Author Archives: librovia

Reader’s Advisory for Audiobooks

Audiobook Month takes place annually in June, and is much heralded by audio producers and distributors with ready-made lists of the season’s hottest new titles and award-winning productions. The Audies Awards, announced May 30 by the Audio Publishers Association, celebrate not only the Audiobook of the Year, but present additional awards in 28 categories by genre and subject area, audience, quality of narration, technical production, and even packaging.

I discovered the pleasures of audiobooks when my work location changed and I suddenly found myself with two 25-minute daily commutes. The silver lining was more time to read with my ears. An excellent narrator brought a whole new dimension to a work, introducing me to provocative non-fiction, hilarious essays, poignant memoirs and sassy romances that I would never have picked up in print. An easy convert, I quickly progressed to loading up my MP3 player with titles downloaded from Library-to-Go, to make my workouts and noontime walks around the jogging circuit more enjoyable. Before long, the meaning of NPR’s “driveway moments” dawned, as I lingered in the car or did a few more repeats before pressing the pause button. Other audiobook fans extend their listening time while cooking, gardening or doing household chores.

The more you listen, the more discerning you become about voice quality, accents, sound effects, and overall production. Professional narrators who have become personal favourites often lead us into unfamiliar reading territory to hear that beautiful voice perform again. Audio awards lists, both winning titles and contenders, enhance discoverability of new authors, genres and subjects in audio productions guaranteed to be truly exceptional. Check out The Audies, Publishers Weekly’s Listen-Up Awards, Audiofile Magazine’s Earphones Awards and Booklist’s Editors’ Choice Top of the List Audio for outstanding audio titles across various genres and audience levels.

As with movies, it’s fun and enlightening to occasionally compare the print and the audio versions. While some print titles fall flat or even grate in audio, an average book can become a much fuller experience in the hands of an accomplished reader.

How to promote this format? Include audiobooks with your staff picks displays to encourage patrons to try something new. Try displaying the audiobook along with a print copy of a title, or promote a selection of titles appropriate for family listening. Highlight memoirs, travel and autobiographies read by the author. Display great beach reads in a new medium or challenge your patrons to tackle a classic or a title they’ve always meant to read.  Some libraries sticker print editions to indicate the title is also available in an alternate format such as ebook or downloadable audio.

On your web site’s staff picks lists, feature a list of award-winners available in downloadable audio format, or a list of audio works by top narrators (for suggestions see Audiofiles’ Golden Voices and ALA’s The Listen List ), or a long list of fan favourites on the Literate Housewife blog ).

With summer approaching and school holidays beckoning, what better time to promote your audio collection, whether it be physical CDs to take along on those long summer road trips, or downloadable audio delivered via mobile device while hiking, cycling or just chilling out on the deck.  As a number of library blogs have noted, audiobooks are great for family listening too, keeping everyone in the car entertained while painlessly increasing literacy skills.

Here’s to a few more converts to the art and craft of audiobooks!

Colleen Stewart, Head, Collection Services, GVPL

Non-Fiction’s Caped Crusader


As a passionate non-fiction reader I seldom, if ever, get asked to recommend non-fiction. Generally, my patrons rarely consider reading non-fiction for pleasure. Non-fiction is real and this makes the reading doubly enthralling.

A college kid who steals moon rocks from NASA? Sounds like a great idea for a book, and even more so given that it actually happened: check out Ben Mezrich’s Sex on the Moon. A Barcelona chicken farmer, who fooled the Nazis, saved D-Day and became the greatest secret agent ever? That would make a great read, and it does in Stephan Talty’s book Agent Garbo.

Whenever a patron asks for a recommendation I’m confident that a title from my go-to list will rope them into the non-fiction world, as it has for one of my regulars, who always asks me, “What have you got for me this week?” And here is my go-to list. There’s more, a lot more, but these are some of my favorites:

  • Agent Garbo: The Brilliant, Eccentric Secret Agent Who Tricked Hitler and Saved D-Day by Stephen Talty
  • The Boy Kings of Texas: A Memoir by Domingo Martinez
  • Crossing the Borders of Time: A True Story of War, Exile, and a Love Reclaimed by Leslie Maitland
  • Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies by Ben Macintyre
  • The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, the Horse That Inspired a Nation by Elizabeth Letts
  • Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick
  • Paperboy: An Enchanting True Story of a Belfast Paperboy Coming to Terms with the Troubles by Tony Macaulay
  • The Secret Rooms: A True Gothic Mystery by Catherine Bailey
  • Sex on the Moon: The Amazing Story Behind the Most Audacious Heist in History by Ben Mezrich
  • Some Girls, Some Hats and Hitler: A True Love Story Rediscovered by Trudi Kanter
  • The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World’s Most Glorious – and Perplexing – City by David Lebovitz

The following sites offer great non-fiction recommendations:

Margie Thompson, Librarian, GVPL

Exploring New Avenues for Readers’ Advisory

blog post collage 2As @TaraMatsuzaki wrote earlier this year on this blog, Twitter is a boon to Readers’ Advisory. At the Greater Victoria Public Library, we’ve started using Twitter to expand our RA reach. The 140-character tweet is a tidy vehicle for promoting titles in our collections, and we’ve been using it to shine a spotlight on the newly-arrived (#gvplshelfready), along with the topical (individual titles and staff picks lists of books and other media).

