CLICK HERE for quick access to the materials for the 2016-17 Speculative Fiction Genre Study.
The website now features UNRESTRICTED access, including notes from our meetings; however, in order to attend the meetings in person, you must be a member of ARRT. Click here for information about how you can join.


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.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Horror Debuts Column in Library Journal

This is a cross post with RA for All: Horror

31 Days of Horror: Day 23-- My Annual Library Journal Horror Debuts Column

Earlier this month, my semi-annual take over of Neal Wyatt's Reader's Shelf column in Library Journal went live. Every October they ask me to do horror debuts. Each year I offer up 6 excellent choices for all library collections; and because they are debuts, I am alerting you to authors when they are emerging.

When you read this year's column below, you will notice that the first two are not quite horror, the third straddles the line between dark fantasy and horror, four and five are 100% horror, and six is one of the best debut books I have read in any genreHere is the direct link to the column, and I have attached it below.

You can find more in depth reviews of Haven and In the Valley of the Sun, with readalike options using the links I have provided or in my Horror Review Index.

Finally, you can see all of my Library Journal columns archived on this page here on the blog, at any time.

First-Time Scares | The Reader’s Shelf

As we creep closer to Halloween, celebrate with some fresh and frightening tales. Stretching across a range of genres and styles and presenting different levels of terror, these debuts will satisfy a variety of readers looking for a scare.
A harrowing apocalyptic thriller presented through chillingly realistic sf, The End of the World Running Club(Sourcebooks Landmark. Sept. 2017. ISBN 9781492656029. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781492656036) by Adrian J. Walker became an international best seller. Edgar Hill is never going to win father of the year; when asteroids begin falling, he is busy nursing a hangover. Still, he loves his family and after being separated from them in the chaos, he joins a group of survivors and does the only thing he can: he runs. He runs in an attempt to reunite with his loved ones; in the hopes of surviving; to flee from all his many mistakes; and to live to see an uncertain future. This tale of action and dread set in a devastated landscape showcases the endurance of the human spirit.
Emil Ferris uses the imagery of horror movies and magazines from the 1960s to set an unsettling tone in her historical mystery My Favorite Thing Is Monsters (Fantagraphics. Feb. 2017. ISBN 9781606999592. pap. $39.99). Ten-year-old Karen Reyes has a tough life—her mother is dying of breast cancer—in a diverse, working-class Chicago neighborhood. With a rich imagination, superior artistic skills, and a questing mind, Karen is on the case when her neighbor, a Holocaust survivor, is murdered. Under­pinning it all is Karen’s realization of her own blossoming homosexuality. Ferris weaves an astounding story through text and image in a moving and original graphic novel.
Emily B. Cataneo’s first collection, Speaking to Skull Kings and Other ­Stories (JournalStone. May 2017. ISBN 9781945373619. pap. $15.95), is brimming with ghosts, haunted books, alternate ­dimensions, and dark fantasy in an assemblage of lyrical pieces best classified as weird fiction. The complex female characters, creepy settings, and magic-filled story lines draw in readers much like the award-winning works of Karen Russell, Jeff VanderMeer, and Kelly Link. Cataneo provides all the chills and anxiety of horror in every turn of the page without the gore many fear they will encounter when first trying the genre.
Violent and haunting, Abode (Bloodshot. Jul. 2017. ISBN 9780998067971. pap. $14.99) by Morgan Sylvia is a good old-­fashioned novel of monsters wreaking havoc. It unfolds in a locale many horror fans know well: an old house in the middle of the woods. As one can expect, bad things start to happen when a new family moves in, but the story gets fresh power in the way the frights are revealed. The opening chapter sets the scene perfectly with an urgent email from someone mysterious, addressing “you” about the harrowing events that have already come, even if “you” cannot fully ­remember them. The unique frame and voice create an extra found footage layer of fear and suspense. Librarians will need to go a bit out of the way to order this indie title, but it is entirely worth it.
Tom Deady won this year’s Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel for Haven (Greymore. Jan. 2017. ISBN 9780990632726. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781587675973). It follows a man recently released from jail as he returns to the New England town where he was accused of a killing spree 17 years earlier. The strange murders suddenly ­begin again, but the evidence clearly points to something evil lurking in the forest caves and lakes around town. To learn the truth, a ragtag group of unlikely but sympathetic heroes band together. Shifting narration, breathless action sequences, and unearthed puzzles ratchet up the dread and tell a story reminiscent of the genre’s classics by Stephen King and Peter Straub.
Everyone has a secret, and no one is completely innocent in Andy Davidson’s In the ­Valley of the Sun (Skyhorse. Jun. 2017. ISBN 9781510721104. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781510721111). Desperately trying to escape his past, Travis Stillwell suffers an encounter with a pale-skinned girl who leaves him bloodied and weak, unable to tolerate the light of day, and tormented by an overpowering hunger. Widowed motel owner Annabelle Gaskin stumbles upon Travis and offers him a job in exchange for board, and the two lonely souls strike up an awkward friendship, along with her young son. But monsters, both real and imagined, can’t be hidden forever. This evocatively dark yet oddly beautiful debut will have wide audience appeal. The plot and characters play with the mind, and the pacing reflects the story’s harsh landscape—a slow, riveting burn.
The column was contributed by Becky Spratford, who runs the critically acclaimed library training blog RA for All,, and is the author of The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror. Follow her on twitter @RAforAll

Friday, October 20, 2017

Women in Horror by Mary SanGiovanni to Support Kelly Jensen’s #HereWeAre

Earlier this week I received this email from Kelly Jensen, editor of the fantastic Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World:
Hey friends!
With the news cycle continuing to be ugly, frustrating, upsetting, and downright triggering for many, it seems like we need something positive and uplifting to use our social media spaces for, if even for a single day. 
Back in March, I ran a campaign with the hashtag #HereWeAre, which celebrated feminism, and I think it’s high time to bring it back again. All of the details of that particular campaign, as well as fillables, are available here if you’d like to look through them or use any of them 
Will you join me on Friday, October 20, from noon eastern time through the end of the day in celebrating feminism, badass people across the gender spectrum, and the incredible work being done in the world? You can Tweet, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Blog, or use any other social media you feel comfortable with to highlight good, positive contributions to the world, both from those we know and love and those that we deserve to get to know better. Use the hashtag #HereWeAre to be part of the conversation and so that all of those tweets -- as well as the ones from March -- can be collected in a single place.
-- Kelly Jensen, aka @veronikellymars

Well first of all, Kelly is one of my favorite book people; I trust her because she is smart, talented, and knows what she is doing in all situations. And second-- YES, of course I will join you Kelly.

