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

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Happy Halloween: Celebrate with Me in Your Ears and the History of Horror Fiction

This is a cross post with RA for All Horror in honor of Halloween and the conclusion of 31 Days of Horror.

Happy Halloween! It is finally here. [I lived through another horror blog-a-thon.]

Today I relax and rejoice in the holiday that makes you all want to give horror books and readers the attention they deserve. Now if only you did that all year long. [Hint, hint-- you should, and this blog is the place here I give you the tools to do that.]

But since I have your full attention for 1 more day I wanted to point you to 3 things you can do to celebrate the holiday and brush up on your horror RA skills all at the same time.

The first two involve your ears. I have recent appearances on 2 podcasts where I talk about horror and other library related things.

The first is a brand new podcast called Three Books produced by the Ela Area Public Library. Christen and Becca are bringing book people in to talk about their three favorite books and more. Since they were launching in October and because I've known Becca for years, they asked me to come in and be their first guest. You can click here to listen and subscribe. We talk about my current horror favorites, why the world NEEDS horror, and more.

The second is my 4th [!] appearance on Circulating Ideas:
Circulating Ideas facilitates conversations about the innovative people & ideas allowing libraries to thrive in the 21st century. Brought to you with support from the University of South Carolina School of Library and Information Science and listeners like you.
In Episode 120, which dropped today,  Steve and I talk about the the current state of horror, but also about the importance of libraries including self published/small press titles in their collections and how to stay on top of genre trends easily, even if you don't like the genre yourself.

After a month of reading my words, I am giving you a chance to learn from me in a different way. If you listen to both of these podcasts, you will quickly get a general overview of what is MOST IMPORTANT about horror right now [at least from the library worker perspective].

I have also added these two new appearances to my podcast appearance archive which is always available on the general blog's About Me page and that blog's Recent Presentations page.

And now, the third thing you need to do to both celebrate Halloween AND brush up on your RA skills-- today also marks the launch of much larger scale project, one that beginning today will be published every month, for free. One that all of you have to read:
Click here for the first chapter
Brian Keene and Cemetery Dance are going on an adventure to produce a definitive history of horror from the beginning of humanity to the present and all of us get to read it for free.

In this first chapter, Keene clearly notes the people [including myself] who have done more academic work on this topic, but he also knows as one of the top horror writers of our time and as a life long fan himself, no one has ever given the genre the respect it deserves. He is going to write the definitive history of one of the oldest and most popular genres in literature and I implore you to follow along.

I promise you will learn about horror, obviously, but you will also learn about readers, why people are drawn to any story, You will learn about writers, why stories are told in a certain way. And, you will learn to put that information together in a way that allows you to connect with your patrons better, no matter what genres they prefer.

Plus, all of the semicolons will be in the correct places [read the chapter and you will get the joke.]

Now go forth and celebrate Halloween.

Monday, October 30, 2017

How to Create a Culture of Booktalking at Your Library-- Becky’s Step-By-Step Guide

By far my most popular program is to present the RA for All Signature program followed by my Booktalking program. Both are a combination of training and pep talk; a how-to with a dose of "you can do it!”

These programs together make for the perfect morning of and in-service for all staff. Both programs also come with exercises to continue after I leave. But, while I have the directions for how to administer the Staff Reader Profile exercise clearly written out here on the blog, I don’t have the directions on how to start the booktalking competition at your library which I describe in my Booktalking program.

Today I fix that problem.

First, you need to refer to this post where I outline why you need to create a culture of booktalking at your library.

Second, it helps if your staff have had my training on how to book talk but here is the super short version-- All staff should simply booktalk their all time favorite reads or current favorites with a focus on why they like the book-- not focusing on what happens. When talking to a patron, you are not worried about whether or not that patron will like the book for themselves; the point of this booktalking is to start the conversation. Then when that staff person is done, he or she says to the patron, “That’s what I’ve been reading. What about you? Tell me about something you like.”

Third, although I say “books” all of the time please substitute anything your library checks out or allows streaming for leisure reading or viewing. So if the library checks it out-- a book, audiobook, graphic novel, TV series, movies, etc...that item can be “booktalked."

Now on the how to convince your staff to start doing this, especially if it is “not my job." Thankfully, I have a tried and true plan that uses incentives and creates a friendly competition which encourages them to practice and participate so that you can turn your library into a place where staff and patrons spontaneously share books with each other. Doesn’t that sound like a library fairy tale come true? It is and I can help you make it happen.

