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.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

What I’m Reading: Creatures of Will & Temper and A Small Charred Face

The September 1st issue of Booklist is out a few days early and I have two reviews for you. As usual, I have included my draft review and bonus info with the full citation to the final review.

Creatures of Will and Temper.

Tanzer, Molly (author).
Nov. 2017. 368p. Houghton/Mariner, paperback, $16.99  (9781328710260)
First published September 1, 2017 (Booklist).

In this urban fantasy retelling of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, we enter a decadently described Victorian London filled with all of the rules and manners we know, but with the addition of two fascinating frames-- fencing and demons! The Gray sisters, Dorina and Evadne, come from the country to spend a few weeks in the London home of their artist uncle, Basil. Dorina, the younger and more traditionally beautiful is excited to enter society and is quickly taken under the wing of the mysterious and enchanting Lady Henry. But Lady Henry and Uncle Basil have a secret, one that lives inside of Henry and possibly others. Evadne, a strong, stoic, fencer is sent to be her impetuous sibling’s chaperone, but soon finds herself immersed in a competitive fencing school, one with an underground agenda that puts the sisters in opposite corners of an epic battle. With a satisfying mix of strong characters, lush descriptions, dual point of view, steady pacing, and plenty of exciting action sequences, Tanzer wraps the reader up in a world where nothing is as it seems and notions of what is good or evil, moral or amoral, are up for grabs. A great choice for fans of supernatural fantasy set in the 19th Century like Lauren Owens’ The Quick or Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.

Further Appeal: Did I mention the fencing and demons above? Oh I did. Well double down on that. They were fun, interesting and just great.

The Victorian frame is also excellent. I love Victoria era novels and this book accurately replicated BOTH the time period and the style of the writing at the time. And, the literary inspiration also adds a level of appeal here. In general, I would say that the frames are the lead appeal factors here. If you are intrigued by these interesting frames, read this book. The writing is beautiful and the story is well paced, but the frames make it stand out, and as a result, easy to hand sell. Again, did I mention demons and fencing?

I could not really get to this in my limited word count but I also loved how this book played with the stereotypes of femininity. The “strong” more manly woman is straight and the girly woman is lesbian. And both are presented just as they way the characters are. I loved that. The novel also delves into the problems people face in society when they do not fit “the norms”of their era- men, women, young, old- in a thought provoking way.

Three Words That Describe This Book: interesting frame, strong characters, lush descriptions

Readalikes: Counting the Wilde source material, there are three options listed above [The Quick is an especially good readalike and my review for that title has more options too], but you should also look at my reviews of Drood by Dan Simmons and The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. Both could work, but for different reasons. Click on each title to see why.

Finally, Creatures of Will & Temper is part of John Joseph Adams’ new imprint with HMH. I would highly suggest any of these titles and/or any book he has edited.

A Small Charred Face.

Sakuraba, Kazuki (author).
Translated by Jocelyne Allen.
Sept. 2017. 288p. VIZ/Haikasoru, hardcover, $15.99  (9781421595412). Grades 9-12. First published September 1, 2017 (Booklist).


In this lyrical, character centered fable, readers meet three teens in three separate yet irrevocably linked stories that together relate a panoramic, heartbreakingly beautiful tale about the lives of “The Bamboo,” Chinese vampires living in exile in Japan. The Bamboo live about 100 years, can be born a vampire or turned into one, feed only on the already dead, and are ruled by a king and a strict set of laws, the most important of which is to never associate with humans. When it is their time to expire, they bloom in a flurry of white flowers and then disappear forever. Kyo, a young boy whose family is murdered by the Yakuza and is rescued from the same fate by a kind hearted Bamboo, tells the first story, recounting his years being raised by two vampires who want nothing more than to protect his “flame.” Next is Marika, a Bamboo who was turned as a teen, befriends the human Kyo during his high school years, and becomes inextricably linked to Kyo and his family. Finally, we go back in time, to when the Bamboo still lived in China and hear the story of the two teenage, royal vampires who saved their brethren and helped them escape to safety in Japan. While the vampire frame is central to the plot, the novel is quiet, with little violence, Rather than being horrific, this is a thought provoking, coming of age tale about familial love and life with all of its blessings and hardships, related in an authentic voice to which teens will be drawn. A compelling tale perfect for readers who are craving more of the popular spate of fairytale inspired stories.

Further Appeal: This book was beautiful and enveloped me in its world, characters, and fable like storytelling from the first moment. It is an experience to read this book, a wonderful, captivating experience.

