Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Canadian Reading Habits

This study has been circulating for the past few days and it is an interesting consideration of American and Canadian readers.  Booknet Canada had a look at the Pew Research Centre's study which suggests that Americans are reading less than they were in the past.  There are some additional statistics that can lead you to develop a profile of those who are reading the most and who are reading the least.  Generally, white women with higher education and higher salaries are the best readers.

Booknet Canada was intrigued by the American numbers and conducted their own survey.  The results of that survey is displayed to the left.  This information is particularly helpful for readers' advisors as it identifies who might be your most avid readers and new markets that might be important to target.

Booknet Canada also cites a NOP World Culture Score Index study that identifies who reads the most in the world.  Not sure why they profile only Russia for genre interests, but the whole map is interesting.

Readers' advisors can learn a lot about their business from these and other studies that look directly at reading habits.  There have been studies in the past which ask readers where they find out about books and libraries barely rank.  Readers are finding out about books from friends and booksellers.  The readers are using libraries but they are not engaging with library staff to find out about books. 

That is something we have to work to change.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Scotiabank Giller Prize

It is old news the Andre Alexis won the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize.  I have tried diligently to locate an online version of the ceremony, hosted by Rick Mercer, but I have not been able to locate one. You can check out other Giller-related videos on their site.

Readers' advisors can learn a lot about booktalking and promoting books from the award ceremony. The show is typically one hour long and the shortlist includes 5 books.  During this year's broadcast, presenters were tasked with "booktalking" their assigned title.  A booktalk does not summarize the book but identifies the most interesting aspects of the book in a way that promotes interest.  The author is invited to read some of their book and then they participate in some random television activities.  This is a great way to conduct an author visit and most authors are familiar with the structure.  Be sure to check this out next year and assess the show as a readers' advisor.

The CBC Books webpage really deserves its own post but I will mention it here to direct you to one of the best Canadian book resource.  There are many timely lists and related book news.  Their Facebook page is equally informative and will keep you up to date on the latest news that your readers already know.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Library Reads

Librarians and selectors regularly read reviews to determine appropriate additions for their library collections.  These reviews are written by professional writers, some academics and some librarians and consider the item on its merit and may consider the relatively value that the item will have for library users.

There is a resource for forthcoming reviews which employs only librarians and library staff as reviewers.  Library Reads is a partnership project with prominent librarians and major publishing firms to provide reviews of new publications.  The books are reviewed in advance of publishing to allow time for selectors to assess and add them to the upcoming orders.  The project is two years old and it is well-know stateside by librarians and fiction selectors.  The top 10 adult titles are displayed monthly with a majority of fiction titles and a few non-fiction titles.  

The reviews are timely and can easily aid library staff in developing readers' advisory intelligence from the reviews.  They help to set up staff for success with readers by providing good forthcoming coverage, predicting the possible books of interest which your users will be clamouring for.  The website has a number of print templates which could be used to promote the program and the books selected.

Library staff are encouraged to participate by reading and reviewing books provided by the publishers.  At present, this is an American initiative but there will be exciting news of the Canadian front in a few more months.  If library staff want to get access to forthcoming publications, subscribing to NetGalley is another way to get free access to new books.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Get to Know Harlequin

Libraries are pretty hostile territories for Harlequin books. Librarians were discussing how either libraries don't actually purchase them or bother to catalogue them which makes them hard to access for romance lovers.  At my library, we - literally - put these books in the back corner.  These books are seen as just ephemeral and that readers who like one would like any other one.

Libraries and library staff are not doing their readers any service if they are not familiar with Harlequin and the various series that are offered.

Check out the Harlequin site:

There is further information about the books which are published by Harlequin and there is a lot of series information available on the site.  Harlequin has done a lot of work already for readers' advisors to direct readers to their perfect Harlequin.  In addition to series information, they have sub-divided their publications into fiction categories.

There are a few library resources but they aren't as helpful as the information included on the main site.

Everyone has a Harlequin memory and do not discount how well loved these books are by readers.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Toronto Romance Writers

As previously posted, membership with the Romance Writers of America will also provide you some membership privileges at local chapters.

If you are based in the GTA, you need to check out the Toronto Romance Writers.  They represent most of the local romance writers and they are a great resource for author visits.  You can register for their newsletter.  This is completely free and will give you information about local events and local writers.  You can also get access to resources on their Facebook page.

Maureen McGowan and Molly O'Keefe were present at the event and featured some content from an upcoming documentary: Love Between the Covers.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Membership - Romance Writers of America

As a librarian, you can register as a member with the Romance Writers of American for $10 USD which will get you access to a number of tools which will aid you with readers' advisory.  I am signing up tomorrow.  This will also provide you access to local events which are organized with a registered RWA chapter.

Red Hot RA Redux

Another successful "RA in the Day" is now over.  Despite the gamble on the "romance" genre, we ended up filling the room and preliminary comments suggest that it was one of the best.  Personally, I learn so much from the event that I never knew before about romance and romance writers.  You can find the program information here.  I am going to include a number of expanded blog posts to cover the material which was shared at the event.

