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, March 31, 2020

RA for All Flashback: The Hyper-Specific Reader

I have been receiving some questions from library workers who are noticing different behavior from their patrons right now, and one of the questions that keeps popping up is how do we help the extremely specific requests we seem to all be getting in higher numbers, with our limited collection access.

I think one of the reasons we are seeing an uptick in the hyper-specific request is because in this time of uncertainty, a book rec is something people can have more control over. Even my family members are getting way more specific than normal. There are other reasons too, and the whys don't really matter, but dealing with the hyper-specific reader is not always about giving them the exact book they are asking for. Often it is more about listening to them and working together to find a suggestion.

I had remembered answering a question similar to the ones I have been receiving from all of you, so I dug through the archives and found this post from 2017. I have also reposted it in its entirety below.

I also have a few more posts tagged "serving difficult patrons" that you could access.

Finally, if you have an immediate RA Service related question, use the search box for the blog [top left corner]. There are over 3,000 posts here on the blog. I might have already answered your question. I never mind if you contact me, but I have been receiving more inquiries than normal, so I might not be able to get back to you fast enough.


Advice on Dealing With Difficult Patrons-- The Hyper-Specific Reader

I get a lot of questions about serving specific difficult patrons and while I share my advice with the person asking, the advice often does not make it into the blog. It should. It could help more of you. So I am going to fix that now.

Today will be the first of an as needed series where I offer Advice on Dealing with Difficult Patrons. I will tag all of these posts "serving difficult patrons" so that they can all be indexed together.

If you have a specific difficult patron you would like my FREE advice on how to deal with, contact me with the details. The only rule I have is that I must be able to share the generalities of the question and my advice with the rest of the RA world.

Our first difficult patron is the Hyper-Specific Reader. You know the type. They only want to read a very specific book that may or may not exist. Here are a few I have had in the past:

  • Only books that are “about baseball.” He would read fiction, nonfiction, kids, teen, adult, but it had to be “about baseball. It couldn’t just have baseball in it.
  • Only books set during the time of the Tudors
  • Only books with dragons
  • My books cannot have the word cancer in them. Not just books with a cancer storyline. The word can’t be in there. 
  • Only books from the mystery section....with the mystery sticker. Nothing from our regular fiction section which included many books that could be classified as mystery. And, don’t get me started about the fact that authors like Harlan Coben who started as mystery writers and moved into suspense, but in order to keep his books together we kept them all in the mystery section. She’d read his suspense titles but not other similar authors because they were not in the mystery section.
That is just a small sample from my 15 years at the RA Service desk. But last month when I travelled to South Carolina, this question came up again. The very general hyper-specific patron in question here would only read “antebellum stories set in the south that did NOT focus on slave life.” She was not against stories with slaves in them, she just didn’t want that point of view only.

We talked about titles that stretched her specifics and together the room came up with a few more suggestions. But that is not the point. The point is that eventually, if she stays this rigid, not only will we run out of books that exist within those parameters, but also, the staff will come to resent helping her. Both are equally as bad.

When dealing this hyper specific reader I suggested that together, they make a list of the books that she feels perfectly fit her specific tastes. Then she should also make a list of other books she has enjoyed that do not fit this mold [she had read a few outside her narrow box]. Then I suggested that they go on NoveList together and note the appeal factors that are similar across all of the books. Using the database they could let the computer identify some possible titles.

I really want to stress using a resource with this patron-- together at the desk. She was fairly stubborn and didn’t want the library workers “forcing” her to try something she wouldn’t like-- even though she was asking for their help [people, what are you going to do?]. By allowing the database to identify the titles, the pressure could be off the staff. The choices seem less personal based and more official. We can say, “this is a resource identified suggestion based on your previously enjoyed titles."

The key is to get at least 2 titles outside the hyper specific zone to use as a bridge. The staff in this situation had at least 4 or 5 that they knew of off the top of their heads. You need something to move you a bit out of the corner the patron has boxed herself into before you start.

You can do a version of this to fit the person. So with my baseball guy, we found out that one of the reasons he demanded baseball was that he was reading on his overnight security guard shift and he knew that baseball would keep his interest enough to keep him awake. So instead of struggling for more baseball books, we made a larger list of his interests and found him titles that included those [using NoveList and Goodreads]. As we went on helping him, we were able to find authors who he had enjoyed who also write in a series. Once he found a series he liked, he read them all. That kept his interest which kept him awake and happy.

The point is, we dug deeper together. Often the thing making the patrons so hyper specific and demanding has more to do with their insistence on that type of book. All you have to do is find them 1 book outside their comfort zone that they enjoyed and then they will try another, and another, and then even another. Soon they are miles away from that narrow boxed in corner.

I was just pointing this out to one of my former patrons who I still meet with weekly to help her choose her books. She used to only read James Patterson and Mary Higgins Clark. All other books she read grudgingly while she waited. Now she has found so many more authors across many genres that she is considering taking her name off the automatic holds list for Patterson. We both had a laugh about how a few years ago that would have been a “scandalous” thing to say for her.

One last thing though. It doesn’t always work. Sometimes, you cannot get the person to budge even a centimeter. There is a point where it is okay, with your supervisor's approval, to nicely tell the person that you can no longer help them.  I don't think we talk about this enough. If you have done all you can to match this reader with books and they are unwilling to try your suggestions, you are within your rights to simply allow them to browse alone.

For the record, I have done this with a handful of patrons over the years.

Make it clear that you cannot suggest books that haven’t been written, but that there are thousands of options at your fingertips now, books that she should give a chance. Books that you think she will like despite the fact that they are not exactly what she thinks she needs.