Also the way the story is told, through the three connected stories where 1 character from each story appears in the next one, in a way that makes you look again at the character you were introduced to previously was amazing. I especially liked how the story behind how and why the Bamboo are the way they are was saved until the end. Telling the story “out of order”made it better.

I also loved how the idea of a monster, in this case a vampire, was used in a different way. They are still scary but the focus is on the magic, wonder, and otherness, not the fear. But the darkness is still there, lying in wait, just behind the surface.

Finally, while this is a YA novel because it is teens who control the action and storytelling, this is definitely a YA novel that can be enjoyed by adults who like beautiful storytelling and character centered stories. I am not a huge fan of YA in general, but this book I loved.

I didn’t know what to expect when I was handed this book. The plot summary alone does not explain why this book is so phenomenal. Everything else I have said in the review and this extra appeal statement explains why someone would like this book, not the plot.

This is a title you will have to seek out to add to your collections, but I think it is well worth the effort.

Three Words That Describe This Book: lyrical, character center, fairytale/fable inspired

Readalikes: This book reminded me of Murakami and not just because they are both Japanese authors, rather because both use surrealism, character centered and unconventional storylines, and a mystical feel in their works.

Here is the author statement I wrote on Murakami for NoveList to explain:
Haruki Murakami's appeal lies in his characters and storylines, both of which seamlessly meld the mundane and the surreal. His protagonists are introspective and quirky, and they always end up mixed up in some crazy conspiracy. The Murakami plot grows from these situations as the characters and the reader go through a physical and mental journey to reach the novel's completion. Murakami sprinkles odd situations and eccentric characters into the mix to help lighten what can be a heavy load. Start with: Kafka on the Shore.
But that is too easy just to give you another Japanese author. Any story with a fable or fairytale frame where the characters are central would also work, especially those where “monsters” are used in an original way like, The Golem and the Jinni, The Night Circus, or Uprooted.

I also think A Tale for the Time Being is a good readalike. Click here for why.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Please Help Us Help You!

Below is the information about a survey on your training needs from two of my contract employers-- ALA and NoveList. We all really want to know what type of training you need. Please take a moment to fill this out.

This fall I will be updating all of my training programs AND will be developing brand new ones, so if you won’t take the survey for them, do it for me, so I know what you want. Pretty please.

Thanks in advance.

NoveList and ALA's Learning Round Table have teamed up to conduct a survey of library training needs. This survey will give us a better understanding of how libraries train, and how they can be supported.
We would love for you to share your experience with training at your library! 

This survey will be open until September 15. If you have any questions, please contact us at NoveListCommunications [at] ebsco [dot] com.
If you'd like to see the results of this survey, make sure to keep an eye on the NoveList blog in October.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

From ALA: Here’s How You Can Help Texas Libraries

Today's regularly scheduled RA focused blog post has been pre-empted so that I can pass on this information from the ALA on how you can help Texas libraries.

Please pass it on, and let your patrons who want to help know too.

Dear Members:

Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone who is being affected by Hurricane Harvey in Texas and along the Gulf Coast. We are supporting the Texas Library Association (TLA) and Texas State Library as they work with local libraries dealing with storm-related damage.

TLA has posted a list of resources to help assist with recovery from the storm.
ALA also has a list of resources for dealing with natural disasters at Libraries Respond. Thank you in advance for any assistance or support you can provide our colleagues in Texas.


James Neal
Jim Neal
ALA President, 2017-18

Monday, August 28, 2017

Call to Action: Stay In the Know With Minimal Effort [Updated 6.19]

Today’s Call to Action is less scolding and more of a pep talk.

One of the most important things every single one of you can do to be better at RA service is to stay on top of the book world news. Or as I say in Rule 5 of my Ten Rules of Basic RA Service:

Look, I know that reading widely is important for our job, but honestly, it is not as imperative these days as it used to be. Why? Well because you can learn a lot about many different types of books by speed reading “about” books.

Let me explain further. In my signature RA for All training, I still show people how to speed read a book for appeal; however, I am finding that I also give this advice-- “You can also replicate this speed reading for appeal with the physical book by fully reading the NoveList entry for that title.” It’s even better if you follow some of the links. And, if you also go to Goodreads and read the 5 star and  2 star reviews [1 star ones are sometimes too mean and petty to be useful for our purposes], you get a full picture of the appeal of the book with an example appeal  statement from the book’s target reader and those who also disliked it and why.

This is a great way to “read” books in genres that you dislike personally or just don’t have the time to stay on top of. You get objective information about who the book most appeals to on NoveList and then actual opinions from readers via Goodreads.

However, staying in the know on the general book world news is about more than speed reading select titles. We also need to be aware of trends in all of pop culture in general and still stay on top of the most pressing book news.