I bought a copy of this book by Maya Rodale and, after some investigation, I am very happy I did because it is not widely available.  I think it is based on her graduate work and some of her essays.  The book is a key resource for readers' advisors who need to serve romance readers or advocate for the importance of romance to senior management.

I admit to having prejudices against romance, thinking that they were anti-feminist.  There are many sub-genres of romance and some put women in a more subservient position but many do not and the beauty of the romance genre is that there is something for everyone.  

I also stay away from romance because it might be a little too "salt in the wound" as I am still single but that isn't a valid reason to never have a fantasy.  I like my romances with a "damaged but redeemable hero" who sees beyond a woman's plain exterior into her full and loving heart.  Luckily, that is a very common theme so I'll have books for years.  As a realist, I thought this kind of escape was silly and immature.  Paraphrasing Rodale, "What's wrong with wanting a romantic partner who treats you with respect, is tender and who loves you for who you really are?"  Preach.

Rodale's book focuses on the reasons why we discount the value of romance and relegate it to back corners and dismiss the readers who love to read book after book.  Rodale, herself, is a romance writer and has done a significant amount of research in the genre.  Check out her infographics.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Vancouver Public Library - What Do I Read Next

Last week, the Ontario Library Association hosted a teleconference with staff from the Vancouver Public Library and they were offering insight into the services they offer and how those services might also be popular at your library.

Check our Vancouver's What Do I Read Next website.

VPL's director, Sandra Singh, has provided a clear vision to staff to enhance the library's core brand of books and focus more on the reading rather than the objects.  Staff seem excited about this strategic direction and they are working hard to develop a community of readers.

The staff offer personalized reading lists which can be requested via email and encourage readers to actually approach library staff to get reading suggestions.  The vision is to firmly establish library workers as readers and the source of appropriate and exciting reading suggestions.  They have experimented with twitter and facebook, so they are exploiting new technologies to better support an old idea.

The other unique offering is to focus on the actual fiction reading development of newcomers.  Reading is one of the critical ways that newcomers learn about the society in which they live and they should not be ignored because their reading skills are different.  They also suggest that libraries should provide better readers' advisory in other languages which can be quite a tall order.

Vancouver Public Library is embracing readers' advisory and quickly becoming a leader in Canada. Consider following their efforts and checking in regularly to see what they are offering!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Selecting the Next "Girl on the Train"

Library selectors are a lot like retail buyers in that they have make important decisions about potential trends long before the trend emerges to profit from the increased customer interest.  "50 Shades of Grey" is a good example.  Saavy library systems were buying from the Australian independent publisher long before it was picked up stateside so that they had it on the shelves when the customers were asking rather than weeks later.

The question often becomes, "How do I know what will be popular?"  That is the magic of a great selector!  I've seen people who do it well and others who just get by.  You need to be "of the world" to get good intelligence to inform your selection practices.  You need to know what is popular on television, what is new in the theatre, what people are buying and what social trends are hot.  You need to learn this by going outside, meet people, ask questions.

A colleague pointed out this site to me - Edelweiss: Reading Above the Treeline.  It collects all current publishers' catalogues for easy access.  You could certainly look at multiple catalogues to determine current trends as publishers are also looking to capitalize on the current interests of readers.

Good luck and spend some time doing something other than reading!

Who's Your Reader?

An article in the paper about celebrity readers got us thinking about the trend by audiobook
enthusiasts to follow their favourite reader of audiobooks, rather than the long history of readers following a favourite author. Readers can read across genres, and lead their listeners where they might not have ventured without their lead.
      More and more professional actors are getting into the game, using their vocal talents to make books come alive for their readers, and their readers are noticing and appreciating.
     As the article states, audiobook sales are up significantly, partly as people become aware of the new format of digital downloads. Our library continues to see this growth,
     Book recommendation tools such as Novelist recognize this trend and have including an audio component to the appeal factors in their "The Secret Language of Books: A Guide to Appeal." Their differentiations for this are: audio drama; approachable; brisk; character accents; comedic; commanding; crisp; deadpan; detached; distinctly voiced; emotionally connected; energetic; engrossing; folksy; full cast; gentle; gravelly; immersive; intense; live audience; melodious; multiple narrators; musically enhanced; read by the author; resonant; sincere; somber; sound effects; understated; unhurried; warm; well-characterized; wry; and youthful. Obviously several of these will likely be present in any audiobook publication.
     These tools can be especially helpful when you are serving distant customers through outreach library service.  You often only interact with the customer over the phone so you really need some helpful tools to assist with readers' advisory for these users.  People can have very distinct narration tastes and they can be turned off the reading experience if they do not enjoy the voice of the narrator.
     The audiobook publishers are aware of this trend and often create lists from each of their most popular narrators.  Try the links below for some narrator lists.

Penguin Random House
Recorded Books

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

And the Award Goes To. . .

It is that time of year again, book prizes will be awarded in earnest over the next few months.

Today, the Man Booker shortlist was announced.