When Kelly asked us "to highlight good, positive contributions to the world, both from those we know and love and those that we deserve to get to know better” I thought of one person right away-- Mary SanGiovanni.

Mary is an author who writes horror-- really good horror, cosmic horror, supernatural thrillers, serious you need to keep the lights on after you finish it horror. Mary has been publishing critically acclaimed horror for most of the 21st Century which means that back when she started, she was one of the only women. Unlike many of today’s female horror writers, Mary had to defend her sex before people would even read a single word of her prose. The few who were willing to overlook the fact that she was a woman, loved her stories.

It was a tough place to be for a female writer, but Mary found some male allies in the horror industry and has always stood up for herself, but it wasn’t always easy. Mary just kept writing and fought for herself and the women who came up behind her with her words-- and many women in horror have had an easier go of it thanks to her.

Earlier this year, during Women in Horror Month [Feb], Mary shared an essay she wrote about her experiences on my horror blog. She was blunt about her treatment but she was also firm in her resolve. And by no means is her fight over. She knows that. Mary shares her story to help other women find the strength to stand up to sexism and sexual harassment. She leads by example. That’s why I thought of her when Kelly asked for positive examples of feminism.

Mary gave me permission to share this again so I can honor her talent and let you all know that I think she is a badass feminist role model who more people should know about. Also, go read her books, they are fantastic.

Thanks to Kelly for running this positive celebration today. Please consider sharing your own story on social media today starting at Noon eastern. Just make sure to use #HereWeAre.

And special thanks to Mary SanGiovanni for sharing her personal story here for all of you. You can support her by buying some of her books and adding them to your collections. May I suggest her current slate of titles with Kensington.

by Mary SanGiovanni

Well, it’s February, which means it is time once again for Women in Horror month, and I thought I’d lay down some thoughts about being a woman horror writer. Now, I am only speaking of my own personal thoughts and experiences, and do not presume to speak for all women writers. However, I think my experiences are fairly common and I hope this post sheds some light on what I believe women writers ultimately want to accomplish in this field.

I’ve been in this business now for almost fifteen years. People often ask if I’ve ever been a victim of or seen in action the “boys’ club” mentality. Well, I can recall hearing terrible stories of misogyny and harassment suffered by women writers in generations who came before me, stories of unacceptably poor treatment in the business from the '70s on. I myself have been propositioned for publishing, I have been hit on during business meetings, and I’ve had people accuse me of only getting published because of having traded sex or sex acts with the editor, or because of whom I’m dating. I have been put on countless sex and horror panels under some unspoken assumption that because I’m a woman and I write horror, I must be knowledgeable about erotic horror or paranormal romance. I have heard people say I am not capable of writing anything truly meaningful or scary because I’m a woman. I’ve heard of a number of women passed over for anthology invites because women’s work isn’t as widely recognized or not as “sellable,” leading to Tables of Contents that are all or mostly male. And I would venture that a number of women, both new and established, writing in the spec fic genres today, have suffered many similar indignities. 

However, more often I have been delighted to discover so many supportive fellow writers, editors, publishers, and agents, both male and female, who don’t see the sex of the writer as having anything to do with the writer’s talent or business acumen. They find sexist and misogynistic behavior intolerable and will speak out against it. They judge horror literature and other horror media for the quality of the work and not the sex, gender, color, race, or orientation of the creator. And in my observation, this trend of equality thinking is, at least in the horror publishing field, picking up momentum (I can’t speak to film, comic books, or video games, as I am not a regular creator in any of those fields.).

I enjoy being a woman. I enjoy being a “girly” type of woman, wearing makeup and heels and pretty dresses and lacy underthings. I like to look pretty for my partner. And I enjoy it when others tell me I’m beautiful or sexy. I don’t find this offensive in the least – so long as we’re not doing business. I think it’s flattering when people think I’m good-looking; it makes me feel good, as I think it makes most people of either sex feel good to hear nice things. To me, it’s not sexist to compliment someone, so long as you are respecting his or her personal and professional boundaries. 

I also like when people compliment the quality of my writing. I love when people enjoy my books. I love when others tell me my writing is beautiful or scary. I love hearing that one of my stories made someone want to turn a light on before bed. 

These things are, to me, separate aspects of my being. I don’t use my sexuality to try and get published, so I don’t see any reason why I would have to play up or play down my sexuality in my life; sexiness and talent are not mutually exclusive, nor are assertiveness and professionalism. I don’t, after all, type with my sex organs, nor create stories there. My work comes from my heart and my mind, attributes I’m glad to possess regardless of whatever body they are housed in. To assume that physicality compromises creativity is unfair to the woman (or man) in question.

Now, I would probably agree that, generally speaking, women tend to factor emotional components into decision-making more often than men. We have women’s intuition, a kind of gut instinct which is part intellectual, part emotional, and hell, sometimes part psychic, that we have come to feel confident relying on. I think in our thought processes, we have more difficulty divorcing obvious emotional factors and their impact from the overall picture. If anything, I think that makes us particularly suited to write in a genre whose existence is based on that which has been defined as one of the oldest and strongest emotions of mankind. Also, women do have potentially different life experiences than men, different fears in the forefront of our existences, and different training in processing and responding to them. Women may sometimes have a unique perspective on fear, given centuries of hyperawareness of and particular adaptations to true bodily terror.

