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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Best Books 2021: Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Books and Insert Your Library Here

This post is part of my year end "Attack of the Best Lists" coverage. To see every post in my "Best Books 2021" series you can use the best lists tag

Yesterday, I mentioned how I do not post every single best list here, rather I focus on those that will help you the most. Well today I have an example of a list you can both use to help patrons AND to inspire you to make a similar list for your library.

Library generated best lists are one of your best end of year tools, especially when you use the largest library near your physical location as a guide. Why? Here are a few reasons:

  1. Library generated best lists reflect the opinions of actual staff and readers. What did staff most enjoy and what was popular? It is not just critical acclaim or sales data. Remember bestselling mainstays like Daniel Silva, Louise Penny, and Colson Whitehead were extremely popular in libraries well before they became household names. Library workers and patrons often know what is popular and good long before the rest of the world catches up.
  2. Library generated best lists take into consideration all ages of readers because they serve all ages of readers.
  3. Library generated best lists always have genre choices because library workers know patrons love genre-- especially Romance and Crime Fiction.
  4. Library generated best lists ALWAYS consider local or regional authors which is why I advocate for you to prioritize using the best list from the library in the largest city closest to you [in the same state if possible]. 
  5. Library generated best lists are not commercial in anyway. There are no publishers submitting books to their sites. No one is buying ads to be include. There are no links to encourage those using the list to buy the titles. 

I could go on, but you get the point.

Click here to enter the site.
I am very lucky that my local large library system is the Chicago Public Library [there is a great branch 5 miles from my house, 2 turns to get there!] whose annual BEST OF THE BEST BOOKS is one of the best library generated best lists available anywhere. You all should use it.

From the BEST OF THE BEST landing page:

Chicago Public Library recommends the Best of the Best, our selections of the very best books published in 2021. 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!
The list goes on the have books for Adults, Teens, Kids [down to birth] and this amazingly easy backlist access right at the bottom of the main page:

Past Best of the Best Selections

Everyone everywhere can and should use this resource to help patrons, but I also want you to use this list as an inspiration to create your own best of the best. As CPL says about their lists [above], "making these the only booklists for Chicago, by Chicago. "

Yes, your library is not as large as CPL, but you easily can do a version for your community by your community. And you most definitely should NOT go at it alone. Get the entire staff involved.

Now I know you are thinking: "Becky, I am so overworked already. I do not have time to organize this."

Ahh, but you don't have to do much. Also, you should not try to emulate CPL, but rather make it your own. And I would suggest NOT limiting to titles that came out in 2021 or you will have less buy in.

Here is how you begin to create your "Favorite Reads of 2021" list at your library for your patrons.

Send out an email to all staff and ask them a few leading questions to make this process easy. I suggest using both of these:

  • What is the most fun you had reading a book this year?
  • What book surprised you the most this year?
Again make it clear that these items do NOT have to have a 2021 copyright nor do the titles have to come from the area in which the person works, and furthermore, they do not need to limit themselves to one or two-- let people go at it with their passion. Don't gate-keep the responses. Use them all no matter what your personal opinion about the "quality" of the title included happens to be.

The goal here is the have as many staff members participating as possible. The only rule is that it has to be something that you have in your collection. This also serves as a reminder to staff and patrons that "BEST" does not have an expiration date.

Also these questions work very well because they invoke an immediate emotional response. I know because I use them in my presentations as we begin as a way to get people in the correct frame of mind for the training I am about to provide. 

When you ask someone to name a "best" anything, they overthink it. Asking for most fun and or biggest surprise allows for a wider variety of responses, ones that are more personal and less self conscious.

Send out that all staff email this week and ask people to reply in the next week and watch the responses roll in. Your library's best list made by your community for your community will build itself. Gather all the responses and build a physical display, hopefully one that offers titles from across your collection in one place [so not just the youth books in the youth section, for example]. Add hyperlinks to the catalog and make a list for the website and social media. Print one out for patrons to take. Go one step further and put said print out [with call numbers] in every book on the hold shelf. 

Not only will everyone on staff who chooses to participate have fun, but it is a wonderful team building exercise as you will all learn something new about each other through an activity that is directly tied to your brand-- Books.

And your community gets it's own fancy best list just like the citizens of the big cities get.

Don't forget, by doing this list this year that means next year, when you do it again, you have just doubled your options of "best" books.

Thanks again to CPL for making one of the best "Best" books list of the year once again. Use it to help readers and as an inspiration to make your own version.

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