Residents of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) will no doubt also be aware that the Toronto International Film Festival is in full swing.  I actually think the election is proving to be an entertaining distraction from all the celebrity news.  The CBC has compiled a list of books which films in the 2015 festival are based.  No doubt your customers will be just as jazzed about these titles as they are about the Booker shortlist.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Reading in Translation

The world has shrunk in many ways in the past few decades. It is now easier and more affordable to travel to far-flung places. Unlike many of our ancestors who came to North America expecting to never return to their homelands or see family left behind, we can go back and discover our family's origins. Or we can travel somewhere completely foreign to our own cultural experience and learn about other cultures (or just stay at the resort and enjoy a laid-back vacation).
We can use Skype or Facetime to talk to people anywhere with an internet connection, going beyond the audio experience of the telephone to see who we are talking to and the environment around them.
Depending on where we live, we may have access to other cultural experiences within our own communities through attending festivals, parades, ethnic restaurants, or just talking to our neighbours.
But reading takes you into the experiences of another in a way that is difficult to do in other ways. You get inside the head of the characters, understand their thought processes and the emotions that they feel. There have been studies showing the increase in empathy and emotional intelligence that comes with reading fiction.
There are many writers who write in English and yet have different experiences and outlooks than ours that we can read and enlarge our worlds through that reading, whether they be from other English speaking nations such as New Zealand, or countries where English is a primary language like India, or an immigrant to one of those nations, or our own, who has taken on English as his language for writing.
But what about those that don't. How much do read that was published first in another language and then translated into English? It's a small percentage of what books are available to us, and many readers miss it altogether.
In 2007, the University of Rochester started Three Percent to help change that. The name reflects the fact that only about 3% of books published in the United States are works in translation. They share information on international literature including news, book releases, reviews, samples of works in translation, and those that haven't yet been translated. The university offers a program for translation wanna-bes, and a press for translated works, Open Letter. It is helping increase the availability of and awareness of translated works and we are seeing more interest.
A recent article on Flavorwire highlighted women writers in translation, recommending 22 women to read. As they say in the article only 30% of works in translation are by women, which for the US market comes out to around 1% of all published books.
I've been reading more and more translated books, which I've heard about thanks to sites like Three Percent and articles like the one in Flavorwire. And I'm glad of it, finding wonderful books in many genres that I both enjoyed and learned from. In 2014, I read 12 books in translation from eight different original languages, and I'm already at 8 books from 5 languages. My favorite so far this year is The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles, translated from the French. What about you? Have you opened your reading to translated works? We'd love to hear about what great books you've enjoyed thanks to the work of translators.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

RA in a Day 2015

The program for the 2015 RA in a Day is now available

The committee chose to focus on the most read genre - romance!  With most library staff reluctant romance readers, it is critical to offer a professional day which allows us to know the genre more deeply and what our readers find within it.

I hope to see you there!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Displaying Other Formats

While focussed on serving readers through print materials, it is also worth considering displays which focus on other formats. Customers may not be as familiar with items in other formats and your display will provide an opportunity for discovery.  Often, these displays can help to turn over inventory which may be overflowing and it is important to think about what your motivation may be.

Summer is a great time to promote DVDs, especially genres such as horror or action.  Everyone identifies with the "summer blockbuster" - there is a lot of these films released in the summer.  Your users will be primed to expect these and may be more likely to pick one up on a display.  Currently, we are featuring "Summer Scares" which features horror films.  We had to refill it about once per hour - you may run out of films before you run out of interest.

Audiobooks are popular with cottage-goers and promoting them in the summer is also a great option.  Feature them near the shelves which contain them and make sure that staff keep them filled.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Outstanding Books for the College Bound

I remember finding a printed copy of this list, as a teenager, at the library where I work now.  That pamphlet was fate as it exposed me to works that I was not finding on my own or in the youth section.  I read my fair share of high school romances but I was destined to read books with more substance.  I remember reading "Jane Eyre" and thinking that libraries held such a wealth of human experience and, once I read a book of this caliber, there was not turning back.

I just helped a customer who has a ten year old who is reading at a grade twelve level.  This young reader is reading far beyond her peers and we need to nurture that curiosity and capacity rather than advise that we don't really have anything for her.

I turned again to the American Library Association's YALSA list of Outstanding Books for the College Bound.  The books selected for these lists often have young people featured in the stories or are situations that young people can understand or relate to.  The writing is top-notch and these are the books that form the "education" before the formal education of a college or university experience.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Adult Reading BINGO

After a successful few years offering a BINGO reading encouragement program for youth, my library is now offering an adult reading encouragement program.  While it is important that readers' advisory staff and services attend to those who are already reading, it is a worthwhile activity to encourage people to read or to read outside of their regular comfort zone.

Random House continues to offer all of the supplies needed to begin offering this kind of program.    This is program features all Canadian content so it will be a challenge for readers who may not be familiar with national offerings.

For our program, we encourage readers to complete one line of BINGO squares to receive a bookmark.  Bookmarks were purchased from the Ontario Library Association Store and the selections were actual American Library Association designs.  We offer 4 different prize levels for youth but only the bookmark for one line of adult reading and a book for the completion of the full adult card.  Books have been provided from donations.

This program is more labour-intensive as staff have developed lists of books to meet the requirements of each square and specialty bookmarks created to indicate what square the book relates to.  We have created printed cards where readers can keep track of their reading.

