Our Shared Shelf – Emma Watson’s Feminist Book Club

I’m pretty sure you and I relate to Emma Watson’s most remarkable fiction character.

Hermione Granger, the bookworm witch turned into feminist activist.

The bookworm witch turned into feminist activist.

The 26-year-old actress was appointed as the United Nations Women Goodwill Ambassador in 2014, when she helped launch the campaign HeForShe, advocating for gender equality.

At the beginning of 2016, Watson launched a worldwide book club on GoodReads called Our Shared Shelf. The group has over 140 thousand members across the globe! With the help of a handful of volunteer coordinators, the group engages in frequent and lively discussions about feminism, human rights, cultural differences, etc.

Watson picks a book every month (though she created a poll for members to choose the book for the summer – July and August). She managed to interview a few of the authors, soliciting questions from the members. Some of the interviews are available in videos. Volunteers have started to translate the transcripts of interviews so members that don’t read English can read the interviews.

Here’s what the group has read so far:


February color-purple
“I am trying to choose works that cover as much ground as possible and are diverse… I’ve heard amazing things about this book from a person that I trust… The musical is currently on Broadway (starring Cynthia Erivo, Jennifer Hudson and Danielle Brooks) and a film was made of the book in 1985 by Steven Spielberg. It was Oprah Winfrey’s film debut and introduced Whoopi Goldberg (I love both of these women). I’m excited to read it and maybe do some watching too.”



“This month’s book choice is in honor of bell hooks who interviewed me for Paper magazine this month. Maya Angelou said of bell’s work, “Each offering from bell hooks is a major event, she has so much to give us’. I love hearing from bell, I am pretty excited to start “All About Love: New Visions”. It’s been on my list for a while.”


“I read it on a plane from London to New York and I laughed out loud and cried so much I think the whole of my cabin, airline staff included, thought I was losing my mind.”


“The story is about the author’s relationship with artist Harry Dodge, who is fluidly gendered. It’s about their romance, the birth of their son, the death of Harry’s mother and their changing bodies, as Maggie becomes pregnant and Harry undergoes surgery, but it’s also about inclusion and the powers and shortfalls of language.”


“As Iran enters another important period of change, with relations re-opening with much of the world, I think this is a particularly good time to pick up Persepolis. Satrapi’s deceptively simple, almost whimsical drawings belie the seriousness and rich complexity of her story–but it’s also very funny too.”

July/August hunger-modern-girl


“Half the Sky depicts, in eye-opening detail, the various cultures and customs that suppress women and gives a voice to those individuals who need to be heard the most. Traversing through Africa and Asia, Kristof and WuDunn introduce us to some incredibly strong women and describe their stories of suffering and survival.”

RA in a Day 2016 – Registration is open!

Have you registered for RA in a Day 2016 yet? It’s getting closer and we’re getting excited!

Register now! Registration closes at noon on Friday, October 7.

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016
9:30am -4:00 PM
Vancouver Public Library, Central branch

Presented by the BCLA Readers’ Advisory Interest Group, this event is about building your RA confidence, reminding you about what you already know, learning to better serve your patrons as readers advisors and enjoying this practical professional development event.

This year we are back in downtown Vancouver, and we are excited about our workshop that explores the relationship between library catalogues, readers, and readers’ advisors, with Samuel Richmond, Head of Bibliographic Services at VPL.

We are honoured to have a keynote speech by Dr. Catherine Sheldrick Ross, professor and former Dean in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at the University of Western Ontario. Sheldrick Ross authored The Pleasures of Reading: A Booklover’s Alphabet which drew on over 300 open-ended interviews with avid readers to explore questions about the experience of pleasure-reading.

This year our ever-popular Speed-Dating Through the Genres will feature:
• Adventure!
• Fiction in Translation: French Canadian!
• Non-fiction graphic novels!
• Mindfulness!

Plus we will host a Bookslam demo to which we invite audience participation : )

Event Fee(s)
BCLA Member $ 50.00
Non-Member $ 70.00
Student $ 30.00

Join in the conversation on social media with the hashtag #RADay16.