One thing I hear- frequently- from library workers all over the country is that they try so hard to stay up to date, but Twitter is too “noisy" (even when I show them how to make lists) and they get overwhelmed by their RSS feeds from all the blogs and book news sites they follow that way. I regularly get calls for help from people with thousands of posts to sort through in their RSS feeds.

Many of you are so inundated that you are sinking. I see it all of the time. Library workers who have the drive to stay in the know, but they cannot find the time to follow everything as it is happening quickly, in real time. So instead, they give up.

I get this response, I really do. But, it is not an option people. I will be your life jacket. It’s not that hard. Today, I will share my easy way to know the bare minimum about the most pertinent information.

First, I highly recommend everyone read Entertainment Weekly every week. Not online, the actual magazine. Seriously, you can write off your subscription to the magazine as a business expense. But also, if you work at a library you can spend 1 lunch break with the current issue each week [or read the digital copy if your library, work or home, subscribes]. A quick page through of the magazine will let you know what the current pop culture/mass media trends are. You will be alerted early to books being made into movies or tv shows. You will see what books are getting the most buzz. You will even see actual book reviews. But the biggest thing you will get out of it is a wide angle picture of what, in general, is popular right now-- week by week. Not only do these trends extend into all areas of leisure media consumption, but also, knowing what people like overall will help you craft book suggestions based on what is popular overall.

But that is just for general trends and very specific titles of interest. In order to stay on top of the deluge of daily news while making sure to filter out what doesn’t matter so you only spend time reading the "news you can use" take my second advice--

Sign up for 3 daily newsletters. That’s it. Just these three I scare them in my email every day. Yes, there is overlap, but that is actually helpful because then I know what is MOST important-- if it is repeated 3 times I really pay attention. It maybe takes 10 minutes total to get through these emails, but the knowledge I gain keeps me in the know:
  • Shelf Awareness for Book Trade Workers [That’s you]. This daily email covers all age levels of books and gives you a heads up on author media appearances as well as general industry news. [Media appearances always lead to book requests from patrons]. 
  • PW’s Daily newsletter, although if you click here you can see a full list of all of their free newsletters. You can pick the ones that are most relevant to you on top of the general “Daily.”
  • Library Journal’s Book Pulsea daily update designed to help collection development and readers’ advisory librarians navigate the never-ending wave of new books and book news. 
What I have found is that while some bigger news may break more quickly on Twitter, if it is important enough, it will make it through to these two newsletters that next morning. I have been monitoring this consciously for a few months now and I am confident in this advice.

Let them sort through all of the noise for you. That’s what these editors are paid to do. You have enough going on at your libraries to add this to your daily to-dos. Use the links I provided, give your email address to them, and start each day with a recap of what you need to know from book news, to upcoming titles, to reviews. Again, the beauty of this solution is that someone else is doing this work for you. You then only have to read a very short email with the most pressing information.

You need to stay in the know. You cannot avoid it. So instead of being overwhelmed by everything and/or just ignoring it-- both very bad ideas-- please take my advice here today. The outcome is that you are more informed, less stressed, and have happier patrons. See, you have nothing to lose.

For past Call to Action posts, click here.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Guest Post from Koios and Their New Tool to Make Your Library More Visible on the Web

Today I have a guest post from a company I met at ALA, Koios. They were a part of the "app" section of the exhibit floor where smaller companies could have a mini-booth. While visiting them, I learned all about Libre, a new, and easy way for libraries to make digital display, but the cool thing here is, Libre also positions your lists on the Internet in a way that allows patrons to more easily find you with a general Google search. This is what interested me so much-- making libraries and the great work with do for readers more visible to the general public.

After hearing their pitch, I was intrigued and asked them to contribute a post here on RA for All. I realize that most of my readers either did not go to ALA or didn’t have as much time as I did to roam the floor looking for new ideas and products. Also, I wanted to shine a spotlight on some of the smaller companies who took the time to come to us. Thank you Koios. We appreciate your interest in helping us be more visible on the web.

I suggest you read their post and then poke around on the site for yourself. I have a bit. It is definitely new and growing, but the interface is very easy to use. And more libraries are being added to their roster of clients all the time.

In fact, Koios is so interested in showing you what they can do that at the end of this post they have included a link for FREE early access to Libre. So you have nothing to lose. At the very least go poke around their website and see the great ways they can help you market your collections and services to the general public. As they say, “You know collections. We know digital marketing.” Let’s work together!

Back Monday with a new Call to Action. Have a great weekend.


