearling saga evolve into a riveting blend of fantasy and dystopian fiction with characters developing in unexpected but satisfying ways into people I really care about. With the introduction of new characters in the town, a third timeline is woven into the story, leading to a plot twist that I did not see coming at all. This book has given me lots to think about–community, leadership, the use and abuse of power–and makes me want to reread all three books.”
Beth Mills, New Rochelle Public Library, New Rochelle, NY


Night School: A Jack Reacher Novel

by Lee Child

Published: 11/7/2016 by Delacorte Press
ISBN: 9780804178808
“Child goes back to the well and gives readers another glimpse into Jack Reacher’s past as a military cop — and what a worthwhile trip it is. It’s 1996 — after Reacher receives a Legion of Merit medal, he’s sent to “Night School” with two other men, one from the FBI and another from the CIA.  Soon the trio learns that they’ve been selected for a covert mission. Child layers his page-turning story with careful and sometimes dryly humorous details.This suspense series keeps getting better — it’s a joy to read.”
Elizabeth Eastin, Rogers Memorial Library, Southampton, NY

When All The Girls Have Gone

by Jayne Ann Krentz

Published: 11/29/2016 by Berkley
ISBN: 9780399174490
“Charlotte crosses paths with Max, a former criminal profiler turned private investigator, at the condo of the recently deceased friend of her step sister Jocelyn. Max and Charlotte begin investigating and find themselves in the killer’s sights as they follow a twisted path into the past. Krentz is an expert at seamlessly blending suspense with romance. Her strong characters and their evolving relationship, plus a complex, twisted plot, all combine to make romantic suspense at its best.”
Karen Emery, Johnson County Public Library, Franklin, IN


I’ll Take You There: A Novel

by Wally Lamb

Published: 11/22/2016 by Harper
ISBN: 9780062656285
I’ll Take You There is delightfully entertaining, funny and a bit mystical with wonderful connections to old movies and movie stars.  Felix Funicello runs a Monday night film club which meets in an old theater. One evening, he is visited by the ghost of a female director from the silent film era.  She takes him on a journey to his past where Felix sees scenes on the screen which help him gain an understanding of women who have been important to him throughout his life. This novel is insightful and inspirational in connecting scenes from the past with our present day society.” 
Marilyn Sieb, L.D. Fargo Library, Lake Mills, WI 

Swing Time

by Zadie Smith

Published: 11/15/2016 by Penguin Press
ISBN: 9781594203985
“Spanning over twenty years and two continents, Smith’s new novel is a charming account of one woman’s coming-of-age. Smith’s unnamed narrator, a mixed-race child lives in one of London’s many low-end housing units.  She meets Tracey and the two are bonded over the shared experience of being poor and “brown” in a class that is predominantly white. As the two stumble towards womanhood, the differences become more stark and divisive, and their friendship is fractured by Tracey’s final, unforgivable act. This book will appeal to lovers of character-driven fiction.”
Jennifer Wilson, Delphi Public Library, Delphi, IN 


Victoria: The Queen: An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire 

by Julia Baird

Published: 11/22/2016 by Random House
ISBN: 9781400069880
“When Victoria inherited the throne at the age of eighteen, she was still sleeping in the same bedroom as her mother. Her first act as queen was to move her bed into a different room. This headstrong deed foreshadowed the determination with which she ruled an empire. Her fierce devotion to her country and family shines in the pages of Baird’s compulsively readable biography. She becomes a warm and relatable figure through Baird’s research. Her reign saw unimaginable changes in society, science, and technology, but through it all, Victoria remained.”
Ann Cox, Beaufort County Library, Hilton Head, SC 


Moonglow: A Novel

by Michael Chabon
Published: 11/22/2016 by Harper
ISBN: 9780062225559

“A grandson sits by his dying grandfather’s bedside as his grandfather slowly reveals the light and shadows of a marriage and of a family that kept secrets as a way of life. He learns of his grandmother’s life growing up during World War II; her coming to America and living with a man who kept to himself, even lying to her about his short time in prison. Chabon’s signature style includes carefully observed characters that are both new and familiar and shimmering prose that reflects and refracts light much as moonlight does.”
Jennifer Winberry, Hunterdon County Library, Flemington, NJ


Normal: A Novel

by Warren Ellis

Published: 11/29/2016 by FSG Originals
ISBN: 9780374534974
“Adam Dearden has been ferried to Normal Head, an asylum dedicated to treating only futurists.  Shortly after Adam arrives at Normal, a patient disappears from his locked room, leaving only a huge pile of insects behind. Adam unearths a conspiracy that will have readers flipping pages quickly, reminding us that ‘we are now in a place where we will never again have a private conversation.’ Witty and insightful, Ellis’s writing has much to say about technology and gives readers much to think about in this brief novel. Highly recommended.”
Mary Vernau, Tyler Public Library, Tyler, TX


Orphans of the Carnival: A Novel

by Carol Birch

Published: 11/8/2016 by Doubleday
ISBN: 9780385541527
“Julia is an accomplished young woman who can sing, dance, ride horseback and speak three languages. Unfortunately for her, most people can’t get past what they see because Julia’s face is covered with thick hair, giving her an apelike appearance. Orphaned as a small child but raised in a wealthy household, Julia decides to travel the world as a carnival performer. This beautifully written work of historical fiction allows readers to consider what it means to be “other,” to always be on the outside looking in.”
Vicki Nesting, St. Charles Parish Library, Destrehan, LA