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

Friday, April 28, 2017

Readers' Shelf: Halfway to Halloween- Horror Stories for All

This is a cross post with RA for All: Horror 

On top of my article on helping horror readers in the May 1, 2017 issue of Library Journal, the April 15, 2017 issue saw the publication of my semiannual take over of Neal Wyatt’s Readers Shelf column. Every April 15th issue, she allows me to promote “Halfway to Halloween,” a holiday I am desperately trying to get to stick. For this issue, I can provide a list of suggested horror titles on any topic.  

This year, I decided to highlight short stories. These six titles range from literary fiction to science fiction to straight out horror.

Click here for the column on the Library Journal site, or read it below.


Early Scares: Halfway to Halloween | The Reader’s Shelf

Short stories are alive and kicking when it comes to tales of terror. Here are some recent anthologies that will deliver just the right amount of chills and thrills. From household names to fresh voices, from psychologically terrifying to blood and guts, there is something here for every future Halloween library display.
In the critically acclaimed A Natural History of Hell: Stories(Small Beer. 2016. ISBN 9781618731180. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781618731197), Jeffrey Ford gathers 13 previously published stories into one collection that mixes fantasy and horror and shows his talent for distinctive sagas in which evil lurks just under the surface. Each installment relies on a dark and anxious mood with varying levels of speculative influence, outcast characters, and shocking conclusions. It opens with public exorcisms in the compelling and disquieting “The Blameless.” From there it ventures into vignettes as diverse as the “true” ghost story behind an Emily Dickinson poem and the sinister “Blood Drive,” in which every high school senior is required to carry a gun.
Richard Chizmar is the founder of Cemetery Dance Publications, working with the likes of Gillian Flynn, Justin Cronin, and Stephen King. The 35 stories in A Long ­December (Short, Scary Tales. 2016. ISBN 9781909640887. pap. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781596067943) offer a stand-alone volume of his own. Ranging from crime to dark fantasy to pure horror, the stories here all speak to a normal life turned upside down by terrible circumstances. The way Chizmar combines the dread and fear induced by his plots with a poignancy and kindness of tone makes them memorable. This is best showcased in the eponymous novella, where the protagonist is awoken one morning with the news that his best friend is a serial killer.
Laird Barron’s Swift to Chase (JournalStone. 2016. ISBN 9781945373053. pap. $18.95) perfectly encapsulates today’s literary genre-blend landscape. While terror is always at the center, cosmic horror, adventure, and even noir find their way into his writing. What sets Barron apart from the pack is how he crafts a wonderful sense of place—in this case, the beauty and menace of Alaska—and fills his settings with an oppressive atmosphere, great characters, original plots, and beautiful language. This anthology will play with readers’ minds in enjoyable ways, dragging them along for a satisfyingly scary ride and leaving them ­begging for more.
Editor Robert Silverberg gathers 21 works by a wide range of well-known authors, both living and dead, in This Way to the End Times: Classic Tales of the Apocalypse (Three Rooms. 2016. ISBN 9781941110478. pap. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9781941110485). He further enhances the volume with a preface to each story, providing context on the time period in which it was written and how it may resonate with audiences today. See how writers such as Jules Verne and Connie Willis have embraced the apocalypse and used it to tell chillingly prescient narratives that reach across time and space. Silverberg reminds us that while the end of the world seems to be a hot trend today, it is actually only a blip in a long tradition of dystopian storytelling.
What the #@&% Is That? The Saga Anthology of the Monstrous and the Macabre (Saga: S. & S. 2016. ISBN 9781481434935. pap. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9781481435000), edited by John Joseph Adams and Douglas Cohen, is among the best titles to focus on H.P. Lovecraft (1890–1937). Contributors were asked to write about a monster of their choosing, with only one rule: something must happen to make a character cry, “What the #@&% is that?” Accepting the challenge are 20 wordsmiths ranging from best-selling authors to up-and-comers, providing reading experiences from the utterly fearsome to the ­macabrely humorous. Playing along to see how the exclamation is employed gets more enjoyable the deeper one plunges into this ­Lovecraftian-inspired world.
The reigning sovereign of horror editing is Ellen Datlow, who is an acknowledged master of identifying and amassing the very best frights. Case in point is Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror (Tachyon. 2016. ISBN 9781616962326. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616962333). Beginning where her ­essential Darkness: Two Decades of Modern Horror ends and spanning up to 2015, Datlow has compiled 24 of the finest stories written over the last ten years. By arranging them in chronological order, she illustrates the evolution and breadth of the genre, while spotlighting its brilliant new voices. Read this to see what you have been missing and to identify important titles to add to your collection before ­Halloween hits.
This column was contributed by Becky Spratford, a Readers’ Advisor in Illinois. She is the author of The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror (2d ed. ALA Editions, 2012) and a proud member of the Horror Writers Association. Learn more about her at raforall.blogspot.com
Neal Wyatt compiles LJ’s online feature Wyatt’s World and is the author of The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Nonfiction (ALA Editions, 2007). She is a collection development and readers’ advisory librarian from Virginia. Those interested in contributing to The Reader’s Shelf should contact her directly at Readers_Shelf@comcast.net

