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.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

What I’m Reading: The Radium Girls

It's still January and I am already on my way toward one of my 2017 reading goals-- Read More Nonfiction! I was aided in this endeavor by the fact that I was invited to have lunch yesterday with Kate Moore the author of the upcoming book, The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women (May 2017). Here is the publisher’s summary:
The incredible true story of the young women exposed to the “wonder” substance of radium and their brave struggle for justice... 
As World War I raged across the globe, hundreds of young women toiled away at the radium-dial factories, where they painted clock faces with a mysterious new substance called radium. Assured by their bosses that the luminous material was safe, the women themselves shone brightly in the dark, covered from head to toe with the glowing dust. With such a coveted job, these “shining girls” were considered the luckiest alive—until they began to fall mysteriously ill. As the fatal poison of the radium took hold, they found themselves embroiled in one of America’s biggest scandals and a groundbreaking battle for workers’ rights. 
A rich, historical narrative written in a sparkling voice, The Radium Girls is the first book that fully explores the strength of extraordinary women in the face of almost impossible circumstances and the astonishing legacy they left behind.

A bit more background about this book which I learned yesterday-- Moore first learned of the story of these radium girls when she wanted to direct a play about strong women. She literally Googled "plays about strong women," and a few pages into the result she found, These Shining Lives, and not only directed the play, but also fell in love with the girls from Ottawa, IL, their tragic story, and their amazing strength.

After the play, Moore, a professional freelance writer, realized that the only two books about these women were academic texts-- very well written and influential ones, but very dry. Moore wanted to tell "the compelling lives of the girls themselves” as well as the legal and scientific parts of this story.

And that is just what she did. Note, this book was published last June in the UK by S&S and received much acclaim.

Appeal: This novel is the perfect example of nonfiction that reads like fiction. It is written in a narrative style, with a gripping voice. Moore fills the book with facts and background details, but since the young women are the focus, they shine [pun intended]. Their voices and personalities and plights drive the narrative. Moore also is conscious of pacing and structures the story so that the point of view switches frequently, to increase the pacing, and purposely leaves one story thread at a climactic point so you read to get back to it. I should note that this is not confusing or distracting at all. All of the women and the scientific and legal plot lines are all equally compelling. You want to go back and forth to keep up. Separating them would have made the story too dry. It truly is a nonfiction page turner.

Another appeal here is that you get an interesting, nonfiction [TRUE] account of something that is probably new to you combined with the personal narrative of these women AND a legal thriller AND a scientific thriller all in one package. And none of those story lines is sacrificed for the others.

It is an extremely well researched book. Moore talked to the families of these women so she could capture who they were, but she also has all of the scientific and legal background in there too.  Since Moore is not a lawyer or a scientist, however, it is all easily accessible to a lay audience. I appreciated that.

The entire time I was reading this book, I was so sad for everyone involved. How could they not know that putting the radium dipped paint brushes in their mouths (to get the point finer) was a bad idea? But the way Moore recreates the story for us, without judgment of their ignorance, you are there with the girls and you can see why and how they convinced themselves it was okay.

But it was their perseverance and strength as they were sick and dying that I loved the most about this book. These women barely had the right to vote, yet they knew they had an important job to do for future women and industrial workers. Many of them, despite great pain, testified, donated their bodies for science, and fought to help others. This is an empowering read for anyone; no matter how small you think you are, you can make a difference. Particularly right now, that is a great selling point.

Since the women are older teens when the story begins, this is also a book for YA to Adult. It is for men and women, fiction and nonfiction readers. It also plays off the extremely popular historical fiction trend of stories that focus on the forgotten voices of major events-- in this case, the beginning of our country’s more strict industrial labor laws that put the worker’s health first.

Really, it is a great example of a sure bet book; there is wide appeal. Book clubs will eat this book up, and I could see it being a great One Book option, especially in Northern IL and NJ where the factories were. At the lunch, there was also a group of academic librarians who will be using it for a STEM book club.

Three Words That Describe This Book: forgotten voices of history, gripping, teen friendly

Readalikes: As a mentioned above, anyone who enjoys the current trend of historical fiction about history’s forgotten voices, especially women, would love this nonfiction title. A few suggestions in this vein are The Other Einstein, The Paris Wife and Loving Frank.

In terms of nonfiction this book is a great readalike for The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, but as I told Moore myself, unlike Skloot who inserts herself into the story (a technique I hated), Moore keeps herself out of it. Moore thanked me. for noticing that. She wanted the book to be about the “Girls,” and she was able to tell their story in an intimately personal way without that "intrusive storytelling crutch" [quotes are my words not hers]. She was glad that I thought she achieved that personal feel despite keeping herself out of it.  I should note that the Skloot book was amazing in the story it told and the way Lacks changed medical history. If you were one of the thousands of people who loved that book, read this one. [And yes, it is almost 6 years later and I am still upset that Skloot ruined that book for me. Review here.]

One of my colleagues mentioned that the gripping nature of the narrative, the scientific and legal mystery unfolding, and the way it all went back and forth reminded her of Erik Larson. I completely agree.

