Author Archives: mlwhitehead

What Do We Provide for Multicultural Patrons? The Impact of Collection Development on Readers’ Advisory for Multicultural Patrons

When it comes to Readers’ Advisory (RA), we can easily fall into routines when recommending titles to patrons. Here, I would like to talk about the impact of collection development on RA for multicultural patrons. From a multicultural services librarian’s perspective, high quality multilingual collections are fundamental to effective delivery of RA for multicultural patrons.

At Greater Victoria Public Library, our multilingual collection is called the World Languages (WL) collection. Early on in my career, we had a small, stale, and dated WL collection at Central Branch. Like many public libraries, budget limitations and the difficulties involved in acquiring materials in other languages prevented us from developing a significant collection. Plus, our WL materials were not fully catalogued and could not be searched in the catalogue. At that time, we barely offered RA for multicultural patrons as we were not confident presenting our “ancient” materials.

Users of multilingual materials have grown dramatically in the past ten years and GVPL has made great efforts to improve the accessibility and quality of our WL collection to better serve the ethnic, linguistic and cultural minorities.  With the continued support of our Cataloguing and Technical Services team, our WL collection has shown significant improvement in the following areas:

  1. Most of the materials have been fully catalogued in both English and in the original language. WL titles can be searched in the catalogue and holds can be placed on items for pickup at any branch. This is a very important improvement, which dramatically increases the utility of these materials.
  2. Materials in major languages are acquired directly from overseas online suppliers at lower costs and with improved turnaround time. Through direct ordering, we are able to acquire most current and popular titles to ensure the collections are relevant to the community’s interests. The turnaround time has been reduced from an average of 3-6 months to 2-3 weeks. Below are some examples of the overseas online suppliers I use to order WL materials:
    • Dangdang ( China’s largest online bookstore for books, CDs and DVDs in Simplified Chinese language.
    • ( A Hong Kong online supplier providing current materials in Chinese, Japanese and Korean languages. Its website has multilingual versions and it provides shipment to Canada.
    • Amazon ( As a mainstream source, offers more and more multicultural literature in its original language. In addition, specialized Amazon sources, such as (, ( and ( are used to order materials in Spanish, German, and Italian, respectively.
    • Raslania ( One of the largest online suppliers for Russian materials, it offers shipment to Canada.
  3. WL materials have been expanded to eight branches to improve the accessibility of the collection. The format of the materials has been expanded from book to music CD, DVD, eBook and audiobook. WL collections are housed in a separate and visible area in each branch.

Multilingual materials are getting more current, popular and accessible than ever before at GVPL; however, having a multicultural collection does not in itself constitute a multicultural service. I have added a WL collection information page to the library’s Multicultural Services site to promote the collection. I have also created lists of WL materials in each language (e.g. a German adult book list and a Chinese children’s audiobook list) and posted those lists on local minority community’s e-Forums. I’ve found this an effective way to reach potential readers. WL collections have been promoted through outreach and storytimes as well. Even though every effort has been made to provide fair and equal library service to ethnic, linguistic and cultural minorities, I am still struggling to reach the smaller but widely scattered minority groups and provide materials and services to them. A lot of work still needs to be done in the area of Reader’s Advisory for multicultural patrons.

Aiyang Ma is the Multicultural Services Librarian at the Greater Victoria Public Library

Booksmacking and the Library Book Club

Does your library book club have a hard time keeping its members? Is the reading too predictable by the end of the season? Do you need a way to inject variety and freshen up your book club?

How about considering alternating the assigned reading with a Booksmack?

At the Greater Victoria Public Library we have had great success and retention of our members at our Oak Bay Branch Book Club by alternating a month where members all participate in a Booksmack with a month of the traditional book club format (i.e. all members reading and discussing the same title). With a Booksmack, each member of the club is required to select a title, give a verbal critique of it and then answer questions from the group. Booksmacks can be as simple as free reading for that month.

You could also choose to assign a genre or theme to each Booksmack and thereby showcase your library collection to your readers. We experimented with this by assigning Nonfiction, Autobiography and Graphic Novel themes to our Booksmack months. Graphic Novels received the most pushback but produced the best meeting of the year.

Booksmacks also generated patron-driven Readers’ Advisory lists, allowed for expression of taste, reduced the onerous “I have to read it for my book club and I don’t like it” syndrome and took the pressure off the collection to supply enough titles every month, particularly if your club is a Nonfiction or genre club like Mysteries and there may not be enough copies system-wide for all members to read the same book.

By the end of the year the assigned fiction reading was, by all accounts, boring, while the Booksmack was loved. The retention for the next year was 75% and the alumni promised to come up with better titles for the assigned reading.