Register now! We hope to see you there on Tuesday October 18th.

Best Bets 2016

Each year we pick our favourite books that we can’t stop recommending to people. Check out our 2016 list below!

You can also download a printable PDF version of the list.


Between the World and Me
by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Written as a letter to his teenage son, this is a short and very well-written meditation on what it means to be a black man in the US. Powerful, accessible and highly recommended.

– Jenny Fry, Surrey Libraries




02The Pier Falls: And Other Stories
by Mark Haddon

The award-winning British author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time has written a collection of nine short stories. I found myself haunted by the characters and stories long after I finished the book. Haddon’s dark tales take the reader to such places as the British seaside, the Amazonian jungle and a tiny, desolate Greek island.  Genres in this book include sci-fi, mystery, adventure and more. The stories are so good…I bet you can’t read just one!

– Lori Nick, Fraser Valley Regional Library


03The Library at Mount Char
By Scott Hawkins

Once the Librarians were normal American kids. But after being orphaned they were raised by Father who trained each child in one catalogue of knowledge – languages, healing arts, math and sciences, war, and death. Years later Father has gone missing and the Librarians must find him, or at least resolve who exactly is now in charge. Hawkins tosses you into a deeply strange, complex, and violent fantasy of our world that rewards with a most haunting reading experience.

– Anna Ferri, Vancouver Public Library and West Vancouver Memorial Library 

04Lab Girl
by Hope Jahren

Hope Jahren is a brilliant, hilarious feminist geobiologist. Her exceptional memoir traces her life’s journey thus far, exploring the lab of her scientist father as a child, studying within a male-dominated field, managing mental health breakdowns, enjoying recognition of her research, and reflecting upon marriage and motherhood. At its core, Lab Girl is the tale of her three-decade long intimate working relationship with her eccentric lab partner Bill, her love and admiration of plants, and her scientific vocation.

-Tara Matsuzaki, West Vancouver Memorial Library

 05H is for Hawk
by Helen Macdonald

This book is impossible to classify. It is memoir, it is nature writing, it is a meditation on family relationships – but it is much more than the sum of its parts and will draw you in. MacDonald’s writing is beautiful and her ability to evoke feelings in the reader makes this book a really powerful experience.

– Shelley Wilson-Roberts, New Westminster Public Library


06Big Little Lies
by Liane Moriarty

Mother warfare on the playground! What more do you want? How about a whodunnit thrown in the mix? This tale of small-town scandal, snobby parents, and murder is a deliciously entertaining read that will have you flipping frantically to get to the final page. And that is no lie!

– Alan Woo,  co-founder of This Book is RAD



07Captive Prince
by C.S. Pacat

In this high fantasy trilogy, Prince Damen is ousted from his throne and sent as a slave to Prince Laurent, the ruler of an enemy kingdom, where he must hide his true identity to stay alive. A compelling, fast-paced, character-driven narrative of political intrigue, tightly-plotted action, and queer romance. (Note that the first book in particular contains some graphic, dark themes.)

– Chloe Riley, Vancouver Public Library


08Dear Mr. You
by Mary-Louise Parker

This book took me for a spin. I’ve always enjoyed Mary-Lousie Parker’s acting roles and sass (Weeds, Angels in America, etc), so I was curious to pick up this book. I devoured this book in one sitting. Through a series of letters to the men who have impacted her life, Parker shares personal narratives that are hilarious, dark, sad, and moving. Her language is evocative and her stories are fascinating, personal, and vulnerable. Highly recommended.

 Meghan Savage, Surrey Libraries

09Humans of New York: Stories
by Brandon Stanton

Based on the blog Humans of New York. Stanton photographs strangers in the Big Apple, but in this sequel, he adds captions, pieces of conversations he had with those people. It is a powerful narrative and a celebration of our shared humanity, regardless of our roots, faiths, social statuses or bank accounts. We’re all human and yearn to belong and to be loved, and this shows so beautifully in Stanton’s images and captions.

