Author Archives: taramatsuzaki

NoveList Contributors Wanted!


Ever wonder who writes those reviews in NoveList? Well, it could be you!

NoveList is looking contributors. Hone your writing skills, share your ideas, and perhaps even receive remuneration for your contributions. Further information is available at Reviewing for NoveList.

BC’s librarians have a wealth of knowledge about readers’ advisory. Let’s show off and share it with other readers.

If you’re interested in writing for NoveList, contact Krista Biggs at

On Poetry and RA

Alice in Wonderland street art

Image by Smokeghost in accordance with Creative Commons license 2.0.

Last week Alexandra Petri’s brief essay in the Washington Post entitled “Is poetry dead?”  provoked many spirited rebuttals in the literary world. I noted the eloquent and pithy defences of poetry with interest as one of my 2013 resolutions is to read poetry. I discovered many contemporary poets in John Deming’s open letter in Cold Front Magazine. Emily Temple of Flavorwire provides: “ten excellent reasons why poetry isn’t the least bit dead, in the form of excellent books of poetry that have recently emerged.” Seeking a bit of Can-con, I found Don Gorman’s recent list of the best volumes of Canadian poetry in 2012.

Petri’s strong denouncement of poetry made me reflect that in my professional life, reader’s advisory questions on poetry have been rare. I have fielded questions from students seeking a poem on a nature theme or criticism on W. B. Yeats, but not once has a patron asked me to recommend a “good poem.”  When patrons seek poetry, it is often in preparation for an occasion such as a mourner trying to name their un-nameable grief in a speech for a memorial service or a bridesmaid seeking a quotation on love.

I searched for online poetry readers advisory sources and found that I am not the only librarian to have wondered about poetry and advising readers.  Rick Roche, over at his blog Rick the Librarian, posted “Questions about Poetry Readers Advisory” in which he attempts to find read-a-like sources for poetry. The closest thing he digs up is the Facts on File Companion to 20th Century American LiteratureRick created two readalike guides for poets: one for Robert Frost and a second for Walt Whitman.

I want to promote poetry and poets in my library. I am thinking of starting with a booklist on contemporary poetry and perhaps a display – Valentine’s Day seems like a timely theme.

As for Alexandra Petri, after facing a deluge of missives by poets on poetry’s viability in the present, she was moved to proclaim that “’Poetry is not dead,’ says poetry.”

Bonus track: the beautiful and fantastic Poetry Foundation.

Do you read poetry? Are you often asked for poetry recommendations?  Are there any resources you have found or created?

Audio Book Advisory

Vintage mixing board in low light.

Photo Credit: Phil Dokas (Creative Commons license)

I love a good audio book.  By listening to a book while accomplishing domestic duties, exercise, crafting, a long road trip or commute, I add a bit of enjoyment to my chores and increase my “reading” time.

Audio book narration is a performance.  Hearing a talented actor give voice to the characters’ dialogue enlivens the reading narrative experience.  My mind’s ear flattens other languages, dialects and accents.  Hearing Australian actor Dan Wyllie. (Muriel’s Wedding) read Tim Winton’s Breath evokes the 1960s small town surf culture of the West Australian coast setting.
As for our patrons, many are long-time devotees of audio books. Some will try an audio book when faced with a long wait list for a popular title. Others listen through necessity.  According to the Audio Publishers Association’s consumer survey findings, the audio book audience is growing. Their annual survey revealed that 24% of respondents have listened to an audio book in 2011 (compared to 19% in the 2010 study) and sales reflected this growth – the size of the industry is now 1.2 billion. 
Talking about audio books in the library is very similar to your typical readers advisory print book conversation with the addition of a few extra questions:
  • Do you listen through necessity? This question can help determine if the patron is able to take advantage of the larger collections of talking book collections available to people with a print disability through InterLINK member libraries with the support of the Canadian National Institute of the Blind.
  • Will you be listening alone? With family?
  • Abridged or unabridged?
  • CD or downloadable?
  • Do you like a particular narrator?
Five Good Things for Librarians to Know about Audio Books:
  1. Some narrators are known as Golden Voices.  Jim Dale and Davina Porter are widely beloved. Audiofile magazine lists 21 Golden Voices in their Hall of Fame
  2. Compilations of radio shows i.e. NPR’s Driveway Moments and collections such as the Massey Lectures are entertaining non-fiction audio book options.
  3. Audio books are reviewed in most of our go-to collection development sources such as Library Journal, The New York Times Book Review, The GuardianBooklist and Publisher’s Weekly.
  4. Audio books are awarded Grammys!  Michelle Obama is one of the The Spoken Word Album nominees this year.   Other audio book awards include the Audies  and The Listen List awarded by ALA’s RUSA
  5. People continue to borrow audio books on CDs but digital downloads and streaming audio books are on the rise. According to a recent Pew Research Centre report, Library Services in the Digital Age: “About 17% of the 53% Americans who visited a library in the past 12 months say they visit to borrow or download an audio book.” Overdrive will be releasing their 2012 statistics at ALA Midwinter. 