Thursday, April 27, 2017

RA Ready: A Beginners Guide to Genre Fiction in LJ

The May 1, 2017 issue of Library Journal is putting a spotlight on RA for genre readers. Not only was the editor of the series, Kiera Parrott smart enough to contact me to write the piece on helping horror readers [duh] but she also asked me to nominate others in specific categories to help her get the very best RA genre people to contribute.  The result is a useful and amazing series that LJ has made available in its entirety online a few days early.

If you need to brush up on the major genres and want some advice on how to help these passionate readers, these succinct articles with their focus on titles, authors, and resources are the perfect place to start.

Here are the direct links to all of the article in the series:

And here is the link to the introduction to the series by Ms Parrott.  As you will see, this series is a direct response the results from a RUSA, LJ, and NoveList survey about what gives RA library workers the most anxiety-- keeping up with genres!

Also, I have added the links to Neal Wyatt’s ongoing columns mentioned at the end.  Neal is a friend and my long time editor. She will never steer you wrong.

So fear no more. Read below and use the links above to help genre reader today. I would suggest starting with Making Horror Less Scary, but any of them are fine.

ljx170501webRAslugThere are few things more satisfying for a librarian than uniting a reader with a great book (or two or ten). But many library staffers experience anxiety when asked to recommend titles in genres they don’t read themselves and with which they are unfamiliar. In these terrifying moments, some may cast a glance around, hoping to spot the resident sf aficionado or dedicated romance buff. In the absence of a knowledgeable colleague, eyes may turn desperately to the New Releases or Staff Picks shelves. Resources such as NoveList can be a lifesaver—provided the library has a subscription and if the patron has the patience to wait for a search to be performed. Other resources that cross genres include Goodreads and of course LJ and the other professional review publications, plus general interest publications targeted to book lovers.
ljx170501webRAcoverIn a 2014 survey developed by LJ with NoveList and the RUSA/CODES Readers’ Advisory Research and Trends Committee, the first most commonly cited cause of RA anxiety is keeping up with books and genres, a problem cited by 21 percent of the librarians. Second, at 17 percent, was discomfort with unfamiliar genres. Combine that with the 23 percent whose library provides no training or support for RA, the 42 percent who had no RA class in library school, and the 14 percent who cite “time to train in RA/read.”
For all those people, the following toolkit was designed specifically with genre-newbies in mind. Not a horror fan? Never read a Regency love story? Don’t know the difference between an Orc and a Dementor? Fear not. RA experts with deep knowledge of some of the most popular genre fiction categories (sf/fantasy, romance, horror, thrillers, mystery, and young adult) here offer a crash course in the top titles, series, and authors librarians need to know. For more advice and recommendations, be sure to check out Neal Wyatt’s “RA Crossroads” and “Wyatt’s World,” two long-running RA columns on libraryjournal.com.—Kiera Parrott
Illustration by Boris Séméniako/Purple Rain Illustrators 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Why Diversity Matters As Exhibited by Granta's Best Young American Novelists

Every 10 years, the prestigious British literary magazine, Granta releases a list of the best American novelists under 40. They have just released their third list which includes 21 authors. You can see all of them here. The list also includes the author of one of my favorite books I read last year.

I am not going to waste your time by reprinting the list [click through for that] because there is a more important point I want to make about this list-- IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN DIVERSE; even before it was "cool" to be diverse. But more than that, THIS HISTORY OF INCLUDING DIVERSE VOICES MATTERS!

One of my most memorable book memories happened because of the release of the first Granta list. In honor of that list, there was an event in Chicago where I got to see a very young Sherman Alexie and Elizabeth McCracken both do a reading because they were one that list. McCracken was a pioneer in the current trend of mixing elements of horror and dread into literary fiction. And Alexie! I can't even imagine being a Readers Advisor without him.

I live in an area with few Native Americans, yet many of his books, especially The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, have been among my go-to suggestions for any reader looking for a good read for my entire career. From my first days as a librarians back in the summer of 2000, until today, both of those authors became among my top suggestions for those just looking for "a good read." Without that Granta list and seeing them read, I don't know if  I would have known about those authors so early.

At the time, [late 90s], I did not think anything of Alexie being Native American. He was an amazing writer. But, looking back, I guess it was a big deal. Most of those lists were mostly filled with white men.