Another book I thought of immediately as I was reading this book was also one of my all time favorite book club titles, The Girls of Atomic City.

With all of the readalikes in this section, if you follow the linked titles you will fall down a rabbit hole of many more options.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Call to Action: Believe in Yourselves-- RA Service IS Activism

There are no words for how all of us in the public library world are feeling these days. We are the people who went into this line of work to help people. To serve everyone and anyone at the institution which is the great equalizer in America; where everyone is welcome to seek out information, entertainment, Internet access, whatever.  The place where I said weekly, for 15 years to those who came in, "we don't need to check your citizenship status to give you a library card, all I need is your lease or 1 bill, or just your kid's school registration. I want to help you because you have a question or you want access to something we have. I don't care why or who you are."

Everything I did, every single day, was geared toward helping people get what they needed or wanted, without judgment. And like all of you, I loved it. It was the greatest paid work I have ever done. 

When I got my first public library job in 2000, it was to help be a part of starting an entire Readers' Advisory Department from scratch. I was excited, but also worried to leave my love of reference behind. Could I really make a difference in people's lives if all I did was hand out leisure reading? When the job was offered to me, it came with an offer to also work a supervisory night shift in reference once a week [different floor]  and on top of being in charge of half of the fiction collection, I got biographies too.

I was over the moon. I could follow my RA passion to see where it took me, but, as I thought of it then, I could still have a job where I helped people, where I made a difference in their lives, because surely I would not get that from RA.

How wrong I was. Not about being able to help people in the adult reference department. No, I was wrong about how important and life changing RA Service is.

One of the reasons I left the public service part of my job behind and moved into full time training library workers all over the country is because I saw how wrong I was and knew I needed to get out there and share the importance of RA Service, an importance we all see when it comes to putting books in the hands of children, but one we somehow forget about when we work with adults.

I spend much of my time talking with library directors and training managers who have called me to do "a little training" because their RA person is nagging them to being me in, trying to convince them as to why training every member of their staff-- from top to bottom-- in providing RA Service is not only important, but essential to their work as public libraries. I am happy to say, when I was able to convince people and they saw my training sessions, they admitted how wrong they were too.

RA Service for all ages, but especially adults, especially voting age, decision makes, is essential in a democracy. Yes I am saying reading fiction and leisure nonfiction is one of the most important things adults can do to try to understand the world. Many of you are nodding along because if you read between the lines of this blog, it is clear that this is how I feel, but I felt like today, for today's Call to Action needed to come out and say it bluntly.

We need to understand that the work we are doing, suggesting books to readers, be it actively or passively, in person, in library buildings, online, whatever-- this is a form of activism. This is how we stand up to bullies, racists, misogynists, any kind of hate. We put stories in people's hands. We put the books these adults are reading "for fun" into their hands so as to help them see a different view.  

I believe this while heartedly. I have for years. I am not exaggerating it for effect. The problem is, with all of our tangible problems, I have been struggling with how to explain that RA can be activism in a way that I can be heard; in a way that will be taken seriously.

People still disparage our work-- even to my face. For the past few months, I have been trying out these arguments with people I know and trust-- some of who all but laughed in my face as I suggested it. [These people are just like I was in 2000-2001 as I described above.] To be fair, some of my colleagues do agree with me and together we are working on creating a presentation to explain it better than I am fumbling to do so today.

Recently, I came across this tweet, a quote from an ALA Midwinter presentation, that felt like the closest to what I have been struggling to get across over the last few months. I have saved it, wanting to write a post about it. 

Click here for original Tweet

This is long, I know. It is more rambling that I normally strive to be in these Call to Action posts. I try to rise above the fray and the emotions and give you all clear and direct marching orders. But I can't today. But, I can also no longer wait for my thoughts and words to become clearer. Because today, I need to just remind you all that the work you do putting books in people's hands, especially when you match them with a book that will deliver the type of storytelling they want, but one that may introduce them to a whole new way of thinking....when you do that, you help all of America.

Every single person out there, no matter how enlightened they think they are can do with reading a book from a different view point than their own. Hey even the most liberal among us, it doesn't hurt you to read a "conservative" book. The point is not to get to agreement with the author, but rather to see another side to the world you live in.

[On a side note, I was once publicly chided by a big name SF author because I mentioned his work was like Dan Simmons. Because this author does not agree with Simmons' politics (see this review of Flashback where I discuss those politics a bit), he could not allow me to connect their storytelling styles. This is horrible, and I am on this author's political side. We can't be these people.]

I have more examples of why I believe in the importance of reading widely and diversely here and here [other places too, but those are a good start], but that is not the point of the call today. I have called you to action on this topic before. Today I am asking you to believe in yourselves and the vital work you do. Don't belittle yourself, as others do to us. RA Service is extremely important. Heck, it might be the only way because when we hand people fiction, they often aren't expecting it to change their lives. But we all know, it can and it will. 