Here is the step by step guide:

  1. Get Caught Booktalking-- This is the name of your initiative. It plays off of the old, but still popular “Get Caught Reading” campaign by the ALA.
  2. Assign one staff member as the administrator. This person decides how the tallies are kept for how many book talks a person gives.
  3. Staff are encouraged to wander the building encountering patrons and striking up conversations about that they are reading. All staff-- from the Janitor to the Director; whether they work public service or behind the scenes can do this. 
  4. Another staff member must see you booktalking to a patron. That person gives you a mark for completing a booktalk. The administrator can be notified or there can be a shared document to keep track. How the marks for booktalking are tallied is up to the administrator.
  5. If you hit 5 booktalks in one calendar week the administrator enters you into a drawing for that week’s prize. Suggested weekly prize is 1 extra 15 minute break to be used in the next week.
  6. FYI-- Staff may book talk the same book to each patron they encounter, but as they get more experience, adding more books to the rotation is highly encouraged. 
  7. Continue every week- resetting the counter for each staff member to zero at the week’s start.
  8. Everyone who has been entered into a weekly prize is eligible for a monthly drawing. Suggested prize- extra time for 1 lunch break. I suggest doubling the current allowed time. 
  9. Every week is another entry, so that by the end of the year, at your staff day, you have many people with multiple entries into the pot for the grand prize-- a $50 gift card to somewhere.
  10. Results-- a library where booktalking is going on between staff and patrons all of the time.
As staff see others having fun running around the building talking to patrons about their favorite reads, and that people are actually winning prizes for all of this fun, you will get more and more people to join in. Yes I promise you, even the most stubborn and unfriendly members of your staff will eventually join in. I have seen it happen with my own eyes.

You may want to also consider trophies to be given out at the staff day for people who have the most booktalks, the person who was “most improved,” person with the most varied items talked [like if someone does a book from every genre], etc... The idea here is to have as many incentives to keep it going as possible. You can make these trophies fun and/or silly and pass them down to a new winner each year. The staff member can proudly showcase their trophy for a full year until the next staff day. And, if you keep it going, people will try even harder to win the next year, and the one after that, and so on.

As you can see, this “Get Caught Booktalking” initiative has many useful outcomes, including but not limited to:
  1. Showcasing your staff’s friendliness to patrons-- everyone is talking about what they are reading to each other. Isn’t that an awesome atmosphere to have in your building?
  2. Advertising that you care about what patrons want as well as what they need-- they know the things they HAVE to come to the library for but often patrons forget library staff can and want to help their with their leisure needs too.
  3. Serving as a team building exercise-- the friendly competition allows people who might not have known each other to get to know one and other better.
  4. Allowing staff who may be “bored” with their day to day responsibilities the chance to try something new that both reenergizes them and helps the entire organization.
  5. Allowing staff to talk about items the library has for checkout that may not be in their specific service section. Cross departmental advertising but also fun for staff to talk about things that they enjoy but do’t get to work with.
  6. Providing essential training for a very low cost-- $50!
Why not give this a try at your library? You have nothing to lose and what you gain is a reenergized staff who leave happy patrons in their wake.

Friday, October 27, 2017

And So It Begins: Publisher's Weekly Best Books of 2017

Today Publisher's Weekly debuted their Best Books 2017 website. This is not only always the earliest best books list of the year, but also, it is one of the most useful for you as you work with readers at the desk.  The reason? It's not because they pick the best books, it is because they pick books in many categories AND make access to their past best books lists [and best books of summer lists] easily accessible from every page.  Here is a screen shot:

I realize this is small, but what is important to note here is that this tab across the top has 13 [!] categories of best books AND they have links going back to 2009 of these same lists and back to 2012 for best books of summer.

Do you realize how great this list is to use as a resource? Patrons just want a "Best" book. They really don't care what year it is from.

This time of year the best lists will come fast and furious and there will be some titles that get repeated everywhere, like Sing, Unburied, Sing by Ward. Patrons will come in asking for the best books because these are the books dominating the headlines every Fall.  Also, they figure if they are only going to read a couple of books this year, they might as well read ones that are worth their time.

That's when the PW Best Books website becomes so helpful. You can pull up this one page and ask the patron to choose a category. Trust me, most of them are going to go bonkers over the fact that genre titles are included.  And, together you can pick a title from this year's list-- either the overall best list or the Summer one.

Each book has an annotation too, so you don't need to worry about being able to "talk the book up." You literally only need to know how to click a link and read aloud to use this resource with a patron.

But, what if the current titles are checked out? -- which as we go through the Fall they probably all will be-- Don't worry, you have 13 more lists each with 13 categories! That's over 150 more titles to choose from. And all are "best" quality.

