Readers’ Advisory Sessions at PLA 2014: Audiobooks

Today’s post comes from Anna Ferri, the 2014/15 BCLA student representative, one of the two UBC student representatives with RAIG, and a current MLIS candidate.

This year I was bound and determined to make it to the Public Library Association Conference in Indianapolis, March 11-14, 2014. Since the conference is only held every other year, this was my one chance to attend as a student, with both the reduced conference fee and with no one’s agenda but my own interests. Accordingly I went to several Readers’ Advisory sessions and brought back a few tidbits to share. For brevity’s sake, I’ll post a couple separate blog posts during this month on sessions I attended. The full program for PLA is on the conference website, along with an array of handouts for each session that are really worth checking out.

All About Audiobooks: Improving Readers’ Advisory for Listeners

One of the first sessions I attended, and one of the standout sessions of the whole conference for me, was “All About Audiobooks: Improving Readers’ Advisory for Listeners”. This panel included librarians, a representative from NoveList, a board member from the Audio Publishers Association, and the founder of AudioFile magazine. Their incredibly informative discussion was organized around the new audio recommendations feature in NoveList, available with NoveList Plus, and the Audio Characteristics appeal terms they developed for that purpose. But the discussion ranged far and wide and was peppered with a lot of excellent advice.

For instance, remember that your ear cannot skim content that your eyes might skip over. While this may seem like a reference to slogging your way through a long dreary text, the real point here was about the reader’s sensitivity to content. With audiobooks, it can be especially important to assess a listener’s tolerance for foul language, violence, sexual content, or even more particular things like children getting hurt or misogynistic language. It isn’t as easy to skim past or skip over difficult content in the audiobook format.

Another suggestion was that full cast audio plays can be an excellent recommendation for families who are traveling together by car for the summer. A good western or adventure tale with a full cast, sound effects, and good production values can keep all ages engaged and amused. But be wary of how sound effects might impact drivers. A thrilling cops and robbers tale can get a little too exciting for mom or dad when the sound of a siren comes blaring out of the stereo.

Appeal Characteristics for Audiobooks

It was exciting to hear that NoveList has taken the time to develop a rich set of appeal terms (34 to be exact) around audio characteristics. These are listed at the end of their downloadable guide to appeal terms. These terms can be used to group together or help delineate audiobooks in a way that is relevant to how listeners experience narration and production along with the more traditional plot, tone, writing style, etc. Whether used within the bounds of NoveList or just kept on hand as a ready way for any librarian to discuss audiobooks with patrons, they are a fascinating and potentially useful list.

“Detached”, for instance, refers to narration that is “emotionally removed from the story” and can ask the reader to do more of the emotional work or interpretation of the novel. Remember that the audio appeal characteristics refer to the narration style and not to the emotional content of the book as a whole. Audiobooks with a “detached” narrative style can be especially good for book clubs. The panelists suggested Night by Elie Wiesel as read by George Guidall as an example of an effective use of this narrative style.

Audiobook RA Resources

The panel also listed several of the key places to go to keep up to date on quality audiobooks. Of course there’s a bit of a bias towards resources curated or sponsored by organizations represented on the panel, but these are still some excellent places to scan for keeping up with current audiobook trends.

The Listen List – A yearly list from ALA’s RUSA of 12 excellent audiobook titles including fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and plays, each presented with a description of their appeal and several listen-alikes.

AudioFile Earphones AwardsAn ongoing recognition of the best audiobook narration in current tiles published in the AudioFile magazine and available on their website.

Audie Awards – Sponsored by the Audio Publishers Association, these awards recognize “distinction in audiobooks and spoken word entertainment”. Both the winners and finalists from past years can be found on their website. – A new website from AudioFile that is updated weekly with a curated list of select audiobook reviews. One especially nice feature is a little button at the top of the page that brings you to a list of categories, including Top Picks, for easy browsing. It’s a ready way to bite off a manageable chunk of the most current audiobooks.

Throughout the month of May students from UBC’s School of Library, Archival and Information Studies will be posting their best Readers’ Advisory tips to the RAIG blog!

1 thought on “Readers’ Advisory Sessions at PLA 2014: Audiobooks

  1. Frank The Sheep

    I would love if there were some spoken word or poetry among these options, but I’m having trouble digging much out of the links. Alas – not a category in most of them.


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