As a horror writer who also happens to be a woman, I don’t think the presence of rape, say, in a story makes it misogynistic. I’ve used rape or allusions to rape in my work before, because it is a horrific and terrifying act and the story called for that particular reference. I like to believe I handled those occasions with dignity and decency. I believe that just because one is a woman shouldn’t automatically make using rape okay; that one tries to handle the subject matter with sensitivity to those who may have experienced it and acknowledgment that it is a brutal act and not a fetish to be giggled over in a prurient and puerile fashion is what should make the difference. To reveal the human significance of an experience, whatever the type, and impart the deeper truth or strength that a reader may get out of it is a crucial cornerstone of horror. That should hold true whether the writer is a man or a woman. If we write horror, it is usually inevitable that a bad thing will happen to a good person. That’s not just horror, and it’s not misogyny; that’s life. However, our intent, our focus in creating, makes all the difference. We strive to write stories with emotional impact, stories to terrify, horrify, or sometimes even to repulse. If we treat horrors against women (or children or minority groups or men, for that matter) with the respect and understanding we should give any aspect of our work, it makes for a better story anyway, and one that is justly written. To simply put horrific acts like rape off limits as if they don’t exist is to deny a work its possible profoundness of impact. I also feel it denies the acknowledgment of the strength and resilience of those who have experienced these acts, and the stance of intolerance of the horrific acts being performed. I have always believed that acknowledgment of these things — human strength and dignity as well as the exemplified abhorrence of hateful violence — are important in quality and lasting horror fiction.

As writers, we create characters we hope will ring true with readers; this means we have a whole host of personalities to choose from when writing men or women. As long as each character is believably realistic and suitable for the tale to be told, I think we can transcend the use of stereotypes of either sex or gender without sacrificing what those types of characters might bring to a story. 

I think sometimes considering the full spectrum of human beings and their capacity for both good and evil, weakness and strength, is something women, who are often full-spectrum, layered thinkers themselves, bring to horror fiction.  Women are multi-taskers even when we imagine, and ever aware of the emotions that permeate every look, act, or word.  

However, I am not saying women are better (or worse) equipped to write horror. I mean that while it may be different, women’s horror work can be equally as powerful, profound, skillful, and terrifying as men’s because of an emotion-based skill set we are innately endowed with. The key word here is “equally.” And that’s what we want: equality thinking from colleagues and readers alike. That we have a month in order to raise awareness of our presence, educate others, and validate our abilities to those who may not understand or believe in them — that’s great. We appreciate the support. But it would be nice if every month accomplished these same goals, and the fact that we are women didn’t have to come before the fact that we are writers.

Which brings me to my thoughts on modern-day feminism, and what, as a writer, I look to achieve in my field. True equalitarian feminists, in my opinion, aren’t looking to beat down opposing ideas with vicious hate or manically rabid force. They aren’t looking to tear down others based on every little individual quirk or idiosyncrasy that could be construed (or misconstrued) as sexist. They aren’t looking for special privilege. Rather, with firm assertion of grace, class, and talent, they strive to produce and keep producing quality work that cannot help but be considered the equal of their male counterparts. They look to build an atmosphere of mutual respect. They assertively and respectfully point out unjust, threatening, and unacceptable behavior, to make others aware of insensitivities to others' situations or conditions. They look to set the example of the climates we’d all like to live and work in, and to be the kind of person others to recognize with respect and maybe even admiration. 

I appreciate the support I have received over the years both personally and professionally, and I hope that my experiences may inform my fiction in such a way that it is emotionally and intellectually meaningful, scary, and moving.

I am a woman, and I am a horror writer. Thank you to all of you who recognize I can be both successfully, without having to be one or the other.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Don’t Miss Your Chance To Ask Me To Help You Tackle Your BIGGEST, DARKEST RA Fears

Yup, thats right I am taking on all comers from today until 11/9. I am either brilliant or very, very stupid. We will find out soon enough.

Here are the details. As you may have seen here, on November 9th, ARRT is hosting a one day ARRTCon, or as I like to call it “Choose Your Own RA Adventure.” We have programming for all levels of RA and the details are here.

One of the break out sessions [probably being offered 2x that day] is what we are calling a Genre Unconference. I have a panel of victims, um I mean volunteers, from the ARRT Steering Committee who have agreed to answer your questions about the hardest to help patrons.

We want this program to help as many of you as possible, so we are making it available virtually, well as best we can. Let me explain.

We want as many questions from all of you, from wherever you are, as possible so we have created a poll which anyone, anywhere can submit to either in the embedded version below or using this link:

I will gather all of the responses and get them on sticky notes to post on the wall the day of the event. We will also be collecting questions from everyone at ARRTCon on November 9th. I will then use those questions to run the program.
But here is my promise to all of you-- I will not only take notes of the entire conversation as it happens that day-- all questions and answers-- to post here on the blog, but also, I will save every single one of your questions and if we don’t get to it at the event, I will answer them myself in future blog posts.
This means that the conversation we have will be available here on the blog AND I will address every single question we get. All you have to do is let me know your deepest, darkest RA fear here and I will help you find a way to overcome it and provide better RA Service.
Now is your chance to ask the experts. The poll is open until November 9th.
If you live within driving distance of Naperville, IL consider coming. We still have space. The link to register is below.
But no matter where you live, do not miss this chance to ask me anything. Again, either I’m brilliant or very stupid. I guess you will have to wait to see.

