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.

Monday, July 30, 2018

RA for All Vacation-- While I am Away....

I am on vacation this week, so no new RA for All posts again until 8/6.


While I am gone the annual Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror Spotlight issue for Booklist will drop [8/1]. I have 3 or 4 reviews [I’m not sure how many are in there] and a spotlight article on Flame Tree Press in the issue. But the entire issue is my annual favorite because it has Top 10 lists for all age levels and audio in these genres.

I will have detailed coverage on 8/6 when I return, but while I am gone, head on over to both Booklist Online and Booklist Reader to get the latest info on all the speculative genres with lots of new speculative material every day all month long.

This would also be a good time to figure out how to access your FREE Booklist Online access. If your library subscribes to the magazine, you get the online included. Please talk to your serials person to figure it out. Here is the direct link to Booklist’s page which explains what you need from your subscriber info to get started ASAP. If for no other reason, sign up so you can get access to every single one of my horror reviews and articles going back 3 years now.

I’ll be mostly off the grid for his vacation [yay], so be good you all! [Seriously, please no shenanigans while I am gone. For all of our sakes, we need a break.]

Friday, July 27, 2018

RWA Librarian’s Day Keynote Speech by Sonali Dev

Click here to listen
Readers of this blog know that Sonali Dev is a friend of libraries, especially those in the Chicago area. 

Well recently, a much larger audience got to hear her wisdom, as she was invited to give the Librarian’s Day Keynote speech at this month’s Romance Writers of America’s annual conference.

She addresses so many issues here in only 26 minutes. But the crux is “who is allowed to speak.” As usual she eloquently shares her personal story, while making it relatable to all of us. Yes it is about inclusion and diversity, but it also about so much more. It is about why everyone needs to have a voice and why that is important for us all. It is about the power of speech, how great it is, but also how it also can cause problems.

Yes it is centered around the Romance Genre, but it is a speech for all library workers to hear. It is a speech for all readers, no matter their genre preferences, to hear. It is for everyone. Just listen.

Every second is worth your time. It is the perfect way to end your week on a good note [and goodness knows we could all use that], and it is only a click away. 

Thursday, July 26, 2018

RA for All Roadshow Visits Lakeland Library Cooperative

Today I have a full day of training in Western Michigan.  As usual when I provide in person training, today’s post is meant to serve both the people in attendance and any one else out there reading this.

Yes, the slides make more sense if you were at the program, but I also make sure my presentation slides are useful no matter what. They are filled with many links, especially to longer posts where I have written out much of what I would say in the presentation.

Below is today’s schedule with program descriptions and links. Please note, this is a very common schedule for a regional event where libraries send key staff and they are tasked with bringing back what they learned [ie, train the trainer] Also, I have changed the name of my booktalking program to reflect the recent content changes and focus:

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.

Booktalking Your Way to the Friendliest Library in Town: 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.
RA Rethink: Merchandising and Upselling Edition: If someone told you there’s a practical and easy way to increase circulation, patron visits, program attendance and the job satisfaction of your staff, would you do it? Of course you would. Librarian Becky Spratford has developed a method you can use to accomplish all of this and it plays off of the skills, talents, and interests you already possess. She’ll explain how to deepen staff involvement in readers’ advisory in a way that gets everyone from staff to patrons excited. You are spending a lot of effort and money on cultivating good collections, but are you giving those collections a fair chance to shine? Are you linking your work with patrons as you find them items to your programming and other services? Do your patrons even know the full breadth of what you offer them? With just a few simple tweaks to how you already market your collections, services, programs and even staff, Becky will help you leave a trail of happier and more engaged patrons in your wake.

Demystifying Genre: Nothing is scarier than trying to help a fan of a genre you yourself don’t enjoy. You want to help that, for example, Romance reader find the perfect book, but you are having trouble knowing where to begin because...eek!... you don’t read Romance. You are afraid they will find out you are a fraud. How can YOU possibly help THEM?!? Never fear, in this program, Readers’ Advisory expert, Becky Spratford, will teach you the basic appeals of the major genres, give you the inside track on what a fan of that genre is most drawn to, and provide you with talking points to get your genres readers to tell you what they want. You will leave this session with the confidence and skill to help fans of every genre, regardless of whether or not you have ever read a book in that genre yourself. And that will leave a trail of happy patrons in your wake.
Staying in Genre Shape: Once you know what makes a mystery a mystery or a fantasy a fantasy and why a patron may prefer on of those genres to another, it is time to move on to the next step...keeping that genre knowledge up to date. Yes, Harry Potter will always be classified a fantasy and Agatha Christie a mystery, but within those larger categories there are smaller subgenres and trends that evolve over time. Join noted Readers’ Advisory Specialist and long time Genre Study coordinator, Becky Spratford as she gives you a work out plan for staying in genre shape. She will show you not only how vital it is to stay on top of the changes within genre fiction, but also how easy and, more importantly, fun it is to stay in genre shape. Together we will rethink the entire concept of genre and how we use it to help readers find their next good read.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Wiley Cash Starts a Book Club That Asks Us All To Rethink "The Canon"

Author Wiley Cash, who I am a personal fan of and if you click here you can see every thing I have written about him and his books, is staring a national book club that asks us all to rethink the cannon.

