Author Archives: taramatsuzaki

Library Reads: Sharing the book love far & wide

If you have not investigated this superb book promotion machine from south of the border, I recommend spending a bit of time with the grassroots and volunteer-run Library-Reads-Logo-Color LibraryReads.

What is it?

LibraryReads is a monthly list of the top ten books that librarians (across the U.S.) love all wrapped up in downloadable marketing materials.

The goals of LibraryReads are simple. First, connecting librarians’ favourite books to as many readers as possible; and second, showcasing the influence of public librarians in building buzz for new books and creating audiences for authors of every stripe.

How is the list determined, and what is the nomination process?

The ten books that are nominated the most become the monthly list. The book with the most nominations is #1. Any U.S. public library employee who loves to read and is passionate about discovering and sharing wonderful books can participate by nominating their favourite forthcoming title.

Can we Canadians contribute?

No, LibraryReads selects U.S. editions of titles and their partnerships are with U.S. divisions of companies.

There’s More!

LibraryReads is easy to share. Beyond their print bookmarks and flyers, they have beautifully organized Pinterest boards and they are on Tumblr.

The Best Hashtag in Libraryland

The best books list generated by librarians on Twitter is an annual highlight for bookish librarians like me. And yes, #libfaves14 is my favorite hashtag in the library corner of the Twitterverse. I love collaborating with our colleagues across North America on this project. Publishers, authors and other book-lovers also add their two cents.

Here’s how it plays out. Librarians tweeted the top 10 books they read in 2014 starting on December 1st with number ten and ending on December 10th with their number one favourite book. Each tweet included the hashtag #libfaves14.

2014 was the fourth year of this crowd-sourcing, professional Readers Advisory sharing exercise.  It was created by Stephanie Chase, Robin Beerbower and Linda Johns in 2011.  This year Janet Lockhart, Vicki Nesting, Melissa Samora and Gregg Winsor provided vote-counting labour.

The Early Word reported on #libfaves14 and collected the tweets together in Storify transcripts:  Days 1 through 7, Day 8, Day 9 and Day 10.  Many of the tweets are excellent examples of how to recommend books in 140 characters.

Following along is a good way to learn about titles to recommend. Be forewarned that your “to be read” list may lengthen. I was persuaded to read Jacqueline Woodson’s brown girl dreaming from this #libfaves14 recommendation:


The resulting list is collected in a spreadsheet linked on The Early Word here. The list is a great collection development tool – librarians read and love a wide range of books.

Here is my #libfaves14 Best Books of 2014 list.

Mark your 2015 calendar to tweet your #libfaves15 starting on December 1st. I’d love to see your picks!

When the Music Fan Visits the Library

high fidelity soundtrack album artSometimes librarians are like 90s record shop staffers. We create playlists on-the-fly responding to queries like: “Do you have some good music for working-out?” or “I’m creating a slide show of my trip to India and I need some music. Traditional folk and some Bollywood songs please.”

Unlike advising readers, helping people find music in the library doesn’t come with a long professional history or an overflowing toolkit; no library school classes, no specialized databases build by librarians for librarians, no myriad of in-house finding-aids and no ninth edition professional books on the subject.

Music Advisory (MA) Resources

Luckily, we can rely on other fields. Print guides to music are full of curated recommendations. Penguin has published many guides to classical music as has Oxford. Subject searches for “Sound Recordings – Reviews” and “Music Appreciation” will reveal a wealth of music guides across genres.

Great free online MA resources include AllMusic, The Encyclopedia of Music in CanadaCBC and online versions of music magazines.

Your library may provide access to subscription databases such as: Freegal, Oxford Music Online or Naxos Music Library.

Bibliocommons Lists – If you library is using Bibliocommons or another discovery layer, search for music lists. Currently, Bibliocommons offers 133 lists of Hip Hop music created by library staff and patrons.

Algorithm-based Music Recommendation Sources are available online. Gnoosic is a search engine for music. It will ask you what music you like and then suggest what you might like. has a listen-alike “music discovery service.” Type in an artist you like and find another you might enjoy. Use Musicovery to create a playlist based on your mood, a genre or an artist.

Jane Coop's favorite piano piecesPassive Music Advisory

Create a list in Bibliocommons on a musical genre or theme.  You can also recruit experts to create lists – think local musicians, DJs or music educators. My colleague and music librarian Margaret Mould invited 12 local musicians and music educators to select their favourite music from our collection. We offer these lists on our website as well as in print.

Matthew Moyer enthuses about a similar music community outreach project in Library Journal.

Online Form-based Music Advisory

A few public libraries have created form-based online music advisory services, notably the Jacksonville Public Library. This is likely the most well-known online music advisory service in the library world. The creators, Andrew Coulon and Matthew Moyer were named LJ Movers and Shakers in 2012 for their innovation.  Coulon and Moyer developed the service model, the form and they report their customized playlists on their blog – which is a wealth of music lore.

The BiblioPod Music Advisory is available on the beautiful website of the Rochester and Monroe County Central Library Arts Division. The BiblioPod form is similar to the Jacksonville model. Bibliopod’s music advisory team is made up of experienced librarians, local DJs and talent. Judy Schewe, Music Librarian, publishes and annotates their customized playlists on the Bibliopod blog which is also a rich resource.

Bonus Tracks

  1. A Must-Read intro to recommending music in Library Journal by Matthew Moyer of Jacksonville PL.
  2. The Brain Pickings Literary Jukebox created by Maria Popova.

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!