Click here to register to attend in person

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Resource Alert-- Electric Literature [With a Bonus Reminder that Horror is for Everyone]

Recently I stumbled upon this amazing list via Electric Literature:

Click there to read the stories

As you can imagine, I was super excited to see these horror stories by “literary” authors, especially Nguyen who wrote the best book I read last year.

As you all know, I make it a huge professional goal to remind library workers not to be judgey about genre and genre readers. No one genre is better than the others, and for the snooty out there who only like “literary fiction,” I have yet to have found a genre that has not been tackled by a “literary" writer. [I dare you to stump me.]

Case in point for horror is in the article above-- Nguyen won the Pulitzer and just got a Genius Grant. But this is an argument for another day-- or, as it happens every day right now over on the horror blog.

Today, I am glad I came upon this link for more than just the awesome horror stories, it is the resource I had no idea existed that I must spend an entire post telling you about-- Electric Literature.

From their about page:
Our Mission 
Electric Literature’s mission is to expand the influence of literature in popular culture by fostering lively and innovative literary conversations and making exceptional writing accessible to new audiencesThrough our website, social media, events, and other special programming and projects, we reach an international audience with free, online content, while paying every single one of our contributing writers.

Electric Literature’s mission is 100% in line with what we do as we serve leisure readers at the public library. They help break down the barriers of introducing a diverse stable of authors, voices, perspectives, and genres to readers by offering the most recent content for free.

A quick perusal of the offerings on the site shows that they do NOT shy away from dealing with difficult topics, and that they address them through literature is even more useful to us as we work with readers. Take the recent piece entitled, “An Oral History of a Lynching,” for example.

I also love how the “Recommending Reading” pieces, like Nguyen’s excellent story mentioned above, "Black-Eyed Women” are each recommend by another writer, in this case, Akhil Sharma. This means that each story introduces readers [and library workers] to two authors they might not have known about otherwise.

In other words, library workers, you can use this resource to learn about more diverse authors and even read a sample of their work. Authors who are not necessarily published by the big 5, authors who might not be getting lots of attention, authors that are 100% worth you consideration for being added to your collections and promoted to patrons. Oh, and did I mention Electric Literature allows you to follow for free meaning they will send you all of this content. That’s right, it takes no money and no effort. 

So enough from all of you who don’t think you have time to dig deeper for titles in order to add more diverse titles to your collection. Here is a way to have suggestions delivered to you for free. And, to those of you who still try to tell me that your patrons don’t want “more diverse titles,” now you have examples of the writing of these “ diverse” authors. Why not stop deciding for your patrons? Why not let them decide for themselves? I think you will be surprised. Good writing is good writing. The author doesn’t have to be familiar for that to be true.

At the very least, add Electric Literature to your stable of resources that you use to identify topical, accessible, and just plain good writing to turn around and suggest to your patrons.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

NoveList Training Survey Results and the Importance of Training for All

I have spent 7 of the last 9 days traveling and training library staff, in person, from IN to IL to PA, as well as all of you following along from home. I know first hand how much continuing education is needed. I spent that time both training others and training myself by attending sessions.

This blog is meant to be a training resource for you, but quite honestly, it is also for myself. I post things here so I remember to return to them as much as I want you to learn from them. I believe in the power of training others, and I practice what I preach by continuously seeking out training opportunities for myself.

As libraries make decisions on how to spend their money and their staff’s time, I know training often gets left behind for what appears to be more pressing needs. However, I would argue that nothing is more important than keeping your staff up to date and energized. Without the staff being able to grow and learn, your service to patrons will ultimately pay a steep price- maybe not right away, but down the road, definitely.

So, a big thanks to my colleagues at NoveList first, for conducting a large scale survey of libraries on their training practices and second, for sharing the results with me so I can get them out to more people.

You can see the results on the NoveList blog here or immediately below.  Please note, there is still time to add your library’s voice to the discussion. See the end of the post for more info.

Use this post to see how your library fits into the overall picture of how staff are [or are not] trained at libraries across the country. I hope you are receiving some training in your workplace [more than just reading my blog]. If you are not getting the training you need, share the link to these results with your supervisors. Start a meaningful discussion at your place of work about the importance of staff development. You have hard data to plead your case now. And it doesn’t matter where you fall on the hierarchy of staff, every staff member should be advocating for training for themselves and their employees.

It doesn’t always cost money either. There are free options and many library systems offer grant for your to bring trainers in, but your employers need to make sure that time is allocated for you to learn how to serve your patrons better.

Thanks again to NoveList and ALA for undertaking this important survey to help all of us.

Training at your library: we asked, you answered

First off, thank you to all the library staff who answered our survey about training in your libraries and to ALA’s Learning Round Table for partnering with us. And thank you to all the people and organizations who shared the survey, to help us get the 642 responses that we’re sharing with you now. 
We surveyed public libraries (mostly, although the responses came from other types of libraries too) to get a better sense of training needs and priorities. We asked questions about who gets trained, who does training, how often, and which topics. 
From what we hear from the libraries we work with and what we see in this survey, training is important to your library. However, this survey also bears out the concerns we hear from libraries. Staffing concerns mean it can be hard to find the time to make sure everyone who needs training is able to get it.

Let’s get down to the results

Who answered the survey?

Mostly public libraries responded to the survey (88.6%) and responses varied for library size, from the 13% of you who work in libraries that serve fewer than five thousand people to the 20% of you who serve populations between 100 thousand and 500 thousand people.

It was also mostly supervisors/managers (24.9%) and directors (21.9%) that answered the survey, which gives us confidence that it reflects institutional feelings about training at a library, rather than individual feelings. That should make it easier for you to draw conclusions about the results. 

How often is training required?

