now blogging at

Just a quick update, long overdue. I am now blogging about reading and reader services at reading360. Join me there to talk about reading maps, readers advisory practices, staff development, and our continuing work with readers, etc.

The project report is available there, as well as from the QPLA site here.

~ Alison

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Beyond the Project

Jo and I have written the project report and submitted it! It was massive, and now we have to condense it, crop it and reconceptualise it for presentation.
Thank you everyone for your support and following online and in person – we’ve thanked some of you individually and others collectively in our report.

Rather than an ending, though, this marks the next step in our journey in readers’ advisory practice. Blogging has been invaluable for us to reflect on what we’ve learned, and as a way of connecting with others also interested in RA – so much so that I’ve started my own RA blog.  Jo and I are continuing our exploration of RA practice with another reading map collaboration with Sally Pewhairangi (this time with two other Queensland librarians).
We also received a generous invitation to participate in a training project.

We have met and been encouraged by many inspirational people throughout this project.
This is for you;  “Reading brings us unknown friends.” — Honoré de Balzac

Book Talking and Reading Maps: Readers Advisory Success

Beyond Chocolat Booktalk at de Studi Cooking School, with Reading MapI can highly recommend adding book talking to your professional readers’ advisory skillset. I learned so much from working on the project with Sally Pewhairangi, and attendees at our two events enjoyed themselves!

The project had two main outputs:

  • one morning and one evening booktalking event at de Studi Cooking School hosted by a librarian (me) and Chef Polly Ross.
  • a reading map in print and online created in collaboration with Sally Pewhairangi from Waimakariri District Libraries. Sally designed it – check it out…  http://issuu.com/readingmap/docs/beyondchocolat
    Save it to your mobile screen so you can pretend its an app 🙂

What worked about this project:

  • Collaboration – We both read the books, discussed them and decided where they fitted best. I think you’ll agree the reading map booklet is sumptuous. We considered online presentation formats including Pinterest before deciding on Issuu because it allowed us to include links to both of our library’s catalogues.
    You’re welcome to use the booklet as a resource for your community.
    Consider what can be done with more collaborative input…
  • Collection knowledge – We read most of the books and read up on others. We researched online, and developed a professional knowledge of around 40 books (some are also movies) with diverse appeal characteristics (some light, some informational, some contemporary, some historical, some mystical, some more grounded in reality, some with female protagonists, some with male…).
    I talked directly about 15 titles in the booktalk and had others available for people to borrow.
  • Contextual Readers Advisory – ‘Where can one book take you?’ was our starting point. Joanne Harris’ Chocolat is rich and satisfying, and if you want to keep reading we have some great recommendations for you.
    We drew out various themes from Chocolat including new beginnings, French cooking, sweet treats, the seduction angle, the heartache…
    Then in the booktalk event more cross-theme links were raised – for example, The 4 Hour Chef, School of Essential Ingredients and Cooking for Claudine all included the importance of showing respect for our food in cooking.
  • It’s more than a list – Both the booktalk and the reading map are opportunities to talk up the books with people. We used sumptuous quotes in the reading map booklet that would intrigue readers into wanting to read more. And the mouthwatering images! At the event I talked about the books, read delicious excerpts and drew out people’s stories. Some people suggested books to add.
  • More collaboration – As a follow-up you can encourage people to add their reviews to the catalogue or post them to Facebook; keep that recommendation chain going.
  • Our community – For me, people sharing their stories at both events was the most valuable part of this whole project. They saw themselves reflected in different books and shared their stories to the enrichment of all. People appreciated the professional guidance in finding more good books to read and they loved the partnership of library and cooking school. I enjoyed working in the cooking school space and people loved that Polly created sweet treats for us during the discussion. Win Win. What other community partnerships and spaces could you see working for booktalks?