Art challenges us. It shakes us out of our everyday and shows us the world in a new light. It opens our eyes to other ways of looking at the world. We don't have to agree with them, but the more ways to look at the world, to think of the world that every single person experiences, the better off we will all be. It is why I not only read, but have subscriptions to the theater and Opera, it is why I hold a membership to just about every Chicago museum. Art, especially art which entertains us, can be more easily applied to our real world than any other art. Why? Because it is the most accessible way to shake us up and force us to "rethink the world."

So get out there and remember, what you are doing is activism. Don't let anyone else tell you different. Please take it seriously because unfortunately,  our way of life may depend on it.

For past Call to Action Posts, click here

Friday, January 27, 2017

Reach More Readers-- Neil’s RA Resolution and Challenge To Us All

Back in October, I shared the news that Neil Hollands was taking over Joyce Saricks’ popular RA column in Booklist.

While I suggest you read his “Every Book Its Reader” column every month, the current column, in particular is excellent. Neil is challenging all of us to "Resolve To Reach More Readers.” Here is a snippet:
And so, as a new year starts, I have to resolve myself (and so do you) that if we want to serve more than imaginary readers, we’re going to have to go out and get ’em. We’re going to have to prove ourselves as a resource, again and again and again. 
How can we do that? If you’re like me, the answer is a work in progress, but I have a few tricks. First and foremost, you have to get every last hint of book shaming out of your system. Nervous readers smell it on you faster than a vegan will smell fast food on your breath. They see it sooner than an overprotective mother can catch the salacious gleam of curiosity in Junior’s eye. You can’t love every author, but you’re going to have to truly embrace the right of others to read what they like. Find common ground in your love for a good story, in the empathy that comes with reading, in the emotional needs that you share, or in the ideas found in books that somehow make life a little better.
Neil’s entire column is about how we have to prove ourselves to all readers. We cannot complain that no one is coming up to us to ask for a good read. That is a lame excuse. It is up to us to do our part, either actively or passively [so if you are an introvert, you are not off the hook here], to help people find the books they need.

Click through to read the entire column which includes tangible tips on how to get started.

Now get out there and start suggesting books. A good book can open people’s eyes, it can teach them about those who are different from them, it can show people that they are not alone, that there are others just like them out there somewhere, it can provide comfort in bad times, and so much more. A book can [and has] change the world. Please take your job seriously. What we do is more important than you think.

I am glad to see the Call to Action spirit is spreading....

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Resource Alert: The Great British TV Site

Longtime readers' advisors will remember the Readers' Advisory Online Blog and their amazing, detailed, and useful Weekly RA Rundown which shut down just under a year ago.

As I mentioned in this post:
I absolutely loved starting each week with the RA Rundown compiled and written by Sarah Statz Cords and Cindy Orr.  This weekly post is the only place you can go to find all the most important information for those of us who work with leisure readers, all in one place.  It was well organized into sections and had an easy to follow list structure.  I enjoyed that the information went from basic-- new and bestselling titles-- to more in depth-- essays and articles-- to training opportunities-- to author news and finally to some fun at the end.
Well, just because the Rundown stopped doesn't mean Sarah and Cindy stopped contributing to our RA Service world. Cindy is working for Overdrive while Sarah has not only continued to carry on the Rundown's mission weekly on her fantastic Citizen Reader blog, but she has also started a brand new venture, The Great British TV Site.

Recently, Sarah got in touch with me about her new resource and I was touched to find out she was inspired by one of my Call to Action posts to create it in the first place. [This is also hilarious because I was inspired to write that post because of RAO shutting down. Proof that we all inspire each other!]

I asked Sarah to share the RA and collection development potential of her new resource. Below,  you will see what she prepared for all of you. And, of course, like a good librarian, Sarah embedded a lot of links in her post, so click away as you read.

Here is Sarah to tell you all about it.


Because you’re here reading RA for All, I know a few things about you: you probably work in a library or some type of information services; you’re interested in helping people find good reading; and you can obviously appreciate a well-written blog.

Okay, those deductions don’t put me on a par with Sherlock , especially as he’s been played by Benedict Cumberbatch in the recent BBC/Masterpiece Theatre adaptation. But if you are a readers’ (and whole library?) advisor who is interested to helping others find not only great reading material, but great viewing material, I’d like to invite you to visit my new blog featuring “viewers’ guides” and other general information about British television: The Great British TV Site.

When I worked in a public library, I was fortunate enough to work in a branch that featured a large British TV and movie DVD selection. As a result, I often got to talk with patrons about their TV viewing choices and passions, particularly BBC and PBS productions. This was a happy accident, as there are very few things in life I adore more than British television. But what if it hadn’t been an interest of mine? Well, then, as with everything else, I would most likely have turned first to Google. But I always thought, someday, if I had the time, I’d love to write some guides to British television programs to help other advisors point the way to view-alikes and related viewing.

On the site you can find general news about British TV, as well as more specific “Viewers’ Guides,” where I list program stats, like the number of seasons and episodes and cast lists, as well as a list of programs to watch next. I am also lucky enough to  have a friend in Great Britain who gives us the inside (and very British) scoop, as when she stopped by to talk about British TV holiday classics.