We are promoting the program within the library on two different displays and I think we will have to do some more internal marketing to get more participants.  So far, we haven't given away any bookmark or book prizes but it does take adults longer to read than teens!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Staff Meeting Activities

To improve readers' advisory skills in staff, it is advisable to stay away from the dreaded staff meeting synopsis.  There are people who can booktalk and then there is the rest of us - doomed to relay pieces of plot out of order with a lot of "um" and "i can't remember" sandwiched in the middle. I often recall sitting through too many minutes of detailed plot reconstructions, "and there was a dog, and he had a spot and he had a hat and his hat was blue except when he went to parties and his hat was purple."  This really does not improve someone's readers' advisory skills since boring someone with plot details is not the goal.  Staff should be able to identify appeal factors and be able to promote the book to a customer in a few seconds.

At staff meetings, try to develop activities which will better promote discussion of appeal factors and book talking skills.  Spend time to develop these activities in advance and allow your staff the opportunity to prepare ahead of time.  Set a time limit for people and have one of your more experienced staff go first to set a good example.  Encourage everyone to participate and have positive comments for everyone.

Here are some activities to try:

Reader Interview - give the interviewer a list of questions of which they pick a random five to ask the reader about the book.  The questions should focus on appeal factors and allow the reader to think more deeply about the reading experience.  Example questions: What food does this book make you want to eat?  What would be the best place to read this book?  Who might you suggest this book to?

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner - Invite your favourite author to dinner.  What would you serve him/her?  What would you ask him/her?  Who else might you invite?

I'd Never Read Those - Talk about the genres that you don't and never read.  Tell the group why you don't like this genre.  Have you tried to read any of the books?  Why might people enjoy these books?

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Events for Readers in Toronto Area

The fiction collection in my library is doing the slow summer dwindle as people (especially teens) make a beeline for their summer reading piles.  Summer is a great time to get your reading done as reading outdoors can double for "exercise."  Our current display of "Summer Reads" is doing well as are our "Raves and Faves."  Customers enjoy quick and easy displays that feature sure-fire reads which can be enjoyed on a beautiful sunny day!

As much as we love attacking our reading pile in the summer, we are hot to grow it again in the fall.  Publishers focus a lot of their energy in the fall publishing season, releasing those "soon to be" Christmas presents for avid readers. Authors like fall launches as everyone is "back to the books" and there are a lot of events to promote their work.  In order to get your calendar ready, the following are upcoming fall events that are worth checking out.

Ben McNally - Ben returns to his regular slate of brunches and dinners and these are great events for advisors who want to learn more about books without having to read them all.

Word on the Street - THE street festival for readers.  There are several locations so you can find the one which is most convenient for you.  This is a rain or shine festival, so pack your rain boots and umbrella.

Eden Mills Writer's Festival - Another outdoor festival that gives readers great access to writers.  It is a little further away from Toronto but worth a drive.

Harbourfront's International Festival of Authors - For the connoisseur of fine writers' events, this is an indoor event that features the best of international talent.  The events can be experienced individually or as part of a festival experience

Pencil these into your calendars!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Going Graphic

Graphic novels aren't usually my reading of choice, but I'm trying to expand my horizons and want to get more graphic under my belt, so to speak, so I can do better Readers' Advisory in this format. I decided to start with the Booklist Top 10 Graphic Novels to see what they're about and understand the dynamic and appeal.

So the top ten are as follows:

1. Ant Colony by Michael DeForge. Illustrated by Michael DeForge. Published by Drawn & Quarterly.

My review.

2. Arsene Schrauwen by Olivier Schrauwen, Illustrated by Olivier Schrauwen. Published by Fantagraphics

My review

3. C.O.W.L.: Principles of Power by Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel. Illustrated by Rod Reis. Published by Image Comics.

My review

4. Here by Richard McGuire. Illustrated by Richard McGuire. Published by Pantheon.

My review

5. Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer. Illustrated by Jules Feiffer. Published by Norton/Liveright

My review

6. The Love Bunglers by Jaime Hernandez. Illustrated by Jaime Hernandez. Published by Fantagraphics

My review

7. Nijigahara Holograph by Inio Asano, Illustrated by Inio Asano. Translated by Matt Thorn. Published by Fantagraphics

My review

8. The Sculptor by Scott McCloud. Illustrated by Scott McCloud. Published by First Second

My review

9. The Undertaking of Lily Chen by Danica Novgorodoff. Illustrated by Danica Novgorodoff. Published by First Second

My review

10. Weapons of Mass Diplomacy by Abel Lanzac. Illustrated by Christophe Blain. Translated by Edward Gauvin. Published by SelfMadeHero

My review

I've read them all and loved some and didn't enjoy others.  My favourites were The Sculptor and Here by far, and both of those will be among my favourite books this year.
When I enjoy a graphic novel, the images are a big part of the enjoyment, making the book come alive for me in wondrous ways. When I don't, the images are still interesting but not enlightening in the same way. I found myself puzzling over some of them.
I'm glad I ventured into this format that I'm still not as familiar with as I'd like to be.

Readers' Advisory Across Canada

There are few dedicated groups across Canada that are dedicated to readers' advisory.  As I have stated, I am chair of Ontario's readers' advisory committee and we work on developing a yearly event and various initiatives which promote readers' advisory.