If she is still unwilling to read what you have to offer, then I have shown these people how to use NoveList [if you have it] to help themselves.  Again, you need to okay this with your supervisor.

We love to help readers find the perfect read, but we also cannot create books out of thin air. Don’t let unreasonable expectations make you resent your commitment to public service.

So try my advice on how to convince these hyper-specific readers to try something outside of their strict confines, but if you can’t get them to bite, move on to help the next person.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Stock Your RA Pantry: Collect Staff Quarantine Reads

I am back with Stock Your RA Pantry, a series of posts that address the things you can do from home to enhance your RA Services and Resources both now and going forward. And, these are all things any library worker can do, no matter what their official job at the library happens to be.

Today, I want to take advantage the increased organizational communication that is happening these days. In fact, let's stray off topic a bit and address this one remarkable and wonderful outcome of social distancing. From my personal experience with my library and from what I am hearing from colleagues all over the country, library staff as a whole are now communicating with each other better than ever before.

Library departments tend to function like silos. Which each department doing their own thing. When I come in to do full staff training, one of my biggest goals is to use the shared staff love of books and reading to bring everyone together. I call my company RA for All not only because I think anyone can participate in RA Service from any position in the library, but also because it is something that can bring everyone together. Everyone on staff has a deep connections to books. Seriously, because if they didn't they would work somewhere else for more money.

Communication across all staff is a failing at most public libraries in America. Well, it was until now. I am hearing so many happy reports of staff working together like never before. Meeting virtually, using communication tools like Slack [tools some administrators couldn't get people to use previously], and simply working together across departments to see how they can all use their skills to help all of the patrons as one united front-- not as separate silos working in a vacuum.

This is so heartening and I hope after we are "back to normal" that everyone keeps this positive, whole library communication going.

Time will tell, but for now, since staff are communicating I want you, as one of the RA people at your library to start gathering a staff quarantine "reading" list. [Note: I am using "reading" to mean every format you circulate for leisure items.]

Use whatever commutation platform is woking for your library and start a thread where you ask staff to share what they are reading. Why did they pick that book? Why was it a good read at this time. And most importantly, how did they access it? Include things people are watching and listening to also. If you circulate video games, include those too. Everything they are filling their downtime with.

On your websites, make a list of what you staff is using to pass their time, as long as it is something you currently circulate or possibly will. Include things from streaming services too, especially if you circulate onus and they can access these things after you are back open again. Don't separate the list by formats. Include it all in one place. In other words, don't get back to siloing the information by departments. Resist the urge.

This is a wonderful activity to create a sense of everyone being in this together-- both among staff and between staff and the public. I would even try to encourage patrons to interact and add their own quarantine "reads" too. Post on social media or enable the comments on your websites.

Then staff and patrons can try out the recommendations of others and maybe even engage in virtual conversations about the items they are enjoying.

The more voices you include the more inclusive and diverse the lists will be. The more voices you include, the more varied the options. This will be a great way for all staff to share their interests and engage each other in conversation. People who barely interacted before may find they have something in common.

This activity will also allow you to see the preferences of your entire staff in one place. You can see who has interests that you didn't know about. Those people can then be approached to do a bit more. Maybe they can make watch alike or readalike lists. Or what about asking them to prepare a "boot camp" for the rest of the staff on their specialty? You can work with them to figure out how they want to share their knowledge with everyone else. A list, a video, audio file, slide show....whatever that staff member wants to do. You could use this time to gather the different voices from people, get staff for whom it is harder to find work from home activities involved, and create content in varied formats to share with your patrons.

Remember, you staff will be more comfortable sharing their knowledge in different ways-- verbally, written, visually, etc.... and this is great because your patrons will each prefer to take in information in different ways.  We all do. Let's celebrate and honor that and create useful and helpful content in the process.

They are many applications for the future use of the information you gather by asking your staff to share their quarantine leisure options with each other [and patrons], but immediately this activity will bring everyone closer together, and it just might convince them to keep communicating as well when this is all over.

Click here for all of my RA Pantry posts on the Stock Your RA Pantry Archive page.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Stock Your RA Pantry: Make [or Update] Your Old Book Lists and Share Them Here

After a few days of other news, I am back with Stock Your RA Pantry, a series of posts that address the things you can do from home to enhance your RA Services and Resources both now and going forward. And, these are all things any library worker can do, no matter what their official job at the library happens to be.

All of these posts will use the label, "RA pantry," and will be gathered together on an archive page [eventually].

Today I want to address all of those book lists you have made, as a library, and posted on your websites but never updated. We make these lists once and then keep using them, forever. NO judgment here; we all do it. 

Not only are the titles old but I would guess that they are probably overwhelmingly white, male, able bodied, and heteronormative. Take a moment and go look. I can wait.....

Now is the time to go through the lists you already have on your websites and update them. Are the topics still useful? If not, get rid of them. If they are useful, when is the last time you updated them?

Online lists can be one of your best tools to help readers either in person or online. Why? First, they are easy to access anywhere. Second, the topics can be as general or specific as you want; you get to create them however you want. Base the topics on patron requests, your personal interests, local topics, or current trends-- whatever, you decide. But the very best thing about online lists is that ANY STAFF MEMBER CAN CREATE ONE!

For example, you don't have to work in the children's department to come up with a list of fun read-alouds with 4 years olds. Nor do you have to work with adults to create a list of swoon worthy romance. In fact, online lists are one of the best ways to allow all staff to participate in your service to leisure readers. It is also the best way to ensure a variety of voices are included in the book suggestion process. 