From an article via Garden and Gun Magazine:
As a best-selling author, North Carolina’s Wiley Cash (This Dark Road to MercyA Land More Kind Than HomeThe Last Ballad) knows the power of getting his novels in the hands of literature-loving book clubs. But for his newest project, the Open Canon Book Club, Cash wants to highlight the work of other authors in an effort to broaden people’s worldview through literature. “I feel like we’re in a time when we need to hear underrepresented voices, people who don’t look like us or talk like us,” Cash says. “What I’m really interested in is getting books in front of book clubs they might not otherwise have.” 
Membership is free and open to all. You’ll get discussion questions for each month’s book, a list of related titles, and dates for live online conversations hosted by Cash and the guest authors. Local independent bookstores across the country will also give discounts for the selected book. 
First up in September: Crystal Wilkinson’s The Birds of Opulence, the story of several generations of African-American women in a Kentucky township. Although Cash had never met Wilkinson, he had long admired her work and thought it was just the kind of book he would want to share with readers. “I want to open up a literary experience for people to say, ‘This is something I’ve never encountered before,’” Cash says. 
Cash had his own kind of literary “aha” moment as a sophomore creative writing major at the University of North Carolina-Asheville. He read the story collection Bloodline by the writer Ernest J. Gaines, and though the two authors came from very different backgrounds (Cash grew up in an old mill town in North Carolina; Gaines on a plantation in Louisiana, where his ancestors had been slaves), Cash recognized elements of his own family in the characters Gaines drew out. The book changed his life. Cash went on to study with Gaines at the University of Louisiana–Lafayette, and the two formed a lasting bond. 
Cash has mapped out selections for the Open Canon Book Club for the next year or so. In addition to showcasing talented, diverse voices, he wanted to choose authors who would enjoy engaging with club members. “At the very least,” he says, “this is going to be a way to steer people to good books—and that’s what we want.”
You can follow the links in that article, or click here to go directly to Cash’s Open Cannon website where there is already a long list of book stores all over the country who are participating.

Here is how libraries can get involved:

  • If you local book store is listed, give them a call and talk about partnering up
  • If your local book store is not listed, call them and talk to them about joining up.
  • Use the link to join to get the newsletter, selection announcements, and discussion info in your email box and run it through your library yourself.
  • At the very least-- make sure you have the titles Cash is discussing in your collections because you might not. And, he is providing you some talking points to handsell each title.
Thanks to Cash, who has done much in his career to use his privilege to promote underrepresented authors and titles.

I know just about every library in America has his award winning and critically acclaimed novels, so adding those books he thinks are worth your time is an easy sell to your collection development people and patrons. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Tor is Taking Their eBook Problems Out On Us, But How Should We Respond

Tor Books, the largest publisher of speculative fiction in America is not selling as many eBooks as it thinks it should, so they are seeing if libraries are the problem?!? The basics here-- no new books in “e” format can go to libraries until at least 4 months after their initial release.

Obviously library workers are mad, very mad.

Outrage and boycotting are all of our first instincts, including mine, but I am torn on how to act. This is not an all or nothing type situation and it needs us to think about how we respond in a way that doesn’t hurt our readers and the authors but still shows our displeasure. In this post I will break down this complex issue and all of the different moving parts that are creating it and then I will address what we should do.

First here is some background for those of you who are not up to speed. I am going to refer to this article from The Digital Reader which has been adding new information and statements as they come out. Please click here and read their reporting. It is well cited and has followups. It is a great resource.

From that piece here is the original statement from Tor:
Tor Books, a division of Macmillan Publishers and a leading global publisher of science fiction and fantasy will be changing our eBook lending model to libraries as part of a test program to determine the impact of eLending on retail sales. Our current analysis on eLending indicates it is having a direct and adverse impact on retail eBook sales. 
Effective with July 2018 publications, all new titles from Tor Books will become available for library eBook distribution four months after their retail on-sale date rather than the current program which allows libraries to purchase the titles on their retail on-sale date. During the test period, we will work closely with our library vendors who service this channel to evaluate the results and develop ongoing terms that will best support Tor’s authors, their agents, and Tor’s channel partners. 
In addition, Macmillan will actively participate in the recently launched “Panorama Project,” the first large-scale, data-driven research project focused on understanding the impact of library holdings on book discovery, author brand development, and retail sales (panoramaproject.org). 
With data from both programs, we will be in a better position to analyze and understand the impact of eLending on our publishing program. The timing of the test period is open-ended.
I responded to this statement immediately without calling Tor out specifically on their argument that libraries lose them money. Here is my series of tweets when this change in their ebook lending policy was first announced:

[The link to that Pew Report from my first Tweet is here.]

