Category Archives: Blogs

Readers’ Advisory from a Newbie Keener

ra_1Academic Theory vs. the Real World

The BCLA What R U Reading blog is meant to be a Readers’ Advisory toolkit for librarians. With this in mind, I wanted to take the opportunity to write as a recent MLIS graduate about how I do RA and what tools I use. My hope is that this post is helpful for library students, other new graduates, and even those who have been out of library school for a while. As a keen reader, it is interesting to reflect on what guides my reading and my RA.

For my own interest, and hopefully yours, (and because I burnt out on theory at library school), this post will be more practical than theoretical and hopefully useful. Posting as a recent grad has allowed me to reflect on the differences between academic theory and what was taught in library school and real world, on the job RA.


One thing that I noticed right away on the job, is that RA is much more complex, interesting, and relational than they tell you in library school. But this is only true if you are willing to engage in conversations, relationships, and a variety of materials, genres, and formats. In discussing my blog post topic with some librarians from a few different library systems, the overall feeling amongst them seemed to be that their work off-desk is so time and energy consuming that they do not often have enough time to invest in RA. This includes both doing RA with patrons and having the time to stay current with RA resources and trends.

There are many tips that are worth mentioning and the following are only a few recommendations. Make your reading pool deep and wide, and ask for recommendations from patrons and other staff who you know read avidly and widely. Check your library’s (and even other libraries) website for new titles, especially if you are at a branch where you are only seeing materials intended for your branch and the collection is fixed rather than floating. Pay attention to current media that may influence reading patterns and trends, (ex. The Great Gatsby & The Hunger Games being released on film) try to anticipate what patrons interests will be and find read-a-likes/watch-a-likes/listen-a-likes. Pay attention to holds lists, Fastreads, and what is circulating highly in your system.

“Can you recommend a good book on…?”

Take special notice of the genres that you gravitate away from and make an extra effort to read a selection of those titles (especially popular ones). This will help you to avoid some biases when doing RA (which patrons ALWAYS pick up on). Work to understand the appeal factors of each genre: pacing, characterization, story line, and frame.

Really listen to patrons RA questions and do not assume that because they read one genre, they will or will not enjoy others. Ask patrons what the last book they have read is and what they thought of it? Or what was the last book that they really enjoyed? Another tactic that I use is to ask patrons what their favourite books is/favourite genre/top 5 favourite titles. The most effective practice that I use currently is to browse the shelves with patrons or grab a few items off of the shelf and ask their thoughts/opinions. I find this really effective in making the process active, engaging, casual, and conversational.

Online Resources

Online resources are readily available and (generally) free. It’s a matter of finding the online resources that appeal to you and that are useful, current, and reputable. The following are some that I have found helpful.

• Awards, Prizes, Notable Lists

o The Pulitzer Prizes
o New York Times Bestseller Lists
o The Man Booker Prize – Literary fiction

• Related to Genres:

o Barry Awards from Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine
o Bram Stoker Awards – Horror
o Romance Writers of American – Honor Roll
o The Hugo Awards – for Science Fiction

• Book Clubs/Reading Groups/Discussion

o Book Club Resource –
o Harper Collins Reading Groups –
o Oprah’s Book Club

• Listservs – subscribe daily or weekly

o Fiction_L
o NoveList
o Nextreads

• Blogs

o The Reader’s Advisor Online
o Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
o Comics Worth Reading
o Harlequin

• Websites

o Booklist
o The Horn Book
o Library Journal
o Oprah Magazine
o Overbooked
o Publisher’s Weekly
o Quill & Quire
o School Library Journal
o What Should I Read Next
o Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA)

• Social Networking

o Goodreads
o Shelfari
o Facebook – Books I Read App
o Twitter

Readers’ Advisory is a complex and fascinating aspect of librarianship that is in constant flux, now more than ever. It is exciting and challenging to consider how we are currently practicing RA and how we will continue to expand and improve RA services to support our library users.

Sarah Isbister, Public Services Librarian, GVPL


Readers’ Advisory Tools: Focus on the 49th Shelf

With Christmas on the horizon (tomorrow, already!?), I’ve been thinking a lot lately about “shopping local.” I prefer to find unique gifts at craft fairs by local artisans and businesses. I should also apply the notion of “shopping local” to readers advisory at my library. It’s always great when I can support a Canadian author, illustrator, or publisher by recommending a Canadian book to a patron. The 49th Shelf helps me to do just that.

Thanks to the 49th Shelf for use of their logo.

Thanks to the 49th Shelf for use of their logo.

What is the 49th Shelf? A website, blog, Facebook account, and Twitter account that promotes discovery, discussion, and celebration of Canadian books. “The 49th Shelf is a project of the Association of Canadian Publishers (ACP), in partnership with the Canadian Publisher’s Council, and it has received significant development funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC). is the lead sponsor for the project for 2012.”—49th Shelf

What can you do?