Now obviously, not every staff member is trained in book list creation, but that doesn't mean that you, someone who does work in RA regularly, cannot solicit ideas and lists from them and then use NoveList summaries and appeal terms [or another resource] to create quick annotations [as long as you say, annotations from NoveList you can "borrow" their words].

Once you have a stock pile of up to date and inclusive lists, they can be used by any staff member, from any desk to any help reader AND they can be used by readers from home to find their next good read.

Now here are some guidelines to creating the best lists:

  • Assess what you have; identify what can go vs what needs an update. Don't keep lists that are no longer relevant just to have a certain number of lists stockpiled.
  • The lists you are updating should contain titles between 2-5 years old. That is the sweet spot where you know the book is still relevant but your patrons have probably forgotten about it, meaning you look the most awesome for suggesting it. Also, it is more likely to be on the shelf.  Do not include brand new titles. You can use those new and popular titles as the hook though, such as Read a Likes for The Nickel Boys.
  • Every list needs a diversity audit. You should be aiming for all lists to be at least 50-50 men to women and 30% diverse voices. If you cannot make the list at least that EDI compliant, I think it is because you are not trying hard enough, not because it is impossible. But, I am telling you now in no uncertain terms, if you cannot hit this bare minimum requirement, do not post that list! Here is my inclusive suggestions for fans of David Baldacci post to inspire you to work harder. Feel free to use it on your websites. 
  • Farm out the lists you want to update to any and all staff who want to help. Send out an all staff email. Ask people [no matter their job title] if they want to update a list. Maybe offer a quick zoom meeting training on how to use NoveList or other resources to all interested staff in order to show them how to do it. Or just send out the ask and see what you get back; contact those who want help specifically.
  • Ask people for their ideas on list topics. Encourage all staff to contribute a new idea, a new lists. This is our chance to really expand the breadth of our offerings and to identify hidden areas of expertise and interest among our staff. Maybe they don't feel comfortable creating a list, but they have an excellent idea for one.
  • Create a shared Google Sheet for all staff to access with a list of your lists, when each was last updated, and by whom. Keep a different tab for new lists in progress or ideas for lists so people can signup to help. You need a way to know what you have and when it was last updated so you can not undo all the good work you do now by going back to ignoring it again.
This is an excellent opportunity to both stock your RA panty AND get more staff involved in helping all patrons with your brand-- books. Do not underestimate the team building mojo that will blossom from a project like this. Everyone working alone but on a topic they are excited about, as a way to work together, to help everyone-- staff and patrons-- will foster a sense of community and team, a feeling that is much harder to foster when we are all working in the same building but obsessed about our own projects and deadlines.

If you need some ideas on well constructed, updated lists take a look at two libraries in my area who are doing this well: Indian Prairie Public Library [Darien, IL] and Skokie Public Library.

I would like to end today's post with all of you. If your library has online book lists that you want to share, please leave a comment. We can turn this one post into its own stocked RA pantry. 

Click here for all of my RA Pantry posts. While this will be a very regular series during these days of quarantine, I do plan to keep this going as a semi-regular series in the future, much like my Call to Action posts.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

What I'm Reading: My Library Journal April Horror Review Column

Global pandemics are no match for my horror review column; in fact, for many readers these titles will be just what they need in the coming weeks and months. Start filling your pre-order carts now, or face the wrath of horror readers later.

Below you can find a list of the titles that appear in my April 2020 horror review column. I have added my "Three Words" here on the blog. All will also be indexed on the Horror blog soon.

I highly recommend all of these titles for a general library audience. I am very careful about what I pick to review in this column for exactly that reason. Please consider preordering these for your patrons. At the very least, 4x a year I am suggesting 7-8 titles to beef up your horror offerings. 32 titles is not that many in the grand scheme of things.

If you have a limited horror budget, consider ordering the starred titles, I am also very serious about what I give a star for this exact reason.

I would like to also point you to the interview I did with Daniel Kraus, co-author of one of the Starred titles in this column, The Living Dead, about his posthumous collaboration with George A. Romero. He also shared some of his insights about the state of the horror genre and why it is so popular right now. Kraus is especially attuned to the genre as a prolific, best selling author of horror for all age levels.

And now, here are the titles, links to the reviews, and my "three words"

Eight Spring Horror Titles To Scare Your (Winter) Socks Off

Barnes, J.S. Dracula’s Child. Titan. May 2020. 576p. ISBN 9781789093391. pap. $14.95. HORROR
  • Three Words That Describe This Book: atmospheric, fast paced, epistolatory 
Brooks, Max. Devolution: A Firsthand ­Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre. Del Rey: Ballantine. May 2020. 304p. ISBN 9781984826787. $28. HORROR
  • Three Words That Describe This Book: stellar world building, fictional true crime frame, claustrophobic 
Carey, M.R. The Book of Koli. Orbit: Hachette. (Rampart Trilogy, Bk. 1). Apr. 2020. 416p. ISBN 9780356509556. pap. $13.74. HORROR
  • Three Words That Describe This Book: menacing, thought-provoking, dystopia
Ford, Jeffrey. Out of Body. Tor.com. May 2020. 176p. ISBN 9781250250155. pap. $14.99. HORROR
  • Three Words That Describe This Book: librarian main character, captivating, character centered
Pohlig, Molly. The Unsuitable. Holt. Apr. 2020. 288p. ISBN 9781250246288. $26.99. HORROR
  • Three Words That Describe This Book: body horror, psychological, modern take on Gothic ghost story
Romero, George A. & Daniel Kraus. The Living Dead. Tor. Aug. 2020. 656p. ISBN 9781250305121. $27.99. HORROR
  • Three Words That Describe This Book: compellingly paced, character centered, classic updated and completed
Stage, Zoje. Wonderland. Mulholland: Little, Brown. Jun. 2020. 368p. ISBN 9780316458498. $28. HORROR
  • Three Words That Describe This Book: oppressive atmosphere, haunted house, traumatic
Final Cuts: New Tales of Hollywood Horror and Other Spectacles. Anchor. Jun. 2020. 480p. ed. by Ellen Datlow. ISBN 9780525565758. pap. $16.95. HORROR
  • Three Words That Describe This Book: inclusive, full range of horror, shared frame

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Join the Historical Fiction Party Later Today

Okay, maybe party is a strong word, but we all have a chance to get together to learn for FREE later today. I am signed up and will be there. I even made plans to be on the phone with a friend while we watch the webinar together. 

