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

Friday, November 30, 2018

What I'm Reading: More Deadly Than Male

In the December 1 issue of Booklist I have a review of an all female anthology that is releasing in February which also happens to be Women in Horror month. 

As always, I am posting the draft review here on the blog with more content.

More Deadly Than the Male: Masterpieces from the Queens of Horror.

Davis, Graeme (editor).
Feb. 2019. 496p. Pegasus, $25.95 (9781643130118)
First published December 1, 2018 (Booklist).

While Mary Shelley and Ann Radcliffe are well known names from the earliest days of horror, they are very few other female horror authors the average reader could name from that era; and yet, there were many women writing thoughtful, psychologically intense horror in the 19th Century, but like many of their gender, their work was lost to history, that is until now. Davis [Colonial Horrors] turns his editorial eye on their work, presenting 26 stories, in chronological order, from 1830 through 1908, framing the the collection with an introduction contemplating the place of female writers in the genre’s history and providing information about each author, her life, both personal and in publishing, and why he chose that particular story. The result is a book that is a slice of women’s history, an example of the evolution of an entire genre, and an anthology of entertaining, creepy reads all wrapped up in a single volume. Obvious names in the collection will attract attention, some who are familiar to genre readers and others, like Louisa May Alcott who may surprise, but it is in the authors you have most likely never heard of, such as Eliza Lynn Linton or Mary E. Wilkins-Freeman, and their compelling and creepy tales that still create a sense of unease and dread, those are where this volume will captivate readers now, and for years to come. While you should suggest this collection to those who enjoy recent female driven horror like Her Body and Other Parties by Machado or the authors included in Fright into Flight edited by Fallon, fans of psychological suspense by bestselling authors like Gillian Flynn will find much to like here too.

YA Statement: Young readers will be drawn to this collection by seeing the “literary”  authors they have to read in school positioned in a whole new, scary light.
Further Appeal:  The key to the appeal of this book lies in this statement I made above, "The result is a book that is a slice of women’s history, an example of the evolution of an entire genre, and an anthology of entertaining, creepy reads all wrapped up in a single volume."

This collection will draw attention because of the topic and the surprise of finding someone like Alcott in a horror collection. Some may only read the titles by authors they know. But for those who delve more deeply, I think they will be surprised by how much the current popularity of darker tales by women owes to those who came before.

I would say that this collection would be stronger if a woman was also associated with the compilation of it, however.

Three Words That Describe This Book: enlightening, creepy, psychologically intense

Readalikes: I give three above but seriously, you can suggest this collection to anyone who enjoys domestic suspense as it is written by women today. Goodness know we have a lot of those titles. I am only half kidding here. This is very easy to hand sell to people who like the "girl" books but are tiring of them a bit. Offer them the chance read the originators of intense, psychological suspense and horror. Many will take you up on the offer.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Library Journal 's New and Improved Best List Featuring Help From Me!

I am proud to showcase the Best Books of 2018 via Library Journal. 

From the front page:
This year, LJ eschews our traditional top ten list of best books in favor of a larger and more diverse mix across 20 categories—with 188 titles in total. 
We cast a broad net and coalesced small committees for each category, each headed by an LJ Reviews editor and composed of columnists, reviewers, additional LJ editors, and/or industry experts, culminating in a compelling collection of titles that spotlight the full spectrum of the thousands of books that were published this year.
I was one of those industry experts as I helped editor Kiera Parrott with the Horror list. But I am not proud to showcase this list because they asked for my input. No, I am proud of LJ because they were willing to evolve.

Let me back up a bit.

For the last few years, I have been vocal both publicly, here on the blog, and privately, with notes to those who work for LJ, that their best list was limited. Most of my criticism was about horror not having it's own section. In many publications that have a broad reach [PW, NY Times, etc] I can understand not singling horror out. But Library Journal represents public library readers and horror circulates well in public libraries. It deserved its own category.

I reminded them that they have me write a column 2x a year on horror and that it is very popular [one of the titles on this year's horror best list was from one of those columns by the way]. I kept on them every year. I wasn't mean about it, but I was persistent.

Last year I included LJ in my StokerCon planning as I invited SF/F/H columnist Kristi Chadwick to help me with Librarians' Day. And my persistence paid off as LJ asked me to write their first every feature "Horror Preview" article [July 1 issue]. Now, horror gets its own section.

And that is why I am proud. I am proud of LJ for being willing to evolve. Yes the changes are more than just adding a horror section, but it is all a piece of the bigger puzzle.

LJ is a publication that is willing to take a hard look at itself, assess its strengths and weaknesses, and try to do better. It is hard to completely change the way you've done something for years, especially when LJ's Top 10 format was so entrenched in the best books landscape for so long. How many other major media outlets would be willing to break the mold and rebuild such an important and well respected feature? I can tell you, not many.

They also knew they couldn't do it alone. Editors reached out to people who know the genres to get their opinions and ask them what they thought-- and they listened to us. Again, how many other major media outlet would relinquish full control of the best books process to outsiders.