42 second diversion: Listen to Junot Díaz record the opening lines of This is How You Lose Her.

Do you read audio books? What are your favourites?

Occasionally Bewildering: Tough RA Questions

The Readers’ Advisory Interest Group is collecting challenging real-life RA questions. We plan to use these questions at our upcoming events and as part of other readers’ advisory professional development initiatives.

Please send us the toughest RA questions you have been asked. Bonus points if you include the answer!

To submit your questions, reply in the comments field below this post, send a message to our brand new email address, head over to our Facebook page, or create a video clip starring you and your colleagues dramatizing your challenging question. Post your video file to our Facebook page or upload it to YouTube. In the case of the latter, please send us the link.

Here’s a classic RA stumper that includes heaps of details that only a human brain could contend with such as cover art and the organization of library collections on physical shelves:

Subject: Stumper: Novel translated from Italian 9-10 yo boy on a playground

Got a cool stumper for the collective mind. This patron only read the first few pages of a book, and now she can’t find it on the shelves.  So the clues are even more vague than “usual”.  🙂
— Male Author whose name starts with a B
— Novel was translated from Italian
— The Author won a “major award”.  Maybe for this book, maybe for another. Maybe an Italian award.
— The cover art was a picture of a boy “in warm weather”
— From the first few pages, the lead character is a young boy, 9-10 years old, on a school playground.  She thought it might have been a rural or remote setting.
— What she remembers most strongly is that it was “beautifully written”. I would take this to mean very lyrical.
If it helps, she actually looking for a book by Maeve Binchy when she find the stumper title.  Given the arrangement of our shelves, she thinks it would have been an author with a name between Beaton and Bennett.  Also, we don’t have mysteries or any other subgenre in a different area.  However, given her description, I’m pretty sure we are looking for a work of literary fiction.
Thanks in advance for any help or clues!

Subject: Re: Stumper: Novel translated from Italian 9-10 yo boy on a playground

Timeskipper by Stefano Benni
Italy’s foremost satirist recounts the adventures of Timeskipper, a young man endowed with a rare gift: the ability to see into the future. A tale in which innocence and imagination defy corruption and conformity, in which the eccentricities and innocence of yesteryear come face-to-face with the moral aridity of today’s money-obsessed society, Timeskipper is one of Stefano Benni’s most touching and enduring creations. Colored by Benni’s trademark linguistic inventiveness and irresistible humor, this is a coming-of-age story with a difference.

You are fast!  And yet again, Fiction_L makes a satisfied customer! My patron hadn’t even left the building yet.  She offered to take the winner out for pizza, but then I explained you might live in Nebraska.


Thank you to librarian Karen Toonen of Naperville Public Library  who granted us permission to publish the stumper she posted to the excellent Fiction_L mailing list. Thank you also to the Morton Grove Public Library for providing this RA service to the library community since 1995 and all subscribers of the list past and present.

When faced with a tough RA question, remember that the collective wisdom of the Fiction_L participants can name an obscure title like nobody’s business!

Trend Alert: Contemporary Art + Writing

Photo of young woman typing on a laptop in a busy subway station.

Sometimes I think, I Can See You. Photo credit: Tanja Dorendorf. Courtesy of PuSh.

Has anyone else in Vancouver noticed that writing, literature and reading have become something of a theme within the local art scene lately? I am fascinated by this intersection.

The PuSh International Performing Arts Festival opens next week and features a provocative series entitled Fiction(s). It’s a suite of pieces that explores public space, writing and contemporary art practice.