New tool from Koios links readers advisory with social media
Author - Sarah S. Davis, MSLS, Content Strategist / Librarian at Koios

With sites like Amazon and Goodreads offering bottomless options in book recommendations, librarians inevitably have to compete with algorithm-based and user-generated book discovery. Yet librarians have the subtle nuances of reader’s advisory expertise that goes beyond a code. Facing a rotating wheel of book covers on Amazon, readers can find an overwhelming amount of content—without context. While an algorithm generates multiple Stephen King novels in a row as readalikes, librarians bring the deft knowledge of what book to read first. How can patrons find book recommendations built on librarian knowledge outside the library? And how can those patrons connect the books they want to read with the library’s catalog?

The Challenge

Today, many readers encounter book discovery through Amazon’s algorithm based recommendations, such as “Customers who bought this item also bought.” Amazon links to content in usually understable ways. For instance, suggested books in the “Customers who bought this item also bought” feed for George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo include several other works by Saunders (author-related), books about American history (topical), and titles that were released in the same month (proximity of publication). 

However, the recommendation algorithm used by Amazon is informed by sales data to influence sales data, not necessarily influence appropriate or informed reading recommendations. Publishers and authors can also now pay for greater prominence as a “sponsored” listing, which, while helping indie authors find customers, inevitably corrupts reading discovery with commerce. On Amazon, readers are customers first and readers second. 

Goodreads, the social reading site owned by Amazon, is a favorite among readers. One of Goodreads’ biggest resources is its Listopia database of thousands of lists. Goodreads houses lists for every imaginable theme: “Art & Artists in Fiction,” “Buffy Academia,” and “Arsenal Pulp Press” are just three available. Drawing upon collective niche interests and specialties, Goodreads can help readers find recommendations within an otherwise obscure topic.

On the other hand, at Goodreads, the populism of the list feature is both a blessing and a curse. For lists that other readers can vote on, lists often dissolve into popularity contests, with a book rising to the top. This can lead to confusing and misleading choices. Twilight, the first novel in Stephenie Meyer’s paranormal young adult romance series, epitomizes this paradox. The novel appears in several lists, including both “Best Books Ever” (#5) and “The Worst Books of All Time” (#1). Subjectivity clearly drives many lists. In theory, Goodreads Librarians can help with some ability to edit records, but ultimately Goodreads lists have to be taken with a grain of salt.

What both of these book discovery tools lack is context and an expert touch. Amazon’s business-driven model remains inherently linked to driving sales while Goodreads suffers from no guiding critical standards.

That’s where we come in.

Libre — The Opportunity

Koios helps libraries show up in local Google search results. A Google search for a book title will usually link to Wikipedia, Amazon, Goodreads, publisher websites, book reviews, and others as top results. Koios places the library side-by-side with these other sites to engage the community and increase circulation.

Our newest service is the list database, Libre Lists & Social. Through Libre Lists, libraries can create and share visually stunning, highly customized lists that connect each book to the library’s catalog. In just five minutes, your staff can build a list that reflects your organization’s unique collection tailored to the books your patrons actually want to read, no tech-savviness required. Libre helps you find your readers, and your readers find you, converting transactions into trust, and clicks into circulation.

Libre offers readers an intuitive and sophisticated interface. The list-building platform is user-friendly for librarians too. Library staff can customize their lists with drag-and-drop layout components, vivid backgrounds, and high-definition cover images.. Librarians can opt to build a list from scratch or adapt an existing template to personalize the content. 

Let me take you through the basics on how to get started and show you just how easy it is.

Working within the Content area of the list builder, staff start building a list by choosing a layout and then searching by title, author, or ISBN to add books. In the Settings tab, librarians can add a title, description, custom image, and background color. Lists can be saved as Draft or Public, and users have the option to allow other librarians on their team to access it. Coming soon, librarians will be able to share their templates with librarians at other libraries and add custom metadata (e.g. Category, Tags, etc.) to their lists.

(Writer’s note: Fig. 1-3 are intended to display in a slideshow or carousel if possible)

Building a List from Scratch

Fig 1. Creating a list from scratch

Fig. 2. Building a list with the Section Editor. 

Fig. 3. Coming soon: Making a list into a shared template with option to add metadata

Libre also comes preloaded with professionally designed templates that can be completely customized to each library’s preferences. For example, libraries can easily adjust the books and style options from Libre’s Banned Books template. For instance, libraries can swap pre-selected titles with others in their collection and edit the title and description.

Building a List from a Libre Template

Fig 4. Choosing the Banned Books template provided by Libre

Fig. 5. Customizing the layout in the Libre-supplied Banned Books template

Fig 6. Adjusting the books that are preloaded in the Banned Books template

Fig 7. The published Banned Books list as users see it

Libre lists can be embedded in your website and integrated with your online catalogue so patrons can find their item in one place. Libraries are encouraged to get social and share lists on social media. 