I am familiar with another organization in British Columbia which developed after learning about the Ontario committee.  They are involved in many of the same activities but cover the west coast.

The Southern Ontario Library Service also offers some content for library training in readers' advisory.




British Columbia

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Why You Should be Reading Right Now!

Don’t take my word for it but reading is one of the most important activities you can do to improve your health, finances and relationships.

 Research shows us the reading should be an activity you start when you are young. Reading for 20 minutes a day will translate into an increase in vocabulary of over a million words per year. If you read less than 5 minutes a day, 50% of the population will read better than you do. Just saying, you don’t have to take my word for it.

Studies also confirm that reading for pleasure continues to grow your vocabulary as you age. You know, I didn’t say it and you don’t have to take my word for it.

Survey says that reading independently “massively influences every aspect of our thinking.” It leads to growth in vocabulary and mathematics and “corresponds positively with ultimate positive success.” Teens who read engage in “deep intellectual and psychological exploration” in books they choose for themselves. Those are the findings of the experts so you know that you don’t have to take my word for it.

Achieving employment success is important for so many reasons and Oxford University says that reading as a teenager increases the chances of achieving a professional or managerial position by 14% for women and 10% for men. That’s from Oxford University so you don’t just have to take my word for it.

Canada’s National Reading Campaign, a professional reading advocacy group, thinks that Readers Save the World. Based on their research, readers have better health, greater empathy and more resilient mental health. They are a national think-tank devoted to this stuff so you don’t have to take my word for it.

Reading reduces stress 68% more than listening to music, 100% more than drinking a cup of tea, 300% more than running and 600% more than playing videogames. Stress can impact your health and take years off your life, thank goodness you don’t have to take my word for it.

 In a 2008 British study, readers were more likely to own their own home, less likely to divorce, less likely to drink or smoke. Readers were more likely to experience good mental health, use a computer while at work and more likely to vote. I’m a bit worried about the by-election in Mississauga with only 21% voter turnout, I guess they did not take my word for it.

Reading is not only good for you, it helps to support healthy communities in which you live. Readers are 16% more likely to donate goods or money to charitable causes. Volunteers comprise 17% more readers than non-readers. Those who benefit from donations and the work of volunteers can tell you how that impacts their lives, you certainly don’t have to take my word for it.

Societies enjoying a high level of empathy between its members are inherently safer and more enjoyable to live in. Toronto-based researchers have found a strong correlation between reading fiction and understanding those who are different than ourselves increasing our capacity for empathy. I’ve met these researchers and they are pretty smart so I am glad you don’t have to take my word for it.

As readers have lived many lives in the books they have read, they are better able to deal with real humans in their social relationships. Readers are shown to be more understanding of their partners and better able to participate in a romantic relationship. This ain’t just the ramblings of a romance novelist but a University of California study so you don’t have to take my word for it.

I am glad to hear that 82% of Canadians read for pleasure daily. Maybe you aren’t impressed but I consider it job security – you know. . . Before you make assumptions about who you think is spending their time reading, the National Reading Campaign’s research suggests the family income does not determine the amount of reading done in a home. They haven’t taken anyone else’s word for it and neither do you.

 Highest in urban areas, nearly 50% of the Canadian population has visited a library in the past year. Libraries continue to play an essential role in supporting employment, health and social relationships in our communities by offering reading materials to our readers. I only work here, so do you – it would be a conflict of interest if you just took our word for it.

Research suggests that reading is good for you. My mom read my first book within days of my birth, I visited libraries throughout my childhood and I’ve read hundreds of books. You might consider me somewhat successful and you might ask me why I am where I am. I am here because of Peter Rabbit, Jo March, Jane Eyre and Clara Callan. I’m here because I read cereal boxes, newspaper articles, MAD magazine and bus schedules. I’m here because my parents bought me books, took me to the library, helped me in school and let me pursue an education. I’m here because I read all these studies and completed a great presentation for you fine folks. Maybe you don’t believe me but I am just going to say that you can take me at my word!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Maps and Books

There is an interesting trend lately to incorporate information on the settings of books into maps.
The Toronto Public Library has its neighbourhood book lists.  Here, it also lets you go to specific neighbourhoods and see the list for that area. They even offer a process for readers to contact the library to suggest additional titles to add to the map.

Map of Book Lists by Neighbourhood

They also recently launched their Toronto Poetry Map created with the city's 4th poet laureate George Elliott Clarke, They also include a way to suggest other poems to include.

In the UK,  recently created a world-wide book map mashup, featuring titles from all over. Their list is sparse as yet (only 4 titles in Canada, 2 in Australia, and 2 in South America), and not always quite correctly placed geographically, but it is a start and will hopefully grow. Better access to the zoom feature would also be helpful. They do offer a handy "Submit New Book" button.

Brick Books does a worldwide poetry map that includes interesting symbols.

I'm sure there are others out there, and we'd love to hear about them.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Early Word

Fiction selectors should be quite familiar with Early Word, a blog for everything new from the publishing industry.  Nora Rawlinson is co-founder and editor of the blog and she has extensive experience in selection and editing major journals that aid in selection.  As the information on the website indicates, "EarlyWord is an outgrowth of her belief that the more libraries understand about publishing, the better they can be as selectors and readers advisors."