I’ve had rather a lot of positive feedback about the project which has reinforced to me the value of collaboration, community engagement, use of online tools and professional development in the readers advisory field (all things Jo and I advocate). And then I found this on the Swiss Army Librarian’s blog and had another idea – add QR codes to the books to point people to the reading map so they discover it that way…

I have some people to thank for the success of this project.

  • Sally – for the rewarding collaboration and your project management, your sumptuous design, and your trans-Tasman support
  • Polly (and de Studi staff) – for the venue, the hospitality and the delectable sweet treats
  • Jo – for the initial idea, your support, and for live-tweeting the first event (yes, Jo was here!) and making people everywhere hungry for baked goods

Jo live-tweeting first Beyond Chocolat booktalk

My advice? These books are best shared with a friend, and this project is best shared with your community 🙂

Enjoy these links:
Edible Books: A Book Club with Bite http://ediblebookclub.com/
Joanne Harris on twitter: https://twitter.com/Joannechocolat

Which book or genre would you pick as a feature for a booktalk?

Rural Libraries Queensland shout-out

Jo and I would like to send a special thank you to staff at State Library of Queensland for inviting us to present about readers advisory and our project to the Rural Libraries Queensland training course this week. We’d also like to thank the wonderful RLQ attendees who had travelled from far-flung places in Queensland like Longreach, Carpentaria, Goondiwindi…
Our preso covered our top ten low cost/no cost/high return ideas for RA in public libraries – these factors being especially important in small libraries with low staff numbers, but still relevant to large library services in times of tight budgets.
Among other things I gave a 15 second review on Megan Caldwell’s Vanity Fare and the attendees recommended a great follow-up for readers of 50 Shades of Grey – Rachael Treasure’s 50 Bales of Hay. Have you enough reading knowledge to recommend to others?
We’ll include these ideas in our project report.

RLQ Tourist CardSomething the rural libraries have now, that  we’re all envious about, is their RLQ Tourist Card which enables people living or travelling in outback Queensland to borrow from all RLQ libraries. And they have a combined catalogue across 28 member Councils. Imagine all those possibilities for collaboration across RLQ with bookclubs, eAudiobooks, reviews, etc.
130 library services across South Australia also have this collaborative opportunity with One Card . Victorian libraries are also going for united strength.

We would love to hear from staff in these libraries to let us know how you’re using the One Card concept to support the delivery of outstanding readers advisory service.

 

it’s the stuff around the stuff that’s important

Promote the new book in the collection = easy.

Promote connections for readers between the new book and several others in the collection as well as authors’ sites and community connections = that’s getting towards great readers’ advisory.

So that I can develop my RA abilities I’ve been developing a couple of programs where I learn as I go, and equally as importantly – I’m collaborating with others on these programs just as I’m collaborating on this project with Jo.

The first – booktalks by librarians (with some notes from Ontario PLA fyi)

  • the opportunity to handsell a lot of related books at the same time to our community (related by various appeal factors and themes),
  • create a reading map to complement the booktalk so the readers take something away from the event – in print and online, and
  • the opportunity to collaborate with Sally Pewhairangi from Waimakariri District Libraries (we wanted to work together on something. we met up in Brisbane after NLS6 and brainstormed this. we’re skyping, working on a wiki, emailing. it’s such a great opportunity to work with Sally).

We’ve both read a stack of books (finding them through personal knowledge, our catalogues, GoodReads, blogs, articles..) and we’re sorting them into themes.
I’ll present the booktalks. Sally’s been creating the most amazing reading map.
The reading map, to me, is as important as the booktalk because it is the resource people can refer to when they want another book to read. Rather than be limited to the five read-alike books that I could immediately summon, they will be treated to a smorgasbord of dozens, all in appeal factors and themes and available in different formats. We’re working on tweetable quotes and links and downloads on authors’ sites.  We’re investigating online presentation methods which enable readers to link back to library catalogues.