I am proud of everyone at LJ for their hard work on this list and for their willingness to be more inclusive, even though it meant a lot more work. Now library workers have 188 titles that they can confidently add to their collections with the knowledge that they are building a collection that fully represents the best of everything out there.

Well done LJ.

Now check out all the lists, but especially the horror titles. I reviewed 3 for Booklist, 1 on my own,  and 1 in my October 1st LJ best horror debuts column. I will also have 4 of the 6 titles on my own personal horror top 10 for the year coming soon.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Resource Alert: 35 Books Librarians Have Recently Read via BuzzFeed

I wanted to share this list of titles library workers shared with BuzzFeed News. 
I love two things about this list:

  1. It gathers recommendations from all over the country so the list is extremely broad. More broad than any other list I have ever seen. Seriously, I am not exaggerating. The breadth is refreshing. The titles are literally anything library workers were reading and enjoying when asked. This would make an amazing display or list to gather for your website. It would even be fun to build a Goodreads shelf for your patrons to browse this virtually. You should always aim for having the most inclusive and broad displays as possible, and this list does the work for you on that front. Also, the title, "35 Books Librarians Have Recently Read" will draw readers to it like flies. Patrons love to know what others are reading and enjoying, and the library workers' opinions they tend to trust most of all.
  2. Reading this list is like being part of a national bookish conversation. With comments from library workers from all over the country on why they enjoyed the book, reading the full list feels like being in a room with 35 colleagues I wouldn't have the chance to chat with otherwise, although I did know one of them [Hi, Nanette!]. It was very nourishing to my soul to spend a few minutes reading the comments by the library workers. We are all so busy that we don't often take the time to book talk to each other. Well, this list does that.
Those are the two things I love about the list, but here is also a tip on how you can use this list at your library with your staff-- use it as a model to do with your staff. 

Send out an email to all staff-- every single person on the payroll [with permission from your supervisor first please] and ask them to share a book they have enjoyed recently. Just ask for the title and a sentence as to why they like it. Remind people you do not want the summary. If you do this, you get to experience Numbers 1 and 2 again, from a local perspective.

But don't just do it once. I would highly suggest doing this a few times a year. Ask staff what books they are enjoying in their free time regularly. Not only will it give you plenty of info to stock displays, post recs on line, etc..., it will also create more buy in for RA Service across the entire organization. The more staff who help suggest books to patrons, the more broad and inclusive our suggestions are.

Also, I have found that staff who don't work with the readers of what they like to read on their own time, find it very satisfying to get to suggest books to them indirectly. They have just never been asked. That's up to you. Ask staff to tell you what books they have recently enjoyed. You will be surprised by how many responses you get, and what those responses are.

So whether you look at the list to make a display, get your staff more involved in helping patrons, or simply to nourish your own soul, just read it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

2 Best Lists With Their Own Unique Twists and How We Can Use Them To Improve Our Own RA Service

Today I want to highlight two just released best lists. Both are among my favorites of the year because they clearly know that everyone does year end best lists and so, they go out of their way to make their list worth your time. And, they both provide a teaching moment for me because you can learn how to be better at your RA service to your patrons by analyzing what these lists are doing.

Also they both make backlist access a priority, which readers of this blog know I feel strongly about. Just in case you have missed the 500 other times I have mentioned it, just because a book was great 2, 3, 4, 5 years ago, doesn't make it any less "best" now that a new crop of books have "come of age." Seriously, best is best. Patrons just want to know that someone thought this books was a great read at some time. All your 2018 "best books" are checked out? No problem. These resources can help you find recent year's "best books" with one click.

The first best list I want to recommend today is from Chicago Public Library and their annual Best of the Best Books 2018. I want every library to take note of this list, because we all [libraries big and small] can learn a lot from what CPL does with their annual list.

First, they make it all about Chicago. They make it about the staff and the patrons more than the books. From the site:
Chicago Public Library recommends the Best of the Best, our selections of the very best books published in 2018. Every year, our librarians evaluate the year’s new books and select the very best for Chicagoans—making these the only booklists for Chicago, by Chicago. Happy reading!
I love the uber local focus on the list. It makes the list about the community and highlights the expertise of the staff who serve them. They also choose titles that may not have made national best lists, but are well written titles with high interest for Chicago area readers. Any library, no matter their size can do this. Make a list of your area's best books. For those with really small staffs, you can do this by simply making a list of the favorite books of your staff from the year and combine it with highest circulating titles in each genre. And then like CPL, you can have the only booklist for your community, by your community. The library is perfectly suited to provide this in every town across America and your patrons will LOVE the personalized service.

Second, while it may seem like a huge undertaking for any library to make such a wide sweeping year end list, CPL simplifies the process by making best lists all year long. Every single month, they have staff picks lists. This narrows down the list of books they need to choose from greatly. By doing the work of identifying "best" titles throughout the year, you eliminate the rush to make the entire year end lists all at once. It is also a way to get as many voices into the selection process as possible because you are asking for input all year long and not just choosing a year end list committee.