Early Word is a unique and invaluable resource for those who serve customers in the public library setting.  Rawlinson and her team have their finger on the pulse of all major news outlets and other sources for reading suggestions.  This blog makes it so easy for staff to remain apprised of what your customers are seeing in magazines or on television.  For selectors, this makes the process of determining the next new "hot" book much easier.  

For readers' advisors, this site is a wealth of information on the latest and greatest of fiction and non-fiction.  The blog includes reviews and sources for readers' to review.  The reviews are minimal in length and the site is logically organized to make it easy to locate the books a reader is interested in. Early word is a great place to start to find your next great read!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Smart Bitches. . .

In the quest to lean about all things romance, this blog became quite well known to me over the past few months -

My co-worker first brought it to my attention as we have seen a huge up-tick in the circulation of bodice-rippers in electronic format.  My co-worker is the head of selection and says that if it has a duke or lord in the title, it is going to be big with readers.  These books are far less modest that they were even 5 years ago, combining a historical context with the eroticism of "Fifty Shades of Grey." Erotic romances are also quite popular and sure-fire bets when it comes to circulation.

While popular, these books are eschewed by library journals who favour literary and award-winning works.  Good smut is hard to find!  Enter the writers for this blog, who have actually been slaving away for ten years to bring romance content to those involved in readers' advisory.  Sarah Wendell maintains her position as co-creator and she has authored a few books on the topic.

The blog features reviews and alerts for items which sit clearly in the romance genre.  There are few sites that focus exclusively on this genre and provide information for library staff and readers' advisors.  As a selector, it is a useful tool to identify what may be flying under the radar of the library journals but what readers are clamouring to get their hands on.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

RWA Librarian of the Year

I am busy planning our annual readers' advisory event and the committee has selected "romance" as the theme of the event.  Librarians are often loathe to admit that readers enjoy romance more than any genre that we stock on our shelves.  The Romance Writers of America offer a very informative website which provide background on the genre, information about writers and the industry.  It is a key resource for library staff who serve romance readers.

Various industry surveys return the same information year after year which puts romance ahead of sales in any other genre.  The Romance Writers of America present this statistical analysis on their website as well.  Romance is firmly in the driver's seat of increased e-book sales with many readers preferring to indulge in romance inconspicuously on the e-readers, tablets or smartphones.  This was one of the main drivers behind our desire to investigate the trend.

Lisa Schimmer, senior cataloguer at Novelist, is the 2015 RWA Librarian of the Year.  She was selected for her work which improved the cataloguing of romance novels, making them more accessible to readers and library staff who use the Novelist database.  Lisa will be able to offer library staff a unique perspective on finding and categorizing romance novels.  It is important that libraries are aware of trends in the industry and individuals who are working hard to make serving readers easier.  The committee is hopeful that Lisa can join our event.

The committee has also agreed to read and provide annotations for five romance novels as per the committee's regular practice.  Groans all around!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

What We See When We Read

I was finally able to get a copy of Peter Mendelsund's "What We See When We Read."  Peter appeared at the 2015 "RA in a Day" event organized by OPLA's Readers' Advisory Committee and he was a dynamic and absorbing speaker.  He was quite humble about his work at Knopf and his books but he should not be because I could read his books and listen to him all day.

This book is really just a meditation on something that we can never know because "what we see when we read" is as individual as each human and each reading experience.  Readers may think very little about the reading experience as it is an ethereal and ever-evolving notion.  Mendelsund tries to recreate the experience in the format of his book that reads likes a philosophic treatise that has been smoking up in an alley.

He looks at concepts like character and setting and tends to focus a lot of his consideration on a few classic texts like Finnegan's Wake, Anna Karenina and Moby Dick.  Readers who have read those texts would gain an additional layer of insight but is not 100% necessary.  I followed his thoughts and assertions despite not having read Tolstoy.  Considering Nancy Pearl's doorways, this book is firmly behind the language door as it reads lyrically and with profound humour and humanity.  (Am I gushing?)

Ultimately, Mendelsund suggested that reduction is what we see and that reduction is the currency of human experience.  We can never take in everything, so we take in what we can or want to see.  Reading is a sum of our own experience, knowledge and education and no one reads a book in the same way.  The book celebrates our own individuality and paints a cast landscape in the books we read which can never be fully known.

I suggest this book for every readers' advisor to understand the reading experience from a completely new perspective.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Books and Brunch

It is never a unpleasant Sunday spent in a room as beautiful as the one pictured above.  This is the Sovereign Ballroom in the King Edward Hotel in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  This hotel is part of Toronto's history and is well worth a visit or an overnight stay, if you can afford it!  The hotel is famous for a very luxurious Sunday brunch which will give you a chance to sit in the ballroom and enjoy the atmosphere.

I attended an event on Sunday, March 1st at the hotel called "Books and Brunch" which is hosted by Ben McNally and his bookstore.  Details about brunch events are posted on his website and occur ever few weeks.  The cost is $50 which includes a full brunch and attendance at the event and the tickets can be purchased at the store or online.