This is a great opportunity to learn together. We can use the chat at the same time. Make some new friends. But also, consider calling someone on the phone while you are watching so you can learn together. Have some side discussions with a colleague about what you are learning. Share patron stories. Maybe even stay on the phone for a bit after.

This can be a learning AND social experience.

You can sign up from now to up to an hour before the event. If you miss the signup or the webcast, you can also use the links below to access the recording. And you can always visit the LibraryReads Resources page for the link to all of the Crash Courses.

I love all of these "Crash Course" webinars because they give you the most useful information about each genre from the reader perspective. The advice and the information can be applied immediately to help readers while it will also give you a sense of the state of the genre at this moment. 

And you do NOT need a subscription to NoveList in order to use any of this info.

Please see my post from February 20th which has all of the details you need to participate.

Genre Crash Course in Historical Fiction

One of the best resources for the current state of each genre are the LibraryReads-NoveList Crash Courses. I have a link to the archives with access to each recording on my constantly updated "Becky's Favorite Free Genre Resources" page which you can access directly here or anytime at the bottom of my Ten Rules for Basic RA Service page.

So far they have tackled:
Next up....Historical Fiction. See below or click here for details and to sign up. I generally miss the live webinar but I alway sign up so they send me the recording. 

I have learned something from every single one, even the horror one. Everyone should watch these to get up to speed on the current trends, hot authors, and best practices when helping fans of the genre.

Do you have a go-to strategy for helping historical fiction readers? Whether your readers are fans of family sagas or shady ladies, let NoveList and LibraryReads break down the best historical fiction has to offer your readers — from Biblical fiction to World War II and everything in between.
Join us as they cover:
  • Why readers love historical fiction and how libraries can ramp up their collections
  • How historical fiction developed, including classics, newcomers, and awards to know
  • Subgenres and trends
  • NoveList insider information on genre headings, appeal terms, and more
We welcome anyone interested to stay for an additional 15-minute training to share search strategy tips and learn where to access genre-related information in NoveList.
Wednesday, March 25, 2020 from 2-3pm Eastern
Optional NoveList training from 3-3:15pm Eastern

Click here
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Michael Santangelo is the Deputy Director of Collection Management at BookOps, the technical services collaboration between the New York Public Library and the Brooklyn Public Library.  Since starting as a children’s materials selector in 2005 for Brooklyn, he has had various positions working with collection development and technical services.  He is currently the co-chair of ALA’s Public Libraries Technical Services Interest Group and is on the LibraryReads' Board of Directors.  He reads in many genres and books published all around the world.  Besides reading, his newest favorite pastimes are going to movie revivals, visiting friends up and down the East Coast, and daydreaming on the subway.

A former lit instructor and medieval scholar-turned-RA Librarian, Kimberly Burton brings in-depth knowledge of genre fiction -- plus a passion for helping readers discover stories they’ll love -- to all she does at NoveList. She loves a great list (who doesn’t!) and develops Recommended Reads book lists, Book Discussion Guides, and other innovative RA content throughout NoveList databases. An omnivorous reader, Kimberly especially likes medieval fantasies, historical fiction, gothic fiction, and supernatural horror. Her first crush was Sherlock Holmes (more recently supplanted by David Rose of Schitt’s Creek). She enjoys true-crime TV, making art, and petting cats. Kimberly is a former ACRL fellow and current NCLA member.

Moderator Halle Eisenman leads the Editorial Content Team which oversees the creation of the lists, articles, book discussion guides, and all the other amazing and informative content you can find in NoveList. Prior to working at NoveList, she spent a dozen years working for a public library system in a variety of roles, but no matter what her job title, her favorite part of any day was suggesting books to patrons. When not at work, Halle can often be found walking her dogs (they get lots of exercise when she’s listening to a particularly riveting audiobook), binge-watching TV shows aimed at teenagers, baking, or sitting on her back porch with a book. She is currently serving on the RUSA CODES Reading List Council.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Stock Your RA Pantry: Get Busy on Goodreads

Every day this week I am going to have a post in a new series I am calling: Stock Your RA Pantry. All of these posts will use the label, "RA pantry," so that they can be gathered together. Later this week I will start a new page to gather them all, but for now, I just want to get this going.

Today I have something every single one of you should have already been doing, but now you have no excuse not to. 

Get a work Goodreads account and start entering titles.

Many of you have personal Goodreads and if you want to use that for work too, that's fine, but I would say set up a new account with your work email address. You want to use this shelf to only promote books to their best reader. This is not where you would go to chat with friends about books, give bad reviews, etc...

Now spend some of that work from home time adding books you have already read. Old favorites, recent loves, whatever you want. Just start adding content. Start with just titles and ratings. And just cut and paste NoveList appeal terms [with a statement that they are from NoveList] to get started. You don't need to write a trillion reviews ASAP. A little each day. But do it now because you finally. have some time. 