Please do consider visiting for your own RA and collection development needs, and please share with any patrons you feel might enjoy this type of resource!

I’ll admit I only had the time to begin this project last year when the RA awareness blog that I was lucky enough to write for many years, The Reader’s Advisor Online, ceased publicationWe had been generously sponsored for many years by ABC-CLIO, publishers of the Libraries Unlimited 
Genreflecting and Real Stories readers’ guides (in addition to many other great products). I still miss 
writing and reading that blog, but I also wanted to repeat Becky’s rallying cry for others to create similar resources.

In my own small way I try to continue to carry on the RAO torchOnce a week at my reading and nonfiction title awareness site Citizen Reader I still provide a weekly overview of book, library, and  publishing news. Please do visit me there as well, and let me know about any other types of book news or sites to which I should be linking.

Most of all, have a Happy (Reading and Viewing) New Year!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

New ARRT Genre Study Notes and an Open Invitation For All to Join Us for Our Next Meeting

Next week we will be having the first meeting of the second year of our two year Speculative Fiction Genre Study. 

Normally attendance at the Genre Study Meetings is only open to ARRT members; however, at the beginning of every year we encourage new people to try us out. So we'd like to extend an invitation to everyone-- even if you are not a member and even if you haven't completed the assignment. Come join us and see what we are all about.

Here are the details:

Doorway: StoryFeb. 2, 2017, 2-4 PMLisle District Library 
Featured resource: Read a short story from Clarkesworld online magazine 
Assignment:1) Read a book from two different authors from the list below (two books total). Preferably, both authors will be new to you:Paolo BacigalupiLarry NivenBen BovaDavid WeberKim HarrisonRamsey CampbellOctavia ButlerPatrick Rothfuss2) As you read, think about the genre/subgenre of the book and additional appeal factors for the book besides character
Also, here is the info on the last meeting including the links to the assignment and the notes. These are always free and open to all on our website:
Doorway: CharacterDecember 1, 2016, 2-4 PMGlenview Public LibraryAssignmentNotes

Finally, please remember that we encourage those of you who cannot join us to use our genre study assignments and notes with your groups as you strive to improve your service to your leisure readers. All we ask is that you cite us as your source.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

ALA Midwinter Adult Awards [includes a link to all Youth Awards too]

On Sunday night, RUSA announced many award winners for books and audio books. These are all excellent lists of broad appeal titles that you can suggest freely.

Below I have included the links and official award descriptions in one easy place for you more easily access them as you help patrons. Please use these to help readers and/or make displays...right now!

But, first, quickly check that you own them all. And you need to own every single one. No excuses! These are the librarian's picks. Do you have the YMA winners? Of course you do. So you need all of these too.

The 2017 Carnegie Medal Winners and FinalistsThe Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction were established in 2012 and recognize the best fiction and nonfiction books for adult readers published in the U.S. in the previous year. They are the first single-book awards for adult books given by the ALA and reflect the expert judgment and insight of library professionals who work closely with adult readers.

The Medals are made possible, in part, by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York in recognition of Andrew Carnegie’s deep belief in the power of books and learning to change the world, and are co-sponsored by ALA’s Booklist and the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA).

2017 Reading ListThe Reading List Council has announced the 2017 selections of the Reading List, an annual best-of list comprised of eight different fiction genres for adult readers. A shortlist of honor titles, up to 4 per genre was also announced. The list was announced today during the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting held in Atlanta. 

[Added 1/26] Library Aware also made a poster of the winners for you to hang in your library.  Click through, it is free.

2017 Listen List: The Listen List Council of the Collection Development and Evaluation Section (CODES) of the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) has announced the 2017 selections of the Listen List: Outstanding Audiobook Narration. The 2017 committee listened to 1,919 hours of audiobooks, evaluated over 200 titles, debated 45 nominations, and narrowed the field to the final twelve winners. This award highlights extraordinary narrators and listening experiences that merit special attention by a general adult audience and the librarians who advise them.

Adhering to established criteria, these benchmarks of excellence are available for purchase by libraries. Committee members matched the twelve awardees with three listen-alikes, not appearing on previous Listen Lists, which mirror the appeal, tone, or production style of the winners. Titles are named to the list because the narration creates a new experience with an outstanding performance in terms of voice, accents, pitch, tone, inflection, rhythm and pace, offering listeners something they could not create by their own visual reading. This juried list, designed for both avid listeners and those new to the pleasures of stories read aloud, includes fiction and nonfiction and features voices that enthrall, delight, and inspire.
2017 Notable Books List: The Notable Books Council, first established in 1944, has announced the 2017 selections of the Notable Books List, an annual best-of list comprised of twenty-six titles written for adult readers and published in the U.S. including literary fiction, nonfiction and poetry. The list was announced today at the Reference and User Services Association’s (RUSA) Book and Media Awards ceremony during the American Library Association’s (ALA) Midwinter Meeting in Atlanta. [Note from Becky: Now this one has a long backlist to pull suggestions from.]
Please don't forget to visit RUSA's homepage for past winner too. The backlist is always a great option.

