Author Archives: cgwestlake

Confessions of a Loan Star



Loan Stars, a tool which allows library staff across Canada to vote on which upcoming book releases we are most excited about, has been off and running for several months now. Participating library staff review titles for the upcoming month (e.g. right now we are voting for titles coming out in September). For those who are thinking about joining up, here are some of the tips and tricks I have discovered about navigating this new and exciting Canadian reader’s advisory tool:

  1. Presenting a pretty face/attractive profile. When you create your profile in NetGalley, take your time to be thorough and pointed, and make sure you mention Loan Stars. The first few title requests I made were rejected because I had not indicated in my profile that I was a part of this new initiative. I was just a strange new girl with no blog or other platform with which to reach readers, so there wasn’t much reason for publishers to give me any precious Advance Reading Copies. Once I added the tidbit about Loan Stars, it was much easier to get my hands on them.
  2. Beware the paperbacks. When browsing the CataList monthly catalogues for Loan Stars, be aware that not all of them are new releases. For anything that draws my interest, I usually end up plugging the title into Amazon to make sure that it has actually never been published, and is not just being released in a different format or as a new edition. As well as the paperbacks, for the odd title here and there it seems there’s a mix-up about the publication month, so it always pays to double check the publication date in another source before you get all excited about requesting or voting for it.
  3. The early bird gets the ARC. Often publishers will have limits about how many ARCs of a particular book they can give out, so if you wait until later in the month to request a popular title, you may be turned down just because they’ve reached their cap.
  4. Don’t request titles willy-nilly! As I have found out the hard way, NetGalley keeps track of your response (or lack thereof) to the titles that you are approved to receive, and a lack of response on your part acts as a checkmark in the negative column. The lower your response rating, the less likely the publishers are to approve more titles in the future. So I’ve learned to be selective in what I request, and wait for an answer before moving on to try something else.
  5. Use experience and research (it’s not laziness). As much as we all love to read, it can be a bit overwhelming to commit to reading several pre-releases for Loan Stars every month in addition to the giant stack I’m sure we all have beside our beds. When browsing the monthly catalogue, I have taken to noting which titles I’m thinking of voting for based on existing reviews and hype, or knowing the author or series. We can submit multiple votes in Loan Stars, and you don’t have to submit a review with every vote, so it’s worth putting up a hand for ones you just think should be on the list and people should be excited about.

So, there’s my input on how to be a successful Loan Star. If anyone has any other advice we’d love to hear it!

Hope this makes you intrigued about joining Loan Stars and being part of the fun.  Go to and follow the instructions to get started.  If you don’t want to participate by voting, sign up for the newsletter and you will receive the monthly list which may help you in selecting titles and/or promoting the Loan Star winners to your patrons. But hopefully you will sign up!   Lots more voting librarians are needed!


Carys Brown, Librarian, Capilano Branch, North Vancouver District Public Library

The Shelves are Talking!

The latest Reader’s Advisory initiative at North Vancouver District Public Library takes its cue from bookstores and other retail outlets by putting staff reviews right on the shelves. We wanted to draw our readers’ attention to books they might otherwise overlook.  All staff members are encouraged to submit mini (no more than 50 words) reviews of their favorite titles.  All the reviews are filed in a spreadsheet, and for each review a card is made up. Each card has the title, author, reviewer’s name, the review and a picture of the book cover.   Then they are fitted into snazzy plastic holders called  “Shelf Talkers” and slipped under the book.  A message on the bottom of the talker offers the reader help in placing a hold if the book is not there.  These reviews can be found in all areas of the library.SP3

Three months in to the project, which we call “Staff Picks”, we are finding the patron response very good, judging by the empty spaces on the shelves where the reviews are!  So far staff has submitted over 130 reviews, and now we need to get more of the holders so we can pepper our shelves with even more.

Soon more “shelf talkers” will join these reviews: read-a-like lists for popular authors will soon find their way on to the shelves as well, giving patrons more ideas on what to read next.

  • Claire Westlake, Librarian, Capilano Branch, North Vancouver District Public Library