The announcement of this new list illustrates that like America itself, the landscape our best young novelists is diverse, but it made me remember back to that first list.  [By the way, in between, the second list included Jonathan Safran Foer, Nicole Krauss, Akhil Sharma, Anthony Doerr, Nell Freudenberger, Gary Shteyngart and Yiyun Li among others.]

But I digress. The point I am trying to make by sharing this story about me 20 years ago is that all this talk about making sure we include diverse authors in everything is 100% true. As someone who always made sure to read diversely [I even made my students read at least 1 book from an under represented community the entire time I taught; it was to get them in the habit for after they left my oversight], I still would not have known about Alexie so early if he wasn't included.

That is a testament to Granta. Kudos to them for leading the way by identifying the best authors across the full spectrum of the American experience. And thank you from this librarian, today, and back in the days before I was even in library school, for showing me the best authors and allowing me to share their stories with readers.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Don’t Forget About Reading Maps!

It’s Spring Cleaning time on both blogs. Last week I cleaned up the resources page on the horror blog, and today, I went through an old but very useful page that is always available from every page here on the blog-- The Reading Maps archive. As you can see from this zoomed out picture of the right gutter, the Reading Maps link is lives under the heading of “Pages.”

Below I have reposted the entire page here as a blog post so as to remind all of you to check out these excellent resources. While at first glance, these appear to merely be “backlist gems,” I want to point out that there is are reading map to some very current titles such as, American Gods, George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, and The Walking Dead. Also, I just suggested Big Stone Gap to someone this very morning. Hey it was new to her. See, the backlist is always very helpful; it never lets us down. But if you have been a reader of this blog for any length of time, you already knew that.

On a personal note, going through this archive and checking the links was like a walk down memory lane. The vast majority of these were done by my students, many of whom have become colleagues over the years. Looking back on this, some of their first professional RA work, made me even more proud of them.

Here is the direct link to the Reading Maps page, but I have also posted it below with the live links.

If you or your library has some online reading maps that you want to share with a wider audience [so as to help more readers], contact me and I will add them to the page, with credit to you. The more reading maps we gather together, the more readers we can help. It’s all about the compound interest of many RA library workers banding together and sharing the load.


Reading Maps

Please note that all reading maps are based on this article by Neal Wyatt in Library Journal (11/2006).  From that article:
"Reading maps are web-based visual journeys through books that chart the myriad associations and themes of a title via other books, pictures, music, links to web sites, and additional material. Reading maps open up the world of the book for the reader by diagramming the internal life of the book, allowing readers to inhabit the text and its outward connections, and enabling readers to follow threads of interest that stem from any particular part of the work."
While this archive is no longer being added to, the links were last check in April, 2017.

The information, readalikes, and ideas these pages will generate are not bound by time, however. So get clicking.

Berwyn Public Library Reading Maps at the Browsers Corner:
Student Examples of Note:

Monday, April 24, 2017

RA for All: Call To Action: Get Involved With A Writer’s Association

Later this week I will be heading to Long Beach, CA and the Horror Writers Assication's StokerCon as one of their Guests of Honor. I will be posting about the experience in detail on the horror blog Wednesday through Saturday, but today I want to tell you what I have learned in the months leading up to this conference and why more of us should be getting involved with writers associations in general