You just have to put the hold on this year's title that they want and then say, well, while you wait, let's look at some of the best books from a few years ago that you might not have had time to get to yet. Don't say, "titles you may have missed." Titles you haven't gotten to yet," is less judgmental. It makes it seem like the patron always meant to read those too, but just ran out of time.

Patrons LOVE this option of trying past years' best lists. They never think of it themselves, but when you suggest it, they will often take a deep dive into the backlist. Old books that at one time were "THE BEST" is enough for most patrons to give them a try.

And we have most of these books in our collections. We buy them and they get checked out precisely because they were on best lists. I often go back and use these older lists to find book discussion suggestions too. So even with strict weeding rules, most libraries will still have many of the books from the PW Best Books archive because they are still checked out at least once in awhile.

Bookmark this site from PW. It is up and active all year long. I use it frequently this time of year, but I have also used it throughout the year to identify good reads for patrons. Not to mention the display implications-- Throwback to 2009, Forgotten Favorites, Best Mysteries from the last 5 years, etc....

I know it isn't even Halloween yet and the first of many best lists is being thrown at your today, but embrace it. Use this site to help patrons. It is easy to use and patrons will think you are so smart.

For more advice from me on how to use best lists as a RA resource, click here.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The State of Sexual Harassment in the Library

RA Service is customer service. We are on the front lines dealing with patrons all day, every day. We are expected to be nothing but nice, friendly and helpful no matter how awfully a patron treats us or others.

I loved my 15 years on the front lines providing RA Service to patrons, and most of the patrons were great; however, some were not. Many outright made me uncomfortable. I had many comments about my looks, my body-- especially the two times I was pregnant, and was hit on more than once. I had a coworker who was stalked by a patron who wanted to date her despite the fact that she said no and was happily married. I had to protect my teenage female pages from leering and inappropriate patrons.  

This is just the tip of the iceberg.  

I like most of my colleagues, I thought I had to put up with it. I thought it was part of the job. I had to be nice, serve the patron, and then find someone to call me into a “meeting” if I needed to get away from someone who made me uncomfortable. As a supervisor, I protected my employees when they were being harassed by playing “bad cop” and intervening so the employee could escape. My Directors [men and women] did similar things for me. But rarely did we punish the patron for what was inappropriate behavior. 

I am ashamed to say now that none of us even thought it was an option.

Well, times are changing. 

Kelly Jensen, friend of the blog, librarian, author, and editor sent out a poll to library workers asking them about sexual harassment in their workplaces. Once she received the results, Kelly published this insightful and scathing report about the state of sexual harassment in the library and how little is done to curb it over on Book Riot.  She ends with a call to action for all of us to do better.

Kelly tackled this topic knowing she would get a lot of “shoot the messenger” hate for what she found. And many library workers bravely shared their very personal stories. Kelly only put some of them in her piece, but what is there will make you stop and take stock of your own experiences.

I had passed the survey on to others thinking I had nothing to report myself. After reading Kelly’s article I was shocked to realize that many of the experiences mentioned were not unfamiliar to me. In fact, I dare ever single one of you not to find a story in the article which either happened to you or you know it happened to one of your coworkers.

Today I want to take a break from helping you serve leisure readers better and be here to help you serve yourself better. I want all of you to read The State of Sexual Harassment in the Library from Book Riot, by Kelly because being treated badly, being sexually harassed doesn’t HAVE to be a part of our job as we work with leisure readers anymore. But it is up to us to put our feet down and say, “no more."

I hope you can use this article to start a conversation with your co-workers and supervisors about how we love helping readers find their next good read but that shouldn’t supersede our right to be treated properly. Harassment can no longer be the price of admission to a library job. We shouldn’t have to grin and bear it. [That was my strategy most days.] We can all do better.

Let’s treat ourselves as well as we treat our patrons. I know we have not been. I know because I am guilty of putting their bad behavior over my feelings and safety. And I know I am not alone.

Thank you Kelly for making us realize the scope of the problem. Now let’s do something. It starts with each of you being honest and talking about the problem at work. Use the article as your jumping off point.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Staying in the Know is Even Easier Thanks to a Brand New Daily RA Column Via Library Journal!!!!!

[Yes the extra exclamation points were necessary; thanks for noticing.]