Fig 8. Share your lists with your patrons on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest with a rich card.

Librarians should also feel free to incorporate patron feedback. Why not take that Goodreads list of “Best Books Ever” and make it your patron’s best books ever? Lists of personalized picks from staff or a rotating list of “What We’re Reading” are also popular.

Here’s the exciting part. As a reader of RA for All, you can get free early access to Libre Lists & Social by signing up here. You’ll get 3 lists free forever and can earn more free lists by inviting your friends and coworkers. Or, subscribe to a paid plan for unlimited lists and team members. How can we help you reach your patrons? How do you think about organizing reading recommendation information? What features would you like to see? We welcome a dialogue to learn how to best help librarians reach their patrons through customizable book lists. Tweet to us at @koioslib, or email us at lists@koios.co. We’d love to hear from you.


Thursday, August 24, 2017

RA for All Virtual Roadshow: PCI Webinar on Booktalking

Today I am doing another webinar for PCI from 2-3 eastern. It is one of my more popular programs. Below you will find the description, links to the live slides, and a handout created especially for PCI but accessible to all of you.

I am happy to announce if you are a member of my home library system, RAILS, you can now watch these webinars live or as archive for FREE. Click here for details on how to watch. But anyone can pay to watch PCI webinars even if your library system doesn’t carry them. Click here for those details. They have many options on a wide range of topics for libraries.

Booktalking: Harnessing the Power of Sharing Books with Patrons: Booktalking is at the heart of what we do with patrons each and every day at the public library. Whether we are sharing books informally at the services desk, presenting a prepared list of books, or posting information online, talking about books is something we do each and every day. It is a core service, but it is also hard to teach. Booktalking is more of an art than a skill, but with the right guidance and some practice, it can go a long way toward engaging your patrons and re-energizing your staff. Join experienced Readers’ Advisory Becky Spratford as she shares the secret behind delivering great book talks, giving you tips and tricks you can begin using right away to hone your own skills. Rediscover the power and joy that comes from sharing books with patrons.
Slides are here

Handout is here

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

What I'm Reading: Quick Reviews Now on Goodreads

As my official reviewing jobs increase, I have less time to write longer reviews of the books I read “just for fun" here on the blog.

A lot of that has more to do with the time it takes to format and post than it does for how long it take to get the thoughts down. The books I have read for fun that I spend time to write a full post for usually have another reason, like my recent review of River of Teeth which allowed me to write about the re-emergence of the Western.

Today, I spent some updating my Goodreads reviews with detailed appeal notes and readalikes that read like a draft version of a full post here on the blog. It's all the same info with less of the polish. But in reality, as you do your job, all you need is the info. I also link back to the blog for more detailed information where appropriate.

I know many of you use my blog to find good suggestion options for harder to help patrons, so I have come up with a solution to make sure I get the info you need out to you in a more timely manner.

From now on, I will update Goodreads with these draft reviews and then post those updates here on the blog. That means you can use both the blog and my Goodreads to see all of my content. For those who didn't know, when there is a full review on the blog, my Goodreads review simply links you here. This also means a keyword search for any title or author I have read, will show up for you easily.

Oh, and don't forget that the horror specific reviews are not only posted on both blogs, but there is an index by author last name here. That is a unique niche that I serve, and I take my place as the library world’s horror expert seriously.

I am hoping that this solution, while not perfect, will be able to help the most people help more readers and allow me to give my paid reviews which appear in professional sources AND here on the blog, the attention they deserve.

Okay here we go:

Click on the titles for quick reviews of these titles on my Goodreads shelf:

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

RA for All Roadshow Presents A Booklist Live Event-- How To Stay in Genre Shape

Details in a previous post here
Later today I will be wearing my Booklist hat as I moderate and present “How to Stay in Genre Shape."

Today’s presentations is the first in a five-part series of Booklist RA Conversations, sponsored by NoveList, which will extend through July 2018. Dates, times, and locations have not been set for the rest of the series, but you can expect me and Booklist to publicize them all as soon as the details are firmed up.

Back to today, however. Here is the general outline of what you can expect.

I am going to start the presentation with 45 minutes on the reasons why you need to stay in genre shape and how easy it is to do on your own, or with colleagues in a genre study. I will walk you through the resources, and planing process, explaining all of the pros and cons of the choices you can make along the way. We will actually take a look at how to get the most out of Booklist and NoveList as resources during the training [as long as the wifi will allow it].