Monday, January 23, 2017

RA for All Roadshow Comes To Bradley [IL] Public Library District

It's the first RA for all training appearance of 2017, and I am so excited to be in Bradley, IL working with their library staff to improve their service to leisure readers.

I have a great, high energy day of training planned; training that is proven to get every single staff member, no matter where they work in the organization, motivated to help serve patrons better. Seriously, I have directors contact me after my training sessions saying they didn't believe me when I said that I would motivate the janitor to be involved in serving readers....but I totally motivated the janitor to be involved!

[That is my favorite feedback ever.]

Here is what we have planned if you want to follow along:

9:30 -11:15 am: RA for All: Readers Advisory belongs in every library, no matter its budget. The implementation of this vital service is the responsibility of every staff member-- from pages to directors, from those behind the scenes to the ones on the front lines. This program will remove the mystery behind providing great RA service. Using her “Ten Rules of Basic RA Service” as a guide, Becky Spratford will use your own love of your favorite books to show you how to help any patron find their next great read. It's not as hard as you think. But more importantly, you will learn why a staff that can harness the power of sharing a great read will become a stronger team and improve service to all patrons.

11:30am -12:25 pm: 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.

12:25 pm - 12:30: Creating Your Own Reader Profile: Becky will help you take what you have learned to craft your own personal reader profile and start you on your first RA journey-- suggesting a good book to a fellow staff member. Becky will also get you started talking to each other about how you can all work together to share the load.

1:30 pm-3:30pm: Demystifying Genre: How To Help Every Type of Reader: Nothing is scarier than trying to help a fan of a genre you yourself don’t enjoy. You want to help that, for example, Romance reader find the perfect book, but you are having trouble knowing where to begin because...eek!... you don’t read Romance. You are afraid they will find out you are a fraud. How can YOU possibly help THEM?!? Never fear, in this program, Readers’ Advisory expert, Becky Spratford, will teach you how to keep your genre knowledge up to date, explain the biggest trends in genre fiction, and share her time tested tricks for working with genre readers. You will leave this webinar with the confidence and skill to help fans of every genre, regardless of whether you have ever read a book in that genre. And that will leave a trail of happy patrons in your wake.

3:40 pm-4:30: RA Rethink- The Displays Edition: Using Next Level Data to Improve Merchandising: If someone told you there’s a practical way to improve circulation and increase the job satisfaction of your staff, would you do it? Librarian Becky Stratford has developed a method you can use to accomplish both goals. She’ll explain how to deepen staff involvement in readers’ advisory in a way that gets everyone from staff to patrons excited. This talk includes a discussion of “on the fly book display tips and tricks.”

Whether you are here with us in Bradley or not, there is plenty of information here to help you improve your service to leisure readers.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Book Discussion Report: Boy, Snow, Bird

I just finished up the notes from the last Book Club Study meeting and am cross posting it here for my readers.

On January 12, 2017 from 2-4pm at Schaumburg Township District Library, Emily Vinci led a discussion on Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi:

From the prizewinning author of Mr. Fox, the Snow White fairy tale brilliantly recast as a story of family secrets, race, beauty, and vanity.
In the winter of 1953, Boy Novak arrives by chance in a small town in Massachusetts, looking, she believes, for beauty—the opposite of the life she’s left behind in New York. She marries a local widower and becomes stepmother to his winsome daughter, Snow Whitman. 
A wicked stepmother is a creature Boy never imagined she’d become, but elements of the familiar tale of aesthetic obsession begin to play themselves out when the birth of Boy’s daughter, Bird, who is dark-skinned, exposes the Whitmans as light-skinned African Americans passing for white. Among them, Boy, Snow, and Bird confront the tyranny of the mirror to ask how much power surfaces really hold.

Dazzlingly inventive and powerfully moving, Boy, Snow, Bird is an astonishing and enchanting novel. With breathtaking feats of imagination, Helen Oyeyemi confirms her place as one of the most original and dynamic literary voices of our time. (From the publisher.)

Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist: 2014
New York Times Notable Book: 2014
International Dublin Literary Award Nominee: 2016

CLICK HERE for 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 Topic, led by Becky Spratford, was about managing the group dynamic during book discussions. 

CLICK HERE for the notes on the Leadership Topic Discussion.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Edgar Nominee Day = Best Award RA Tool Day!

Long time readers will know that I love the Edgar Awards because this award, its archival site, its breadth of categories, and the fact that "crime fiction" is the most popular type of book sought out at American Public Libraries, all of it taken together make this award the absolute best award to use as a tool to help readers.

I went into more detail on my Edgar love and why it is such a great tool to serve readers in this 2015 post which also links to my popular and more general "Using Awards Lists As a RA Tool" post. Please click through for my detailed discussion of this. Read them and then come on back. I'll wait.

But it is important that I am posting this on the day the nominees are announced, and not on the day for the winners. Every single one of these titles that received a nomination should be on every single public library shelf in America-- no excuses. Seriously, if you don't have enough money to add them, find some money. You should have them already anyway, but just in case.