– Ana Calabresi, Burnaby Public Library

10My Name is Lucy Barton
by Elizabeth Strout

Lucy Barton, recovering in hospital from complications from minor surgery, tells her life story, with particular focus on her relationship with her mother. This is a beautiful, astonishing book which captured me from the first page – I read it almost straight through, captivated by the title character and the story of her life. It’s a life both ordinary and extraordinary. The voice is true and the story she tells moved me and made me consider my own memories. I cannot recommend it too highly.

– Claire Westlake, North Vancouver District Public Library

11A Head Full of Ghosts
by Paul Tremblay

In a desperate attempt to save their daughter, a  down-on-its-luck family agreed to an exorcism on a reality TV show. Tremblay has written a horrifying novel that requires no gore to chill your bones. He pays homage to the familiar possession tales while turning the conventions upside down, leaving us to figure out who is telling the truth.

-Virginia McCreedy, Port Moody Library


Paper Girls, Vol. 1
Written by Brian K. Vaughan. Illustrated by Cliff Chiang

It’s time to join the American Newspaper Delivery Guild and meet the raddest group of newspaper delivering, video game playing, dinosaur fighting, time travelling, 12 year olds girls that 1988 has to offer. Brian K. Vaughan, the writer of hit Image comic Saga, is joined by Cliff Chiang, whose art manages to capture the personalities, emotions, and actions of the characters perfectly. Who knew newspaper delivery girls could be so badass?

– Matthew Murray, creator of the Readers’ Advisory for Library Staff Facebook group

Bodice Rippers & All Other Good Things

As a relative newbie to the genre of romance, I thank the universe daily for the website Smart Bitches, Trashy Books (SB-TB). Co-founded by Sarah Wendell in 2005, the site is a vibrant community hub for veteran and novice romance readers alike. As an organization, they strive to:

  • Connect romance fans to the books they want to read — and even more books after that.
  • Connect romance fans to each other — no romance fan should be lonely!
  • Most importantly, we welcome everyone with a high level of irreverent, silly, and smart discussions about all the topics romance fans enjoy.

From my experience, SB-TB achieves these goals and then some. Of particular note is their blog, which functions as a crowdsourced RA platform where readers can post queries about obscure books and series they’re trying to locate. Users are exceptionally helpful with their feedback. For example, a recent post entitled “looking for a Harlequin about a librarian hero and a mute veteran” received 23 enthusiastic responses. SB-TB also posts regular book reviews that highlight new releases, and produces a fun podcast where Sarah Wendell chats with authors, librarians and readers about all things romance.

As a librarian, I use SB-TB as a wonderful tool to keep me up-to-date on the romance genre. If you haven’t checked out the website yet, please do! They’ll welcome you with open arms.

I first stumbled across SB-TB while listening to an excellent episode of the NPR podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour called “The Romance Novel Special.” To my delight Sarah Wendell was among the guests, and her enthusiasm for the romance genre was infectious. If you listen to the episode, her encyclopedic knowledge of romance titles will astound you. She truly is a readers’ advisory ninja!

Chloe Humphreys is a newly minted librarian working at Vancouver Public Library.

This Book is RAD!

There are countless resources out there when it comes to diversity in books for children and youth. The successful We Need Diverse Books campaign, for one.

But when my friend and fellow librarian Christina Appleberry and I tried to find books for adults that featured diverse characters, we had a much more difficult time doing so. By all means, there are numerous staff lists on library websites that embrace diversity, but that took a lot of digging and sifting. Plus, many of those lists grouped the books into categories such as Asian Books or African American Books. What if we wanted to find a cozy mystery that featured a lead character that also just happened to be a person of colour or identified as gay?