Alternating the monthly format in this way has kept the best of both worlds: the joy of traditional book discussion with the full expression of personal reading, along with an audience with whom to share it. This year with the injection of 25% new members, the genres we are considering  for our Booksmack months are Science Fiction, Children and Teens, and Nonfiction (specifically the 300’s this time around).

If you’re tired of doing the same-old, you might want to consider the Booksmack as a fun way to put a new spin on your library book club format.

Sharon Young is a Library Assistant at the Greater Victoria Public Library

Canadian Library Month: People of the Library Blog

Project’s Purpose

To celebrate Canadian Library Month in 2014, GVPL chose to engage the public by showcasing both the many different aspects of our staff and the library work that they do. During Library Month we wanted to show off the staff that are at the heart of the library with a social media site celebrating the individuals who work at GVPL. Modelled after the popular Humans of New York site, we spotlighted a different staff member each day in October.

Each post included a first name, photo and short vignette based on the answers to the following questions.

  1. The best part about my day is ___________.
  2. Something that surprised me about working at the library is ___________.
  3. When I’m not working at the library, I’m ___________
  4. My favourite item in the collection is….(could also be your favourite goofy/unique item) (ideally staff could pose with the item)___________.
  5. I’m inspired by ___________.

Staff Participation

I initially sent an email out to all GVPL staff asking for their participation. A week or so later, I sent a more personal follow up message, and sometimes phone call (phone calls work well for added pressure!) to specific staff that I thought would be particularly interested. The final staff list was narrowed down so that we would have a relatively diverse group of staff from a variety of branches, in a variety of positions etc. I used a brief MachForm to receive staff responses and this was an effective information gathering tool as I was notified when each staff member had completed the form.


Our timeline included doing the initial planning for Canadian Library Month in August & September, and the implementation in October. We promoted the site externally through our Facebook and Twitter accounts multiple times every week to show the library & library staff in a different light and reinforce that the library and our staff are part of the wider community.

Overall, I found Tumblr very straightforward and easy to use. The theme that I chose was The Minimalist Theme, created by Pixel Union, a local Victoria web design & development company. The minimalist theme is (surprise, surprise) a very uncluttered one, which I thought was best so that the photos & content were the focus. Through Hootsuite, a social media management system that we already use at GVPL, I was able to schedule posts ahead of time, which meant very little ongoing maintenance was required. I would recommend scheduling posts ahead of time so that they can be reviewed and edited in case changes need to be made

The photos that accompanied the vignettes were taken mostly by staff who had photography experience but participating staff could also choose a personal photo if they preferred.


The site helped to foster a positive work environment for staff and celebrated their personal contributions to the library system. The site also acted as a community-builder because patrons and community members could like, share, follow, or comment on the posts. It was also a great opportunity for the staff to get to know one another better and encourage one another.  One of my favourite posts from Joy, Children’s & Family Literacy Librarian said, “I’m inspired by the smart, creative people I work with, who meet challenges with positive spirits, who read and discuss ideas, who enjoy their jobs and look for new ways to bring literacy to young children and families.” If we do this project, or something similar again in the future, it would be a great way to focus on and highlight favourite parts of the collection through staff recommendation.

You can take a look at the final product by following the link below:

GVPL’s People of the Library in celebration of Canadian Library Month 2014

I would encourage any library system to try out this type of project! Feel free to contact me with any questions or comments

Sarah Isbister is a Children & Family Literacy Librarian at the Greater Victoria Public Library

Magazines & RA

When you have over six hundred titles on offer but are located in a low-traffic area, what do you do to bring magazines and patrons together?  Here at the Central Branch of the Greater Victoria Public Library, we have implemented a number of different marketing strategies to promote our magazine collection to the public and help people find their next great magazine:

“Magazine of the Month”
Each month a new title is chosen and a display created to help highlight titles that are unique or that patrons may not know about. Who knew there was a magazine devoted just to stain glass windows? The title is announced through the library’s Twitter account and Facebook page.

Cross-Promotional Shelf Signage
As a way of drawing patrons to the magazine department while browsing the bookshelves, we created cross-promotional signs. These simple “If you like…” signs that let a patron know that the library also has magazines on the subject they are looking for and if they like a particular magazine, others that exist on the same subject. These signs are located both on the magazine shelves (the magazines are shelved alphabetically rather than by subject) and throughout the main book collection.

“Staff Picks”
With so many titles to choose from, sometimes it’s nice to have someone offer some suggestions. These magazines are displayed in clear plexiglass holders at the end of one of the magazine shelves and are for browsing in library or checking out.

If they are relevant to the subject, magazines are included in book displays.  There is also a magazines display cart located in a more high-traffic location with a sign directing people to the Magazine Department for more great titles.