The most common response to “How often are staff at your library expected to attend training?” was “Every 2-3 months” (25%). The next most common answer (18%) was “Once a year.” If we compare smaller libraries (serving populations under twenty-five thousand) to very large libraries (populations of half a million or more), we can see that larger libraries have more guidelines in place regarding training. Other was also offered as a choice for “How often,” with interesting results, including that some libraries left the training requirements up to the library staff member and their supervisor, and other libraries had training requirements that varied by position. Struggles with staffing and budgets were reflected in these “other” answers, with libraries expressing a desire for more training but either a lack of funds to pay for training or a lack of staff to allow time off.
Not surprisingly, the most common choice to the question, “Which staff currently attend training at your library” was “All of the above” (55%). For those respondents who didn’t select “all of the above,” training seemed to be concentrated in managers/supervisors and directors (each around 45%) and public service staff, ranging from 38% to 41%. Note: respondents could select more than one option, so percentages will add to greater than 100%. 

How much do libraries pay for training?

The amount libraries pay per person for training seemed to be consistent across library size, with 40% saying they spend less than $250 per person, with percentages going down steadily from there. 27% of respondents were not sure how much their library paid for training per staff member, so these numbers are likely less accurate than others from the survey.
Who are the trainers?

Most of the respondents said their library did not have a dedicated trainer or staff development coordinator at their library. The 18% of libraries with one or more full-time trainers were from libraries that serve larger population. For example, 38% of libraries serving 100 thousand to 500 thousand people and 32% of libraries serving over 500 thousand people have full-time trainers.
A couple interesting notes to come out of the question about in-house training: at least one library focuses training on new staff with current staff only receiving training when policies and procedures change. Another library pointed out that they have staff members train on their expertise, from example youth services coordinators train on youth topics and human resources coordinates safety training, onboarding, and other system-wide concerns. 
Libraries do bring in outside trainers, though again this varies by library size. Larger libraries are more likely to already bring in outside trainers or to plan to in the next year while smaller libraries do not. Outside trainers were often brought in for staff development days or for statewide or district/consortia level training. Few libraries seem to coordinate training with other local public libraries.

How does the training happen?

Webinars were the most popular form of training, with 42% of respondents saying it was the number one most popular form of training. 33% chose in-person workshops as the number one choice. These results were consistent across library size.

What training topics are popular?

The top five most popular topics for training were: customer service, technology, programming, product training, and readers’ advisory. The least popular options were cataloging; maker training, and collection development. 

These topics roughly correspond to priorities for training for next year, with the top five priorities being: customer service, technology, marketing/outreach, programming, and product training. The bottom three priorities were cataloging, maker training, and collection development. 

Does this reflect your experience?

These survey results provide a snapshot of training, but we’d still like to know more! Do these survey results reflect your library’s experience? What do you see is the difference between customer service training and readers’ advisory, maker, or product training? Do you think your library’s training priorities reflect your patron needs or library strategic plan? Would you like more training and how would you like it?
Need tips on training your staff on NoveList? Sign up for Train with NoveList and get training tips, access to training materials, and more.

Monday, October 16, 2017

RA for All Roadshow Hits PaLA For a Full Day of Conference Training

Click here for conference details
Today I am in Pittsburgh at PaLa. They invited me to present three sessions for the attendees.  Today’s schedule is below with links to slides and handouts.

All links are also loaded on to the conference website for attendees to access.

I am so excited to bring what is essentially my most popular full day in-service schedule to a conference. While it is wonderful to inspire an entire library staff to serve patrons better by reconnecting with the books they already love, it is quite another to be able to inject that energy into dozens of libraries by proxy.

I came into to town early on Sunday to take part in some of the conference events and sessions. I enjoyed meeting librarians from all over the state and learning about their communities and services. I also had many people come up to me wanting to talk about what they are reading or to even share some of their favorite RA interactions. It’s been great.

If you have a state library conference coming up, let me know. I would love to help you inspire your library workers. Contacting me is very easy.

Here’s what we are doing today with links. All sessions are in Salon 4.

9-10:15 am- RA for All [Signature Program]
10:30-11:45am- Booktalking: Harnessing the Power of Sharing Books with Readers
Click here for slide access

2-3:15 pm- RA Rethink: Merchandising
Click here for slide access

Friday, October 13, 2017

ILA Conference: Day 3-- My presentations

I am getting this post up a day late because, 1, the Library Reads list came out yesterday and I wanted to promote that, and 2, I presented 2x on Day 3 of the conference and I wasn’t able to take notes while those program were happening. After 3 days of conferencing, I didn’t have the energy to come home and create the posts from scratch. 

So this is the report on Day 3 of the conference, and yes, I know we are one day after the conference has ended.  

I am going to quickly mention my first program which while not RA Service related is something I want to encourage all library people to do--We Should Run: Library Workers in Public Office:
Library workers from all areas of service are uniquely positioned as advocates in our communities. Having more library workers in public office leads to stronger boards, stronger libraries, and stronger communities on local, state, and federal levels. Not to mention that it's good for our own professional development! But where to begin? We will share our personal experiences from the day we decided to step out from behind the desk and jump into the political fray, to our current positions at the big table. We’re here to encourage you to step up, advocate, and lead too.
Kathleen WillisState RepresentativeIllinois District 77 
Jill BambenekAccess Services LibrarianDominican University 
Corinn SparksMessenger Public Library of North Aurora 
Becky SpratfordLa Grange Public Library 
Meghan GoldensteinMikva Challenge / Run For Something 
Heather BoothThomas Ford Memorial Library
The slides with resources and link can be viewed here.

We all talked about our personal experiences being librarians AND elected officials, following the questions you see in the slides. I would highly suggest that any of you who are interested in hearing more about running for ANY office or sitting on any kind of board [be it government or civic or etc...] contact Representative Willis [the only member of the IL Legislature with an MLS] or Ms. Goldenstein.