These are titles for everyone looking for crime fiction, and some days it feels like that is everyone who walks in our doors.

This is an awards long list you can trust without knowing anything more than it was nominated. They have a fantastic and respected track record. That's why it is such a great awards tool because you can pull up these titles, check your shelves, and hand them out freely.

And, that goes for the backlist too. Speaking of, you can easily access every nominee ever, here.

I speak these words from experience. For my had core "crime" readers, I have used the Edgar archives to find "new to them" titles and series and have handed them over with little more book talking than reading the plot summary and adding, "it was nominated for the Edgar." I've had more takers than I can remember and never a complaint after the fact.

I even have a favorite category of Edgars when it comes to helping readers. As I wrote here:
Finally, the Edgars have a category that in and of itself has saved my butt numerous times as I help people who enjoy the books of Mary Higgins Clark but have read all of her novels. Clark writes in a particular style of intense suspense but without graphic violence. She is hard to find satisfying matches for. Each year the Mary Higgins Clark Award honors the best works of fiction of the past year that most closely resemble the novels of Clark. This list of all of the nominees is THE BEST RESOURCE out there to help with Clark readalikes.
So use this award now, but remember to apply these skills to all awards lists, especially genre award lists.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

New Issue of Corner Shelf featuring Polli Kenn from Lawrence [KS] Public Library and Details on Joining Me, Live, in Lawrence

Wow that title has a lot of words, but I wanted to make sure people understood that this post has a lot of info AND it is all connected. Plus, there is something for everyone who works with lesiure readers in this post.

It all begins and ends with my friend and colleague, the fabulous Polli Kenn, Readers' Services Coordinator at the Lawrence [KS] Public Library.  Polli and I have worked together before and you can read about those programs here and here [this one has a recording of the event].

But, she is also featured in the January 2017 issue of Corner Shelf [you can access the entire issue here].  Click here for Polli's "Notes from the Field" where she answers editor Rebecca Vnuk's questions about her work providing Readers' Services and the creation of the amazing Book Squad [which is also the subject of the links in the previous paragraph].

Also, remember that Rebecca features a different person in most issues under her "Notes from the Field" feature. You can click here for the newsletter archive. Taken together, "Notes from the Field" creates a full picture of how library workers are actually helping leisure readers, in public libraries today. You can learn quite a bit from spending some time going back through past issues.

But back to the current issue where Polli is also the author of an article that recaps LPL's extremely successful Book Club Speed Dating program which took place this past November. Look, I know a lot of library's do these events, and even more are looking into hosting them, but you all need to read Polli's article because she gives some of the most practical and useful advice I have ever read about how to make an event like this successful. Here is just one example of that advice:
"Let me reiterate that the most important ingredient is passionate staff who booktalk quickly, clearly, and well."
Please, do yourself a favor and listen to Polli.

Throughout the last nine months as I have been working with Polli on other projects, we were also trying to hatch a plan where I could come down to Lawrence and do some training, and that day is almost here.

First on the evening of February 9th, we will be building off of Polli and her team's success with the Book Club Speed Dating program by hosting another outside the library event for area book club members. It is going to very much like this program I did last September at Hinsdale [IL] Public Library where I give book club member advice on how to lead better book clubs for a bit and then I take questions from everyone there.  We will have food and drinks. It will be tons of fun.

This is a program I have done many times. Patrons love it. It is a wonderful way to gather your area book club participants whether or not they use the library. It demonstrates that you care about them and their bookish pursuits and reminds everyone that you know how to have a some fun.

Since I was already coming to host this book club party, Polli and I also worked on a regional training for any and all library workers who can make it for the next day, February 10th. Co-Sponsored by NEKLS, this is an entire day of intermediate level RA training at Lawrence Public Library, including book discussion training for book discussion leaders. You can pull up the details here and even a full itinerary here. Anyone who can get to Lawrence Public Library is welcome. And it only costs $10 including breakfast and lunch!

But back to the beginning of this post. I know not all of you can make it to Kansas to see me and that not every library or regional system who wants me to come to them can manage it. Heck, I can barely fit in all the requests I get, but there are ways to stay connected and involved. The Corner Shelf Newsletter is a great place to start. It is free and you can sign-up here. Rebecca highlights library workers from all over the country who are doing great things and with just a few clicks, you can learn a whole lot, get some great advice, and plan your own fabulous programs to serve leisure readers without leaving your desk.

Don't forget, no matter how long you have been doing this job, we all have something to learn from each other.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

ALA Midwinter Participation From Home

Due to my previously scheduled work and personal travel, I am not going to make it to ALA Midwinter  which begins on Friday, but that doesn't mean I am not participating in the Midwinter conversation. You can join me too.  Here's how and why.
First, of all you can follow the action on Twitter by clicking here to search for the latest #alamw2017 Tweets. People are very good about sharing the highlights in real time. Between January 20-24, check it frequently. Whether you are a Twitter user or not the link will work for you to view the conversation.