  1. Writers conferences are organized a lot differently than library conferences: I don’t just mean because we are from different professions either. Writers are creatives, so their focus is on the programming- having as much programming as possible--- every second. Librarians, we are about the organization of the conference as much as the programming. What does this difference mean? Well, for one, as I was building my schedule for StokerCon I noticed there are no breaks where there is no programming. There is no down time for people to congregate, network, and just enjoy being in a place where everyone is in your same line of work like we have at library conferences. But the big difference is in how conference scheduling software. The writers conference has a list of everything in order of what time it is happening- all mushed together. The library conferences all have scheduling apps where you can build your schedule easily on your phone. From ALA to my state conference, I can go in and see the program description, the “track” it is on, who is speaking, where and when it is, and add it to my personal schedule. Now pointing out this difference may be unfair since our profession is to organize knowledge, but that doesn’t make my planning process any less frustrating.
  2. Panels at both conferences are very different: When you are asked to be on a panel at a library conference you are expected to prepare a talk. You are expected to have slides, notes, links, and handouts for people. When you are on a panel at a writers conference, it is apparently a free for all. You are expected to just be there and talk from your experience, and, from the research I have done, you have to fight for your chance to speak. At a library conference, the panel organizer lets everyone know how much time they have and makes sure that everyone sticks to their time. Well, I am on 2 panels at this conference and I will have no problem holding my own, but I do have to say I was a little confused as to how it all works at first. The two ideas of a “panel” couldn’t be more different.
  3. Writers conferences don’t do exhibits halls. This goes back a little to number 1. At library conferences the exhibitors are paying the bills. They pay huge booth fees to be there and sell their wares to us. But they also demand exclusive time where there are no programs to attend in order to bring people in. I love the exhibit hall at library conferences because it allows me to see products that I didn’t even know libraries needed or used. I can see a fuller picture of our profession and think about how I do my job and what I may be missing. The exhibit hall is also a place to see the newest technologies before I would ever get to use them. I still remember seeing Hoopla’s debut in this setting; now I use it all of the time. On the other hand, writers conferences have dealers room where publishers and authors can sell their books. I get that, but, I also think they are missing out by not having a hall where they invite the vendors that provide services they could be using. A visit to the exhibit hall would be a good break to recharge AND it helps to pay the bills. But, maybe not. Writers do not have the budgets libraries do. [As a Trustee of a smaller library we have almost $3 million to spend, for example] So maybe the exhibit hall model couldn’t work.
  4. But the difference I am most surprised by: We know all about writers, how they work, and how they make money but they really don’t know much about us. One thing I have learned as I have been part of the pre-conference processes is that every time I begin to explain what I do and how libraries work-- how we buy books, what a collection development policy is, how the rules are created, basically everything about how we work-- they are fascinated and want more info. They want to know more about us and how they can work with us. The publishers know us. They have their own reps for us. At times I even feel like they have too much control over us. But the writers, for the most part, they are in the dark about what libraries can do for them. At first, I was shocked by this knowledge, but it makes sense. We are both losing out by not understanding each other better.
This fourth reason is why for today’s Call to Action I am asking all of you to find a writers association and see how you can get involved. The HWA is not the only writers association that has a level for librarians to join. Most do, but membership among library workers in writers associations is low. 

Let’s change that. Pick your favorite genre and find their writers association page and inquire how you can join. Tell them Becky told you to join. Tell them you want to help their writers get their books into libraries where readers can discover them. You want to buy their books and promote them. And studies show that library users buy books at a higher rate than non users, so we can be a huge help.

This argument doesn’t even take into account all we can learn from the writers, but I will be focusing on that side of the story once I am at the conference where I will post about what I am doing and learning.

Once you join, get involved. We are very interesting to the writers. They want to work with us, but I think we need to make the first move. Let’s get started now!

For past Call to Action posts, click here.

Friday, April 21, 2017

“Read" More About Books By Watching These TED Talks About Books.

Today’s post is a reminder of one of my Ten Rules of Basic RA Service, one which I think sometimes gets lost in the shuffle of the daily grind of serving patrons:

Reading about books, just books and stories in general, is very important. Often we are so worried about reading actual books and get too focused on our TBR piles that we forget how much we can learn by just taking in information about books and reading in general. And as we enter the busy season for library conferences and book buzz panels with all of the ARCs we will be gathering, now is the time for me to caution you about this fun, but not always the most helpful, singleminded focus.

However, we can’t just read about books in a vacuum. We want to make sure that when we are “reading” about books that we are getting as wide a perspective as possible. We need resources that have this wide a perspective in terms of genre, point of view, and geography. Because of the increased thoughtful consideration of diversity in our work, thankfully this is slowly getting easier to do. 

But, reading about books is not just about knowing the titles that represent the most points of view. We also need to take a step back and consider books and storytelling in general from as broad a perspective as possible.

That’s why a couple of times a year I spend the day at the TED Talks topic page for Books. What I get from this archive is all of the talks that have anything remotely to do with books, by people from all walks of life, all professions, and from all over the world.

I want to say this clearly so there is no doubt on how I feel about this issue-- Everyone who spends anytime helping leisure readers needs to take a few moments and watch some of these talks. As many as you can. Watching these videos is essential to giving you the foundation you need to do your job, no matter who you are or where you live.

These talks will explain why authors write the stories they do, what books mean to readers, why “story” is important to human life, etc... All of the big issues around why our jobs exist. And because TED Talks are giving by a wide net of people, you can see a worldwide perspective on why reading matters.

By listening to these talks you are actively engaging in “Reading about books.” You are also learning about readers. You are actively training yourself both to understand how to help readers AND how stories are constructed. You have everything to gain and nothing to lose here.

So today, or some time soon, let these videos run while you work off desk. If your boss gets upset that you are “watching videos,” blame me. Tell them Becky told you to. Pass this blog post on to them. 

Now stop reading and start watching.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Best Summer Books WITH BACKLIST! [Or, why Becky Hearts the PW Best Lists, Always]

It seems like every April I gush about how much I love how Publisher's Weekly displays their best books of summer. Case in point, last year's post. But I do love it. Here's why. They think about every type of reader when they make this list:  Kids, teens, adults, genre readers and literary fiction readers, people who want the newest books, and MY FAVORITE, people who want any proven good summer read, even if it is *gasp* from the backlist.