Many of you might reflexively say, well they have dozens of staff members to work on this; my little library can't do that. Well, maybe not on this large a scale, but if you make a resolution to start best of the month lists in January 2019, you can have a smaller list of books to choose from when go to make your 2019 year end best list too. It's not that hard if you start in January. Identify top titles both ones your staff has enjoyed and are excited about and make a list every month. Posting them on your website or in your catalog gives patrons a "best books" option all year long too.

Third, and I know this because I know people behind the scenes, not only do the staff at CPL go out of their way to make sure the list of "best of the best" titles are inclusive and diverse but they also make sure genre fiction is well represented. This is a public library list. Public library patrons reads plenty of genre titles. Your NYT or similar "best" lists tend to put a premium on literary titles. Not so at the public library. We need to provide the best titles for every reader, representing all walks of life, all points of view, and all ages.

And fourth, as I mentioned above, they make previous year's list available on the main page with this year's list. You get to a page with past lists for Adults, Teens, or Kids with one click.

I hope the CPL Best of the Best Books list inspires you to try to do a similar, uber local list for your community.

But, if you just don't have time to put something together before the end of the year, may I recommend another unique best list-- NPR's Best Books Concierge.

The NPR Book Concierge turns the process of finding a "best" option into an app with a gamified feel. Users can play along and pick a book that fits their reading tastes with natural language like an eye opening read, about identity and culture that is also rather short [4 choices] or a book club book with a love story and seriously great writing [5 choices].

What makes the NPR Book Concierge so unique is the fact that the user builds their own best list from the database of available options. At the library we need to learn from this. Putting the reader first should alway be our goal. Now, we all do not have IT staff who can build this app for us, but there are a few things we can take away from this interactive list.

  1. Remember to think more like a reader and less like a library worker when helping patrons find their next good read. Don't use jargon when talking to patrons. Ask natural language questions when you help people.
  2. Ask for feedback more often. Don't underestimate how much data NPR is collecting with this app. What filters are most popular? What types of books are people most looking for? They will use all the clicks to help identify what books they will cover in 2019. You can also ask for feedback more often. One of the easiest ways is to make your displays more interactive, a topic I talk about a lot here on RA for All. But in general, we need to make our RA service more interactive, all of the time. Click here for my interactive RA tag.
  3. If you can't beat them, join them. Provide a link to the NPR Book Concierge on your website and let your patrons explore. Many of them will credit you with helping them find a great read and all you did was point them to a fun and interactive resource. But isn't that at the heart of what we do-- help connect people with resources? This is not cheating, even though I know some of you are thinking it is. Using resources for RA service is as vital as it is for a reference question. Whether we match them with the book ourselves or we direct them to a resource which connects them with the book-- both are us helping them find their next great read. Please don't forget this. We don't have to be the one to hand the person a book that we pulled out of our own brain to be successful. In fact, that is a recipe for failure because we can only keep so many books in our own heads. Instead, be a library worker and use resources all the time. 

Final note, the NPR Book Concierge displays the links all of their back list options [back to 2007] clearly in the top left corner of the main page.

I hope by highlighting these best lists I have helped you to rethink how you present and suggest books to your patrons, both now at the year's end, but also throughout the year too.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Best Audio and Resource Reminder

Get your own PDF

Here is a best list that is format based and therefore, very useful to you as you help readers, The AudioFile Magazine Best of 2018 list.

This list is free but you have to sign up for the newsletter to get it. I already get the newsletter, so I had it delivered to my inbox, but I can tell you, the newsletter is an excellent resource in general. You can go here and download the PDF immediately.

This specific best of list is even better than most best lists for a few reasons.

  • The list is broken into useful categories
    • Fiction
    • Nonfiction & Culture
    • Memoir
    • Biography & History
    • Mystery & Suspense
    • Sci-Fi, Fantasy & Horror
    • Children & Family Listening• Young Adult
    • Romance
  • You can easily go to the website and search for the reviews of their "best" titles, reviews which include a snippet of the audio. This is key because it is a professional review of the audio specifically. You can get a great sense of the appeal of the audio and play a sample for your patrons. Here is the entry for Circe one of their top fiction titles.
  • Also on the general website you can look up any specific narrator for more books narrated by that person. It is the only resource that has an entire database of reviews and info based on the narrators in general without linking them to a specific book performance. 
Basically, this best list is a great way to remind you of all the wonderful, audio and narrator specific information you have at your finger tips on the AudioFile site all year long. I get dozens of questions a year about how to help audio readers and I always have the same two suggestions-- AudioFile Magazine for professional reviews and Audible for reader reviews [link goes to Circe review for comparative purposes].

I am not sure why people forget about AudioFile magazine when they are trying to help readers with audio specific questions, but they do, all of the time. Hopefully, this best list will remind you to visit the site more frequently.