I don’t have notes on all of our answers, but I did pull this out of my speaking notes. It is part of my response to the final question which was, “What would you say to a librarian who is looking to run for any office?”:
We are in a profession that is all about organizing knowledge, presenting a balanced view, helping others seek knowledge and clarity-- How can you NOT run for something right now. Our measured and respected voice of reason is needed to cut through the politics and crap.
I am more than happy to talk to IL people about library boards in our state and introduce you to someone in your community who can help you get started. Outside of IL my advice may mean less since all local governments are different, but general advice, about the process, running for election, and being in charge of millions of dollars of tax payer money-- that I can talk to you about. Click here for details on how to contact me.

But now, what you have all been waiting for, the second program I was a part of yesterday, the one that allowed me to have a fabulous lunch with Sonali Dev beforehand [and by the way, she is just as an amazing a person as she is a writer]:

Let’s lay out the facts: more than 80% of librarians are white women. Does your collection reflect your community or does it look more like you? Join the Adult Reading Round Table (ARRT) as we present a panel of librarians, publishers, and authors who will grapple with this touchy subject. Our panel will share straight talk, real world experiences, and practical strategies that build off of the We Need Diverse Books initiative for children, this time with a focus on serving teens and adults. Come ready to engage in this lively and vital conversation. 
Becky SpratfordReader’s Advisory SpecialistRA for All 
Heather BoothThomas Ford Memorial Library 
Annabelle MortensenSkokie Public Library 
Sonali DevBest Selling Romance Author 
Todd StockeVice President and Editorial DirectorSourcebooks
Heather and I were listed but we were merely the ARRT representatives, organizers, and in my case, I moderators. 

Ms. Dev went first and talked frankly about being a “diverse” author, how she is irked that it is a topic she is constantly called upon to address, but also understanding that she has an obligation to speak up about it. Ms. Dev shared much of her personal story, but she used this recent article in the New York Times as the framework for her talk: In Love With Romance Novels, But Not Their Lack of Diversity.

Ms. Dev is quoted in this article and she did tell us some of the same stories you can see there-- with more detail. Please click through, these are points you don’t want to miss

As for the quick mention, in that article, of the fact that she had 50 rejections for her first book, Ms. Dev elaborated for us that while that is very common for first time, never published authors, she is pretty sure others were not told in their rejection letters that their books contained "some of the most beautiful writing we have ever read," but unfortunately, no one will read a story of two Indians falling in love. 

She also talked about tokenism and how having 1 author of color in your stable as a publisher is not enough. She actually got her first novel published because of tokenism when an Indian romance author retired from Kensington and she took her place. But that does not make it right. 

She also talked about how the word multicultural is awful. For example, she said her books used to be categorized as “multicultural” but as far as she could see they were singular-cultutral as they were only about Indians.

She also gets frustrated with the fact that there can only be 1 narrative for each group. She used the example of three upcoming books by Indian women to show how different an “Indian” story can be. The titles she mentioned were, Love Hate and Other Filters by Samira AhmedMy Last Love Story by Falguni Kothari, and her own upcoming book A Distant Heart. Please click on the titles for more information about these books.

Finally, as an immigrant with American born children, she also talked about how hard it was for her, as a mother, to find titles for her children to read, titles they could see themselves reflected in. The American titles were not perfect, but clearly neither were the Indian titles.

Then Todd Stocke, spoke on behalf of Sourcebooks to give the publishers perspective. He talked about how demographics are changing and that today’s kids are 51% POC, but that those making the decisions about what gets published are overwhelmingly white. There is a slide in the presentation which he used to show this very clearly. He talked about how Sourcebooks always fished outside of the small pond where the Big 5 found books [hint: it is mostly from white agents], but as they grew and became one of the big publishers they had to stay committed to seeking those diverse voices out.

He highlighted some of their titles, but he also talked about The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas, a book they lost the bidding war to publish. He was glad to see all of the accolades and attention this fantastic book is getting, but, he also was concerned. He is surprised he is not seeing an onslaught of “copy cat” titles being pitched to him like he did after Hunger Games was huge and every other title crossing his desk was dystopian. This is usually par for the course in publishing. Why not now? Are white agents not comfortable finding more of these voices to promote? He doesn’t know why they aren’t getting to him yet, but he is concerned enough that he is trying to find some for himself because publishing those different voices is how Sourcebooks is making their money and they don’t plan to stop anytime soon. 

He reminded the audience multiple times that librarians are gatekeepers. Publishers know we get books in people’s hands. They want to make money, so if we advocate loudly that we want more diverse titles, publishers will listen. We have to stand up and be heard. It is up to all sides of the publishing equation to make this overdue and necessary change.

Finally, Annabelle Mortensen gave us an update on the work Skokie is doing to be consciously inclusive. Her slides are included here, and the slides also have a link to the first part of this discussion hosted by ARRT back in June, You can also see my notes from Day 2 when Kathy and Ally presented in more detail on some of the Skokie initiatives to be consciously diverse.

When Annabelle first presented, they had a plan, but now she has some initial results. For example, they looked at their increase in trying to suggest more diverse books through their BookMatch program- which was over 70% books by white women before they started-- and saw it only went up 6%. But, as she said, this is just the beginning. There is a learning curve for the staff, but more importantly, the publishers need to give them books that can fill the unique requests of patrons. With BookMatch, patrons want a specific type of book, and sometimes, no matter how hard the staff look, those books don’t exist.

She gave an example [which I cannot remember the specifics of now but it was clearly a “diverse” book request] and when she looked through her library’s collection, there were no books to fit that request. When she looked through traditional reference sources, also nothing. But when she looked on Goodreads, there were tons-- all self published or micro presses. That is where the readers go to talk about the books they love. Goodreads doesn’t care how they got the books, they care about the conversation about the books. 

So, she put in a plug again for library workers to look outside of the traditional publishers for books to add to their collections because readers want these books. People are writing them. Readers are loving them. Go out and find them. She referred to Robin Bradford’s ALA talk [linked in the slides] where she calls for this too.