Before going to Auckland I knew nothing whatever about reading maps. I presumed they were lists that answered the question ‘what will I read next?’ in the simplest possible way in print. But from talking with Sally, and learning from Paul Brown I have discovered that they ‘are a multifaceted tool which offers fuller and more rewarding encounters between the reader and literature than our industry standard book recommendation and/or Top 5 List.’ (Paul Brown on Finding Heroes)
I learned that ‘It’s the stuff around the stuff that’s important.’ ‘Contextual readers’ advisory, intelligent bundling and the remix reader’ is the big thing in RA, which Paul revealed to Information Online 2013 delegates in Brisbane. Read more there or herePaul_Brown_Contextual_RA.

Sally and Paul are collaborating on a reading map for 1Q84 that I know is going to be awesome. I’m learning so much from working with Sally on ours. I’ve read more widely and discovered more connections between books. It’s like Six-Degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon (haha).  I feel more confident in my ability to recommend books to people.

Will you consider booktalking and reading maps in your library programming? Do you offer these already? What benefits do you see? Do you make connections with community groups for them? I would love to hear all about it!

RA research survey results and other news

Survey winners

If your January was anything like Jo’s and mine, you’ll understand why this post has taken me so long to get to. But enough of that! We appreciate everyone who took the time to complete the RA survey and who passed it on to colleagues to complete.

As promised we have two winners – one from Australia and one from New Zealand. Congratulations Tracey from Victoria and Rachel from New Zealand – your $50 iTunes giftcards (for your respective countries) are on their way to you. Both ladies said that they never win stuff – well their luck has changed! 

After Jo’s very busy time on the organising committee for NLS6, we got together in the same room to work on our research project. We interviewed Catherine Johnson and Ellen Forsyth in the Exhibition Hall at ALIAOnline, we skyped with Vassiliki Veros, got into our survey data analysis, contacted some survey respondents for further information, and discussed contextual readers’ advisory again with Paul Brown and Sally Pewhairangi. We also met with Laidley Library Coordinator Nic Kilah at Gatton Library. As a librarian in a small rural library, Nic asked some good questions of us that helped focus our thinking. Thanks Nic!

Some conference delegates would have seen me in a short film in Lyndelle Gunton’s NLS6 presentation – Practitioner research: Applying research skills in the information profession. As I said thereI highly recommend submitting an application for the next QPLA research scholarship. Research is a reflective practice in which you can learn at least as much as you hope to convey to others.

do different – bookclubs and reading groups

Today’s post title inspired by NLS6 which I’ve been following today (while Jo’s there working)…

Have you read 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami? Contribute to Paul Brown and Sally Pewhairangi’s 1Q84 Files: An RA investigation. The original His and Hers Reading Map Project which will ultimately reveal more about contextual readers advisory. Lucky you if you’re catching Paul’s discussion at Information Online on Thursday.

National Reading Group Day celebrates reading groups!

THIS inspired me – National Reading Group Day celebrates reading groups in Great Britain. What a way for libraries to shout about the value of reading in their communities.

Think bookclubs are a bunch of people sitting around a table discussing a book they’re all supposed to have read?
Do different! Start with the basics. A bookclub is people who enjoy reading coming together to talk about what they’ve read. Or to meet people.

Now, do this – The Walking Bookgroup (via @pollyalida and @jobeaz today). Another is the The Walking Bookclub in Illinois who are considering Playaway devices. Search online for ‘walking bookgroups’: this is big.

Or this – Read Watch Play online reading group from NSW Readers Advisory Group. I wrote an article for the January-February InCite featuring this group and our Book of the Month program (will link to it when it’s online). Join in on Tuesday 26 February from 8pm AEDT at @readwatchplay #rwpchat #heartread.

Or this – The Modern Bookclub meets in a bar (by @leahlibrarian via @sallyheroes) There was a pub near Auckland’s Botany Library that would be perfect for this, The Cock and Bull Pub and Brewery.. perfect for a men’s group?

Like this – Forget Fight Club, Join Book club and Why We Started an All Men’s Bookclub .

