Author Archives: agoffe

All Things Pinterest

One of the things I’ve always enjoyed doing is creating displays. One of the things I rarely have time for is creating displays. Thus I have become a devotee of Pinterest. And while I do have a board for Shoe Lust and other frivolous things I actually started using Pinterest to collect ideas for library displays.

One RA display we’re working on now is using paper fortune tellers or cootie catchers in a teen Paper fortune tellerdisplay. A colleague came up with the idea and I like the interactive nature of this display idea. She redesigned the categories for a teen audience making them more creative and slightly esoteric.

Another colleague created a Reading Tree display and a Book In A Jar that gets people to guess the name of the book cut up in pieces and placed (strategically) in a mason jar. The Book In A Jar was wildly popular and a great passive programming idea. It’s tactile and beckons people to pick it up, which they did. It’s labour intensive though and only good once. If you’re part of a bigger system or can share it with other libraries the program has more life.Book in a jar

I’ve tried Pinterest too for straight up RA. I did searches like “If you liked A Fault in our Stars” or Divergent and the results were just ok. There’s a lot of flotsam to get through till you find something useful. When I’ve got someone standing in front of me asking me to recommend a book to them, Pinterest is not the first place I turn to. Interestingly though in the last couple of weeks Pinterest has added limiter buttons to their search capacity. I found that Reading Lists is a good one to start with and then you add (and/or subtract) limiter suggestions, like 2014, classic, kids, etc. Unfortunately, another thing Pinterest did recently was add an annoying “There’s more to see” shadow that partially blocks out results so that those without accounts can’t easily see the images.

A favourite by-product about using Pinterest to generate ideas (or outright steal) is that the photos give viewers a glimpse into the libraries themselves. For the most part the images aren’t stylized; they’re real. I can see the info desks, notice the industrial lighting or covet a swanky new space. I love the creativity that library staff exudes using paper and ingenuity. We all love to share those things we’re most proud of. In this sense, Pinterest is an excellent tool that reaches beyond our walls to share our successes.

If you have any Pinterest boards you’d like to recommend post them in the comments below.

By Chris Conroy, Information Services Librarian, Fraser Valley Regional Library

Breakfast of Books

Teens make up some of the most passionate readers I know, but they seldom ask for help in the library, let alone for reading recommendations.


This summer I tried something different. Inspired by a post on the YALSA blog I held a “Breakfast of Books” at the library. I wasn’t expecting a great turnout, but 28 teens got up at the crack of 10:00 am to come to the library and hear about the books they should read over the summer.


From 10:00 am to 11:00 am teens stuffed their faces with unhealthy breakfast foods (donuts, baked goods, etc) and listened to me tell them about a stack of books. During the hour program I blitz booktalked 20 new young adult novels and gave away a bunch of prizes. I had stockpiled all of the new teen books that arrived in the library the month before the program. I read as many as was possible and came up with quick booktalks (no more than two minutes each) for each title. Teens tend to be comfortable with what they know and are reluctant to try something new. They will happily re-read Harry Potter or Divergent over again and over again rather than pick up something unknown. If the book sounds like familiar territory they’ll be more likely to give it a try. When introducing new books, I aim to connect it to another popular book or movie and list as many read-alikes as I can.


To promote the “Breakfast of Books” I printed out invitations and gave them to any teen who would listen. I also scattered the invitations around the teen area for teens that didn’t come to the desk.


The invitation:
Breakfast invite

I made a poster using a picture of Ron Swanson with breakfast food from the television show Parks and Recreation and posted them through the library.

Ron swanson


Every teen program includes lots of dead air. Teens awkwardly come to library programs but then don’t want to seem dorky by participating. This was no exception, after the teens had loaded up their plates, they sat at their tables to eat in awkward silence. I challenged each table to find three things they all had in common. This broke the ice and got the teens more relaxed. Interspersed through the booktalks I gave away prizes through a draw and trivia questions, and we played a game called “Purses, Pockets, Wallets“. I had book prizes, movie passes, gift cards and lots of little prizes to give away. Most teens left with something.


The program was lots of fun, and several teens commented on their end of summer evaluation form that they enjoyed the breakfast. I will definitely offer the program again. Next time I will start the program at 11:00 am (turns out 10:00 am is too early!) and incorporate more games in between the book talks.


Teen books are fun to read and promote! Read some books, put out some food and share both with some teens. It’s actually pretty easy, and tasty. For help finding book titles and other teen programs the YALSA blog and website are great resources.