That's right, they include the backlist, and it's front and center too.  See for yourself:

This is one of the "Staff Picks" titles, in other words, one of the "Top 10" titles for summer and it is 100% genre. There is also a kids' graphic novel, a debut novel, nonfiction, a blockbuster bestselling author, a collection of Proust's letters, and more. I wasn't kidding when I said there was something for everyone.

You can click here to access the Best Summer Books 2017 page directly to see for yourself.

But the best thing about this site is how they truly put the reader first. Yes PW is the main professional serial for the publishing and bookstore world. They are there to promote and sell books, BUT I am always pleasantly surprised how reader friendly they are-- more so than the publishers tend to be. [You can read this rant I had in October about why the publishers do not help us in the ways we need to be helped.]

We know that people read more in the summer, which also means there will be more variety in the tastes of this increased number of readers. We need the widest net possible to help all of these readers. PW understands this and gives us a wonderful variety to use as our RA conversation starting point.

This is important because when we are helping patrons who only come to the library a few times a year, we really need to shine, but we also have to do it quickly. Resources like the PW "best" lists are a way to do that.

Let me explain in more details by paraphrasing what I said about the 2016 list last year here.

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

But wait, there is more. You can do the same thing for their BEST of the year lists too.  ALL FROM ONE PAGE. They have both bars right at the top for super easy navigation and quick access.

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

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

Yes, it is great for us to know about the big books of summer ahead of time.  We can make sure we have them ordered, we can start preparing “while you wait” readalike lists for some of the more popular ones like the new Lincoln Child [which is a werewolf story by the way], and we can talk them up to patrons in advance and enourage them to place holds.

However, these books are not going to be on the shelf now, both because they are not released yet AND because this advance buzz will mean people may have to wait.

But, never fear, Publisher’s Weekly has your back. Yes this list of Summer 2017’s best are not going to be available ASAP, but last year’s, or the year before’s will be.

wrote about this at length here in regards to end of the year best lists, but the advice holds true for summer reads too:

Again, you need to remember that they just want a “best” book. Most of them do not care when it was “best.” Trust me. I have done this switcharoo dozens of times over the last 15 years. People love it. They often feel like they got a “secret” best book when it is one I found from a previous year’s list.
Most patrons will be happy with any "Summer" book. Yes, many will want to read the new Lee Child Jack Reacher novel, of course, and they should, it is going to be good, but while they wait why not give them the hot Summer Mystery/Thriller from 2014, I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes- also very good and still a great suggestion three years later.

Speaking of Mystery and Thrillers, again I want to point out how AWESOME it is that PW gives specific lists of summer reads for genre readers and kids. This makes the site so much more useful to us as we help actual readers and doesn't worry as much about what the critics say are the best books we should be reading.

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

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

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

Finally, I think it is important to not that I have all this love for PW and it is one of the only review journals I do NOT write for, meaning they have never paid me a dime, meaning this is true best list love.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Not You Typical Diversity Program Announcement

I am so excited to announce this program which I have been organizing for ARRT with Heather Booth. We wanted to have a program promoting why we need to consider diversity in everything we do at the library. We have been inspired by our colleagues like Robin Bradford, who is joining us via Skype. Robin eloquently and bluntly [yes you can be both at the same time, and that is why I love and admire her so much] discusses the need for diverse representation in library all the time. You can follow her on Twitter, or read this recent article where she clearly explains why diverse collections matter to all.

Also, locally, Skokie Public Library, home to presenter and ARRT Steering Committee member Annabelle Mortensen, is leading the way in implementing a whole library plan to serve their extremely diverse community. Annabelle and Mimosa Shah are going to share what that means in practice, why it is the natural thing for all libraries to do and how it is working---honestly.

Finally, last year, Heather saw Mikki Kendall speak and when we found out she lived in the Chicago area, Heather contacted her immediately to see if she would ever present for us. We just had to find a reason.

Heather and I took our inspiration from these female librarians and educators, who, unlike the two of us, live these issues from both a personal and professional position. Together, our goal is to give you something new. This is not going to be your typical diversity program as you can probably tell from the description below. We are going to be blunt, it might make you uncomfortable, but we don't care.

This program is our ENOUGH IS ENOUGH moment. Diversity in library collections is not a political issue; it is a people issue. It is a serving our communities issue. We are not paying lip service here. We are going to give you some tangible and authentic reasons why every single person, no matter your skin color, sexual orientation, political leanings, etc.... why every single person needs to be served by a library that serves all. Why ALL points of view, from all sides, benefit all.

This is a bigger issue than representation or buying for target audiences. This is about our mission as libraries- to provide a window to the world through access to materials. And last time I checked, the world is very diverse. And I know the world is not 80% white ladies like our profession, myself and Heather included there [see below].