  • Browse users’ lists and recommended reading such as “Holiday Books from Atlantic Canada
  • Browse by category and author
  • Create your own book-lists and reviews
  • Contribute to the “Read Local” Map by pinning a book on it
  • Win samples of new releases and enter contests
  • Subscribe to monthly newsletter
  • Read author interviews
  • Listen to podcasts

The 49th Shelf reaches out to librarians in particular. In their words, the 49th Shelf is

“An online resource that makes it easier for you to discover and sort Canadian titles by theme, peer feedback, reading level, and/or curriculum linkage. You can make lists based on your discoveries. You can also compare your choices against other librarians or teachers, ask their advice if you’d like, and pass title selections to colleagues for review or ordering.”

Questions that I can’t answer? Email for more info

Happy Reading and Happy Holidays! Check back in January for more blog postings.

Online Bookmarking and Promoting Readers’ Advisory

Tara Matsuzaki and Heidi Schiller lead this session and began by sharing some of their favourite bookmarking sites when it comes to Readers’ Advisory. Of those mentioned were Library Thing, Fantastic Fiction, Amazon, Good Reads, and NoveList.  These sites are so wonderful because they harness crowd-sourcing and have users create lists and tags as well as containing the more traditional booklists and read-alike tools.

When it comes to promoting readers’ advisory Tara and Heidi were big fans of:

  • NextReads e-newsletters which allow patrons to sign up for monthly booklists based on their favourite genres.
  • North Vancouver City Library’s blog The Top Shelf is an excellent example of a blog which has short chunks of information and is visually appealing. It features Community Reader Profiles which connect community members to the library through a peek at their favourite reads.
  • Many libraries are beginning to use Pinterest which allows them to create visually delightful booklists with cover images and short reviews and link them all back to their catalogue.
  • While BiblioCommons is not new to some, it has real value in terms of integrating the catalogue with what is referred to as the “social discovery layer.”
  •  Facebook continues to be a place for librarians to be where their users are, promote readers’ advisory resources or services like Seattle Public Library’s Your Next 5 Books.

Welcome to RA in a Half Day!

After being warmly welcomed by Jenny Fry, Co-Chair of the Readers’ Advisory Interest Group, and thanking Library Bound for making today possible we got started with the keynote speaker Sean Cranbury. Sean’s background in independent bookselling and publishing lead him to create Books on the Radio.  This blog became a hub for other projects, including the Advent Book Blog and the Real Vancouver Writers’ Series and several other online book-talking communities.

With a rallying cry of “Libraries are Awesome!” Sean’s presentation (which can be found here) discusses why libraries are uniquely positioned to “be in the place, where people are, who are interested in the things you do.” Libraries have a physical space, internet access, local connection, not to mention expertise on great books! They can use blogs as hubs, and then target their audiences through channels like Facebook and Twitter. Sean emphasized how valuable these tools are because they can provide opportunities to measure online activity and interaction. So, share openly and globally, provide opportunities for interaction and archive! His final challenge to the librarians gathered was can libraries host robust and civil online discussions on books and reading with policies to support this? Stay tuned to RA in a Half Day to find out!

Book Blogs

One of life’s biggest tragedies has to be the fact that we are not able to read every book we’d like to. In fact, we can’t even come close.

I’m constantly doing “book triage” with the multiple holds that come in all at once. I know you can relate. For example, right now I must decide between Junot Diaz’s new book, two Booker Prize finalists, Alix Ohlin’s Inside, Emily Schultze’s The Blondes, and The People of Forever Are Not Afraid, by Shani Boianjiu – not to mention the two professional tomes I really should be reading. Sound familiar?

Because of this conundrum, I have found several book blogs exceedingly helpful in staying abreast of the buzz around certain titles I just can’t get to, and I’m going to share them here:


 The Early Word Blog: This blog’s tagline reads the publisher librarian connection, and I find it invaluable for keeping up to date on what’s new and buzzworthy in fiction, nonfiction and YA. The posts are snappy, short and dense with info. The blog’s major downfall is that it is very U.S. centric.  If you only bookmark or subscribe to one of these blogs, I’d suggest you make it this one.


Flavorwire’s and Vulture’s Book Sections: These are not traditional blogs, but you can subscribe to their Books feeds. These blogs are where I go for quirky publishing anecdotes and interesting news about literature and authors, with a decidedly pop culturish bent. I use them more for inspiration for my own blog posts, as well as a good source to find fun things to re-post on my library’s Facebook page, usually along with a question to engage fans.


Quill and Quire’s Quillblog: Lots of Canadian-centric book, library and publishing info. Also includes roundups of local literary events in various Canadian cities.


Reading Matters and KevinfromCanada blogs: Book reviews of mainly new releases with a Canadian bent. Right now, these two bloggers are engaged in the Shadow Giller Jury, an unofficial group of Canadian book bloggers who announce their own Giller winner the night before the awards ceremony. Sounds fun, right?

CBC Book Portal: Also not a traditional book blog, but you can add the book portal to your RSS feed and get regular post updates. I find many of the reviews of recently published Canadian fiction helpful.


So what did I miss? What are your favourite book blogs?

— Heidi Schiller


(Photo courtesy of John Haslam,