Here's the thing, every single staff member can be doing this. From pages to maintenance staff to the Director. Everyone! I talk about this in my general all staff training programs. In fact, this is where I begin, by reminding all staff who work in a library that your brand is books. The public expects everyone who works in a library to have a connection to books. The public thinks everyone who works in a library is a librarians. The public wants to know what you are reading.

We need to exploit this and couple it with the fact that we wish we had more time to talk about books and reading. We wish we could suggest books to readers more often. We wish we had time to share book recs with our fellow staff members.

Guess what, we can do this on Goodreads because now we do have more time. We always could. I go into libraries and say this all the time. Everyone should get a Goodreads shelf and the library should link them into a group. Staff can share what they are reading, rate the titles, provide appeal terms and short comments about why it is a  "good read." 

As a Trustee for a public library I know we are working with managers to figure out how to have meaningful work from home for clerical staff. Not because we are jerks and want them to justify being paid while stuck at home, rather because we don't want them to lose their connection to the team, the the organization, and to the community. This is a difficult time emotionally, especially for our frontline staff who are missing their regulars, who want to be doing something to help but don't know how. Creating Goodreads shelves and stocking them, is a wonderful way for staff to contribute to the library's mission no matter their job title. Feeling useful is important. Busy work is not useful, but creating a database of staff reviews and suggestions is one of the most useful things you can do together, now. Heck, I wanted you to do it before now, but I'll take now. And once you have started it, keeping up is much easier going forward. 

Exactly who should link up the shelves and how is something that your library has to figure out. Those logistics and conversations should be started now though. Figure out how to get your administration talking about this. Encourage all staff to use their work from home time to start a shelf and begin filling it up. This is meaningful work that every single staff member can do. How you will link it for staff and the public to access can come later.

Not only does this activity help you keep track of your personal reading,  but also, the compound interest of everyone doing it means that every staff member [and if you link everyone into a group as the "blank" public library staff, every patron too] has access to everyone's reviews.

Think about how much easier it is to suggest books to readers when you have reviews and comments compiled by all of the library staff. Think about how much more helpful you can be if you could easily, with a few clicks, draw on the expertise of staff from throughout your organization, who will all have a variety of interests, way more varied than relying on just yourself for your specific department staff. 

This is a very literally take on stocking the RA pantry because you are literally stocking the virtual shelves with book suggestions-- varied book suggestions, from across the leisure reading landscape. You can use the combined efforts of all of your staff to help readers online and when they come to the desk. This becomes your local book recommendation search engine. [Bonus, tell staff that if they give a book 5 stars it means that book is eligible to be on the overall "Staff Favs" display [in house and online]. Then sit back and watch how much easier creating "Staff Favorites" lists and displays get from now on, simply because you asked everyone to participate.]

Now take your imagination one step further. Imagine patrons encountering the library staff's group shelves. Because Goodreads is where your patrons go to get book recommendations, from friends and strangers, but not generally form their local library. This makes me sad and angry. We need to be there too, for the public to encounter as they use the site to identify their next good read. We are the experts and yet, we are always running to Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to suggest books to readers. We should instead double down on our efforts to be visible and available on Goodreads, for them to stumble over when they need us, in the place they went explicitly looking for a reading suggestion.

Use this time to get your own work shelf started. Add reviews and rating. Please only books for which you can say positive things. This work shelf is for suggesting books to their best readers, not for you to criticize. You are creating a resource here. A database of reviews that everyone can use to help readers. Who would most enjoy the book? Ask yourself that and share that answer. That's how this because a useful resource. 

You are also creating a team building experience where staff who don't normally interact with leisure readers can help with one of the library's missions. Don't underestimate how good this is for morale. I have seen it work wonders across library staffs big and small.

Also staff can shelve and review books that they normally wouldn't get to talk about in the regular line of work. In my travels around the country, when I bring this idea of staff Goodreads shelves up, I always do an informal poll. I ask the staff assembled, "Who works in Youth Services?" Hands go up. I then ask, "How many of you in YS love steamy romances?" At least one hand [if not more] goes up. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

People are always surprised. Why? They are adults and don't only read kids books. I mean even I don't only read horror. Well because YS staff cannot talk about steamy romances at the children's desk, no one hears then talking about those titles, but that doesn't mean they aren't reading them and loving them. If they had a staff Goodreads page, they could post their favorite romances and the staff helping romance readers would have access to useful RA information from one fan to pass on to another fan.

That is just but one example of how getting busy on Goodreads now can help your organization for years to come.

So get busy on Goodreads. Start your shelf and then communicate with your supervisor about this idea. Move it up the chain. Keep stocking your shelf while you wait. Share this post on your work Slack channels or however you are communicating virtually. Spread this idea. It will be a fun quarantine activity AND it will help your organization going forward, both in keeping a sense of teamwork going from afar AND in helping patrons. 

Click here for all of my RA Pantry posts. While this will be a very regular series during these days of quarantine, I do plan to keep this going as a semi-regular series in the future, much like my Call to Action posts.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Stock Your RA Pantry: LJ, Booklist, and PW Free Access Means Free CE

Every day this week I am going to have a post in a new series I am calling: Stock Your RA Pantry. All of these posts will use the label, "RA pantry," so that they can be gathered together. Later this week I will start a new page to gather them all, but for now, I just want to get this going.

Stock Your RA Pantry means that these are posts about how to give yourself a leg up for when we get back to normal, by doing some work now. I will be providing ideas and insight into how you can use the resources we have coupled with some extra time, the time we never have when we are also helping patrons, to give ourselves a stockpile of knowledge, resources, and information that we can immediately draw upon when we are back to public service.

