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, 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.


Anonymous said...

You might want to update your Indian Prairie link--the new page with their booklists is https://www.indianprairielibrary.org/browse-borrow/book-lists.

Becky said...

Thank you!