This is when we had our lightbulb moment to create a website that would act as a Readers’ Advisory resource for those seeking various types of books featuring diverse characters or written by diverse authors. Thus, This Book is RAD was born! (RAD stands for Readers’ Advisory Diversity.) We are still in the beginning stages of this, with a handful of book titles up on the site and continuing to update it as much as we can whenever possible, but we have yet to break the Internet. With that being said, if anyone out there has any recommendations for diverse books, please do feel free to get in touch with us and send in a write-up for us to post!

Diversity is such a big topic, so we try to read widely and add categories as they come up. Our main focus is people of colour, but we have also gone on to include sexuality, gender, body image, disabilities, mental health, women, etc. We do try to keep it to adult selections as well, though you’ll notice there are definitely several young adult titles that we have featured. We also try to have a variety of genres, from non-fiction to graphic novels, poetry, science fiction, spy, etc.

Here are a few selections from our blog:

By Yaa Gyasi

Epic is the best word for me to describe this debut novel from Yaa Gyasi. It reminded me a lot of And the Mountains Echoed, in the way that each chapter revolves around a different character and how it jumps in time, but it all fits together into one larger story. A novel in stories, I believe is what I had been told this is called. Each story stands alone perfectly, but is woven seamlessly together to create an expansive tapestry.

Homegoing encompasses the lives of two sisters born in Ghana in the 18th century who get separated and wind up with very different lives – one is sold into slavery, the other becomes the wife of a British slave trader. And from there, we watch as the two family trees unravel into Africa and America, respectively. There is so much going on in this novel, that it’s just breathtaking. Parts will destroy you, while others will lift you right back up again. At only 26 years old, Gyasi has produced an instant classic here. Now how RAD is that?

Homegoing was released this past June 2016, so it’s a very new and current novel, as well!

-Alan Woo

And The Mountains Echoed
by Khaled Hosseini

This third novel from Khaled Hosseini is a return to form for the author the bestselling book The Kite Runner. I loved that book. It was a doorway into a world I had no concept of. His second outing, A Thousand Splendid Suns, focused mainly on the lives of Muslim women and domestic abuse. I wasn’t sure if I was a fan of it as much as The Kite Runner, but I liked it enough to want to read his most recent piece, And The Mountains Echoed.

This book is a sweeping tapestry of stories from Afghanistan, with a pit-stop in Paris, and jumps through time as we visit upon a multitude of characters whose lives intertwine and are torn apart. The first chapter featured a story within a story (i.e. one of the characters is telling a fable), which threw me off and didn’t really make me want to continue reading, but the fable fits well with the story line and once I got over that hump, I just could not put this book down. Beautiful, poetic, and downright moving, And The Mountains Echoed is a wonderful read that I would highly suggest.

-Alan Woo

by Sarai Walker

I really enjoyed Sarai Walker’s debut novel Dietland, which is toted as being “part coming-of-age and part revenge-fantasy.” It follows the story of Plum, a heavy set woman who is dealing with body image, weight, dieting, and self-confidence. One day she notices a young lady following her, and this leads her into an adventure of self-discovery. The journey itself is filled with intrigue, as we meet mysterious characters and an international movement to empower women.

This book makes the RAD list because it features a character who is overweight, and also a side character who is half-Black and possibly a lesbian. Many of the characters in the book are female, with only a handful of men popping up here and there if only to put their chauvinism on display. This was also an enjoyable read that had me flipping through the pages as quick as I could to reach its heart-swelling climax.

-Alan Woo

Symptoms of Being Human
by Jeff Garvin

Oh wow. This book is fantastic. It taught me the term “gender fluid” which was something totally new to me. If you don’t know what gender fluid is, this book will definitely enlighten you. It brings you into the world of Riley, who sometimes feels like a boy and sometimes feels like a girl.

Now try going to a new high school with that. Add in a love interest, political drama, bullying, and so much more, and you have a recipe for a tightly-written, engulfing coming-of-age-and-then-some story, while introducing a whole new world and experience to readers at the same time. Other characters who bump this book up the RAD (Readers Advisory Diversity) ladder include Solo, the African-American jock with a heart of gold and a slight body image issue; Bec, the girl who wins Riley’s heart; and the multitude of trans characters who show up throughout the book in numerous different ways.