Today's post is about something very familiar. So much is different but a few things can go on without much adjustment, like our regular journal reading.

Whether you are someone who orders items for your library or not, there is reason to be excited that you can get access to all the major journals online for free right now.

First, let's begin with the links on how you access them, and then I will write about why you should care, especially if you are NOT someone who orders for your collections [which is probably more of my readers than not].

Use these links to access the journals for free; both their online content that was previously behind a paywall and full digitized print issues:

Now, if you do collection development this access and its use is obvious. You can continue as you normally would reading the reviews and placing orders. However, I want to make sure everyone who reads this blog understands that there is something here for them too.

All three of these journals, but especially Booklist and Library Journal are also a great resource for you to keep yourself in the know when it comes to helping leisure readers.

A great place to start is with reading the reviews. Many of you might not have had the print issues circulate your way in the course of your jobs, but now, they can come right to your computer screen. Reading reviews, even if you never order items for a collection is an excellent way to stay in the know when it comes to current releases, trends, and readalike options. 

Reading reviews allows you to think about what type of reader you would give the book to, exposes you to more authors and titles than you could ever read on your own, and gives you a sense of the broader landscape of what is coming out at the moment. It is also much easier to spot trends when you have a broader scope to look through. You will never read all the books, but you CAN read the reviews of quite a few of them. When I taught the RA class at the MSLIS program, I had a lecture on using reviews as a resource to help readers that I gave to every student each semester. I still hear back from former students that it was one of the most useful things I taught them.

After getting caught up with reviews of upcoming titles, you can move on to coverage of the genres. This is the best time to get yourself in genre shape. Begin with those genres with which you are least comfortable.  Do a search on a genre and read the articles and lists that have been recently written about them. Library Journal does genre overviews regularly and Booklist has a spotlight on at least 1 genre or format in every issue, meaning once a year they get through just about everything. 

Moving on, these two journals both offer free webinars on a variety of topics. Click here for Booklist access and here for Library Journal [under each category you can choose upcoming or past].

Finally, stay connected with all of the news in the entirety of the book world by checking in with all three each day. The books are still coming out, conversations about books are still happening, and when we do finally all get back to our libraries we are going to be swamped with work. Use this time to catch up on you personal backlog of knowledge. Get yourself in the best shape of your life when it comes to your knowledge about the book world, especially when it comes to the current state of the genres.

Click here for all of my RA Pantry posts. While this will be a very regular series during these days of quarantine, I do plan to keep this going as a semi-regular series in the future, much like my Call to Action posts.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Publisher Library Marketing Teams Helping You to Keep Helping Readers

Today, as most of us have been getting adjusted to no in person patrons, I wanted to remind you all that the same library marketing teams that we rely on in normal times, are still there on the internet, and in fact, are upping their virtual game.

Please remember to visit them virtually. They are all still writing newsletters, offering links that will be helpful to you and your patrons, and providing content you can push out to your patrons.

I plan to be back next week with original content including ideas on projects you can all do from anywhere to keep RA Service going and actually improve it in the long run.

Have a good weekend and stay safe.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Resource Alert: Super Library Marketing

Starting next week I am going to have some concrete things you can do to keep providing RA Service  to your patrons even if your library is closed and you are at home, and I am going to start with how you help stock the "RA Pantry." But before I get to that, I think we all need a reminder on how to best market ourselves in general.

My colleague, Angela Hursh, has an excellent Library Marketing website, Super Library Marketing, where she writes extremely useful posts about how to market your library and its services. Her tips and advice are practical and intuitive. She goes out of her way to make things easy to replicate and gets you to think about the larger implications, the WHY behind the marketing choices we make.

Her advice is not just for marketing people. This is advice that every library worker can learn from, and as you know here at RA for All, I feel very strongly that everyone, all library workers, can help with your RA Service, so of course, I also support Angela's marketing for all.

She has been posting most recently about the "new normal" but now is also a great time to look at her archive of information and ideas. You have some time right now to sit back and think about how we market ourselves. You can give a hard look at your strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats [SWOT analysis], assess where you are and what more you can do. And as you identify places to improve, Angela is there to help you. She's been there for a while too, so there is a lot of backlist information that you can access right now, information that is new to you!

Head over to Super Library Marketing and read her posts. Or go over to her YouTube channel  where Angela posts weekly 5 minute, practical, easy to implement marketing ideas.

Click here for Angela's Channel

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

RA for All Virtual Roadshow Visits Australia For a Brand New Horror Presentation [With Bonus Time Travel]

Later tonight I will be presenting a BRAND new 90 minute Horror for Libraries virtual presentation in Australia. Except....it will actually be Thursday for them. So.....I am going to be time traveling tonight from 9-10:30 pm Central!

It is my third such time travel to this conference in Australia, and I for one never get tired of the joke [although my gracious host Ellen probably does].

This presentation contains all new material that I have gathered for the Third Edition of my Readers' Advisory Guide To Horror.

This will be the first time I present some of this material and the group knows I am actively looking for feedback.

I am making the slides available for free here, as I do for every presentation I give, but I would also like to ask that if any of you would like to give feedback, I would greatly appreciate it. Library workers only please, not authors.

I will address one issue that will come up, one that I will be addressing in my speaking portion of the presentation. I have 3 "Heads of Horror." There was one more that is represented in another side who I made the deduction to leave off, someone people might question-- Victor LaValle. I have done this because LaValle has not shown me that he will continue to work in horror solely. The three authors I did include are firmly entrenched in horror. Even Machado's memoir from last year used a horror trope as its frame.