We hope you can join us in Skokie on June 16th. Space is limited and the sign up info is below. We will be live Tweeting the event for those who cannot make it. We will also be advertising Robin's appearance at ALA later in the month to talk on a similar topic for RUSA.

Those of you in Illinois, we are also hoping to bring a version of this program to the ILA conference in October with updates from the Skokie team and 2 new panelists.

See below and keep reading RA for All for more on this topic in the months to come.
Click here to register. Space is limited!

Join us at the Skokie Public Library on Friday, June 16, from 10 a.m. to noon, for Dealing in Diversity: Proactively Serving Communities Through Authentic Representation.
Let’s lay out the facts: 80% of librarians are white women. Does your collection reflect your community or does it look more like you? What about the material in your programming and reader’s advisory practice? Join ARRT as we grapple with solutions to this touchy subject. Our panel of experts will share straight talk, real world experiences, and practical strategies for diversifying your library in meaningful, authentic ways.
Robin Bradford – Collection Development Librarian, Timberland Regional [WA] Library
Mikki Kendall – Writer, Diversity Consultant, and Occasional Feminist
Annabelle Mortensen – Access Services Manager, Skokie Public Library
Mimosa Shah – Adult Program Coordinator, Skokie Public Library

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

ARRT Book Club Study: The Yiddish Policeman’s Union is 5/3/17

There is still time to join us for the next ARRT Book Club Study. Since it is an older title, you may have already read it. If not, you still have 2 weeks.

Please remember that this is not only your chance to be a participant [and not the leader for once] in a book discussion, but also, we have plenty of time for everyone to discuss the problems and issues they are currently having with their groups. For example, last time we had a therapeutic and useful discussion of the problems patrons create in regards to the serving [or not serving] of food at book club.

Speaking of last time, if you cannot make it, or are not a member and just like to use us for our notes [don’t worry, we don’t mind, in fact, we encourage this behavior], we have the notes for past discussions here [most immediately past] and here [archived]. We separate them out by the notes on the discussion of the books vs the notes about our designated leadership topic. This means you can more easily target the information that is most useful to you.

From the email we sent to members with links and details:
On 05.03.17, the ARRT Book Club Study will be gathering to discuss The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon.  You can find details about the book, location, and discussion on the website here. 
We'll be having a unique location this time around:
National University of Health Sciences Library in Lombard05.03.17, Wednesday2-4pm 
A tour of the library, our first academic discussion site, will be available after the discussion. 
The leadership topic, lead by Bill Stephens, will be about how to recruit new members while retain current members.  However, bring any other questions or topics you'd like to discuss about leading book groups! 
Please RSVP to Debbie Walsh at dwalsh@nuhs.edu.   
All current members are welcome to attend!  If you need to renew your membership, you can find information here.   
Also, please remember that the notes for previous discussions can also be found on the website!  We'll announce when the notes for this discussion are available as well. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Call to Action: Go Read a Poem [or 2]

Each year I try to post at least once about poetry during National Poetry Month and each year I try to remind myself [and all of you] that poetry is a good read more times a year than just April. But like many of you, I have the best intentions in April and then, I forget about poetry.

Having school aged children reminds me often that as a kid I regularly read poetry and liked it. Both my kids are exposed to poetry in their school curriculum and it’s not the boring stuff. They are reading and learning about all kinds of poetry from the obvious dead white males of yore to current, modern poets.

My son, like many middle school kids loves books by Kwame Alexander, and the fact that they are written in verse doesn’t phase him. I also recently caught both kids (middle and high school) having an in-depth conversation about their favorite style of poetry and the rhythmic patterns they prefer as both writers and readers [interestingly both prefer a difference if they are consuming vs creating a poem.]

I used to be like them too. I would read and [at least try] to write poetry much more regularly. I don’t know why I stopped [well I know why I stopped writing, but not why I stopped reading]. Shel Silverstein was my favorite author as a kid. I spent hours reading and rereading his poems, listening to the audio of him reading them, memorizing them, reading them to others, etc... Every time I am asked who my favorite author was as a child, Silverstein is my answer. It is my immediate response because it is such an honest truth.

I had so much joy from poetry as a kid. Silverstein’s poems led me to other poems. I LOVE Beowulf. It was one of the best experiences I had in high school with an assigned text. A joy that intense doesn’t just evaporate. So then why don’t I read more poetry?

I am not sure, but National Poetry Month is a good time to try to suggest poetry to myself and others. I can’t be alone here. And the recent best selling popularity of authors like Alexander, proves that there is a mainstream interest in verse as a storytelling format.

But thankfully this is what these Call to Action posts are all about-mcalling us all out on the things we lose sight of in the day to day grind of working with leisure readers. To shake all of us, even me, out of our complacency.