This book ran me through a gauntlet of emotions. I was crying my eyes out one moment, then completely enraged the next, but throughout the story, I found myself consistently rooting for our main character, Riley. Jeff Garvin’s book is a YA treasure that needs to be uncovered by more people. So go do it already and read this book!

-Alan Woo

Whatever It Takes
by Gwynne Foster

This is not the kind of book I would normally read, but I was walking through the paperbacks section of the library and I saw a book with a black woman on the cover. It’s not a common sight among the cozies and westerns and romances, so I figured I’d give it a try. Whatever It Takes, written by Gwynne Foster, is about a woman who is dealing with her parents’ divorce, a jealous and spiteful twin sister who seems hell bent on sabotaging her life, and the new man in her life. At times I thought that I might be reading Christian fiction (the father is a deacon) or romance, but I don’t think this book is either. It’s really just about family and relationships. It’s kind of like a Lifetime movie… but a book. Not bad, but not great. It didn’t change my life, but it was nice to read a book with black characters that wasn’t about slavery, civil rights, poverty, violence, or racism. We need more of that.

-Christina Appleberry

Fresh Off The Boat: A Memoir
by Eddie Huang

In the words of the author, Eddie Huang, this book is ill! (That’s a good thing!) Huang’s memoir, Fresh Off The Boat, is the basis of the hit ABC sitcom of the same name. If you’ve seen it, you’ll know it’s a pretty funny show. If you haven’t, what are you waiting for? The book however, is not quite the same. The show is much more Disney while the actual memoir is pretty raw and gritty at times.

Don’t get me wrong. The book is still full of humour as Huang navigates what it’s like growing up as an Asian-American in 1990s Orlando, with wit, intelligence, and heart. He bares all as he describes all the fist fights, the drug pedaling, and the racism. You don’t see much of that in the TV sitcom. What you also don’t get from the TV show is the reason why his grandma is in a wheelchair. On the show, she shows up in every other scene to deliver a sassy line of dialogue. In the book, it turns out she’s in a wheelchair because her feet were bound when she was a child!

His obsession with hip hop is also rampant in the book, as is his love for sneakers, basketball, and food. Now the proprietor of NYC’s BaoHaus restaurant, this book clearly shows his trajectory from being a small time troublemaker to a law school graduate to restaurateur, and everything in between. Along for the ride are his two younger brothers, his bad-ass of a father (also dumbed down for television), and his outrageous mother. Huang tackles the issues of race from his perspective, using his points of reference: hip hop, rap, basketball, and food.

This was an inspirational read. I can’t wait to go to NYC and visit his restaurant and maybe even meet the man himself.

-Alan Woo

Indian Horse
by Richard Wagamese

This novel by First Nations/Aboriginal Canadian author Richard Wagamese follows the life of Saul, aka. Indian Horse, as he is born and raised in the Canadian wilderness, only to be ripped out of his family’s arms and thrown into the horrors and evils of a residential school. It’s terrifying to know that these places actually existed here in Canada, a country that today seems so advanced in human rights yet has a dark and cruel past.

Saul’s only savior is of all things, hockey. How much more Canadiana can this be? His success on the ice helps carve out a new life for him, away from the residential school. But no matter what hockey team he plays on or what Canadian town he ends up in, there is little escape from the atrocities of racism that plight the world around him. Saul continues to run, skate, and drink, but eventually his past threatens to break through the ice to leave him drowning.

The first part of this book was intriguing, describing traditions, living in the woods, and re-tellings of Aboriginal stories. The residential school portion was infuriating and heartbreaking. The hockey parts of the book are the most fleshed out, and you can tell Wagamese is either himself a huge hockey fan, or has done his research! I’m not fussed over hockey, but in the context of this novel, I can appreciate it as a vehicle for the main character to escape and make a better life for himself.

Indian Horse is a selection I came across through the Amnesty International Book Club.