Then Karen Toonen from Naperville Public Library and Marlise Schiltz from St. Charles Public Library will explain their experiences as both participants and organizers of genre studies. I hand picked these two women both for their presentation skills and their range of experience. I can assure you that there is something that applies to everyone, at any sized library, in any location [from city to rural], in their presentations.

The slides start very text heavy from me because mine are meant to also be used as your notes for the future, and then they get more fun and image heavy as you go through. We had a great time planning this program and putting it all together for you. I promise it is worth 90 minutes of your life. The price is right too...FREE.

Speaking of watching us, if you can’t make it for the Live Stream [or in person, although I hear we have a pretty good sized crowd], the video of the live event, which will include the entire presentation and slides, will go out for free in a few ways:
  • Subscribers of The Corner Shelf Newsletter [it’s a free RA and Collection Development newsletter from Booklist] will see it in the September Issue. Sign up here so it will just come to your inbox like magic.
  • It will be loaded onto the Booklist YouTube Channel
  • I will post both links, to the newsletter and YouTube, here on the blog when everything is available.
But for now, here is a link to the Google Slides version of the combined Power Point for those of you who want to follow the links and start getting into genre shape ASAP.

There is also 1 handout from Naperville Public Library via Karen.

“See” you all soon.

Click here to view slides

Monday, August 21, 2017

UPDATE with Audio Links!: ALA Annual Recap: Growing Readership Through Diversity Slides and Audio Recording

Happy Eclipse Day! My 12 year old son is in Perryville, MO with his grandparents to experience totality. Big sis has high school and Hubby and I have to work, but I will take a break to walk into town and watch [with the proper eye wear] with my community since we do have 70% here.

I know everyone is preoccupied, rightfully so, with the eclipse, but I wanted to quickly let you all know that the audio recording of the diversity program I attended at ALA is finally available.

I am not thrilled with the ALA for taking so long to post the audio since they had it up on 7/5 (the original day of the post below) and then took it down. I know what their argument is [short version- they wanted everything ready at once and they have to recap the conference as a committee before it is final]. BUT, I think it is a misguided and backward thinking argument.

Getting information out to people as soon as possible, especially when it has to do with such important topics, trumps everything else-- especially in our information driven industry. And I give this criticism with love as a dues paying member and a contract employee of the ALA. I want them to do better.

The good news is, the audio is ready now. I have updated the post below. Read my recap and then listen. Please listen. As I say below, this is a NOT TO MISS program.


I know much of the RA world is reeling from the news that Early Word is shutting down after 9 years, and I will have a post about it tomorrow with my comments, but right now, I want to finish up my ALA Annual recap posts with the slides and recording of one the the best ALA programs I have ever been to. Why? Because the presenters did more than just bemoan the obvious problems, they all focused on how we can ALL start actually tackling this issue.

Growing Readership Through Diversity was a honest, no holds barred discussion about the lack of diverse titles in adult collections and RA conversations. Please click here to see the slides and hear a recording of the entire presentation.

You can also click here to see an excellent recap by Stephanie Sendaula from Library Journal.

It all began with Juliet Grames, a white publisher who did a no holds barred take down of herself and her colleagues, calling the entire publishing industry out for being the problem. We can talk about trying to include more diverse books in our curated lists and displays all we want, but if the publishers are made up of white, privileged, upper middle class New Yorkers who mostly publish people like them, we are never going to make progress. Juliet used concrete examples and frank language to lay out the problem, but she also presented it in a way that is useful to both allow us to check our own privilege honestly AND encourage conversation.

This is not your typical diversity discussion. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF MY READERS NEEDS TO LISTEN TO THIS.

After Juliet, Robin Bradford spoke about specific titles that you can suggest right now to diversify your genre collections. Many of her comments built off of the comments and presentation she did for ARRT the week before. Please click here for our compiled notes from that program.

Finally Jamie LaRue from the ALA office of Intellectual Freedom talked about an initiative where the ALA will be working with others to help create a review source for self-published works, which due to the problems Juliet outlined above, are much more diverse and no less “good,” but because of many library collection development rules, cannot be added to all library collections. [Jamie also needs your help which she explains].

Please listen to this program and use it to start a conversation among your own staff. It would be great if you could all listen together for a staff development activity, but I realize that can’t happen tomorrow, so bookmark the presentation for later. Advocate for it to be played at your next staff meeting. Use this post to help you articulate why it is necessary.

I am not kidding. You all need to listen to this, no matter how up on the topic of diversity you think you are, this is a must listen.

Finally, thanks to RUSA for organizing the recording of this extremely useful program. I am so proud to be a member of RUSA as they prove that they put their members first whether they can make it to the conference or not.