The event I attended included the five finalists for the RBC Charles Taylor Prize which is awarded for excellence in non-fiction writing.  This event was held about 48 hours before the winner was announced so it is really a premiere event for the public to interact with the nominees and hear about their amazing books.  Plum Johnson, David O'Keefe, M. J. Vassanji, Barbara Taylor and Kathleen Winter presented excerpts from their works and spoke about the writing process.  These books were all fascinating and great examples of narrative non-fiction which would be popular with readers.

Attendees can purchase the books and have them signed by the author at the event.  It is a fabulous opportunity to get up close and personal with great Canadian authors in an impressive setting from Sunday brunch.  I am glad I could finally arrange to go and I would do so again.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Based on the Book

Anyone working in a library will tell you that books which are made into movies are popular with readers.  You will see long holds lists for books that have been just been made into movies, no matter how old the book it.  Woe is the acquisitions department when a blockbuster film is based on a book that is no longer in print or wide distribution.

At my library, we have a "Raves and Faves" program which features sure-fire reads in greater quantities which are often displayed near the entrance so that customers can quickly grab a great read.  We included "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed and "Still Alice" by Lisa Genova.  Needless to say, both titles quickly exited the library to fill holds.

A display of books and the films they are based on is a quick win for your collection as readers and watchers will be intrigued to see these collected together.  Good readers' advisors probably do not need a lot of aids to find these quickly but there are a lot of resources out there to find these items.

Mid-Continent Public Library offers 1450 book titles and the movies they inspired.

Bookreporter does a great round-up of films in theatres which are based on books

EarlyWord will give you a heads up for recent films being released which are based on books.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Online Readers' Advisory Services

Canadian public libraries are becoming more and more interested in their readers.  Cultivating good relationships with readers can translate into more library support through book usage.  With a rise in use of e-collections, libraries have to offer readers' advisory services in new ways that make them convenient for readers to use.  Providing reading suggestions can spread a readers' interest across the whole collection drawing attention away from popular titles.

Personalized book lists or reading suggestions are old ideas in the readers' advisory cannon but they are experiencing a resurgence in interest, both for libraries and readers.  Many libraries are offering web-based forms which allows readers to receive reading suggestions.  Here are a few successful services which may serve as a model for service in your library.

Kingston Frontenac Public Library's 3 for 3

This service allows readers to send the three authors or titles that they have read in the past and enjoyed to receive three new titles or authors to try.  Readers are encouraged to identify appeal factors for the books they enjoyed to provide something for the advisors to consider.  Readers will receive a response in a week.  Be sure to check out other lists and posts on their KFPL Reads site.

Toronto Public Library's Ask a Bookhead

If you click on the green button at the top right hand corner of the page above, you'll be taken to a chat page where you can ask readers' advisory questions.  Library staff answer these questions on a daily basis and the information is available for others to read.  This service is one of a whole suite of services available for readers.  Check out Book Buzz, Toronto's online book club, for additional resources.

Vancouver Public Library's Books Just for You

Vancouver offers a traditional looking form for readers to complete for advisory services.  This is just one part of a fulsome offering of services for readers.  There is no additional information about how quickly you may receive the suggestions or how many titles/authors you may receive in return but it looks like you won't be disappointed.

Edmonton Public Library's Personalized Book Lists

Like Vancouver, Edmonton allows readers to complete a formal request for advisory services.  Book lists and other resources are available as well.  Check out their online chat!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Ontario Library Association - 2015 Superconference

The annual Ontario Library Association conference was held in Toronto from January 28 to 31.  This conference gives library professionals and other library workers an opportunity to meet and attend relevant workshops.  The content is varied and sessions include content for academic, special, school and public libraries.

In terms of readers' advisory content, there were some sessions which provided some training for library staff.  The Dewey Divas and Dudes offered reading suggestions for |LGTBQ teens.  Vaughan Public Library staff showcased their focus on developing readers' advisory services (no access to presentation).

With other committee members, I was able to meet with the co-chair of the British Columbia Library Association Readers' Advisory Interest Group.  This committee was developed after discussion with the Ontario Public Library Association's Readers' Advisory Committee.  Our lunch was a good opportunity to discuss readers' advisory issues in public libraries across the country.

As always, the Expo featured many authors and allowed libraries direct access to publishers and suppliers.

Overall, there could have been more readers' advisory content which means that those who have a passion for readers should be developing a session for next year's conference.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Audio Appeal

What makes an audiobook appeal to a reader? As a reader who goes through quite a few audiobooks, I find that certain factors make me more enamored of certain books, adding to the appeal of the book in new ways.

For me, series often come to be associated with the reader's voice, and I prefer the audiobook format for certain series as a result.
Ralph Cosham's voice is Armand Gamache and the other characters in Louise Penny's mystery series set in Quebec. His voice is the perfect mix of authority and gentleness that is the essence of Gamache. The other voices, conveyed through the smallest differences of inflection bring the other characters to life, from the abrasive poet Ruth to the calm and insightful bookstore owner and psychologist Myrna.
Dick Hill is Jack Reacher in Lee Child's thriller series. His voice is calm, sure of himself, yet not arrogant. It is strong, intelligent, and can slide into sexy as easily as Reacher dons a new set of clothes.
Jayne Entwistle is Flavia de Luce in Alan Bradley's mystery series. She conveys the quirkiness, intelligence, of the child perfectly. Her supporting voices for characters like calm, quiet Dogger, and silly yet solid Mrs, Mullet convey their natures to a tee.