That’s the gist of what we discussed. I did have feedback immediately that the next voice we should hear from is the distributors-- the ones who get the books from the publishers to the libraries. So as ARRT, and all of you, continue this conversation we will be looking to that side of the story next.

I attended a third program, but I am going to hold off on a report on that one because I am working with the presenter to give the topic an entire post at a later date.  [Ooh, teasers.]

On a final note, thanks to all my readers not from IL hanging in there with me this past week. I have heard from many of my IL colleagues that my notes have been extremely helpful, but I really think those of you reading from other places can learn from these posts too. I made the choice to blog, rather than live Tweet because I could add links and a lot more detail to these three days of notes and reports. 

I am confident that there is much there for everyone and anyone who works with leisure readers.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Library Reads: November 2017

I am still at the ILA Conference and will have Day 3’s report up later tonight [or maybe tomorrow], but I wanted to take a moment to remind you that it is Library Reads Announcement Day. And, as you can see below, I have been trying to get us all to do better for the last few months.

AND, I am happy to report, that this month’s list seems to show that you have been listening to me. I am so glad. I also secretly hope that you loved City of Brass so much because I alerted you to it back in June at ALA. 

We cannot rest on our laurels. We are better, but not perfect. [For example, I love Lee Child too, but does he really need the extra push?] So here we go again......


This is your monthly Library Reads announcement.

I usually just cut and paste the same intro each month, but for the next few months I am amending it with this long introduction. I want to address the fact that Library Reads has been called out for their lists being too "white." While this is a fair criticism, blaming Library Reads is not fair because Library Reads and their Steering Committee are only the ones running the website, coordinating the eArc process, and counting the votes, the voters who pick the books are ALL OF YOU!!!! [Seriously, Steering Committee members votes do not come into play. I looked into it.]

So that means all of you-- all of us-- are falling down on the job of nominating more diverse titles-- both in terms of the ethnicity and race of the author and the genres represented. So I think the problem requires action in a two pronged strategy.

First, we need more of you to participate, especially those of you who read more diversely and widely. Basically Library Reads needs new blood. Library reads is SUPER EASY to participate in, yet despite that, as I travel the country meeting all of you, many of you do not participate and surprisingly, a lot of you don't even now how to begin. So, we are going to fix that. Here's the recording of a LibraryReads webinar on how to participate.

But one fallacy about Library Reads is that you have to write a full annotation in order for your vote to be counted. That is not true. You just need to read [or honestly skim] the eARC and then rate the book and submit your vote to Library Reads. But the webinar will explain it all.

I know many of you have not gotten involved because you thought that it was too difficult. I am here to tell you it is not. So let's get some new people submitting votes. It only takes a few new people to make a big difference. I am calling on you, my readers [and there are close to a thousand of you a day] to step up and make your voices heard.

[On a side note, while Library Reads will not release how many votes it takes for a book to make the list, a publishing rep [not a big 5] told me confidentially that she has gone back and crunched the numbers that she has seen for her titles and she estimates that about 40-45 votes gets you on the list. But to be number one, she has no idea because one of her books hasn't ever been number one.]

Second, stop voting for the obvious books. I know you like the big name authors. We all do, but seriously people, voting for big name, huge bestselling authors over and over again is helping no one. Looking at the list below for August 2017, WHY is Louise Penny taking a spot from a less well known author. Look don't get me wrong. I LOVE Louise Penny [proof here]. For goodness sake, if you go on NoveList and see the author appeal statement for her-- I WROTE THAT. So I am not dissing her. I adore her novels. But seriously is there a library worker in America who hasn't hear of Louise Penny AND who doesn't have this author on automatic hold already? NO!

We are Library Reads. We need to do better. Library Reads needs to be more proactive in helping library workers identify the great books we wouldn't know about without this resource. Don't squander the opportunity to read a great under the radar title- early and for free- and to then pass it on to others. Read Louise Penny early for yourself, but spend your time voting for the titles that will not find an audience without your expert help.

If we keep voting for the mainstream titles, the publishers will keep spending money signing similar authors, but if we use our power to vote for more diverse and less mainstream works that we know our patrons would love, titles that no one would know about without us raising our voice to be heard, we can make great change. We can force the publishers to sign more diverse authors and we can get some great reads into more library collections, and we can have a backlist archive of great titles for all readers.

I am not going to tell you what to vote for though. I want you-- all of you-- to decide for yourselves. Me telling you would be as bad as the publishers forcing titles on us [which they already do]. The more voices we can gather who each independently choose the books that they are passionate about, the better the list will be. It will be more diverse by default when more of us use this two pronged approach that I have outlined today.

Remember, Library Reads is not a nebulous group of librarians lording over us-- it is you, me, your co-workers. It is up to us to do the right thing here because goodness knows, the publishers aren't going to do it unless we force them to.

Let's work together to make Library Reads more diverse and reflective of the full range of great books that are coming down the pike, then when we go to use these lists as a backlist tool we have an ever better resource at our fingertips.

[Now back to your regular Library Reads message.]

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. I don’t care what list or resource you use to find the suggestion, just start suggesting books. 

