Category Archives: Booktalking

Edmonton Public Library’s “Great Stuff Crew”

i heart eplEdmonton Public Library (EPL) won Gale/Library Journal’s Library of the Year award in 2014 for a number of reasons, one of which is their great job marketing resources through their “Great Stuff Crew.”

I had the opportunity to hear Tina Thomas, the Director of Marketing, Communications and Fund Development Division at EPL speak in two different sessions at the American Library Association Conference in Las Vegas last month.

In “Turning Books Into A Cool New Tool: RA Marketing in the Age of Maker Spaces,” she used the umbrella term “Discovery Services” to refer to EPL’s efforts to match people with the content and resources that they seek. EPL has marked their Staff Picks with the tag lines: “We read. We listen. We watch. We game. We share.”

The Great Stuff Crew consists of 9 staff members who are dedicated to sharing recommendations in certain genres and themes through social media, TV appearances on Breakfast Television every week, Bibliocommons lists, events, and in-library displays. They focus on the fun and the quirky, with one of the librarians creating pop-culture-relevant lists such as The Charlie Sheen Reading List, which garnered over 500 hits in one day during the Charlie Sheen debacle.

They are also using forms-based readers’ advisory by creating Personalized Book Lists for readers.

What EPL learned from creating the Great Stuff Crew:

  • personality is important but content is key
  • it’s valuable to have staff with specific genre specialties, but it’s equally important that all staff members embrace readers’ advisory
  • generalists with specific interests work best
  • it’s important to set expectations accurately and early when creating the team
  • incubate, create, test, MEASURE, and repeat

Tina Thomas also lent her voice to “Smart Marketing: Using Big (or Little) Data”, contributing to the idea that we must collect and measure data to integrate change and improve our libraries effectively. At EPL, every single program is evaluated. They also use the software Simply Measured to analyze data from their social media channels (including unlikes).

Does your library have a team of RA “specialists?”

epl cards




Reader’s Advisory for Adults Reading Teen Fiction

Sarah Isbister is currently an Auxillary Librarian at Greater Victoria Public Library and has just accepted one year position with GVPL as a Children’s and Family Literacy Librarian. Sarah has her B.Ed. as well as her M.L.I.S. and is interested in programming and reader’s advisory for adults, teens and children. She also has an interest in education in developing countries and has volunteered overseas in an educational capacity.

Young Adult Fiction is being read widely by adults, across a variety of demographics. As librarians and library staff, it is important to understand both why this is happening, and also how to recommend young adult fiction to adult readers. There has been an increase in adult fiction writers who are choosing to write young adult fiction. It is interesting to explore the trend in adult writers marketing their work to teens. In this post, I will provide you with the names of some authors writing both Adult and Young Adult Fiction as well as some recommended and popular Young Adult authors and titles.

While there are many adults already reading Young Adult Fiction, there are others who may be avoiding the genre altogether. As librarians and library staff, there are some encouraging statistics that we can employ to inspire reluctant readers of Young Adult fiction to try it out. According to Hope Schreiber of Complex Magazine, “Young Adult isn’t really just for the 12-18 age group anymore—it’s the fastest growing publication category right now. In fact, 55 percent of readers who buy YA are actually over 18. If you still feel guilty picking up Harry Potter, don’t.” (

It is essential to question what the adult reader gets out of reading these novels. Which should lead us to ask, what does a reader get out of reading any novel? One obvious response is to consider appeal factors, which include pacing, characterization, story line, and frame (background detail, mood, setting, tone). When adults were polled about reading YA Fiction, responses ranged from: “I enjoy the immediacy of the stories and the sense of being at the beginning of the path of who you’ll become.” — @sesinkhorn to “I like the mash-up of genre & style” and; “Unpretentious/literary, fast-paced/big-ideas, fantasy/mystery…” — @ErinSatie. The subtext of many of these responses seems to be that YA Fiction is being compared to Adult Fiction. In comparison to Adult Fiction, “YA fiction often delivers accessible, emotional, fast-paced stories with an optimistic or hopeful outlook.”

Eleanor & Park

If we choose to take a more academic approach, we can discuss reception studies. The point of reception/media/cultural studies is to, “study the audience (of a TV show, movie, etc.), not the creator of the media. A lot of reception studies focus on how consumption of a media product (TV show, book, etc.) is tied into an individual’s identity formation.” It has been argued that most cultural consumption in contemporary society is about identity. It’s about reaffirming one’s identity or challenging one’s identity or trying out new identities. While there is not necessarily anything wrong with this, it is intriguing that so many adults these days are drawn to narratives about teens. It begs the question, “what does [this] say about adult identities in contemporary society?”

Pretties Uglies

Or is it simpler than the academia suggests? Kelly Jensen, librarian and blogger in her Book Riot post, states: “Listen. The only justification for why adults read YA books is this: they choose to. That’s it. That’s their reason. Adults read YA books because they as adults choose to do so.” (

In a New York Times Book review, A.J. Jacobs describes John Green novels as, realistic stories told by a funny and self-aware teenage narrator with, “sharp dialogue, defective authority figures, occasional boozing, unrequited crushes and one or more heartbreaking twists”( Green is one of the most popular writers of young adult fiction who also has a strong adult following. He currently has four novels on the New York Times best-seller list, has an online cult topping a million, and he actually plays Carnegie Hall.

It is legitimate and important to ask why adults read YA, just as it’s legitimate to ask why people read or do anything. The problem is, the answers to these kinds of questions are never simple, but of course, that’s also why they’re so interesting and can be studied and explored.

Two Boys kissing

Authors writing both Adult & Young Adult Fiction:

  • Douglas Adams
  • Sherman Alexie
  • Meg Cabot
  • Susan Juby
  • David Levithan
  • Patrick Ness
  • James Patterson
  • Jodi Picoult
  • Terry Pratchett
  • Philip Pullman
  • J.K. Rowling (pseudonym Robert Galbraith)
  • J.R.R. Tolkien

 Recommended Titles:

  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  • Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
  • Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang
  • Crank by Ellen Hopkins
  • Eleanor & Park & Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  • The Fault in our Stars & Looking for Alaska by John Green
  • It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  • Sloppy Firsts (Jessica Darling Series) by Megan McCafferty
  • Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
  • Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley
  • Winger by Andrew Smith

For more reading on the subject:

Reading Wildly! How do you promote Readers’ Advisory in your workplace?

A colleague brought this article to my attention at our recent BCLA RA Interest Group meeting–it’s about a Children’s Librarian named Abby Johnson who has “developed the Reading Wildly program to inspire [her] staff to read different genres and improve their readers’ advisory skills.” Every month, a genre is assigned and staff members are asked to read one book in that genre that they then book-talk to their co-workers at a meeting. Genre-lists are created based on the recommendations and staff have reported increased confidence when recommending books to patrons. Check out the American Libraries article to see how it has worked.

This idea may be more of a challenge for Adult Services Librarians when considering book length! Check out Abby’s personal blog for more information. This month, the genre assigned was Sports Books, as seen in her image below.

Has your library attempted something similar in an effort to improve staff readers’ advisory skills and encourage reading wildly?

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