Mariano Pensotti’s Vancouver debut of Sometimes I Think, I Can See You starts on January 18 and continues over the three weekends of the PuSh Festival. Pensotti’s project turns writing fiction into performance art. He asks, “What stories simmer just beneath the surface of the public spaces we dwell in?” Pensotti will station 12 writers in the lobby of the Vancouver Art Gallery and the atrium of the Vancouver Public Library Central Branch. Each writer will be equipped with a laptop to record a live account of their observations blended with their imaginings. The strangers in the Art Gallery lobby or the Library atrium may become characters in a work of fiction which is projected live on a screen near their station. Dates and times are listed on the PuSh Festival site.

The PuSh Festival, Vancouver Public Library and Grunt Gallery team up with curator Dave Deveau on another Lower Mainland Human Library similar to the upcoming project at Surrey Libraries described previously on this blog by Meghan Savage. The Human “books” in the 2013 PuSh Festival Human Library include Refugee, Sex Therapist, Female Heavy Machinery Engineer, CODA (Child of Deaf Adults) Culture Pirate, Polyamorous, and more.

Over at the Western Front Gallery, local author and Emily Carr University instructor Aaron Peck will give a talk on January 26 at the Western Front Gallery entitled “That Sound Should Have Been our Title:  Ekphrasis and the Novel in Contemporary Art.  He will address “the categorical confusion that arises from encountering novels in the exhibition-context of contemporary art…” which “…can lead to new ways of thinking.”

Art Spiegleman CO-MIX is a major retrospective of the acclaimed comic artist at the The Vancouver Art Gallery in February.  The exhibition features over 400 drawings, sketches, and panels from his early 1970s underground comics, his commercial graphic design work, and reveals Spiegelman’s narrative and formal innovations in his best-known Maus and most recent In the Shadow of No Towers.

In tandem with the Vancouver Art Gallery’s upcoming exhibitions Art Spiegelman CO-MIX, Hope At Dawn: Watercolours by Emily Carr and Charles John Collings, and Grand Hotel, the Vancouver Public Library is hosting a special book club at the Vancouver Art Gallery where participants will read three titles related to the exhibitions.

Is your library supporting and connecting with literary artists as exemplified by VPL’s support of the PuSh and Vancouver Art Gallery? Can you imagine other possibilities?  Have you noticed this convergence of art and literary circles outside Vancouver?

Twitter is a Boon to Readers’ Advisory

Twitter's logo

Thank you to Twitter for the use of their logo.

My newest Readers’ Advisory discovery is Twitter. Specifically, the useful (and amusing) feeds written by library, publisher, author, and reviewer industry types. Yes, joining this platform in the dying days of 2012 means that I am very late to this social media game. However, since its launch in 2006, Twitter has matured and solidified into a much more organized game to join.

I have been surveying the landscape, sifting through the many “Best Of” Twitter lists (Thank you Mashable for this list of authors with great feeds and Media Bistro for their best book reviewers on Twitter) and noting that Twitter has become a natural habitat for many authors.

In follower mode, Twitter provides me with book recommendations, links to reviews and can be used as a collection development tool. By contributing my thoughts and opinions, I can extend my promotion of books beyond the patrons at my library, my family and friends. I like the sharing of common interests across Twitter by using hashtags (an ever-changing user-driven taxonomy allowing you to tag a topic or search for one.) Some bookish hashtags to follow or contribute to include:


The National Reading Campaign‘s simple query #whatdidyoureadtoday garnered over 10,000 replies. While their contest has wrapped up, the conversation continues.

The Librarian Favorites, 2012 was a collaborative Twitter voting system. Hundreds of librarians tweeted close to 700 votes for their favourite 12 titles of 2012. Over 400 titles were recommended and the top three are: Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars
and Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore. The Early Word provided a spreadsheet of the complete listof librarian picks.

Other Reader’s Advisory possibilities for Twitter include using your library’s Twitter account for author reading promotion, developing networks for future event planning as well as taking the opportunity to understand and engage with understanding and engaging with readers.

For more on how to use Twitter for Reader’s Advisory take a look at this presentation on Twitter for Reader’s Advisory by Vassiliki Veros from New South Wales.

Are you on Twitter? Comments on using Twitter for RA purposes from newbies and experts are welcome!

You can find me @TaraMatsuzaki.