LaValle is clearly committed to "speculative" fiction in its entirety and is exploring the places that this will take him. I am super excited as a reader to follow along, but it would not be fair to place him at the top of the genre as THE example. Nor did I also pick bestsellers like Grady Hendrix and Josh Malerman because you all know about them and have read them. But all of these authors ARE represented throughout the presentation.

For historical perspective, I took a HUGE chance in 2010 [when I finished the manuscript] by proclaiming Joe Hill and Jonathan Maberry as the two authors libraries needed to know about, the authors who would drive the genre into the future. Thankfully I got that call right. But, it means I have to make sure I do the same this time too. I have to get it as right as possible.

This is an example of what I mean by feedback. I would love more constructive and useful questioning like this question I posed to myself a few weeks ago.

Please click on the RA for All logo in the top right of the blog to find out how to contact me. In a few weeks I am going to start turning my notes and presentation into actual draft chapters of the book, so if you have feedback, bring it on.

Oh, and when you look at the slides, please note, I used some animations so you have to hit "Present" and go through the presentation to see everything. There are also links throughout with more information. So go ahead and poke around.

Thanks and Happy Haunting!

Click here to view slides
Click present to see everything

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Call to Action: Time to Get Serious About Fine Free

Today I would like to talk about going Fine Free. This is an issue I have been passionate about and involved with for many years as a Library Trustee.

Our small community library went fine free in September of 2019, but it was something we were working toward for over 2 years before that. We actively worked to make our budget work without fine money to prove to ourselves we could do it before we took the fine free plunge. And we did it before Chicago Public Library.

But here is the thing, fines have been suspended at just about every library in America at this point. You are all going to get by without fines. Why not use these extraordinary times to finally join me in the fine free plunge?

I travel around the country for my job and everywhere I go ask ask about their fine procedures. I am well educated on this issue and have heard it all. From a library whose city MANDATES that every city department get 5% of their budget from fees [this is horrible but true] to libraries that have no finical recourse to start open other than donations and fines.

I understand how fines actually effect libraries and their budgets. I am not naive. I have been on the finance committee at my library for 19 years. I managed a department budget at a library [less well off than my own community], I work with every type of library you can imagine and their financial situation is something I discuss with leadership as part of my pre-training planning. I am extremely well versed in library budgets.

Now everyone is forced to figure out life without fines. Budgets are going to have to be balanced. You will NOT have an option to charge your tax payers even more. [See when you put it that way, and that way is the truth, it sounds evil-- because it is!]

Also, we are closed to the public and we are going to need to find ways to help our patrons after we reopen. Many will have less disposable income and more need for the library. You want to pile it on even more when they are struggling to feed their families and recoup lost wages because they were too preoccupied to remember to return something? Come on people! This is so wrong and awful. I mean it always was but now you can see it more clearly.

I worked through the 2008 downturn in a low income community. We saw a huge uptick in usage and people were also incurring more fines. I worked for a city that not only encouraged us to fine our patrons but then took the fine money for the city coffers and didn't allow us to reinvest it in the library.

You know what I did during that time, as a Manager? Waived as many fines as I could from the RA Service desk. I even stepped in to circulation and waived fines. I flouted the rules because I cared about my patrons. And you know what? I received zero punishment or write ups. All I did was foster good will at our library.

Side story-- the turning point for me was the day a non-English speaking mom sent her son [bi-lingual] out to the car to get their laundry quarters to pay a fine so he could get items checked out for a school project. I never said no to anyone with fines again. [Items that needed replacement were a different issue, although if something old got damaged, something we weren't going to replace anyway, we waived].

This time, you don't have to do Civil Disobedience to stop fines. They have been suspended for you.

I am urging all of you to reach out to your managers and supervisors, or if you are one, take a stand. Your budgets are going to take a fine hit. Now is the time to redo the budgets and figure out how you will get by without them. And then...


We cannot help our patrons by being open right now, but we can help welcome them back. Their taxes are enough to ask from them [and if they are not, work to get your community the support you need for a tax increase; telling them you will suspend fines will go a long way toward winning those extra dollars the correct way]. Extra penalties have never been okay, but even more so now. Let's not make it harder on people.

Every excuse your leadership had as to why they could not stop fines has been proven false. There are no fines now. They have been stopped. And look, you are still functioning. Let's make that the new normal. 

I urge all of you to do what you can to advocate for fine free. Enough libraries have proven you can get by in normal times without fines, so now that you are forced to get by without fine income, you at least have proof it will work over the long term.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Library Reads: April 2020

  1. I post the list and tag it “Library Reads” so that you can easily pull up every single list with one click.
  2. I can remind you that even though the newest list is always fun to see, it is the older lists where you can find AWESOME, sure bet suggestions for patrons that will be on your shelf to actually hand to them right now. The best thing about Library Reads is the compound interest it is earning. We now have hundreds and hundreds of titles worth suggesting right at our fingertips through this archive OR the sortable master list allowing you to mix and match however you want.
  3. You have no excuse not to hand sell any Library Reads titles because there is a book talk right there in the list in the form of the annotation one of your colleagues wrote for you. All you have to say to your patron is, “such and such library worker in blank state thought this was a great read,” and then you read what he or she said.
  4. Every upcoming book now has at least 1 readalike that is available to hand out RIGHT NOW. Book talk the upcoming book, place a hold for it, and then hand out that readalike title for while they wait. If they need more titles before their hold comes in, use the readalike title to identify more readalike titles. And then keep repeating. Seriously, it is that easy to have happy, satisfied readers.
Also, the LibraryReads Board has also started another great book discovery and suggestion tool for you, a monthly What We're Reading column. This means there are even more library worker approved titles, new and old, for you to choose from. 