This best list also makes for a wonderful display. Put the books and audiobooks out together. Even better, if you can make it an online list that links to the downloadable audio.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Thankful For All of Us And Everything We Do

Today is the last day I am posting this week so that I can spend time with my family. But before I go, I wanted to take a moment to let you know how thankful I am for all of you.

Seriously, my readers are great. You not only read this blog, you give the things I talk about here a try, and let me know how it works out. Not a week goes by that I do not receive an email or a DM from a reader who I helped. Sometimes it's advice to writers on who to work with their local libraries, or it's a Call to Action you took on, or a project I inspired you to give a try. Sometimes it's as simple as an outside the box book suggestion.

But, while I appreciate that I help you, why I am thankful for all of you is because you use what I suggest to improve the library experience for your leisure readers. You are out there showing patrons exactly how helpful the library can be to fulfill their wants [not just their needs], how they can be entertained easily, and all for no charge beyond their taxes. You have all created legions of library supporters who are so thankful for us.

I am supplying the training and ideas but all of you are spreading the message of how to help leisure readers. For this, your work, your willingness to try new things, and your commitment to inclusive collections, suggestions, and displays, all of this is what I am most thankful for.

Keep up the good work. All of you. Every little thing you do to improve your patrons' experience in their libraries is worth celebrating.

I hope during this Thanksgiving holiday [here in America] you get to enjoy some time to relax, reflect, and hopefully, read. [I plan to read Washington Black by Esi Edugyan for fun and the forthcoming The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson [3/19] for review in Booklist.]

Back on Monday 11/26, as we begin the push to the end of the year.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Nonfiction November: A Fun Challenge and a Fantastic Resource All Year Long

You probably noticed other bookish people posting about Nonfiction November recently. Not only is it a fun reading challenge with weekly prompts, it is also great resource, and one you don't have to only use in November.

First let me post all of the info about the month and give you the links, then we can discuss how to use them.

Here is a great explanation on the purpose and prompts for the month from the adult services perspective via What's Nonfiction? [also a great resource for NF RA in general]:
Nonfiction November is taking place again this year! What began as a challenge to read nonfiction for a whole month has become a month-long celebration of reading, writing about and discussing nonfiction, with a different themed discussion prompt to take part in every week. 
It’s such a fun way to expand your nonfiction horizons, and it’s definitely the perfect time to challenge yourself and tackle some nonfiction titles on your reading list.I can’t tell you how excited I am to be one of the hosts this year, alongside Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness), Sarah (Sarah’s Book Shelves), Julie (JulzReads), and Katie (Doing Dewey). Each Monday, a link-up for that week’s topic will be posted at the host’s blog, which you can link your posts back to throughout the week. There’s also going to be a challenge with more prompts running on Instagram. 
Here’s the full schedule and topics for this year: 
Week 1: (Oct. 29 to Nov. 2) – Your Year in Nonfiction (Kim @ Sophisticated Dorkiness): Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November? 
Week 2: (Nov. 5 to 9) – Fiction / Nonfiction Book Pairing (Sarah’s Book Shelves): This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story. 
Week 3: (Nov. 12 to 16) – Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert (Julie @ JulzReads): Three ways to join in this week! You can either share three or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert). 
Week 4: (Nov. 19 to 23) – Reads Like Fiction (Rennie @ What’s Nonfiction): Nonfiction books often get praised for how they stack up to fiction. Does it matter to you whether nonfiction reads like a novel? If it does, what gives it that fiction-like feeling? Does it depend on the topic, the writing, the use of certain literary elements and techniques? What are your favorite nonfiction recommendations that read like fiction? And if your nonfiction picks could never be mistaken for novels, what do you love about the differences? 
Week 5: (Nov. 26 to 30) – New to My TBR (Katie @ Doing Dewey): It’s been a month full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book! 
Instagram Challenge: This year we’ll also be bringing back an Instagram photo challenge for Nonfiction November, co-hosted by Kim (@kimthedork) and Leann (@Shelf_Aware_). We’re still working out the prompts, and will announce them on Instagram closer to the kickoff. If you’re interested in participating in Nonfiction November but don’t have a blog, feel free to join us on Instagram and Litsy using the hashtag #NonficNov.
You can follow this link to see What's Nonfiction? and its partners' posts for each week.

So that's what Nonfiction November is and I know your next question to me, "But Becky the month is almost over why are you telling us now?" Well, one, I was too busy to post it sooner. And, two, you don't have to participate to use this month to your RA Service advantage.

The five themes are all excellent display ideas. You can do them in the building, anytime of year, or online. I especially love the idea of doing a TBR type display. This idea is brilliant because you could do it as a staff display or even ask patrons to contribute. The best part is, these are all books you want to read and I know we all have way more on our TBR lists than we have read [or will ever read].

A "Books We Want to Read" display can include anything: any genre, any format, any age level, ANYTHING. And they can all be backlist titles, of which we have tons. Patrons will love to see the books we are excited about, especially older ones that they would never know about otherwise. Just the fact that someone wants to read it, can be enough to encourage someone to take it home and give it a try.

