Author Archives: gllibrarian

Edmonton Public Library’s “Great Stuff Crew”

i heart eplEdmonton Public Library (EPL) won Gale/Library Journal’s Library of the Year award in 2014 for a number of reasons, one of which is their great job marketing resources through their “Great Stuff Crew.”

I had the opportunity to hear Tina Thomas, the Director of Marketing, Communications and Fund Development Division at EPL speak in two different sessions at the American Library Association Conference in Las Vegas last month.

In “Turning Books Into A Cool New Tool: RA Marketing in the Age of Maker Spaces,” she used the umbrella term “Discovery Services” to refer to EPL’s efforts to match people with the content and resources that they seek. EPL has marked their Staff Picks with the tag lines: “We read. We listen. We watch. We game. We share.”

The Great Stuff Crew consists of 9 staff members who are dedicated to sharing recommendations in certain genres and themes through social media, TV appearances on Breakfast Television every week, Bibliocommons lists, events, and in-library displays. They focus on the fun and the quirky, with one of the librarians creating pop-culture-relevant lists such as The Charlie Sheen Reading List, which garnered over 500 hits in one day during the Charlie Sheen debacle.

They are also using forms-based readers’ advisory by creating Personalized Book Lists for readers.

What EPL learned from creating the Great Stuff Crew:

  • personality is important but content is key
  • it’s valuable to have staff with specific genre specialties, but it’s equally important that all staff members embrace readers’ advisory
  • generalists with specific interests work best
  • it’s important to set expectations accurately and early when creating the team
  • incubate, create, test, MEASURE, and repeat

Tina Thomas also lent her voice to “Smart Marketing: Using Big (or Little) Data”, contributing to the idea that we must collect and measure data to integrate change and improve our libraries effectively. At EPL, every single program is evaluated. They also use the software Simply Measured to analyze data from their social media channels (including unlikes).

Does your library have a team of RA “specialists?”

epl cards




The Book to Art Club from The Library as Incubator Project

logoI had the opportunity to attend the American Library Association Conference in sunny Las Vegas last week and was able to attend a number of sessions related to Readers’ Advsiory, programming, and marketing.

I attended a session called “Out-of-the-Box Book Clubs to Banish the Boring” and was intrigued to learn about The Library as Incubator Project, a project spearheaded by former UW-Madison School of Library and Information Studies students Erinn Batykefer, Laura Damon-Moore, and Christina Jones. “The mission of the Library as Incubator Project is to promote and facilitate creative collaboration between libraries and artists of all types, and to advocate for libraries as incubators of the arts.” They even have a book out: The Artist’s Library: A Field Guide.

One of the programs under the Library as Incubator Project that they discussed is The Book to Art Club in which people meet to discuss a book and work on an art project inspired by the book. The idea to to find hands-on, creative ways to engage with literature in which the process of making the art is more important than the final product.

At Madison Public Library in Wisconsin,  Laura Damon-Moore leads her Book to Art Club on a Sunday afternoon for 2 hours. She asks participants to read the book ahead of time and to bring the art supplies they need to work on the art as they discuss the book. She also provides a few art supplies.

One of the books discussed was The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. Art projects for this dicussion included watercolour painting, embroidery, pressed flowers, paper flowers, and flower dictionaries.

Follow Book to Art:

Have you tried something similar at your library?


Save the date! RA in a Half Day 2014 is in the works…

wedding steamside_savethedate-reverseThe BCLA RA Interest Group is busy planning our 3rd annual RA in a Half Day so save the date for Monday, October 20, 2014 at the Cultural Centre Performance Hall in the Richmond Cultural Centre next to the Brighouse Branch of Richmond Public Library.

The timing and details will be released as we get planning, but the fun half-day will include more action-packed “Speed Dating through the Genres” experts and inspiring keynotes.  This is your chance to participate in an event that is all about readers’ advisory and love of the written (or spoken) word! Improve your knowledge of unfamiliar genres & formats (Steampunk, Audiobooks, Popular Science-, etc) and enhance your RA skills.

If you haven’t had a chance to attend an RA in a Half Day program before, check out our blog posts about the previous sessions! Stay tuned for details.

Reading Wildly! How do you promote Readers’ Advisory in your workplace?

A colleague brought this article to my attention at our recent BCLA RA Interest Group meeting–it’s about a Children’s Librarian named Abby Johnson who has “developed the Reading Wildly program to inspire [her] staff to read different genres and improve their readers’ advisory skills.” Every month, a genre is assigned and staff members are asked to read one book in that genre that they then book-talk to their co-workers at a meeting. Genre-lists are created based on the recommendations and staff have reported increased confidence when recommending books to patrons. Check out the American Libraries article to see how it has worked.

This idea may be more of a challenge for Adult Services Librarians when considering book length! Check out Abby’s personal blog for more information. This month, the genre assigned was Sports Books, as seen in her image below.