–Alan Woo

Visit This Book Is RAD for more diverse selections!

I Know What You Read Last Summer – A List of Guilty Pleasure Reads

We’ve all done it. We’ve picked up that book and hurriedly checked it out and stuffed it furiously into our book bags before anyone can see. It’s that book that we probably wouldn’t advertise we were currently reading over on Goodreads. But still, under the deep cover of night, we’ve flipped frantically through the pages unable to resist wanting more. Such is the plight of the guilty read. And yes, as some of the people I polled for this article attested, why should we feel guilty for reading? We shouldn’t! However, there may still be a few titles here and there that we wouldn’t readily admit to reading. What are some of yours? Feeling embarrassed? In that case, let me be the first to confess one of my more guilty reads…


Brunette Ambition
by Lea Michele

I was never  a huge Glee fan… (okay, fine I watched every single episode). I am definitely not a huge Lea Michele fan by any means, however. Yet, I found myself picking up her “autobiography” and checking it out. The main reason for this is because she is besties with Broadway star Jonathan Groff (Spring Awakening, Hamilton), and I had heard somewhere that she discusses their friendship in her book, as well as his bout with skin cancer. Unfortunately, any mention of her and Groff’s friendship was pretty minuscule and almost nothing about his battle against cancer. Instead, the book is entirely fluff. It dedicates an entire chapter to photos of Michele doing her favourite yoga poses in her backyard and what she likes to eat for breakfast. Um…. So not quite an autobiography either. Brunette Ambition comes across as more of a lifestyle magazine disguised as a hardcover. This isn’t really a guilty pleasure, but I definitely felt lots of guilt for even wasting my time reading it!

I sent out a poll to SLAIS students and grads to see what some of their “guilty reads” consisted of and here are some of the titles I got back. All contributor names will be kept confidential in order to respect their privacy.



Act Like It
by Lucy Parker

“A smart, witty, and refreshing romance about two West End actors who agree to pretend to date for the publicity despite their dislike of one another. I’ve stopped calling things guilty pleasure reads, because I don’t think it’s worth spending time feeling guilty about reading or finding pleasure in it,” said one of my fellow classmates, who sent this in.

Here’s a more detailed synopsis of the book:

“Richard Troy used to be the hottest actor in London, but the only thing firing up lately is his temper. We all love to love a bad boy, but Richard’s antics have made him Enemy Number One, breaking the hearts of fans across the city.

Have the tides turned? Has English rose Lainie Graham made him into a new man?

Sources say the mismatched pair has been spotted at multiple events, arm in arm and hip to hip. From fits of jealousy to longing looks and heated whispers, onlookers are stunned by this blooming romance.

Could the rumors be right? Could this unlikely romance be the real thing? Or are these gifted stage actors playing us all?”

– taken from the Vancouver Public Library website



The Night Circus
by Erin Morgenstern

“I don’t know if I ever have guilty reads – I love reading soo much – but [this is] the one book I can’t wait to read again!”exclaimed a Lower Mainland librarian, who sent in The Night Circus as his pick. (I too have read this book and found it to be a wonderful and enjoyable read!)

“Le Cirque des Rêves appears without warning and only opens at night. Behind the scenes a fierce competition is underway between two magicians: Celia and Marco. They have been training for this competition since childhood, yet, despite themselves, they fall headfirst into love. But they don’t know that this is a competition in which only one can be left standing.”

– taken from the Burnaby Public Library website



The Veronica Mars spin-off books
by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

“I loveee the recent Veronica Mars TV show spin-off books, but I don’t feel guilty about it at all! (Okay, just a little.)” That’s what one SLAIS grad posted on Facebook about her guilty pleasure reads. This sparked a supportive comment from another person, who wrote in, “No guilt needed – I’m reading Mr. Kiss & Tell right now!” If you’re not familiar with the television show, Veronica Mars is about an amateur teen sleuth who helps out her private eye father with his investigative work. After the series ended, a movie came out and the books pick up from where the feature film left off.