Now that Pew Report is from 2014. We need more current data to prove that libraries help, not hinder sales. And in fact, a new study has begun and Tor even referred to it in their statement above-- The Panorama Project, which is going to delve into how libraries fit into the for profit book world.

It is upsetting that Tor will be participating in that study but will NOT wait for the results before testing the theory that libraries are cheating them out of sales.

ALA released the following statement which refers to this. Again, quoting from the Digital Reader piece:
At the beginning of July, Tor, a division of Macmillan, announced without warning that it was immediately beginning to embargo ebook sales of new titles to libraries for four months. Today American Library Association (ALA) President Loida Garcia-Febo issued the following statement: 
“The American Library Association and our members have worked diligently to increase access to and exposure for the widest range of ebooks and authors,” said Garcia-Febo. “Over years, ALA made great strides in working with publishers and distributors to better serve readers with increasingly robust digital collections. We remain committed to a vibrant and accessible reading ecosystem for all. 
“I am dismayed now to see Tor bring forward a tired and unproven claim of library lending adversely affecting sales. This move undermines our shared commitment to readers and writers—particularly with no advance notice or discussion with libraries. In fact, Macmillan references its involvement with the Panorama Project, which is a large-scale, data-driven research project focused on understanding the impact of library holdings on book discovery, author brand development, and sales. For this reason, this change by Tor—literally on the heels of Panorama’s launch—is particularly unexpected and unwelcome. 
"The ALA calls for Macmillan to move just as quickly to reverse its course and immediately lift the embargo while the Panorama Project does its work.”
So here are the HUGE problems with Tor doing this. Obviously, it is bad for our readers because they won’t get the ebooks in a timely fashion. 4 months is a long time in the new book landscape. But, let’s think about it from a collection development standpoint as my friend @vantine mentioned on Twitter:

This point that those titles will get missed is a big deal especially because we are talking about the largest publisher of speculative fiction. That means our ebook collections in this genre will suffer.

This leads to my problem with calling for an all out boycott of Tor in any format. That is a terrible idea because first and foremost, it hurts our readers. They will miss out on wonderful titles. It hurts our collections because we will be missing key titles in popular genres. But, it also hurts the authors and editors, many of whom, in this case, are people I know personally. It hurts their livelihoods if we don’t buy their books and help readers discover them.

Remember, they did not have any say in this policy change. In fact, a few authors have told me that they are not happy that their ebooks will not be available at libraries when they are released now. They know this will hurt their bottom line.

So, I can’t support a full boycott for all of those good reasons. Yet, I also will not stand by and do nothing. So here are a few things we can do:

  1. Contact some of your more popular Tor authors. Many of them are active on Twitter, or go to their websites and use the contact link to send them an email. Explain how hard this is going to be on your patrons and especially mention the point in @Vantine’s Tweet above-- that you will inevitably lose track of their titles after the 4 month embargo ends because you are already on the the newest titles. This is an argument they will listen to.
  2. Contact Tor directly-- over and over and over again and express your displeasure. Call, email, Tweet. Have your patrons who enjoy Tor titles and authors do the same.
  3. Our partner in this endeavor with the biggest sway is OverDrive. Working with them, whether your library uses OverDrive or not, may be our best shot at convincing Tor to change their mind. Let’s follow their lead here. Again, from the Digital Reader article, here is the letter OverDrive shared with libraries:

Dear ****
On behalf of **********, your account manager, I am writing to let you know we received notice from Tor Books, a division of Macmillan Publishers, regarding a change in policy for eBook lending availability for libraries.  Tor Books titles will now be delayed for library availability for four months from their retail release date, beginning with the July 2018 releases.  As your library has placed pre-orders for titles affected by this change, we are cancelling orders for these titles.  You can see affected titles in your “Recalled Content” report in Marketplace.  We have attached Macmillan’s notice of this policy change.
OverDrive is dismayed and disappointed in Macmillan’s decision.  We take issue with Macmillan’s conclusion that library availability has an adverse impact on retail sales and Macmillan has not shared the data or analysis that supports this statement.
We are in ongoing and active dialogue with Macmillan to provide data and information to advocate a change of this policy.   Macmillan plans to participate in the Panorama Project, which is undertaking a series of pilot programs and research projects to provide objective evidence of the impact of library catalogs and lending as it relates to book discovery, author brand, and retail sales.
We encourage you to contact Macmillan directly to provide your feedback at elending.feedback@macmillan.com.
Thank you,
Finally, I also have some personal issues with all of this that I need to work through because the Speculative Fiction world is made up of my people I am feeling hurt by those that usually have my back. This is making the entire issue that much harder for me.

For example, when Tor.com, who I love and support in general does things like Tweet this:

And all I want to do is Tweet back:

“I know a great book, but you’ll have to wait 4 months for my suggestion.”

But I am not a troll and that will do no good to help our overall cause.

It took me a few days to sort through my feelings and gather information to make this a useful post. Please heed my advice and don’t just be reactionary and unilaterally boycott Tor. Instead use the tips I have shared and together we can make a difference.