–Dana Ionson, Librarian and Summer Reading Club Coordinator, Fraser Valley Regional Library

On Trend Displays

If you’re a fan of the Daily Show or the Colbert Report, chances are that you’ve heard of Last Week Tonight with former Daily Show correspondent John Oliver. This new show is on HBO, and so goes beyond the limitations set on the Daily Show and the Colbert Report by regular network television in terms of how far they can go and what they can say. John Oliver has created a hilarious, at times ruthless, look at American and world politics that is edgy, clever, and getting increasingly popular. So, it was with great delight that I recently saw a post on twitter from Medford Public Library of a display that incorporated a great bit from a recent episode:#gogetthosegeckos

#gogetthosegeckos was a hash tag that Oliver used to get people to jokingly protest the Russian government’s space program which recently sent 5 geckos into space to study their mating habits and then lost contact with the shuttle (see this article for more details). Oliver’s hash tag campaign went instantly viral and people all over the world were participating with the show. (In a recent update, all five geckos on the ship died when the shuttle finally made it back to Earth L.)

Jokes aside, this display is a great way to incorporate pop culture and trending topics into our own libraries. For people who don’t know anything about Last Week Tonight, this will prompt questions and curiosity about library displays and what is going on at the library. For those that do, we’ve made a connection and shared in the joke. It demonstrates a sense of humour, fun, and an awareness of pop culture that I think are great qualities to showcase to our respective communities. It also helps the library connect with those in their early 20’s, a demographic we may struggle to reach. Sharing it on social media is a great way to promote our own cleverness, too. In fact, this tweet was shared with me by a friend who does not use the library, but who enjoyed the display enough to retweet it to me.

Do you have an example of a cool, trendy library display, or have an idea for one? Please share it in the comment section below!

Sarah Dearman – Information Services Librarian at Fraser Valley Regional Library

Teen Book Finder App

The other night, I had an RA dream. Not a nightmare, exactly, but I woke up vaguely frazzled. yalsa app 4In my dream I was at a library job interview, and I had to booktalk two books that the interview panel gave me. I had 5 minutes to get my thoughts together. No problem, I thought. But then some of my co-workers distracted me with random chatter about their weekends, and then I couldn’t find the books. I knew what they were, but I started to panic and couldn’t think of their titles. Once awake, I believe they were, A Wrinkle In Time and Harry Potter (#1). Some leftover angst from a grade 5 tour I once gave in the 90’s, perhaps.

No point to this tale, really, but I came across an app that might have been useful in my dream. YALSA’s Teen Book Finder!




yalsa app 2yalsa app 3


Kind of a cute little tool, it organizes all of the past YALSA award winners, as well as Booklist’s teen choices with a variety of sorts, including year and genre. It also has a map function where it can supposedly find the closest library that owns the title you choose. However, I tried A Thousand Splendid Suns while in Port Coquitlam, and it gave me VPL (Central) as the only public library in the lower mainland, plus some college libraries. Perhaps this feature works better in the US.

It’s available for iOS and was recently released for android.

I came across another intriguing RA app in the works, the Librarian Book Recommendation App from the In the Stacks folks.

In the Stacks

If you’ve got any handy RA apps to recommend, please post!

The Problem of Dumbledore: LGBT Characters in YA Series

Today’s guest blogger is Dylan Schroeder from Fraser Valley Regional Library ( Dylan recently did several excellent presentations to FVRL staff on the topic of RA in YA with an LGBT focus. Here are his thoughts:

YA Lit is known by and large for a few big series, flagship titles that sell tens of thousands of copies and becoming big Hollywood movies- with varying levels of success. Harry Potter, Twilight and The Hunger Games are probably the most notable entries in the genre in the last ten years. It’s interesting to note then, that in the text of these books there isn’t a single LGBT character. “But wait”, you say, preparing to brain me in the head with your copy of Deathly Hallows, “Dumbledore is gay! JK Rowling told us so! “ You’re right, she did tell us so. After all the books came out, when it didn’t really matter anymore. Subtext is all very well and good, people have been locking in on homoerotic subtext for years, just go read any fanfiction on the internet and you’ll see what I mean, but it doesn’t do an LGBT reader any good while they’re actually reading the series and it’s never stated that Dumbledore is gay. Representation is important, and in the books being gay is not a part of Dumbledore’s character identity, and we the reader only learn he’s gay after he’s dead. I’m not trying to sound like I’m being hard on J.K Rowling because at least she made the effort, in a sort of have your cake and eat it too, sort of way. Twilight and The Hunger Games are both completely free of LGBT characters. Considering the author of Twilight, I suppose we shouldn’t’ be that surprised, but I don’t’ think it would have been terribly difficult for Suzanne Collins to have made Finnick bisexual, he being a well paid prostitute, and Johanna would have been an easy choice to add a prominent lesbian character. Alas.

So, that’s the bad news. The big three don’t really have much for an LGBT reader to get excited about, but if you’re looking to recommend some NYT bestseller realm titles, all hope is not lost. The Divergent series, which is attempting to nip at the heels of The Hunger Games, albeit with a less interesting heroine and some cut and paste worldbuilding, does have a few LGBT characters. There is a (presumably) lesbian character, Lynn in the second book. Unfortunately she dies, and she doesn’t really receive a lot of attention or character development. The third deliriumbook adds a pair of gay male characters who receive even less attention than Lynn, but at least they exist, and Roth acknowledges that gay people exist. A similar situation exists in Lauren Oliver’s Delirium series. The second two books contain a pair of gay characters that the main character befriends, they’re shown as nice and brave, but that’s about it. The popular House of Night series also has a pair of gay characters, one of whom is unfortunately killed part way through the series.