So, to inspire all of you [and myself] to consider more poetry, here is a list of poetry resources and posts that I think will help you to help leisure readers identify poetry options, now and all the year through.

  • Here are 30 Ways you can celebrate National Poetry Month, but please note, you can do these any time of the year to celebrate poetry.
  • Here is the direct link to all of my posts about poetry on the blog.
  • Here is a link to everything from The Booklist Reader tagged poetry.
  • Here is the link to the poetry start page on Goodreads. If you are interested in suggesting something to a patron start here. There are the newest titles and the most popular. All have reviews so we can see the comments of those who love them and those who hated them. If you are not sure which type of readers you should suggest poetry to, start by reading the reviews of those who liked a newer collection and see what they have to say.
  • Finally, the link I would keep handy all year long, The Millions “On Poetry” archives. Unlike me, The Millions has articles and essays about poetry all year long, and they have for over 10 years. They began by simply posting in April, but over the years, they have added more regular coverage on poetry. Look, they wouldn’t be doing this if there wasn’t an increase in general interest in poetry, so spend some time reading what they have. From discussions on how poems are written to new books worth a look and everything in-between, On Poetry can help you find suggestions, stay up to date on trends, and keep you in the poetry loop all year long.
For past Call to Action posts, click here.

Friday, April 14, 2017

RA for All Road Show visits Cedar Rapids [IA] Public Library

Yesterday, I hit the open road to travel to Cedar Rapids Public Library to facilitate their library inservice training day, today. Personally, this marks the first time I have really delved into the state Iowa since moving to Illinois 20 years ago [up to this point I have only been to Dubuque, which is literally on the other side of the Mississippi River from IL].

In case you didn’t know, Cedar Rapids Public Library is currently a Finalist for the 2017 NationalMedal for Museum and Library Service. Why am I telling you this? Well, if a library that is doing this well still takes a break to train their staff, every library should.
I make that statement as a former library worker who craved more training, as the person who runs many of these trainings, AND as a trustee who has final say on a library’s budget.
With tight budgets, staff training is often the first thing to get axed. Please, if you are at a library that does not have staff training days, please show this post to your Directors. Ask them to contact me. As I said above, I am uniquely suited to advocate for staff training dollars since I understand all sides of this complex funding issue. I don’t even care if you hire me as a result, but one of my missions to to make sure library administrators understand what they are losing in service to their communities when they cut staff development dollars.
Again, if Cedar Rapids makes time for staff training, your library has no excuse not to.
Okay, I will get off that soap box now. Let’s look at what we have in store for today’s training.
8:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.  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.

10:20-10:30 Break
10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. 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.

Lunch 11:30-12:30
12:30-1:30  RA Rethink: The Displays Edition: Becky Spratford brings the display portion of her popular new “RA Rethink” series to you. In this presentation Becky will show you how to “rethink” your displays to make them more engaging for patrons without increasing your workload; in fact, she will help you to create better displays in half the time. While Becky will provide many examples and suggestions, this training will be highly interactive. Participation is expected with the goal of you leaving the session with a few display ideas all set and ready to be put out immediately.

This talk includes 1:30-1:45  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.

All slides are accessible to anyone.

This schedule is also a great example of the type of interactive training I offer for ALL library staff. You can mix and match any of my programs to fit your librarys needs. I also will create a new program just for you. My past and upcoming programs as well as an updated statement on my availability can be found here.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Library Reads: May 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. 

One final note, the No. 2 book on this list is one I read back in January and have been telling everyone I meet to put on their May to list read...Radium Girls.  Click here to read my review. This nonfiction title is going to be a book club favorite for many years to come.

Without further ado.... May 2017 LibraryReads

Eleanor Oliphant Is
Completely Fine:
A Novel

by Gail Honeyman

Published:5/9/2017 by Pamela Dorman Books
ISBN: 9780735220683
“I loved this book about the quirky Eleanor, who struggles to relate to other people and lives a very solitary life. When she and the new work IT guy happen to be walking down the street together, they witness an elderly man collapse on the sidewalk and suddenly Eleanor’s orderly routines are disrupted. This is a lovely novel about loneliness and how a little bit of kindness can change a person forever. Highly recommended for fans of A Man Called Ove and The Rosie Project – this would make a great book club read.”
Halle Eisenman, Beaufort County Library, Blufton, SC

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women

by Kate Moore

Published: 5/2/2017 by Sourcebooks
ISBN: 9781492649359
“This is the story of hundreds of young, vibrant women who were sentenced to death by their employers. The so-called “Radium Girls” painted luminescent faces on clock and watch dials using a paint mixture that contained radium. Instructed to “lip-point”their brushes as they painted, they absorbed high doses of radium into their bodies. When the effects of the radium led to horrific disfigurement and pain, the company refused to take responsibility. This heartrending book was one I could not put down.”
Catherine Coyne, Mansfield Public Library, Mansfield, CT