Friday, August 18, 2017

How To Sell RA to Your Staff Who Aren’t Drinking the Kool-Aide....Yet

I am back from two days of training library workers in South Central Wisconsin [Madison area]. This training was specifically designed for current RA practitioners to both give them a refresher and as a “train the trainer” session.

As we were wrapping up I was asked this question: “How do I convince the staff who don’t get it that RA is important for the entire library to care about.”

This is a great question. For the answer I took inspiration from my friend and colleague Steve Thomas who runs the librarian interview podcast, Circulating Ideas. In every interview he asks the librarians what their professional “origin” story is; meaning how they decided to to this as a job. He also asks the non library professionals he has on for their first library memory.

So I began my answer by citing Steve and telling her that for the most stubborn staff, you need to pull them aside and ask them to tell you their favorite book from childhood. What is the story that first captured you? Don’t ask just favorite book in general. If they are not into books and think they are not what the library is about anymore, you won’t get an answer.

But, if you ask them about a favorite childhood book, you will find that more often than not, they have an answer. Remember, they work at a library. Even if they are not into books right this minute, they were at some point. You don’t work at a library for the money. You can get better pay doing the same type of job somewhere else. You work there because of what it stands for and what it means to you.

Try this on anyone you know and see what I mean. When you ask people about their favorite childhood book, their eyes gloss over and they harken back to a time in their life when everything was simpler. That person will start speaking about that book, how it made them feel, and what it meant to them. They will use all those adjectives we work so hard to get out of our patrons when we ask them to tell us about a book they enjoyed.

When you ask this “origin” type of question to any library worker, you get an honest, heartfelt response. I know, I do it all of the time.

After the staff member answers, you say: “That response is why we do this.” [mic drop]

No seriously though, tell the person that how that book made them feel is the essence of why we do RA. Matching people with a book that brings them joy is magical. And, since we work at the public library already, it’s an obvious place to do this great work.

This won’t work for every one, and you may have to go about it one person at a time, but it will help you get more people on your side than not, and that is all you need, to create an RA culture at your library- a majority on your side, drinking the RA Kool-Aide. 

We need to spread the joy that a good read brings to people, especially right now. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

RA for All Roadshow Visits SCLS [WI] for 2 Days of Training: Day Two- RA Rethink

Today, I am still in the Madison Area. We have an entire day of Intermediate RA Service training planned under the following heading:
RA RETHINK: Join Becky and your area Readers Advisory colleagues for a day of interactive training.  We will rediscoverour love for this core service by assessing our own favorite reads, brush up on our booktalking skills, and end by rethinking what it all means for our patrons right now. Come ready to participate and share. 

We are also going to focus our training on working together as a region, not just staying in our little boxes within our town limits. It is my favorite component to add to any training I give, a chance to let people share their successes and failures AND encourage everyone to keep working together after I leave.

We have a busy day, so let’s get started. Below are all of the details with links for the participants and so anyone can follow along wherever they may be.

Location: Sun Prairie Public Library

9:15-11 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.

Program follows Becky’s 10 Rules of Basic RA Service
10 Minute Break
11:10 am-12:10 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.

Slides with a BRAND NEW booktalk
12:10 -1:30pm-- Working Lunch. Get your lunch and sit at a table with people you don’t know. Spend an hour eating and networking. Then at 12:40, practice booktalking the title you used in the exercise earlier in the morning or another favorite book, to your colleagues. Becky will provide even more examples during lunch.
10 Minute Break
1:40-3pm: RA Rethink: You can live without a 3D printer, but without readers’ advisory, you’re not doing your job. Readers’ advisory belongs in every library, no matter your budget or size. A robust and modern program that embraces whole collection discovery is one that inspires staff, engages patrons, and builds stronger library communities. Reconnect with this core service and empower staff at all levels to connect users with your collection. RA expert Becky Spratford will offer “rethinks” that will harken back to the basics of this core service and incorporate 21st Century possibilities.

SLIDES [Note: every picture in the presentation links to more information]
15 Minute Break
3:15 to 4:30: Group Discussion of RA Services: Becky will facilitate a discussion between all of you about how service to leisure readers is going at your library. Please bring successes and failures, comments and questions. I want to help you help each other. Let’s all work together to improve service to all of your area’s readers.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

RA for All Roadshow Visits SCLS [WI] for 2 Days of Training: Day One- Recharge Your Book Club

This morning I am headed to the Madison, WI area to do two days of RA related training for staff who work in the South Central Library System. [On a side note, I love their tag line: “Helping Libraries Serve the Public.” ]

We begin this afternoon with "Recharge Your Book Club."  Below are the details of when and where with the link to the slides. I love when I can add this half day program on to my trips, especially because it is discussion based. We are really going to focus on sharing successes and failures with each other, and I will actively encouraging these participants to keep working together after I leave.