So get out there and suggest a good read to someone today. I don’t care what list or resource you use to find the suggestion, just start suggesting books.

Also, please remember to click here for everything you need to know about how to participate. And click here to see a database of eligible diverse titles sorted by month. 

Click here for the April 2020 list


The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires
A Novel by Grady Hendrix 
(Quirk Books)
"Hendrix's latest novel, possibly his darkest yet, addresses racism, sexism, and the mistaken belief that housewives are dull. Patricia and friends, all genteel Southerners, start a true crime book club. They have to apply what they've learned when a vampire moves into town. Patricia grows from a mildly dissatisfied homemaker to a vampire- fighting dynamo who thinks three steps ahead and takes ownership of her life. With perfect pacing, there's never a moment where readers can let their guard down. An excellent choice for horror fans of Joe Hill, David Wong, and Christopher Moore."
—Rosemary Kiladitis, Queens Public Library, Corona, NY 
NoveList read-alike: The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule
And the rest of the list....
A Bad Day for Sunshine
A Novel
by Darynda Jones (St. Martin's Press)

“Jones follows up her Charley Davidson series in a spectacular fashion with a new series featuring police chief Sunshine Vicram. A fun, UN-PUT- DOWN-ABLE read with a large cast of lovable, diverse characters, several mysteries to solve, and laugh-out-loud humor. Perfect for fans of Janet Evanovich and J.A. Jance. ”

—Pamela Steinke, Mott Public Library, Mott, ND 
NoveList read-alike: The Dime by Kathleen Kent

The Book of Longings
A Novel
by Sue Monk Kidd (Viking)

“Ana is Jesus’s wife and a force in her own right. Monk does not sensationalize her writing about a fictional marriage for Jesus, but rather goes into great historical detail and imagines what it would be like to be a woman in that time. If you have been waiting for a book like The Red Tent for the past 20 years, this is it. Give to fans of Anita Diamant and Marilynne Robinson.“

—Claudia Silk, Fairfield Public Library, Fairfield, CT 
NoveList read-alike: The Liars' Gospel by Naomi Alderman

The Book of Lost Friends
A Novel
by Lisa Wingate
(Ballantine Books)

“Another fantastic, hard-to- put-down book by Wingate. The story moves back and forth from the post Civil War era where freed slaves are searching for lost family to the modern day South where a struggling new teacher is trying to engage her students. A must read for those who enjoyed Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi or On Agate Hill by Lee Smith.”

—Cindy Ritter, Hamilton North Public Library, Cicero IN 
NoveList read-alike: Cane River by Lalita Tademy

Chosen Ones
A Novel
by Veronica Roth
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

“Some years back, five teens were picked, after they fulfilled a prophecy, to fight the Dark One. Now, on the tenth anniversary of that battle, they find out that the Dark One is still alive in a parallel universe. Do the young heroes have what it takes to fight him again? Packed with action, suspense, and breath-taking twists and turns. A good choice for fans of Lev Grossman and
N. K. Jemisin.”

—Trisha Perry, Oldham County Public Library, LaGrange, KY 
NoveList read-alike: Vicious by Victoria Schwab

Girl Gone Viral
A Novel
by Alisha Rai (Avon)

“When a random guy sits at Katrina's cafe table, a nearby woman shares the exchange on social media with her own interpretation that soon goes viral. Katrina can't care less because she's been crushing on her bodyguard, Jas, for years. Now to save her from the media blitz, Jas needs to hide her away somewhere--maybe his house in Northern California? For fans of The Right Swipe and Christina Lauren.”

—Jessica C. Williams, Tiffin-Seneca Public Library, Tiffin, OH 
NoveList read-alike: Revealed to Him by Jen Frederick

The Happy Ever After Playlistby Abby Jimenez (Forever)

"Sloan, still recovering from the sudden death of her fiance, finds a stray dog and brings him home. She calls the number on the tag but there is no response. Once she has fallen for the dog, the owner shows up and Sloan gets a second chance at love. For lovers of romantic comedies like Less by Sean Andrew Greer and Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld."

—Theresa Bond, Middlesex Public Library, Middlesex, NJ 
NoveList read-alike: About a Dog by Jenn McKinlay

He Started It
A Novel
by Samantha Downing

"A funny, twisted, scary story about Beth, Eddie, and Portia, siblings who are required to recreate a fateful road trip in order to claim their inheritance. For readers who enjoyed The Kill Club and Eight Perfect Murders."

—Cari Dubiel, Twinsburg Public Library, Twinsburg, OH 
NoveList read-alike: The Better Liar by Tanen Jones

Little Secrets
A Novel
by Jennifer Hillier

(Minotaur Books)

"This fast-paced thriller opens on the kidnapping of a young boy. More than a year after her son’s disappearance, Marin discovers her husband is having an affair and begins down a path of secrets and betrayal. For readers who enjoyed Lady in the Lake and Lock Every Door."

—Mara Bandy Fass, Champaign Public Library, Champaign, IL 
NoveList read-alike: Something She's Not Telling Us by Darcey Bell

You Deserve Each Other
by Sarah Hogle
(G.P. Putnam's Sons)

"Naomi realizes she is only 18% in love with Nicholas, but doesn't want to be the one to break it off, so she devises a plan to force him to break up with her. For readers who liked The Wedding Party and Well Met."

—Douglas Beatty, Baltimore County Public Library, Baltimore, MD 
NoveList read-alike: To Have and To Hoax by Martha Waters

Find out more at www.LibraryReads.org