To make the department a little more colourful and to bring attention to a selection of different titles, colour photocopies of magazine covers have been made. These are displayed on the shelf ends in the Magazine Department and on the magazine shelves themselves. There is also a beautiful selection of classic Vogue covers displayed behind the Magazine Desk to remind people of our selection of back issues available.

Who said you only have to promote books during a friendly Booksmack? This is a great way we showcase our magazine collection.

There is nothing we love more than highlighting our collection and helping people find a great new magazine or something similar to a title to which they’re already loyal. While the periodicals landscape has been changing in the past few years, we have found the interest in magazines has not diminished and, in fact, as greater demands are placed on people’s time, magazines are finding increased readership. So what magazine will you read next?

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L. Beauchemin & P. Nestoruk, Magazines & Newspapers Clerks, GVPL

Free Comic Book Day, the Eisners, and More: Revitalizing Interest in Your Adult Graphics Collection

fcbd2011Comic book, comic-strip novel, illustrated novel, graphic memoir…a graphic novel by any other name is indeed as satisfying. The fact is, those who are currently enjoying books from your graphics collection already know how amazing the stories and illustrations are – the challenge is attracting readers new to the format.

Five or six years ago graphic collections were the darlings of the public library: they were new, hot, and edgy. Fiction collections wanted to be them and nonfiction wanted to be like them…well, maybe not, but as the “newness” of graphic books has faded, we now have to market them like we do with all of our other collections (and mentioning that reading something in comic format helps to retain knowledge can’t hurt, right?).

An excellent way to promote both literacy and your library’s graphic novel collection is to participate in some way in Free Comic Book Day. Free Comic Book Day takes place the first Saturday of May each year and has been growing since its inception in 2002. The idea has gained momentum over the years and now many libraries use the opportunity to spread the word about comics, graphic novels, and reading. Greater Victoria Public Library has participated in some capacity for the past three years. Highlights of past events have included giving away donated comics, prizes for comics-related costumes, and a demonstration from a local comics artist. As this year’s FCBD will be over by the time you read this, you’ll have a whole year to think of novel ways to celebrate it next year at your library.

The Eisner Awards (and the Kirby Awards before them) have highlighted the best in comics for almost 30 years. As with many awards, the Eisners have evolved over the years and now acknowledge excellence in the comic industry with awards for many kinds of contributions including categories like Best Digital Comic, Best Coloring, Best Single Issue, etc. As with awards in fiction and nonfiction, libraries should pay close attention to these industry awards and ensure we are promoting the inclusion of award-winning items in our collections through displays, lists and collection management.

Finally, if you’re looking for somewhere to start reading graphics yourself or for some superlative titles to highlight in library, here is a brief list of some stand-out graphics titles from the past year or so:

Are You My Mother? A comic drama by Alison Bechdel, 2012
This was one of my two favourite graphics published last year. Bechdel’s name may ring bells if you read her last work, Fun Home, which was focused on her father. This publication is about her relationship with her mother and it is honest and heart-wrenching.

Building Stories by Chris Ware, 2012
Chris Ware’s masterpiece appeared on dozens of Best of 2012 lists last year and for good reason. This collection of pamphlets, sheets, booklets, etc. has drawn admirers not just for its non-standard physical format but for Ware’s insight into humanity. If your library system is unsure about trying to circulate this item (it comes in a board game-style box), you could always purchase a copy for display within the library – talk about bringing attention to your graphics collection!

Delphine by Richard Sala, 2012
Perfect for fans of horror with gorgeous illustrations, this is a grown-up Snow White adaptation from the perspective of the prince.

The Graphic Canon (volumes 1 & 2) edited by Russ Kick, 2012
With Volume 3 of this gorgeous anthology coming out in June, now is the perfect time to check out the first two volumes which include adaptations of classics like Beowulf, Moby-Dick and Huckleberry Finn.

Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City by Guy Delisle, 2012
This is my other favourite from 2012. It is a fascinating account of the year Delisle spent with his wife, an administrator for Doctors Without Borders, and two children in Jerusalem.

Saga (volume 1) by Brian K. Vaughan, 2012
The first in a new series by Brian K. Vaughan of Ex Machina and Y the Last Man fame; 2013 Eisner Award Nominee for Best Continuing Series. Plus bonus points for featuring a character breastfeeding on the cover (not every day you see *that* in a comic).

Sailor Twain by Mark Siegel, 2012
An original fantasy set one hundred years ago relates the story of a Hudson River captain who rescues a mermaid and all the things, good and bad, that follow.

Looking for more reviews or industry information?

Publisher’s Weekly Comics Page

Graphic Novel Reporter

NPR Books: Comics & Graphic Novels