Has your library attempted something similar in an effort to improve staff readers’ advisory skills and encourage reading wildly?

October 30 is RA in a Half Day: Readers’ Advisory Thrills and Chills! Register today! - 470 × 225 - Search by image by Heather Braum

It’s that time of year again! RA in a Half Day: Readers’ Advisory Thrills and Chills! is on Wednesday, October 30 from 9-1 at Vancouver Public Library. To recap the glory of last year’s session, check out this blog post. 

Are you spooked by self-help and psyched about horror? Are you clueless about adult graphic novels and curious about noir? How much do you know about chick lit? What the heck is “New Adult”?

The BCLA Readers’ Advisory Interest Group invites you to a workshop to help you improve and share your knowledge across the genres by learning about key authors, sub-genres, classic titles and interesting new trends.

The workshop will kick off with keynote speaker David Wright from Seattle Public Library, who will talk about innovation, inspiration, and collaboration in readers’ advisory services. Our closing keynote is Max Wyman, who will talk about the impact of libraries and reading for pleasure.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013
9 am – 1 pm
(*Doors will open at 8:30 am)

Alice MacKay Room, lower level, Central Library, Vancouver Public Library, 350 West Georgia St.


Students: $20
Members: $30 (Log in for this rate)
Non-Members: $40
*Light refreshments will be provided.

Registration is open! The deadline to register is Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013 at 9am! Register here.

Please bring a digital phone, laptop, or device if you have one to join in on some of the RA activities! Bring your VPL card to access the Wireless network.

Bring a refillable water-bottle too, please.

For further information or details, please contact Jenny Fry or Robbie Burma

Did Banned Books Week pass you by? Never fear, there’s always Freedom to Read Week!


This week is Banned Books Week (Sept 22-28) and I must confess that I did not put together a display at my library! I’m so used to celebrating Freedom to Read Week in the spring that Banned Books Week often catches me off guard. (Mark your calendars for Freedom to Read Week Feb 23-March 1, 2014).

That said, I’m always game to include challenged or banned books as part of ANY display or reader recommendation. Looking at the titles of the most popular banned books of 2012, I realized that I’ve already recommended the number one banned book in the US of 2012 to a mother and her son this week: The Adventures of Captain Underpants. My Spooky Reads display in anticipation of Halloween has Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories front and centre (see Banned Book #8).

Grab some caution tape, chains, brown paper, and even a bird cage or two if you have them lying around, then grab a few challenged titles, and voila! You still have two days to whip up that awesome display. (Why not declare Banned Books Season?) Check out ALA’s Display Ideas for Banned Books Week for inspiration.

I’d love to hear about the displays and programs that you’ve developed for Banned Books or Freedom to Read Week this year or in previous years. Please leave a comment below!

I found this display image on a blog–it’s certainly attention-grabbing!

banned books body

Read Between the Lines – Form-Based Readers’ Advisory


Form-based Readers’ Advisory has been gaining steam in public libraries. I heard buzz about Seattle Public Library’s Your Next 5 Books so when I got the chance to learn about it straight from the source at The Beyond Hope Conference in Prince George this June, I was excited.

Seattle public librarian David Wright gave a fascinating presentation on SPL’s straightforward and very successful forms-based RA. They researched the Williamsburg Regional Library’s form-based RA and decided the form was a bit lengthy for their users so they shortened it to a one page form. From June 1, 2011 to June 1, 2013, Your Next 5 Books generated over 3000 personalized reading lists carefully selected by 10 librarians.

In addition to the form, they offer Facebook RA Days intermittently in which they ask the public for RA questions over a period of a few hours and follow up with personalized recommendations.

David Wright will be joining us as a Keynote at our RA in a Half Day event at Vancouver Public Library on Oct 30 so please register today!

I had the chance to learn more about form-based RA by enrolling in an ALA webinar on Aug 7 entitled Rethinking Readers’ Advisory: An Interactive Approach by Rebecca Howard and Laura Raphael. This webinar has since been expanded into a six-week eCourse starting Nov 4, 2013.

The brief webinar gave me lots of food for thought and I’m sure the six-week online course will help you answer the following questions:

  • What are the benefits of Form-based RA? How can you make a case for it at your library
  • What length of form should you use?
  • What questions should you ask?
  • Who should be on your RA team?
  • What are the key components of a final form?
  • How do you manage workflow?

According to Howard and Raphael, the 3 parts of every good form should:

  • Ask about favourite books or authors
  • Ask about the main focus or appeal
  • Ask about their preferred genre

The next 3 parts should:

  • Determine their current reading mood
  • Determine what topics are verboten to them
  • Determine what books and authors they do not like


The Tulsa City-County Library has its own form-based RA service entitled Your Next Great Read. The library has also created an RA course specially for their staff. You can take a look at it too. 

If you have questions about form-based RA or ANY aspect of RA, bring your questions to RA in a Half Day on October 30.