Since We Fell: A Novel

by Dennis Lehane

Published: 5/9/2017 by Ecco
ISBN: 9780062129383
“Rachel is a journalist who, after her online breakdown, becomes a recluse scared to resume her daily life. She is recently divorced and meets an old friend who wants to help her overcome her fear. They fall in love, marry and appear to have the perfect life, until Rachel ventures out of the house one day and sees something that makes her question everything she knows about her new husband. Once a reporter, always a reporter and Rachel has to get to the bottom of her story.”
Michele Coleman, Iredell County Public Library, Statesville, NC

The Leavers: A Novel

by Lisa Ko

Published: 5/2/2017 by Algonquin Books
ISBN: 9781616206888
“One morning, eleven-year-old Deming Guo’s mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant named Polly, goes to her job and never comes home. Deming is eventually adopted by two white college professors who move him from the Bronx to a small town. This is a poignant story of a boy who struggles to find his footing in a new world. It’s also an unflinching look at the difficult decisions a mother faces. This novel explores what it means to be a family and the duality of lives, especially through adoption.”
Jennifer Ohzourk, St. Louis Public Library, St. Louis MO

Ginny Moon: A Novel

by Benjamin Ludwig

Published: 5/2/2017 by Park Row Books
ISBN: 9780778330165
“What an amazing debut novel! Ludwig effectively captures the voice, thought process, and behaviors of a young autistic girl who has escaped a harrowing living situation and has finally settled into a new”forever”home. Unfortunately, she becomes obsessed with returning to her old home to find her “baby doll,”jeopardizing both her own and her new family’s safety. Ginny truly is an original, and readers will be captivated by her story.”
Vicki Nesting, St. Charles Parish Library, Destrehan, LA

Saints For All Occasions: A Novel

by J. Courtney Sullivan

Published: 5/9/2017 by Knopf
ISBN: 9780307959577
“Sisters Nora and Theresa Flynn leave their home in Ireland for a new life in 1958 Boston. Each adjusts to life in America in her own way. Steady Nora watches younger Theresa, until choices made by each woman drive the sisters apart. We follow the story from 1958 to contemporary New England, Ireland, and New York, exploring how siblings and children relate to their parents and each other as they age. Novels about Irish immigrant families and their American descendants are a weakness of mine and the way this story unfolds from everyone’s perspectives is very satisfying!”
Trisha Rigsby, Deerfield Public Library, Deerfield, WI

White Hot: A Hidden Legacy Novel

by Ilona Andrews

Published: 5/30/2017 by Avon
ISBN: 9780062289254
“After rereading the first Hidden Legacy book, I plunged immediately into White Hot. I wasn’t disappointed. Nevada is trying to return her life to a semblance of normal, “normal” being without powerful, sexy, and very dangerous Prime Rogan. Rogan hasn’t stopped thinking about Nevada and hasn’t stopped wanting her. And what Rogan wants, he eventually gets. The action in White Hot was faster, the plot more intricate, and the characters became even more real. I cannot wait to read book three!”
Heather Cover, Homewood Library, Birmingham, AL

Sycamore: A Novel

by Bryn Chancellor
Published: 5/9/2017 by Harper
ISBN: 9780062661098

“A newly divorced woman is starting life over in a small Arizona town. She comes across the skeletal remains of what the locals think is the body of a seventeen-year-old girl named Jess who disappeared almost two decades ago. The discovery forces community members to recall memories and secrets that have been buried a long time. Readers are treated to a cast of characters with distinct personalities who, with each piece of the puzzle, form a patchwork that reveals the truth surrounding Jess’s disappearance.”
Sharon Layburn, South Huntington Public Library, Huntington, NY

Astrophysics For People In A Hurry

by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Published: 5/2/2017 by W.W. Norton & Company
ISBN:   9780393609394
“Tyson’s writing style is always approachable and entertaining, and his latest book is no exception. Clear and concise, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry gives readers exactly what the title promises, a basic understanding of a deeply fascinating subject. Highly recommended for readers who want to understand our universe better.”
Mary Vernau, Tyler Public Library, Tyler, TX

The Jane Austen Project: A Novel

by Kathleen A. Flynn

Published: 5/2/2017 by Harper Perennial
ISBN: 9780062651259
“The Austen fan genre is expanded by an original new novel set both in the past and the near future. Two employees of a time travel company are assigned to go back to Austen’s day, ostensibly to retrieve the full copy of “The Watsons,” lost for all time…until now. The blending of historical fiction, fantasy, and romance with a beloved classic author thrown in the mix is a daring combination which succeeds.”
Leslie DeLooze, Richmond Memorial Library,Batavia, NY