Just launched by Library Journal and my long time editor Neal Wyatt-- Book Pulse. From LJ:
Book Pulse 
Welcome to Book Pulse, a daily update designed to help collection development and readers’ advisory librarians navigate the never-ending wave of new books and book news. 
Here you will find highlights of titles moving in the marketplace and getting buzz, bookish stories making news, and key items from the literary web. 
Book Pulse owes its existence to the legacy of Nora Rawlinson and EarlyWord as well as the work of Cindy Orr and Sarah Statz Cords at the RAOnline BlogBook Pulse takes their vital work onward, continuing to nurture a community of librarians learning from and supporting each other and providing resources that help us excel at our jobs. 
I look forward to your input—what works, what does not, what helps, what is needed? Write me at nwyatt@mediasourceinc.com.
I can’t contain myself, I am so excited about this new daily column! And Neal is someone who I trust 100%. She edited my book, among other things I have written professionally. It would not be as good of a resource as it is without her work on it.

You can read every column here. But, before you ask, there is NOT a way to have it emailed to you yet, but they promise to work on it.

You need to read this column daily, along with a few others. I have laid this all out before in a post entitled, Stay In the Know With Minimal Effort.  The post is part of my 10 Rules of Basic RA Service. I have now added Book Pulse to that post. This is how important I think this new column is.

Read below for why spending 10 minutes each day, reading three columns will make you a better RA provider. rRemember you can pull up the post below at any time by visiting Rule 5 here.


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 2 daily newsletters and read this one daily column [not a newsletter yet] and you will be good. That’s it. Just these three:

  • 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. [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.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

First Issue of Indie Picks Is About to Drop: Don't Be Left Behind

It’s hard to believe after all these months of planning and work [mostly by Editor in Chief Rebecca Vnuk] the first ever issue of IndiePicks Magazine is about to be sent out. What is IndiePicks? Well it is a game changer in the way libraries can identify books to add to their collections.

As I said in more detail in this post back in August:
This magazine is going to be a game changer for libraries in many ways and not just because I will be writing for it.
One of the biggest problems libraries are facing right now in terms of collection development is the fact that the Big Five dominate the publishing market and therefore the review space. 
As we all know [but surprisingly most authors do not know], most libraries require that a book have at least 1 review from an “official” source in order for it to be added to their library’s collection. People like me and Robin Bradford [among others] argue publicly that it is time for this rule to change if want our collections to truly reflect the best of what is being published today- especially in terms of diverse titles and genre representation. This rule is why I try to mention as many small press horror books as I can in my columns and on the horror blog so that you can at least have some kind of argument for adding them to your collections. It has helped some of you add independent horror, but for others, you still need that official review. 
My travels throughout the country have shown me that for many libraries, this rule is not going to budge any time soon. Most public libraries are small, single branch operations where they can barely keep up with the Big Five books let alone have time to seek out reviews of independent books on their own, no matter how good these titles may be.But, a library collection focused magazine which will hand deliver these independent titles to you just like our other trusted review spruces do for the larger publishers, this, just about any library worker, anywhere in America can easily add to their repertoire.... 
...I cannot wait to see how Indie Picks makes our library collections better by allowing us to add titles that are more representative of what our patrons actually want to read regardless of who published the title. I am also excited for the implications this magazine will have as a RA tool- a topic I will explore in detail after we have a few issues under our belts.
Well guess what? The first issue can be seen by you using this link...right now....a few days early! 

I cannot tell you how proud I am of being a part of this venture. As I said above, this is a cause I believe in. There are so many great books out there being published by smaller presses and we library workers have no idea they exist. How can we? We are so busy and the small presses don't have the budget to market directly to us. You can read the full post I wrote about this issue [the above is just an excerpt] here.

I am proud of our entire team. This first issue is professional, with thoughtful reviews and articles that I know can help library staff and patrons right this minute. And, we can only get better from here on out. In fact, we are all already busy handing in the copy for issue two-- due before the print issue hits the stands.

Please support us so we can keep up this great work by showing the first digital issue to those who have the power to get a subscription for your library. Details at https://indiepicksmag.com/subscribe/.

Specifically, my reviews are awesome- and I'm going to say so myself. No seriously, I thought long and hard about including titles that were well written, come from trusted publishers who put out a solid hard copy product that will stand up to multiple checkouts, and will appeal to a wide range of readers. You can head over to the horror blog to see my specific reviews with added content, or click here for the free link to the first issue to see all the reviews.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Horror Debuts Column in Library Journal

This is a cross post with RA for All: Horror

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

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

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

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

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

First-Time Scares | The Reader’s Shelf

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

Friday, October 20, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Mary SanGiovanni

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 19, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to register to attend in person

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

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

Recently I stumbled upon this amazing list via Electric Literature:

Click there to read the stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

NoveList Training Survey Results and the Importance of Training for All

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Training at your library: we asked, you answered

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

Let’s get down to the results

Who answered the survey?

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

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

How often is training required?

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

How much do libraries pay for training?

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

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

How does the training happen?

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

What training topics are popular?

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

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

Does this reflect your experience?

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