“Veronica Mars is back in action, and with the help of old friends she’s ready to take on Neptune’s darkest cases with her trademark sass and smarts. But she’s struggling to keep Mars Investigations afloat on the scant cash earned by catching cheating spouses until she can score her first big case. When a girl disappears from a spring break party, it’s no simple missing person’s case; the house the girl vanished from belongs to a man with serious criminal ties. Soon Veronica is plunged into a dangerous underworld of drugs and organized crime – and a shocking connection to her own past.”

The Thousand Dollar Tan Line, taken from the North Vancouver District Public Library website



The DUFF (Designated, Ugly, Fat Friend)
by Kody Keplinger

“I read The DUFF, a YA romance novel, that I picked up because I saw the movie,” confessed another friend.

“Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper starts sleeping with Wesley Rush, a notorious womanizer who disgusts her, in order to distract her from her personal problems, and to her surprise, the two of them find they have a lot in common and are able to help each other find more productive ways to deal with their difficulties.”

– taken from the Surrey Libraries website



The Caster Chronicles series
by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

Finally, our last guilty pleasure reader wrote,”Honestly, I am a sucker for the Caster Chronicles series even if it is cheesy YA paranormal romance.”

Curious about these books? Here’s more of what they’re about:

“Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she’s struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town’s oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.”

– taken from the West Vancouver Memorial Library website

So what are some of your guilty pleasure reads? Or not so guilty? Let us know what you’re hiding in your book bag, and why you are or are not enjoying it! We want to hear from you!


Alan Woo is a new librarian who has just completed his MLIS degree. He has worked for North Vancouver District Public Library, the UBC Education Library, and Environment and Climate Change Canada. 

Free Reign RA – an anecdote

As a newly minted library technician in a public library system, I’ve spent the better half of my summer learning the ropes on how to provide reference services to a variety of patrons. It’s been a wonderful and continuous learning experience. But when it comes to readers’ advisory, a majority of the patrons that I’ve helped have been children, largely in part due to the Summer Reading Club. I should probably note that I LOVE recommending kids books, but I noticed that my experiences with recommending adult reads were few and rare.

Most often my adult patrons would ask for specific titles and authors they had in mind. As regular readers, they’re set in their ways and have done their research. But, one glorious evening, I had a patron who asked me to recommend some titles with basically zero guidelines. I was given FREE REIGN. She mentioned that she just recently got back into reading and the last titles she read were The Girl on the Train and the Hunger Games series. Aside from those books, she hasn’t done much leisure reading in the last ten years or so. I’m not going to lie, I was stoked, quite possibly overcome with so many titles, but also super nervous… What if the titles I recommended ended up being terrible and thus putting a damper on her reading experience or even her library experience? (I hope you’re picturing that scene in Spiderman where Uncle Ben tells Peter with great responsibility comes great power… But you know copyrights prevent me from inserting an image of said scene😀.)

I did a little more investigation into what she was hoping to find and here was her criteria:

  • Something light/fast paced for the summer
  • Open to romance, but not have it be the prime focus
  • Something that might captivate her as a reader

Again, so much room to explore and so many possible book recommendations! But what I noticed with my initial suggestions (the ones that jumped to mind instantly) was that none were actually available in the library at the time. So instead of mindlessly searching the cataloguing for books that were available, I took a walk through fiction with my patron.

I found that being able to physically scan the shelves and pick up books helped build a better relationship. I saw titles I read and/or recognized and I was able to give her a variety of options. But I also convinced her to put holds on several other titles that I thought would be meaningful to her reading journey such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half the Yellow Sun. By the end of our encounter, she left with three books and holds on three more.
I’d like to consider this to be my first real form of adult RA-ing in a library and it genuinely was a rewarding and memorable experience.  So what do you do when you’re asked for open-ended recommendations? What do you do when your go-to titles aren’t readily available? What are some other challenges or tips that you’d like to share?


Stephanie Hong is an Information Services Technician at Surrey Libraries