Range of voices
For other books it is the wild range that a single reader can bring to a book to convey different characters.
Simon Vance does wonderful things with his voice in Jasper Fforde's Nursery Crime mystery series to bring the wide variety of characters to life, ranging from wild Punch and Judy, to gruff bears, to aliens.
Laurel Merlington in Margaret Atwood's Penelopiad brings not only the voice of Penelope, but also the other maidens, to life in unique ways.
Stephen Fry brings us Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect along with the many characters they encounter along the way in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

Evocative voices
Sometimes it is the fit the author makes of his or her reading to the book that makes it special.
Mark Bramhall, reading The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin does an amazing job of storytelling, using slow speaking, pauses and other means to bring the story to vibrant life.
Sunil Malhotta brings the perfect voice to Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, emotional yet never jarring.
Sissy Spacek reads the classic To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee in such a way that you are in the story, feeling what Scout is feeling, experiencing what she is experiencing.
Cassandra Campbell reading The Jewels of Paradise by Donna Leon has the loveliest Italian accent that makes you feel like you are in Venice living the story of Caterina.

Authors as Readers
Books read by the author also have a different sense that makes you listen more closely
In See Now Then by Jamaica Kincaid which has her using inflections, pauses, and a particularly non-emotional voice for very emotional scenes that add an intensity to the book.
Sidney Poitier's Life Beyond Measure, written as a series of letters to his first great-granddaughter has a more intimate feel with his reading than it would in another form or with a different reader.
Joshilyn Jackson's Backseat Saints comes alive with her sassy, twangy voice which exemplifies the daring story of Ro Grandee as she escapes her life to create a new one through delving into her past.
Winter Journal by Paul Auster is a memoir made all the more special and intimate with the author reading it making the emotions described real.

Multiple voices
Sometimes two or more voices can bring a different feel to a book.
In Richard Dawkin's memoir An Appetite for Wonder, the author reads the majority of the book himself, but the diary entries from his parents are read by Lalla Ward and bring a true sense of another viewpoint.
In Gone Girl, Julia Whelan and Kirby Heyborne become the voices of Amy and Nick, taking turns telling their disturbing story. The use of two voices here made the reality of two versions of a story stand out in an amazing way.
One Good Dog by Susan Wilson has two readers, Fred Berman and Rick Adamson for the voices of Adam March and the dog Chance, and this makes the two characters who become so important to each other distinct and individual.

What makes an audiobook appeal to you?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Shelf Inserts

 These shelf inserts are available from Carr McLean.  They fit most standard shelving that is 34 3/4 inches long and offer a 7 3/4 and 9 1/2 inch depth.  Clear acrylic, the inserts are compatible with any coloured shelf and instantly offers a clean and accessible display option.  At $62 CDN for the narrower depth and $74 for the wider, these are affordable in smaller quantities for most libraries.  The inserts are also available in double-sided versions for table tops.

At my library, 40 inserts were purchased to provide the entire youth section with more accessible display shelving.  As pictured, books were moved  to insert the display stand in the middle of the bay, at "grab it" height.  Previously, wire book stands were used to display items at the top of the bay and that was not as effective as youth rarely removed the books from that area.

These inserts assist with passive readers advisory and promotion of books to the youth audience.  These inserts will be tested in this area for implementation in other areas of the collection.

If purchasing these items are not possible, items can be displayed at a more accessible level for customers to reach using other less- expensive methods.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015


Few magazines offer readers' advisors as much insight into your readers than Bookmarks magazine.  The magazine's audience is avid readers and it provides brief and useful information to make informed reading choices.  Although it is great for library staff, the glossy cover is intended for purchase by readers on local newsstands.  Canadians can receive a subscription and it is available at a much lower cost than professional journals.

The magazine is available bi-monthly and follows a familiar format.  The first section includes the top ten picks from all books reviewed in the issue.  "Coming Soon" gives readers a look at forthcoming books and movie tie-ins.  The magazine invites readers to contribute through booklists, description of their book clubs and reading suggestions.  Two or three longer features are included and focus on a particular writer or a type of literature.  Finally, the magazine includes a large number of reviews.  The titles are reviewed by Bookmarks staff writers and reviews from major publications are also included for comparison.

The reviews offer a brief summary, some information about appeal factors and a lot of read-alikes.  All genres are covered, books for young adults and non-fiction are also reviewed.  The coverage is timely with books that will have received marketing and media coverage.  The books are usually widely available at bookstores and libraries.

Readers' advisors will find this publication very useful to them as it will greatly assist with the development of collection knowledge, especially new books that customers will be asking about.  The format is accessible and easy to use.  The magazines themselves will serve as a resource for continued use as a tool to aid readers.  For small libraries, it is an economical choice that should be considered in lieu of more expensive print reference books.