Making this display is also therapeutic and can help you battle your own TBR anxiety. [I have a longer post about how to handle TBR anxiety here.] Think about it, putting a bunch of the titles you want to read, but know that realistically you will probably never get to them, on display is a way to get those titles in the hands of others. And getting them in the hands of others who you know will read them lowers TBR anxiety. Trust me, I know, I have been doing it for years. Heck, I did it last week.

Finally, Nonfiction November is a great reminder that we need to display nonfiction more. People love it to read for fun, myself included. We can mix fiction and nonfiction, or just have more fun, small nonfiction displays, more often. For more prompts and ideas on nonfiction displays, I highly suggest using Book Riot's Nonfiction section where they post multiple lists a day, on a variety of topics and lengths from 50 books, to 5, for all sized displays.

Remember to let the resources work for you. You don't need the ideas for all the displays or nonfiction reading suggestions, you just need to know where to look for them.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Library Reads: Best of the Best 2018 and Another Countdown Coming Soon

Well done library land. This is a very good and inclusive list of titles. The range is also appropriately wide in genre to represent the full range of reading tastes we see in the public library.

But this is not the only chance library workers have to chime in on their favorite reads of 2018. There is also a great annual countdown that happens on Twitter too--

This list is not affiliated with Library Reads, but it is has a similar mission, letting the world know what books library workers loved.  It is another way we can showcase our power 

Like last year, I will participate but limit myself to my top 10 horror titles from 2018. Which reminds me, I better get on making that list.

When it is over, someone will compile all the titles that were mentioned with the hashtag, so even if you are the only one who loved a specific book, it will make the final list.

So start getting your personal Top Ten ready. And in the meantime, here is the Library Reads 2018 Favorite of Favorites-- all good choices for most readers.

Favorite of Favorites 2018

Educated: A Memoir

by Tara Westover

Published: 2/20/2018
by Random House
ISBN: 9780399590504
“In her memoir, Westover recounts her childhood growing up in a strict Mormon family, ruled by an erratic father, and living off the grid in Idaho. Westover compellingly sketches her years growing up, her relationships with siblings, encounters in the town nearby, and the events that eventually drove her to leave and pursue formal education. For fans of Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle.”
Andrea Gough, Seattle Public Library, Seattle, WA

An American Marriage

by Tayari Jones

Published: 2/6/2018 by Algonquin Books
ISBN: 9781616201340
“Celestial and Roy are newly married professionals leaning in to a bright future when Roy is convicted of a crime he did not commit. This is not a heroes vs. villains tale with a tidy resolution. It is a complicated, messy, moving, and thought-provoking story about love, family, and the wide-reaching effects of incarceration. Book clubs get ready!”
Jennifer Alexander, St. Louis County Library, St. Louis, MO


by Madeline Miller

Published:4/10/2018 by Little, Brown and Company
ISBN: 9780316556347
Circe follows the banished witch daughter of the Titans as she practices her powers for an inevitable conflict with one of Olympus’s most vindictive gods. I found myself pondering motherhood, mortality, and feminism. For readers of historical and mythological drama or anyone who loves a strong female lead.”
McKelle George, Salt Lake City Public Library, Salt Lake, UT

The Death of Mrs. Westaway

by Ruth Ware

Published: 5/29/2018 by Gallery/Scout Press
ISBN: 9781501156212
“Ware’s best book by far. I finally stopped trying to puzzle it out and just sat back to enjoy the ride.”
Susanne Guide, Union County Public Library, Liberty, IN

The Great Alone: A Novel

by Kristin Hannah

Published: 2/6/2018 by St. Martin’s Press
ISBN: 9780312577230
“Leni and her troubled family embark on a new way of life in Alaska’s wilderness in 1974 – hoping this is finally the solution for her troubled, POW father. In Alaska, Leni and her family are tested and when change comes to their small community her father’s anger threatens to explode and divide the town. This is a beautifully written novel, descriptive and engaging with well-developed characters and a strong sense of place.”
Alissa Williams, Morton Public Library, Morton, IL

The Immortalists

by Chloe Benjamin

Published: 1/9/2018 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons
ISBN: 9780735213180
“A thought-provoking, sweeping family saga set in New York City’s Lower East Side, 1969. Four siblings sneak out to visit a psychic who reveals to each, separately, the exact date of his or her death. The book goes on to recount five decades of experience shaped by the siblings’ attempts to control fate.”
Kelly Currie, Delphi Public Library, Delphi, IN

The Kiss Quotient

by Helen Hoang

Published: 6/5/2018 by Berkley/Jove
ISBN: 9780451490803
“A wonderfully sweet and erotic romance featuring an autistic heroine who hires a hot male escort to teach her how to enjoy sex, but learns so much more.”
Elizabeth Gabriel, Milwaukee Public Library, Milwaukee, WI

There, There

by Tommy Orange

Published: 6/5/2018 by Knopf
ISBN: 9780525520375
“A large cast of interwoven characters depicts the experience of Native Americans living in urban settings. Perfect for readers of character-driven fiction with a strong sense of place.”
Abby Johnson, New Albany-Floyd County Public Library, New Albany, IN