Or this – a radio bookclub  (we participated in NYR12, partnering with the marvellous Paula Tapiolas at our local ABC North Queensland).

Or this – Vision Impaired Persons’ Bookclub

The Walking Bookclub got me thinking about other places. The train, the train! Imagine if you lived on the Darling Downs, a good 3-4 hours by train from Brisbane. Imagine a librarian took a group of interested people to the Brisbane Writers Festival by train, hanging out in the dining car and holding a bookclub. You could do the same on the Townsville to Cairns Sunlander (because it takes all day!) perhaps if you were going up for the Tropical Writers Festival.
Or, you know, you’re a librarian – do what this commuter did – A Community on the Train.

Most bookclubs or reading groups I’ve heard of (except #rwpchat) have members read the same book in the month. Do these groups include contextual readers engagement elements to extend people’s reading into the collection, or do they just move on to the next book?
There’s a thought too. With budgets the way they are, what if your library can’t afford to buy another ten-book set of a title?
Well, there is the State Library of Queensland bookclub service so you probably won’t run out of titles for a while.

Or, you could have a bookclub where people talk about the book they’re currently reading, which is different to that of the person next to them (next to them physically, or online perhaps at GoodReads.. in the Australian Women Writers Challenge). In this sort of group, the reader is recommending the book to the group. Someone else in the group might read it next if they like what they hear. I’ve seen more published about running a traditional bookclub than about multi-title bookclubs – is there anything out there?
There’s value in both types. In the former you get to hear what someone from a different background and gender thinks of the book which can give you a new perspective (I enjoyed being on the ABC panel with author Dr Glen Chilton who is from Canada).
But I also like the thought of people recommending books to me. We did a staff readers engagement exercise last year where we did that for each other and I was given a fabulous book – Saturday by Ian McEwan. I’ve read several of his other titles since and gave this title to another friend (same title, different copy, I’m not ‘regifting’!).  Check it out on McEwan’s site, which also features Henry Perowne’s fish stew recipe – a lovely tactile cooking scene to match those in Chocolat and The School of Essential Ingredients.

And with Skype we can still keep people connected with reading even if they’re in remote areas.

So why do different on bookclubs? Because they represent an important part of what libraries are about – connections between people. Because as delegates and twitter followers heard today at NLS6 librarians need to embed themselves in the community in new ways, with less of  a focus on the physical building. Because if you’re only reaching a certain demographic, a change in approach could mean you reach other people in your community – and you can show them the value of reading too. And the value of making connections.

As with all great reader services, I advocate training for staff who lead bookclubs and reading groups. There’s a lot of information available online and in print. With such an important service we need to be well trained.

Thoughts from the other side

Happy new year!
Just a little post today to celebrate the Auckland libraries that we know and love, and to share some thoughts from library users.

Wendy visited all 55 Auckland libraries in 2011 and blogged about it, and she provided a link to a paper about the development of Tupu Youth Library .
Wendy’s blog provides an insight into how users view what we do in readers advisory

In one section, I came across a pamphlet  with recommendations for biographies, autobiographies and memoirs. In another, there was a pamphlet for romance novels. These kinds of reviews and suggestions are a great tool for library users. And if you find the book you want is already out, ask a librarian and they’ll be able to help you request the book – with the resources of 55 libraries at the click of a button, I’m sure it doesn’t take long for the book to reach your local branch.

This led me to another blogger, Claire, touring Auckland libraries – need to see about starting an official tour program perhaps 🙂
And here’s the image that I never managed to get while I was over there – Claire’s photo of Robert Sullivan’s poem Kawe Reo used to great effect at Central.

In our survey we looked at evaluation of readers advisory programs. Do we capture what our community thinks and how they are served? It would be good business sense to get this right. How do you engage with your community to ensure your RA programs are making a positive impact?  How do you measure impact?