November 2017 LibraryReads

Artemis: A Novel

by Andy Weir

Published:11/14/2017 by Crown
ISBN: 9780553448122
“Weir’s second book does not disappoint! The setting is Artemis, a city on the moon where a young woman named Jazz is a smuggler and a courier trying to eke out a living. Adventure unfolds as Jazz is asked to do a different sort of job by her millionaire employer. He asks her to sabotage the mining operation that provides the city’s entire oxygen requirements. She works out a plan, but several calamities befall and all is not what it seems. Jazz must risk her life to save the city that is her home. A fast paced adventure from start to nail-biting finish!”
Cynde Suite, Bartow County Library, Cartersville, GA

The City of Brass: A Novel

by S. A. Chakraborty

Published: 11/14/2017 by Harper Voyager
ISBN: 9780062678102
“A wonderful fantasy debut set in an 18th century Cairo and featuring a young woman, Nahri, who has no relatives and who lives by her wits as a con artist. Her odd supernatural healing talents and ability to understand and speak languages come in handy as she struggles to survive day by day while trying to save up money for medical training. Unfortunately, during one job, she accidentally calls up inimical ifrits and a wily, handsome djinn that turn her life upside down. Action packed, with interesting folklore and an evocative setting.”
Ann-Marie Anderson, Tigard Public Library, Tigard, OR

The Story of Arthur Truluv: A Novel

by Elizabeth Berg

Published: 11/21/2017 by Random House
ISBN: 9781400069903
“Arthur meets Maddy when he’s visiting his dead wife in the cemetery; he eats lunch there every day. Maddy is a high school senior who’s got a hopeless crush on a jerk. Warm-hearted Arthur reaches out to Maddy in a totally open way, as Maddy’s parents seem uninvolved at best. The Story of Arthur Truluv is one of those rare coming-of-age novels that is just as much about the end of life as it is about growing up.”
Michelle Beckes, Tulsa City County Library, Tulsa, OK 

The Library at the Edge of the World:
A Novel

by Felicity Hayes-McCoy

Published: 11/14/2017 by Harper Perennial
ISBN: 9780062663726
“Much like a cup of tea and a cozy afghan, The Library at The Edge of the World is the perfect book to hunker down with. Prepare to be transported to coastal Ireland with Hannah Casey as she moves back to her hometown after a wrenching divorce and becomes the local librarian. Hannah’s daily challenges include dealing with an abrasive mother, an infuriating building contractor, and noise in the library. A series of events leads Hannah to help rally the community to come together, changing the town, the library, and Hannah. Hayes-McCoy does a fine job capturing the characters and the setting. I look forward to reading more in this series.”
Elizabeth Angelastro, Manilus Library, Manilus, NY

Someone to Wed

by Mary Balogh

Published: 11/7/2017 by Berkley/Jove
ISBN: 9780399586064
Someone to Wed is the third in Balogh’s Regency era Wescott series. Wren has lived her life hiding from society due to a prominent birthmark. Alexander inherits a title and a pile of debts. Wren and Alexander decide to embark on a marriage of convenience as a way to resolve their issues. This is a charming story of two people falling in love and finding their happily ever after, while resolving emotional issues along the way.  A well written story with glimpses of characters from previous books in the series.”
Shayera Tangri, Los Angeles Public Library, Los Angeles, CA

The Midnight Line: A Jack Reacher Novel

by Lee Child

Published: 11/7/2017 by Delacorte Press
ISBN: 9780399593482
“Jack Reacher is an honorably discharged U.S. Army major who has a strong sense of justice.  After the end of a romance, Reacher’s response is to get on a bus and ride it to wherever it is going.  At a rest stop along the way, he spots a small West Point class ring in the window of a pawnshop.  His gut tells him the soldier who worked hard to achieve it wouldn’t give it up easily. In search of answers, he discovers a drug ring, a disfigured woman, and a couple of murders in a desolate area of Wyoming.  Like the other installments in the Reacher series, this is another page turner!”  
Valerie Osborne, Bangor Public Library, Bangor, ME

Future Home of the Living God: A Novel

by Louise Erdrich

Published: 11/14/2017 by Harper
ISBN: 9780062694058
Future Home of the Living God explores the possibility of evolution reversing and is told from the perspective of a pregnant woman who is writing a journal to her unborn child. Along the way we meet her adoptive parents, her birth mother, and she reports on society unraveling and detaining pregnant women. Erdrich provides compelling characters and a strong storyline about a near future in this piece of innovative dystopian fiction.”
Ian Stade, Hennepin County Library, Minneapolis, MN 

Heather, the Totality

by Matthew Weiner
Published: 11/7/2017 by Little, Brown and Company
ISBN: 9780316435314

“Mark and Karen start a seemingly charmed life that becomes even more so with the birth of their gifted daughter Heather.Things take an alarming turn when renovations begin in their building. They have always known how special their daughter is, but will Heather see that there is danger lurking outside the world they have created for her when others become captivated by her gifts? Weiner has an insight into human nature that most of us would rather not admit exists and he takes you down a dark road that you don’t want to travel, but somehow can’t turn back.”  
Selena Swink, Lake Public Library, Lake, MS 

Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder

by Caroline Fraser

Published: 11/21/2017 by Metropolitan Books
ISBN: 9781627792769
“This book, written by the editor of the Library of America edition of the Little House books, is a thoroughly researched biography of not only Laura Ingalls Wilder, but of her daughter, Rose. Using unpublished manuscripts, letters, financial records, and more, Fraser gives fresh insight into the life of a woman beloved to many. Intensively researched, this is definitely a fascinating read, and one that I plan on reading again — maybe the next time I re-read the Little House series.”
Jennifer Ohzourk, St. Louis Public Library, St. Louis, MO 

The Shadow District: A Thriller

by Arnaldur Indridason

Published: 11/7/2017 by Minotaur Books
ISBN: 9781250124029
“Indridason introduces a new crime series featuring a retired detective. The Shadow District skillfully weaves two mysteries together. In present time, an elderly man’s death, first thought to be due to natural causes, is later revealed as a murder. While unofficially investigating, Konrad discovers a link to a cold case involving the strangulation of a young woman and a surprising connection to Konrad’s own childhood. With nicely tense pacing and a vivid portrayal of life in modern and wartime Iceland, fans of atmospheric investigations will undoubtedly welcome Indridason’s latest offering.”
Sharon Layburn, South Huntington Public Library, Huntington Station, NY