The Wedding Date

by Jasmine Guillory

Published: 1/30/2018 by Berkley/Jove
ISBN: 9780399587665
“Drew is in San Francisco for his ex-girlfriend’s wedding. When he finds himself stuck in an elevator with Alexa, they hatch a plan to go to the wedding together, pretending to be a couple. Told in alternating points of view, this is a delightful multicultural romance.”
Elizabeth Gabriel, Milwaukee Public Library, Milwaukee, WI 

The Woman in the Window: A Novel

by A.J. Finn

Published: 1/2/2018 by William Morrow
ISBN: 9780062678416
“A menacing psychological thriller that starts out like Rear Window and then veers off into unexpected places. An agoraphobic recluse languishes in her New York City home, drinking wine and spying on her neighbors. One day she witnesses a crime that threatens to expose her secrets.”
Joseph Jones, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Cuyahoga, OH

Thursday, November 15, 2018

National Book Awards and My Using Awards Lists as a RA Tool Reminder

Last night the National Book Awards were announced. Here is the link to see all of the winners, watch the awards presentation, and more.

Click here to explore the winners and nominees
As regular readers know, I love book awards because they are a great RA and Collection Development Tool. But not just the winners, the long lists too.

I talk abut using awards lists as a RA Tool frequently, which you can see here. And here is the link to the very first time I write about it.

But specifically, the National Book Foundation should be a resource to you for more than just the award winners. I wrote about  the National Book Foundation's entire website as an excellent resource a few weeks ago here. Here is an example from that post: they have every year very clearly archived and searchable. You can see every nominee, even the long lists. And, they have provided clips of the specific speeches by the winners at the bottom of the page. Click here for 2017 to see what I mean.

With no more Nobel Prize, The National Book Award is the first big prize of the year. Congrats to all the winners.

Also, if you have some time I would highly suggest clicking here so you can watch the entire awards banquet including Isabel Allende's speech as she received the Distinguished Contribution to American Letters Award. Also, this link leads to a video of a mass reading from the day before by all 25 finalists. I would even send that video out to your patrons on social media. Especially target your Teens with the readings by the YA nominees. Seeing authors read from their works is a privilege that many don't get to experience in person, but the National Book Foundation brings this marquee event to everyone, anywhere through this video.

I hope this post helps you to help a patron today or in the future. I have gotten some new readers recently and I think this post is a good time to remind you all-- new and old followers-- that here on the blog, I don't try to be the first to alert you to news. Rather I take what is going on in the book world and give you the tools to use it to help readers through the public library. Everyone has the NBA winners on their websites today, but I am here to show you how to make those awards, the buzz, and the resources it creates work for you and, most importantly, you readers.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

New Issue of Booklist's Corner Shelf Featuring Inclusive Suggestion Resources

The newest issue of Booklist's RA and Collection Development newsletter- Corner Shelf- is out and it  has two articles I would like to point out. Although you can and should read the entire issue here.

Back to the two articles; both are on the topic of making sure that you offer diverse suggestions-- meaning not only books by white dudes.

The first is an ongoing series that recently began on Booklist Reader called Five More to Go. You can use this link to access everything in the series at any time.

Here is the premise:
Introducing our newest feature, in which we give Booklist critics the opportunity to shout about a recently published book they adored. They’ll tell us why we should read it, then provide five read-alikes for the title.
These lists have been about popular "Own Voices" titles and the readalikes are also diverse. There are already three posts up with more planned. Bookmark this link to pull up the entire series and to find easy resources for inclusive displays and suggestions.

But those posts only cover a current hot title and then present 5 readalikes. A question I get often is where to find more resources to identify inclusive titles in general. Well, thankfully MA librarians Anna Mickelsen and Alene Moroni have been working on this exact question and have compiled a working document of diverse titles which they presented at the New England Library Association Conference. 

Susan Maguire, the editor of Corner Shelf, interviewed Anna and Alene in the issue, in a piece entitled "Diversify Your RA." This interview includes more links and tips from Anna and Alene and you can click through to read the entire piece, but I pulled out this response by Anna because it needs to be repeated as many times as possible:
Anna: The overall message that we want attendees to take away is that diverse books are for everyone. We talk about intersectionality and not making assumptions about patrons. We review common excuses we’ve heard for not purchasing inclusively, then dispatch them ruthlessly. For example: “We don’t have [x people] in our community” and “Those books don’t circulate.” We provide lots of opportunities for our audience to comment and ask questions, and we work to promote a cooperative session where we all have a chance to learn. 
The purpose of the presentation was to make it difficult for other white library workers to pretend that inclusive and representative books—in a variety of genres—are hard to find. The presentation featured a dazzling array of book covers, and our giveaways made the books tangible. The purpose of the list was to give attendees, as well as those who couldn’t be present, something to take away and to make it easier for librarians to locate and purchase recently released and forthcoming titles. We also hope it will help straight, cis, white, able-bodied library workers broaden their awareness of diverse authors.
This is a message-- that diverse books are NOT hard to find and ARE for EVERY reader- is one that I also work hard to spread here on the blog and in my appearances across the country.  Alene and Anna do not exaggerate when they say elsewhere in their interview that many library workers make excuses as to why they aren't suggesting, buying, or displaying diverse titles-- I have unfortunately seen it in person and receive emails all of the time from people who are asking me for help to get this message heard at their places of work.