For our twice-weekly “Shelf Ready” feature on Twitter, we aim to promote titles that
• have arrived in our collections within the last two weeks
• are available to check out
• haven’t received wide-spread attention (“hidden gems”)

On Mondays, we feature titles of interest to kids and teens, and on Wednesdays, titles of interest to adults. We try to cover all bases by highlighting different genres and formats each week. Examples of recent tweets include,

“Jerry Pinkney’s lively retelling of Puss in Boots graces our folk & fairy tale collection #gvplshelfready”


“Pat Conroy recommends Man in the Blue Moon, Southern writer @MichaelMorrisBk’s latest novel #gvplshelfready”

If the title’s creator is on Twitter, all the better – we include that in the tweet, too!

We currently have 2000 @gvpl followers. In terms of re-tweets and holds created in response to our #gvplshelfready tweets, our success has been modest. It’s a relatively small audience we’re reaching out to, and our wide array of titles tweeted won’t appeal to every follower. Still, we’re encouraged by the replies and re-tweets we have received so far, and it’s interesting to see which titles strike a chord. As important, our collections are getting exposure beyond our walls and web site.

In addition to our “Shelf Ready” tweets, we’ve just launched a new feature on our Facebook page, “Fresh Pick Fridays.” With this feature, we aim to promote titles ordered for our collections within the last two weeks with few, if any, holds. Including the cover image is a must. From March 15th,

“Friday Fresh Pick – for Adults:
Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald – Therese Ann Fowler imagines the Fitzgeralds’ whirlwind capers through the Jazz Age from Zelda’s point of view. ‘Ultimately, both of these tragic, pathetic and grand characters are torn apart by their inability to love or leave each other. Fowler has given us a lovely, sad and compulsively readable book’ (Kirkus Reviews)”

Whether it’s from Twitter or Facebook, with the click of a mouse or the tap of a screen, the reader lands in our catalogue. Readers’ Advisory has never been so simple!

I’d love to hear how staff at other public libraries are using Twitter and Facebook to expand their RA reach.

Lara Riecken, Collections Librarian, GVPL

Jazz up Booktalking and Invigorate your Staff

gvpl booksmack at the Belfry
Libraries have got talent and RA enthusiasm to burn but how to harness it and reach the broadest audience possible? Booksmack!

This twist on booktalking is a fast paced, noisy tag team event which draws from all levels of staff. A group of 5 avid readers take turns talking as many books as they can in a 5 minute, then 2 minute then 1 minute round- about 50 minutes in total. The event is drop in, not pre-registered and meant to feel spontaneous. Presided over by an MC/timekeeper, the group seats themselves in a prominent place in the library- a foyer or some other public thoroughfare.

A staff MC introduces each participant in a jocular fashion then each has the opportunity to talk a little about individual reading tastes before launching into snappy and opinionated reviews. Participants come with a pile of 15 to 20 items in all formats recognizing that they likely won’t get through them but trying hard! The MC wields a noisy school bell and keeps everyone in line and on time. Booklists are printed in small quantities and accessible online.

We’ve Booksmacked at Victoria’s Belfry Theatre, on CBC and gone out into the community. Best of all, Booksmacked has been taken up by teachers, book clubs and even staff in a government workplace.

Booksmack serves many purposes: it promotes library staff as readers advisory experts, it emboldens non-professional staff to get involved with readers advisory and rejuvenates professionals who may no longer have much interaction with patrons. The program is also an excellent way to promote older titles, sleepers and other formats such as documentary dvds. Keep it short, use already scheduled staff and voila- you have an inexpensive and effective program.

Be warned- it takes a leap of faith to just launch into a book talk complete with cow bell and timer when you don’t know who is going to stop and listen . On the other hand, do it once and you will be sure to have an audience the next time not to mention staff who champing at the bit to perform themselves!

Olivia Anderson, Branch Head, GVPL

Freedom to Read- How do YOU celebrate?

freedom to read blindfold CE

Provocative display at GVPL

Freedom to Read,  celebrated each  February 24 to March 2,  reminds Canadians of their right to free expression and the freedom to read.   It should provoke  conversation about intellectual freedom. It prompts librarians to remember   the values underpinning our profession and  should impell us to work to advance  intellectual freedom and fight  censorship.

How did your library mark Freedom to Read?

Eye catching displays  are easy to do but discouraging if you can’t keep a display stocked.   Wrapping dummies in brown paper and  identifying the title on the wrapper makes it easy to keep a display full. Most libraries don’t have all the books on the challenged lists so using a dummy is doubly effective.  Books in brown paper have a way of encouraging conversation too!  If the display is near staff desk, so much the better to get people guessing why a book was banned or challenged.  We found people were unwrapping the dummies hoping to get more information and to take the book home.

Books in brown wrappers!

Books in brown wrappers

Planning  a  book talk where patrons read and discuss challenged material is another excellent way to provoke discussion.  Try a casual drop in book talk/discussion during the week where you have a selection of  challenged titles to prompt discussion.   Make some noise by setting up a speakers corner every lunch hour   in your foyer where staff or patrons read from challenged or banned books.  UBC planned a marathon reading of challenged books.  Great idea!

Lets talk professionally about how we handle hot material or material which patrons have challenged. How do we uphold  CLA’s statement that libraries should fulfill responsibility to intellectual freedom while recognizing the right of criticism by individuals and groups? It is a hard line to walk.   What have you withdrawn on the basis of a complaint?  Is it easy for patrons to find your invitation to  reconsideration or do you bury it  to dissuade all but the most determined?

Has material in your library  been challenged online?  Challenges are always somewhat upsetting but when posted to a Facebook page the prospect of going viral is alarming.   Has your library got policies in place for this eventuality?

Intellectual freedom and the backbone to defend it is always part of readers advisory.

freedom to read flames

Burning books