One thing would be to capture the online posts about your library from twitter, blogs, FB, and use them in reports. There are people in your community discussing the library online – that’s a good thing.

A Queensland blogger is touring libraries – if she has visited yours have you included her posts in your library’s reports? That’s something I can start doing (our library gets some good comments on FB and twitter).

Librarians, please discuss

Today I participated in an international twitter conversation around readers advisory. Abby tweeted this morning:

‘Librarians, a question: can you give good readers advisory without reading widely yourself? Please discuss.’

Some of the responses in chronological order are as follows:

I think you could give ‘good’ RA, but I don’t believe you could give great RA
Catalogue can’t give you everything. I think actual knowledge of genres, authors, styles could give that
Think passion and an interest in reading , books shine through conversations which result is great RA
Interesting question hey? If staff are not reading and talking about books can they give good RA?
Depends on what the ‘reader’ wants, if wants reader development that is one thing, if wants information about something that is another thing
Talking amongst colleagues is RA practice as well (to avoid clamming up with customers)
If staff are not reading and talking about books can they give good RA > nope
Sometimes I feel like RA is the best kept dirty library secret ever
And elicits both positive and negative reactions when talking about it
It’s like choosing books for kids, if you love books yourself your passion comes through
I think sometimes reading books is easy, talking books can be hard
Even harder when like me, you read a particular genre
How do I learn to talk about other genres with same passion
I would never trust a librarian who does not read
Talking with others about books ignites passion, debate and flurries of reserves
Chiming in as academic librarian: I can’t see how!
This is where I come unstuck, I don’t read widely because I read for enjoyment
However, I do read Good Reading magazine and other review resources so at least I know what’s out
You don’t have to *like* or be passionate about all genres, but do need knowledge
I think knowledge of the tools is important to show your reader is important too
Agree, we have to know what tools are there and how to use them
There is always ways to cheat – ‘talking about books you haven’t read’ book from Amazon
Love it! Hubby has 5 questions/statements he uses when pretending he has seen a movie #silly
I’d love to know those 5 questions!
‘Talking about books you haven’t read’ is actually in my to be read pile…..
I think you can, I pump a lot of people for information on genres I don’t read
RA training is important, it provides critical skills
I tried talking w staff about fav books from 2012, started with a blog post I had seen, no response
Will continue to try and talk books with my staff
And what do you do with a school library employee that refuses to read YA
Get rid of them? Lol! Write it into their job descriptions……
If it is made a requirement, you write them up
This has been a great discussion, I going to work on developing a genre reading program for staff…. Will blog here soon
I’m so excited about developing this readers advisory program for my staff that I feel a little feverish
(I am a big nerd)

The conversations played out for nearly two hours, with many different responses. What do you think? Can you give good readers advisory without reading widely yourself? What strategies does your library have in place to facilitate this?

wish we were there (again)

We took a lot of photos in Auckland, mostly inside libraries and certainly of many librarians. Check out the many readers advisory techniques used in Auckland’s libraries on our flickr collection.

And if you’re visiting Auckland, please drop in to the libraries and say hello from us. We miss those guys!

As well as meeting great librarians from the public libraries we also met the very inspirational Fiona Mackie, President of SLANZA (great article about her and Word Up in Collected #9, pages 16-17) and Catherine Frew from the Corporate Library. We caught up with the marvellous Tosca Waera (Social Media Coordinator, the personality behind @Auckland_Libs), Sally Pewhairangi from Finding Heroes (who inspires us with her big ideas) and Paul Brown – our amazing tour guide and readers advisory expert.

Here’s a link to a LIANZA 2012 paper by Richard Misilei, the awesome manager of  Tupu Youth Library – South Auckland Libraries: Connecting with Southside Youth. A library service to be proud of. If you’ve been there, shout about it!

Auckland City Libraries

We visited Central City, Botany, Tupu, Onehunga, Massey, Titirangi, Henderson, Takapuna and East Coast Bays libraries.