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!

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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.

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.

Book talking

Book talk at Riverbend Books

I attended an end of year function at Riverbend Books a few weeks ago and was blown away by one of the best examples of book talking I have seen.  I ended up with a list of titles from outside my normal genres that I simply must read, as well as a list of titles to give as presents this Christmas. Wikepedia states:

booktalk in the broadest terms is what is spoken with the intent to convince someone to read a book. Booktalks are traditionally conducted in a classroom setting for students. However, booktalks can be performed outside a school setting and with a variety of age groups as well. It is not a book review or a book report or a book analysis. The booktalker gives the audience a glimpse of the setting, the characters, and/or the major conflict without providing the resolution or denouement. Booktalks make listeners care enough about the content of the book to want to read it. A long booktalk is usually about five to seven minutes long and a short booktalk is generally thirty seconds to two minutes long.

Pru from Jimboomba Libray in Queensland has introduced Book talking with her Junior Book Club.  She says:

We look at the display on new items mostly from the JF collection that have come in during that month.  I have read a couple of the books and talk about why I did/did not like the book, intended audience and genre recommendations. Sometimes there are new Beginner Readers that may be of interest to the boys.

Next we go around the group and ask what the kids have been reading, did they like it, what type of genre, who do they think would like to read this type of book.  This is only a couple of sentences form each child and they only join in if they want to.

Also displayed is another part of the Junior collection such as Audio Books, JNF or mags.  This is to show the kids that there are other things at the library that can be borrowed.

Does your library provide book talking as one of your readers advisory tools? If so, we would love to hear about your experiences.

Staff picks

Following on from our last post on connecting our communities with reading, today we feature Chris Orpen, Regional Librarian from Logan North Library, in Queensland.  She attended “Best Sellers” readers advisory training with Paul Brown in November 2010, and then introduced retail principles of customer service and visual merchandising via staff picks into her library.

Chris writes:

Encouraging staff to write regular short reviews for shelf talkers has always been a problem.  All start out enthusiastically but the demands of day to day ‘busyness’ often pushes the reviews to a low or non priority.  We developed a simplified process to overcome this issue.  Each staff member has a colour coded book mark with a 5 star graphic and their name.  They simply choose a book they enjoyed or would recommend, place the bookmark inside with the label showing, and place it on our designated end displays.  Using this method we have loaned over 11,000 ‘staff picks’ in the last 12 months.

We had always planned to expand this concept if the project was successful.  To overcome the lack of written review, each staff member has their photo (with the corresponding colour code) on display near our Readers Advice desk.  Accompanying the photo is a dot point list of reading preferences and hobbies/interests.  This assists borrowers in selecting items of common interest.  The concept has proved very popular with many borrowers ‘following’ particular staff members, and it also adds a personal aspect to our selections.  An unexpected advantage has been that new members get to know the staff much more quickly.

 

Chris’s paper,  ‘If the shoe fits… the heart and sole of a retail librarian‘ is definitely worth a read!!

how do you connect your community with reading?

We talk a lot in our library service about connecting people in our community with reading, and this week quite a few great ideas were raised by staff.

  • add Recommended Reads labels to book and DVD spines because people like to read what others have read and enjoyed. The labels would make them easy to find on the shelves for customers and for adding to displays.
  • Taking reading to the nursing home residents (many of our staff have a great affinity with older people)
  • Partnering with a local art magazine by contributing reviews of library art-related books with reviews written by librarians
  • Promoting the add a review facility in our catalogue so people can share what they’re reading with others, with great incentives like books and awesome t-shirts.

I read about a great idea from two different sources this week.
The Victorians Love Libraries campaign and the Literacy Aotearoa Travelling Books project (LA via @SallyHeroes). We’re already registered on Bookcrossing, so could investigate doing something similar through there.

LA’s CEO Bronwyn Yates noted that ‘adult literacy is a major national issue’ (in New Zealand just as it is in Australia) and that ‘sharing the pleasure of reading books with others is hugely rewarding.’

What would be really useful in this country is a central collaborative project bank that library staff add to, gain inspiration from, and ultimately use to save time and duplication of effort, so that we can collectively make a huge difference. Have you seen the Love2Read Ideas Bank?

How are you connecting your community with reading?
How would you like to connect with your professional community to promote reading?

 

Aside

As part of our environment scanning, I’ve gathered nearly 40 position descriptions on library jobs in a couple of months – mostly from Australia, some from New Zealand. Many of these mention a requirement for ‘readers’ advisory’ skills, but I am interested to find out what each library service means by that.
Despite the national guidelines, are some services just adding the buzz words in without thinking what that entails strategically?
When just the term is listed in a sentence I wonder – is that further articulated in the library’s strategic plan?
Do you know what you’re supposed to be doing if  ‘readers’ advisory’ is in your position description?

For example – ‘Excellent skills in information technology and readers advisory services’, and
‘Undertake customer service duties plus reference, readers advisory and information work’.

And then I found more explanatory inclusions like this that really demonstrate what and why:

‘Ensure your library provides quality information, vibrant collections, and reading services that demonstrate a passion for libraries and for reading and an understanding of the need for these services’ (my emphasis).

Our library uses the wording below for information services/readers engagement. I adapted it from phrasing used by the Brisbane Library Service a few years ago, and was guided by the Standards and Guidelines for Australian Public Libraries (2011). (p.29) I have phrasing around ‘understanding the need…’ in our Readers Engagement Plan.

Staff will maintain a strong knowledge of information resources and tools, and ability to determine what the customer needs. Additionally, staff will engender an enthusiasm for reading with customers through reader engagement skills that demonstrate a strong understanding of the process combined with reading knowledge.

The 2011 edition of the Standards is due to be revised, and I have seen that NSW has included readers advisory in its guidelines (NSW Living Learning Libraries – p. 37). Both reports were produced by Sherrey and Ian at Libraries Alive! What does it mean on the frontline for NSW public library staff?

We’re finalising our survey for public library staff, and from that and interviews we plan to find out more about what readers advisory means to you and your service.
Let us know!

what does readers’ advisory mean to you?