1-4pm: Recharge Your Book Club: Reader’s advisor Becky Spratford has been leading book clubs for over 17 years and has seen it all. All book groups go through their ups and downs, but re-energizing your group is not as hard as it may seem. Becky will walk you through how to confidently identify and utilize the best resources for leading a book discussion, pick books that will engender the best conversations, lead a more interactive discussion even with the most jaded of groups. Let her show you how to take control, shake things up, and rediscover why you started the group in the first place. After Becky shares her tips and tricks for building better book clubs, she will turn the focus on to you and your groups. Please bring your specific issues and concerns about your own group as Becky will facilitate a support group session for book discussion leaders where we will all help each other. Bring your favorite successes and your worst failures to the discussion and let’s all help each other recharge.

[This program will include a 15 minute break]
Also, please note that every book cover in this presentation leads to my original book discussion report on that title. There are many links with further information embedded in this program. Even if you are not joining us, there is much to learn from these slides.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Call to Action: Shelve Series in Number Order NOT Alpha Order

The Call to Action is back, and while today’s is not as serious an issue as some of the others in this series, it is a huge pet peeve of mine and one that will greatly improve your service to leisure readers. But, it is kinda of an annoying amount of work [with a HUGE customer service pay out].

Here it is: Stop shelving our series in alphabetical order. Who reads a series in alphabetical order?!?! NO ONE! 

Look I know we shelve books in alphabetical order to make them easier to find and it’s what we do, but series are almost always read in order. Yes we are obsessed with alpha order in libraries, but here’s a shocking news alert... Sometimes it is not the best way to organize our materials.

We want people to enjoy browsing the library for their next good read. We want to show them that we care about their experience. So, then we need to actually put the books out in a way that helps them to find what they want.

Now sarcasm aside, I also know that many library employees will react poorly to this suggestion. I know this from experience. They will act like changing the way will shelve books will physically harm them. Seriously. I have used the following lines on my actual coworkers before when they screamed at me or freaked out at my “cray ideas.":

  • Calm down. No one is going to die here. We are talking about moving some books.
  • They are not your books. You do not own them. They belong to the people of this community. So let’s put them where those people who own them will best find them.
As you can tell, I didn’t make any new friends with those comments, but I did make my point. We need to think less about our “rules” or “how things have always been done,” and instead think about what makes the most sense.

I am happy to say that I have been spreading this Call to Action all over the country in my live appearances and I am starting to see that more and more libraries are listening.  At my regional training last week, we had multiple libraries who have made the switch. A few of them shared how they did it. Some did everything at once, which is a huge project for Tech Services. But others said they began by marking the new books. As they came in, they added the series number to the call number sticker and then went back and did all the books in that series. So they tackled it one series at a time.

In terms of how to mark the series, different libraries do it differently. Some simply keep the call number sticker the same and have a brightly colored series number sticker that goes on the spine. This is the easiest way to do it as you don’t have to change every record and can simply pull the books and slap a sticker on. This way, you also don’t HAVE to shelve them in numerical order which is sometimes a compromise you have to make depending on your administrators. You can keep shelving in alpha order because the numbers are there. This does get a little more confusing when an author has multiple series. In that case, libraries have told me that they make sure to use a different color for a different series. So one author might have three “1s” on three different books, but one is on green paper, one on blue, and one on red.

However, the best way to do it, the way that gives the most access points- from the shelf to the catalog- is to add the series info to the call number on the book and in the catalog. Here is an example of what it would look for Louise Penny’s Still Life:
Gamache: 1
And this would be what A Fatal Grace would look like:
Gamache: 2
Now “Still Life” will be shelved appropriately before “A Fatal Grace” in series order. This fixes the non-intuitive alphabetical order rule which flips them. Also by using a shortened version of the series name, we can keep like series grouped.  In Penny’s case she only have one series for now, but who knows what will happen in the future. Plenty of authors have multiple series [I’m looking at you James Patterson and Nora Roberts]. Picking a shortened version and being consistent in using it is perfect.

Also, while Louise Penny does not have a stand alone book as of yet, by using a series name with the number you also have a way to shelve any standalones a series author might have-- and for many this is the case. Those without the series designation, would be shelved first and then the series all together as alpha rules would demand.

So please consider making your series more intuitive on the shelf. Yes, it is a lot of work at first, but it really is the best thing for our patrons.

For past Call to Action posts, click here.