Please listen and help us spread this important message. Start by reading Susan's interview with Anna and Alene right now. And then start diversifying your RA immediately.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Call to Action: Booktalking Prompts Made Easy

Today's Call to Action is in direct response to the concerns, excuses, and complaints I get when I work with libraries as we try to get staff book talking more.

The main problem is that in the midst of a busy work day, people get flustered about what to talk about and often don't incorporate book talking into their interactions with patrons at the service desk.

But here is the thing, it is important to  be having impromptu conversations about items in our collections with patrons every chance we get, even if we aren't specifically suggesting them for that reader. So here is the world's easiest hack to make you and every one of your staff members into awesome book talkers--

Every time you start a shift at a service desk, bring an item from the collection [any collection, it doesn't have to be from the one you work at] and put it on display at the desk right next to or in front of you. Every staff member should have a post it or bookmark for this that reads "Becky [insert name of person] Is Excited About..."

Here are the two key things here:

  1. You bring an item with you ever single time you work with the public and put it out. This gives you a prop to remind you to chat about something in the collection
  2. It doesn't have to even be something you have read or watched- just something you are "excited about." Maybe you heard about it, someone else read it, you want to watch it soon, etc...
People often tell me that they run out of things they have personally read or watched. This solves that problem. Also bringing the item and putting it out creates an interactive display. You are showing patrons that you have an item ready and waiting that you would love to share with them. You can put up signs for them to ask you what you are reading all you want, but it is when we show them that we want to share items that they start to realize they can bother us about fun things. They might even start the conversation themselves.

Then when that item goes, grab another. In fact, considering bringing a few items for every shift. Just replace your "Becky [insert your name here] is Excited About..." prompt and get back to work.

When we bring something we are "Excited About" with us to our desk shifts, we are removing the excuses of not remembering to book talk, not having anything to talk about, or not currently reading or watching something-- excuses I often hear when people cannot get their staff to have more conversations about their collections with patrons.

And it also invites our patrons to interact with us. We can share what we are excited about and then ask them to share what they are excited about too.

RA Service is about way more than being asked a specific question and then answering it. RA Service is about having conversations about our collections with patrons. Sharing great leisure reading and watching options in general and asking them to share theirs too. When we create conversations around our collections, we are encouraging patrons to look for more items. One the conversations happen, they will start to ask us for help finding items. Trust me, I have seen it happen, in my library and in others all over the country.

Plus it is a really fun way to have an ever changing small display that can fit anywhere.

For past Call to Action posts, click here.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Veterans Day Observed Reading Lists

Whether or not your library is closed today, everyone should have Veterans Day reading lists accessible to patrons and staff for people looking for reading suggestions. Posted online on websites, social media, in the building, etc...

Here are 2 examples from libraries that you can use in case you do not have a list ready. These lists can also make for a quick and easy display. By the way, just because Veterans Day was yesterday and today [observed] doesn't mean your displays need to only be up today. You can have them up all week. Many people won't even realize that they want a Veterans Day themed read until after the day passes:
Also, don't forget that Veterans Day started as Armistice Day to honor the first anniversary of the end of WWI in 1919. That means we are currently celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the end of WWI, so WWI books are also a great option.  One of my favorites is  The Great War: July 1, 1916: the First Day of the Battle of the Somme by Joe Sacco. It is a wordless graphic novel and an immersive reading experience. I have a review with more details here.

These are all just ideas and suggestions. There are so many ways you can go with Veterans Day themed reads. And the good news, there will always be an option available on the shelf of a title that could fit the broad theme of Veterans Day reads from all across the library-- every reading level, every format, and from many diverse voices.

Even if all you do is put a few books up at whatever service desk you are working at, your patrons will appreciate it.

Speaking of, that last statement is a teaser for tomorrow's Call to Action post. But you will have to wait for that until tomorrow.

Friday, November 9, 2018

RA for All Roadshow Visits Antioch [IL] Public Library District

Today I am traveling 60 miles north of Chicago to participate in Antioch Public Library District's in-service day.

I will be providing the keynote for all staff in the morning:
9-10:30 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.
Then the staff will have time to have their department meetings until lunch. I will be visiting those meetings and providing specific guidance as needed or requested. Side note- I love the idea of staff meetings so early in the day. Usually they are tacked on at the end. As a former manager, I would have loved to have the staff meeting earlier, when energy was still high. 