LJ Galley Guide
Click here for details
Second, you can download the Library Journal ALA Midwinter Galley Guide. This guide is compiled by Barbara Hoffert and focuses on the books the publisher's are most excited about. Click here to download it. It is free. Barbara includes info about each title that you can use for collection development right now.

But also, don't forget that as a library worker, you are preapproved to read digital ARCS of any of these hot titles. Just go to Edelweiss and/or NetGalley to get started. The details are here on the LibraryReads site.

And third, Midwinter is when all of the recommended reading lists and awards are announced. There are so many awesome awards, handed out by our fellow library workers-- at all age levels.  Click here for the full list and schedule. My favorites from a helping readers standpoint are the RUSA Reading List and Listen List suggestions. Click here to see where I posted all of last year's adult winners.

I really like these lists because not only do they identify the best genre and audio titles-- something we have precious few best lists for-- but also these are lists you can use for years! Seriously. These are popular AND good titles that you probably already own. Our colleagues have done the work to point out the best ones for your patrons. These are down to earth, real world suggestions that are great to use at the desk anytime. That is something that is rare in the "best" list world.

So whether or not your plans are physically taking you to Atlanta later this week, you have plenty of reasons to direct your attention to ALA Midwinter. The biggest reason of which is to be better at helping patrons find their next great read.

If you are going and have an experience you want to share in a guest post, contact me.

Monday, January 16, 2017

MLK Jr. Day at the Newberry Library with Hamilton!

Today both of my kids are off of school and we are headed with a friend and her son to the Newberry Library to see their brand new Hamilton exhibit.

I have posted a screen shot of the details at the end of this post if you are interested.

I am glad my Hamilton obsessed kids want to spend their day off at the Newberry library. But I think on this holiday, in particular, it is important to spend at least a few minutes thinking about our country, its history-- the good and the bad-- and our part in it today. How can we make America better like the revolutionary generation or MLK Jr. did? What is our part to play? Going to this exhibit will allow us to engage in those conversations.

We will also being going on a Civil Rights themed spring break trip this year. My hope is that as a family, we can talk, study, and experience our way through the next year and beyond by grounding ourselves in what democracy means-- what it truly means in all of its messy, imperfect, beauty. We are trying to not be reactionary, but we do know what we hold dear-- equality and freedom-- and we are willing to fight for it.

The reason I am sharing this is that I think that we are probably not the only family out there struggling to make sense of our country today. Where are we going? What is our place in the journey? What is going to happen to America? The revolutionary generation felt this. People alive during MLK Jr’s time did too?

These are questions that we can help our patrons with too. Right now is a good time to put up displays and make lists about tumultuous times in American history. Combine fiction and nonfiction, put audio and movies out. I would even argue to put all ages of material together so that the entire family can be a part of the conversation. Think broadly. These are questions all sides of the political argument are engaged with. Just because we have different ways to attack these huge questions, does not mean that the questions themselves are that different.

Readers’ Advisory-- leisure reading in general- is the best place to start these hard conversations. It is an entertaining way to introduce people to larger concepts, questions, and issues. It allows the harder questions, the deeper thinking issues, to come at you more slowly. Leisure reading opens us up to different ideas, places, times. It gives us perspective while it entertains us.

Still don’t think leisure reading can lead toward activism and change? Well Obama does. Read this article about his secret to surviving eight years as President. [Hint, the answer is books!]

Don’t underestimate the power of a good book. And, today is the perfect day to start.
Click here for more info

Friday, January 13, 2017

Library Reads: February 2017

This is your monthly Library Reads announcement.

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. 

February 2017 LibraryReads

I See You

by Clare Mackintosh

Published:2/21/2017 by Berkley
ISBN: 9781101988299
“Zoe Walker sees her picture in a personal ad for a dating website.  At first she thinks there must be a mistake. She soon learns that other women whose pictures have appeared in these ads have been subjected to violent crimes. Zoe contacts the police. PC Kelly Smith, a disgraced former detective, works to find the mastermind behind the website and redeem herself. As each day passes Zoe becomes more and more paranoid and suspicious of everyone she meets. Told from three different viewpoints, the tension builds and kept me on the edge of my seat.”
Karen Zeibak, Wilton Library Association, Wilton, CT 

Norse Mythology

by Neil Gaiman

Published: 2/7/2017 by W.W. Norton & Company
ISBN: 9780393609097
“After reading Gaiman’s account of Norse mythology, I doubt that I will ever forget how the gods of Asgard acquired their treasures. Thor’s hammer that never misses its mark, Frey’s incredible ship that shrinks to the size of a pocketable silk scarf, Odin’s powerful spear, all came to be because of Loki’s mischief. Above all, I will not forget the ill-gotten and ill-treated children of Loki who bring about Ragnarok, the end of earth and heaven and the death of the gods. Everything feels very real and very now when told by someone who has obviously drunk of the ‘mead of the poets.’”
Catherine Stanton, Madison Library District, Rexburg, IL

