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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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!

The Voice of the Dead – guest post by Mallory Owens

Our first guest poster for 2013 works in a Defence library and presented at the  Celebrate the Book Readers Advisory Conference in Kansas last November. Mallory Owens has some interesting tales to tell of practising RA in her research library, but today she has posted about discovering dead narrators in young adult fiction – the topic she discussed at the conference. Read on…

***

Despite growing up and moving on to bigger and better things (or so I like to think), I continue to have a love affair with YA fiction.  Even in my mid-20s, teen angst and melodramatic life conundrums of adolescent characters appeal to me in a way that no other genre has quite been able to.  National sensation brought on by titles like J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series and Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games sparked a greater interest in this continually evolving field.  YA literature isn’t just for young adults anymore, but can be enjoyed by readers of all ages!  Whether it serves as a reminiscence of good-ol’-days or a thankful reminder of what has been outgrown, YA fiction taps into thoughts and emotions everyone will or has experienced.

So when I decided to speak at the 2012 Reader’s Advisory Conference hosted by the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library and the Northeast Kansas Library System this past November, I knew YA fiction would be my focus.  As I began to think over the recent titles I had read, I realized a reoccurring theme throughout: dead people.  Since the release of The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold in 2002, dead characters have been making more frequent appearances in YA literature.  Similar to Sebold’s Susie Salmon, many of these characters appear as narrators, recounting their death and observing the impact it has had on the world they left behind.  Included on the handout I made for my breakout session are 16 titles with dead narrators with this similar theme.  Also included are titles with dead characters in supporting roles, narrators that are undoubtedly dying, and those that begin with the foreboding sense of death that will affect the reader’s entire view throughout the novel.  [The Voice of the Dead handout]

Although the titles vary in characters and carry different themes including supernatural, romance, suspense, thriller, and horror elements, they all strive to make sense of death, a subject almost incomprehensible to an age group that often views themselves as invincible: teenagers.  Writing styles also vary widely, from long chapters full of prose to short, insider views composed in verse.  Yet each author targets the emotion of their readers to more fully focus on the elements that make us all human.  All the titles encourage thought on human nature and what we leave behind when we vacate our human bodies.  In a sense, they are all trying to make readers think about exactly what the manager of Our Town was hoping to discover in the quote included at the top of the handout: what is eternal in terms of a human being?  What legacy, if any, do we leave behind?  The biggest common denominator within YA titles with dead (or soon to be dead) characters is that they will leave the reader feeling haunted by the characters who are now haunting their former lives.  Will they leave the lasting impact they believed they would before they realized their short time on earth was complete?

Have you read any titles recently, YA or not, with a dead narrator or deceased character in a supporting role?

***
Mallory Owens is a reference and acquisitions librarian at the Combined Arms Research Library in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, USA.  Although much of her work is of an academic nature, she enjoys participating in reader’s advisory whenever she can and can often be seen cornering people into conversations about what they are currently reading.  When she isn’t devouring YA novels or attending book club, Mallory serves as the president of her local chapter of the Special Libraries Association and volunteers with Make a Wish Foundation of Missouri.  In her few moments of free time, she enjoys perusing Netflix with her husband Elijah and cuddling with her beloved cat Oliver.

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.

Grand plans

Take Five

Take Five

I’ve been writing a readers’ engagement plan at work to support our venture into becoming the go-to people for all things to do about reading. I am interested to hear if other library services have developed strategic plans in this area. Let us know in the survey!  Early days yet with the survey and our research, but to some extent it looks like readers advisory is just another thing library staff are asked to do. It’s not necessarily built into strategic plans or job descriptions or professional development. Staff need these foundations to become great at connecting people with books (stories and information).

Ellen Forsyth asked on twitter today ‘Is it reasonable if I suggest that library workers should spend 10 – 15 minutes a day on their own professional development?’  She is currently working in Timor Leste and the question was for that region, but this is a concept that has been tossed around in this country. In this information profession we help people search for information, but in many cases spending time searching on one’s own at work is viewed as timewasting. I believe we need to be in the spaces our community is in. They watch The First Tuesday Bookclub, read the reviews in The Age, and listen to stories on radio. If our staff do not take time to find out about these resources, then we are not providing the point of difference over Amazon or the local chain bookstore.

Training and literary knowledge is required to gather together similarly themed books for Auckland’s popular Take Five program. This is a great program for fast issues for borrowers when you have RFID, and good training for staff to gather the right books together.
You don’t gather five books of the same format, but of similarly themed content – for example with 1984 you could have The Hunger Games, a George Orwell biography or Haruki  Murakami’s 1Q84 , a political book on totalitarianism and the 1984 DVD. Readers have the chance to extend their reading, to discover new reading experiences. You could extend those recommendations with bitly or QR code links to your eResources, and links to download the audiobook, and music suggestions like The Dead Kennedys and Rage Against the Machine who have referenced 1984.

For expert advice I recommend you head off to Information Online in February and check out Paul Brown’s session on contextual readers advisory. It’s amazing stuff, and something that really requires strong foundations in our staff to develop and deliver this service.

 

Study visit

As part of winning the QPLA scholarship, Alison and I have the privilege of visiting Auckland Library Service for a week long study visit. We get to spend time with a variety of librarians and staff from many different libraries that make up the service, and talk all things readers advisory/development.

I will try and post a couple of photos each night from our day.

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We also spent the day with Karen Craig, Reader Services Coordinator from Auckland City Libraries. She graciously gave up her time to show us around the city branch, and talk about how physical spaces can enhance a readers advisory service (we will devote a new post to this!)

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After giving up on finding any free wifi that actually connected us to the Internet, we meandered around Auckland CBD, looking like tourists and taking in the sights.