Then after lunch there will be break out sessions. I am doing a long session where basically, the staff can ask me anything. Here is the gist but then I have more details below, because today's AMA is going to be different:

2-4:30 pm: Ask Becky Anything: Now is your chance to ask RA expert Becky Spratford anything about how to work with leisure readers. What are your fears, frustrations, and obstacles. Here are some examples of questions that have come up in this session previously: 
  • What is Your Biggest Genre Fear?
  • What’s Your Favorite Resource for Your Least Favorite Genre
  • How many books do you present a patron with?
  • What Are Your Best Time Saving RA Tips?
  • Good Sources For Readalikes For Very New Books
  • What Is The Genre You Wish Was Read More At Your Library? What Are You Doing To Try To Fix This?
  • What Is The Best Way To Train Staff Who Know RA Basics But Lack Confidence? Another question we didn’t get to but was similar and answered here-- When You Become The “Expert” How Do You Empower Others To Try Too?
  • What Do You Do When The Patron Has No Clue What They Want To Read Even After 10 Leading Questions? And How To Handle The “I Like Everything” Patron? Or The Patron Who Wants a “Good Story” But Refuses To Elaborate?
  • How Do You Deal With Impatience and Disappointment When Books Are Not Immediately Available?
Basically, the library administration wants staff to drive the specific training I will provide for those who do the most RA Service at the library. I will do begin with more basic questions and answers, but I also agreed to provide shorter versions of some of my most popular programs at a moment's notice.

To be honest, this was my idea. I realize that not all presenters are willing to give impromptu, unprepared programs, but I thrive on it. Being able to custom fit my training to the staff in front of me at the moment is my ultimate goal for everything I do. Yes, it requires me to be flexible and think on my feet, but they are paying me for my expertise, so I need to be able to demonstrate it on command. I love this idea and am happy to be flexible because this 2.5 hr slot can be filled by what the staff actually want and need to know.

Kudos to the administration at this library for empowering their staff to take control of their own training. I can't wait to see how this goes. We will be able to go into depth in the issues and areas where they specifically have needs.

In general I have found that being available for a full Q & A session when I am already somewhere for an entire day is a valuable experience for the staff and, honestly for me as I can learn more details about what is happening on the floor. I am able to work through problems they are having with them but also, encourage them to help each other. If I can get staff working together while I am there, they will be more willing to continue that practice after I leave. And working together is one of my 10 Rules that they will hear in the morning session.

I can't wait to see how everything goes today. Let's do this Antioch.

If you want me to come to your inservice day or library training meeting, contact me. All inquiries before 12/27/18 will be guaranteed 2018 pricing.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Instagram Reading Challenges With Tons of Recs Courtesy of Kelly Jensen

I have a special place in my heart for anyone who takes on any kind of month long challenge because I have subjected myself to one [31 Days of Horror] every October since 2011.

I am also often asked about ways to better engage with patrons on Instagram. I get this question because as this Huffington Post article notes, readers have really changed the way Instagram is used in the last few years as the #Bookstagram community has grown in numbers and influence.

These visually driven posts put book covers front and center, allowing the object itself to help create the buzz. But it is more than a gimmick. The text that accompanies these posts adds detail about the books themselves and the readers who are posting. The posts are inviting. People interact with the posters and ultimately the books themselves. Many #Bookstagrammers have become among the most influential book promoters on social media, especially in the areas of genre titles [romance, horror, SF, and fantasy] and tend to include more own voice titles.

Again, you can read this article from 2017 which talks about the #Bookstagram movement in much more detail.

Today, Kelly Jensen from Book Riot wrote about her experience participating in a Book Riot month long instagram challenge on her Stacked Books blog. She writes about how she physically gathered the content, managing to post every day despite a heavy travel schedule, and included every single #Riotgram she posted in October of 2018, making this both a great how-to piece and a treasure trove of some great recommended reads.

Kelly makes what could be a very daunting project seem manageable. I know many of you are considering how to engage with readers through Instagram more. You can use this post for inspiration. While those of you who are not using Instagram and have no plans to start, her post is still useful because of the wide range of titles she suggests which you can turn around a hand-sell to patrons right this minute. 

With Kelly's permission, here is the opening to her post. Click here to see the entire thing.


One of the fun things I get to do at Book Riot is put together the prompts for the seasonal Instagram challenge, #Riotgrams. I love not only coming up with fun things to encourage people to post, but I also love spending time every day seeing the books people have, that they’re borrowing, and that they’re excited to talk about.
Since I managed to take part all month long — which is the challenge in and of itself, as anyone who does an Instagram challenge can tell you — I wanted to round them all up in a post for readers who’d like some book recommendations.
Have you ever taken part in any kind of month-long (or week long!) Instagram challenge? I discovered one thing that helped change my participation: take photos in advance. I like to do a week or more at a time and save them, so that if I’m traveling or feeling uninspired, I know that I’ve used the time and creative energy I had at another point to make the process easier on my future self. Take that tip back with you next time you think about wanting to do a challenge but feel you wouldn’t keep up/would forget a day/aren’t home. I was gone half of October, and having the images stockpiled kept me going.