These characters are all fairly minor, but as luck would have it there are a few huge YA series that have more substantial LGBT characters. The Gemma Doyle series by Libba Bray has a lesbian character, Felicity, who is one of the four main characters of the series and is given a very rich characterization. The series is set in Victorian England and what that would mean for a young girl who was gay is explored quite delicately. Cassandra Clare is a fairly divisive author in the YA genre, but her books have LGBT characters of multiple varieties, the two most prominent being Alec and Magnus, who are both major characters in the series and receive a large amount of focus and development. In recent and honestly very exciting news, Rick Riordan has revealed in his latest novel that Nico D’Angelo, a prominent character in both The Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus series is in love with Percy Jackson himself. This is a big deal because these series are technically middle grade and are very very popular. Middle grade sees very few LGBT characters and so the impact of Nico’s character is huge. He’s well developed, outside of being gay, and is a very relatable character for LGBT young people. I’ll be more impressed if Riordan gives him a happy ending, but I suppose we’ll have to wait and see what happens when the final book comes out.

I’ve been specifically talking about series, not stand-alones, and ones that are exceedingly popular, LGBT characters do appear in some slightly less popular series. Holly Black’s Tithe series, Sarah Rees Brennan’s the Demon’s Lexicon and Lynburn Legacies series, Carrie Mac’s Droughtlanders all very prominently feature LGBT characters. In terms of stand-alone there are a wide range of LGBT YA books of varying qualities, but I think that’s a discussion for another blog-post.

The question now is, how long is it until we get a blockbuster YA series that is helmed by an LGBT character? Scott Tracey wrote an excellent series called Witch Eyes, and it’s a real shame that it didn’t get more attention, because it follows the classic “special main character moves to a new place and meets a boy who they want to date, but can’t because forces are driving them apart” trope that these things seem to love. This time the main character is gay, but it’s not played up as a particularly big deal. Alas, maybe the next Hunger Games or Twilight will be about an LGBT person, but I think it might be a ways off yet.

Readers’ Advisory: How Do You Measure Up?

RA How do you measure upThere is an interesting free webinar coming up on February 4 from Novelist: Readers’ Advisory: How Do You Measure Up?. Recently, Novelist and Library Journal did a survey on RA services in public libraries – I’m curious because so often in the library world we measure “reference” generally and don’t look at RA as it’s own unique service. I’ve heard two of the panelists before (Duncan Smith and David Wright) and they are great, so it promises to be an interesting discussion. Here are the details:

  • The results are in! Be among the first to hear what we learned about readers’ advisory service in public libraries during a recent survey. Is RA here to stay, or is its value declining? Does every library in the country (other than yours) have a fully staffed readers’ advisory department? What digital strategies are libraries using to suggest books to readers? What book-oriented programs do libraries offer?
  •  Join us for an engaging discussion where we’ll discuss the answers to these questions. Panel members will share their reactions to the survey results and provide insights about what it all means for the readers in your community. Whether you believe that bringing books and readers together is at the heart of what libraries do, or whether you wonder just how important this work really is — you will not want to miss this program!
  • Panelists:
    Duncan Smith – Vice President, NoveList
    David Wright – Reader Services Librarian, Seattle Public Library
    Neal Wyatt – Co-Chair, Readers’ Advisory Committee, ALA/RUSA/CODES
    Etta Thorton – Reviews Editor, Library Journal (moderator)
    February 4, 2014
    2pm ET (11 am PT)

Check out the competition

Fussy LibrarianAn interesting link came around at work recently – The Fussy Librarian. They claim, “The Fussy Librarian is the first website to match readers not only with the genre of books they like but also their preferences about content.” Really? Looks like a for-profit model of online RA, but very similar to the form-based services many public libraries are now offering. The focus is strictly on ebooks, and authors/publishers submit their work for inclusion directly to the site. I read in the fine print they are affiliated with Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Apple.

Naturally I did some secret shopping. I signed up for the Literary Fiction and Biography categories, with no restrictions on language, violence or sex. The next day I received an email from “headlibrarian” with 2 titles: Broken In: A Novel in Stories by Jadi Campbell; and Auschwitz: A Doctor’s Eyewitness Account by Miklos Nyiszli, accompanied by their publisher descriptions. I’m pretty sure this is machine-generated, and there’s no space on the form for comments like favourite (or despised) authors, etc. It is interesting that they are using our branding (the bespectacled, bun-headed “Librarian”) to sell the service. (I’ll admit I’m intrigued by the first title, which is a first novel, not available in my library system.)

I looked around, but I didn’t find any other for-profit sites in this market. Has anyone else come across anything?