My Not So Perfect Life: A Novel

by Sophie Kinsella

Published: 2/7/2017 by The Dial Press
ISBN: 9780812998269
“Katie Brenner has moved from her family’s farm to the big city. She goes to great lengths to present the face that she thinks the world wants to see. When she’s fired from her job and forced to return home she  helps her family get their new venture up and running. Learning the truth about herself and those around her leads to the realization that nobody’s life is as perfect as it seems from the outside. Kinsella never loses her sense of humor, even when her characters are facing serious situations. She makes you believe in them and leaves you wanting to know what happens next.” 
Kristen Gramer, Lewes Public Library, Lewes, DE

All Our Wrong Todays: A Novel

by Elan Mastai

Published: 2/7/2017 by Dutton
ISBN: 9781101985137
“Mastai’s debut is a clever and funny time travel romp which turns into an, action-packed science fiction thriller.Tom Barren stumbles through life and accidentally ruins the glittering jetpack and flying car future of 2016, replacing it with the one you and I know. The world may be worse off, but Tom’s life is better than ever. That is, until his mind starts splitting between the two realities and he must track down the genius who invented the other future. Tom’s journey through the past, across realities, and inside his mind make for a thrilling conclusion.” 
Dan Brooks, Wake County Public Libraries, Cary, NC

A Piece of the World: A Novel

by Christina Baker Kline

Published: 2/21/2017 by William Morrow
ISBN: 9780062356260
“Andrew Wyeth’s painting “Christina’s World” would immortalize a young woman. This is the story of Christina and her life. After almost dying as a child of an undiagnosed illness, her legs are twisted, making her stumble as she walks. As she ages, the effects of this illness get much worse leaving her with a shrinking world. This book immerses us in the life on her farm and into the heart of a young woman. A fantastic, and touching story by this author that brings to life the story behind a painting and the life of a young girl who always wanted more than she was given, but accomplished so much despite her handicap.”
Diane Scholl, Batavia Public Library, Batavia, IL 

Gilded Cage

by Vic James

Published: 2/14/2017 by Del Rey
ISBN: 9780425284155
“Welcome to a world where magic grants you access to all the benefits of wealth and power. This is the story of two families, one from magic and one not. When Abi comes up with a plan to help her family by having them serve one of the most powerful magical families, she thinks it will save them. But when her brother is sent to one of the harshest work camps, the plan seems less likely to keep them alive. Her brother must face the dangers of slavery while Abi and the others will see grandeur and wealth but also see the rotten core that is gilded in gold.”
Suzanne Christensen, Spanish Fork Public Library, Spanish Fork, UT

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir: A Novel 

by Jennifer Ryan

Published: 2/14/2017 by Crown
ISBN: 9781101906750
The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir is  a powerful story of both hope and despair. Told through diary entries, this is a wonderful glimpse into life in a small British town during WWII. Ryan is a skilled writer who gives each diary entry a clear voice: Mrs. Paltry is dishonest and scheming, Venetia, the self-centered young woman in love with a mysterious man, Kitty, the love struck teenager with big dreams, and Mrs. Tilling, the midwife and moral compass of the town. Through their entries, you really see them grow. The power of music brings them strength that they didn’t know that they had.”
Shari Suarez, Genesee District Library, Goodrich MI

Setting Free the Kites

by Alex George
Published: 2/21/2017 by Putnam
ISBN: 9780399162107

“Robert stands watching the demolition of the old paper mill that stood in the center of town and served as a constant reminder of his friend, Nathan. The reader is transported from present day to 1970s Maine, where Robbie finds his friendship with Nathan a literal escape from the bullying at school, and a figurative way of coping with his brother’s struggle with muscular dystrophy. The portrayal of family dynamics in the wake of tragedy is reminiscent of Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng but with an anchoring of boyhood friendship in this coming of age tale.” 
Emma DeLooze-Klein, Kirkwood Public Library, Kirkwood, MO

We Were the Lucky Ones

by Georgia Hunter

Published: 2/14/2017 by Viking
ISBN: 9780399563089
“When Georgia Hunter learns that she is a descendant of large family of Holocaust survivors, she knows that she is destined to be the recorder of their story. This is the result of years of research to gather as much detail about her relatives as she possibly can.  How this group of people manages to survive years of persecution and imprisonment is astounding.  It is an inspiring read, and one that honors the memory and struggle of not just the author’s family, but all of the people who suffered during the war.”
Mary Coe, Fairfield Woods Branch Library, CT

Garden of Lamentations: A Novel

by Deborah Crombie

Published: 2/7/2017 by William Morrow
ISBN: 9780062271631
“Picking up where To Dwell In Darkness left off, Crombie’s new mystery resolves unresolved issues from that book while telling a compelling new story. Gemma is investigating the puzzling death of a nanny while Duncan is dealing with what looks disturbingly like corruption in the police force. As always in Crombie’s novels the look we get at the domestic lives of Duncan, Gemma and their children is as interesting as the mystery. Another fine entry in this excellent series.”
Beth Mills, New Rochelle Public Library, New Rochelle, NY