Category Archives: Digital

Check out the competition

Fussy LibrarianAn interesting link came around at work recently – The Fussy Librarian. They claim, “The Fussy Librarian is the first website to match readers not only with the genre of books they like but also their preferences about content.” Really? Looks like a for-profit model of online RA, but very similar to the form-based services many public libraries are now offering. The focus is strictly on ebooks, and authors/publishers submit their work for inclusion directly to the site. I read in the fine print they are affiliated with Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Apple.

Naturally I did some secret shopping. I signed up for the Literary Fiction and Biography categories, with no restrictions on language, violence or sex. The next day I received an email from “headlibrarian” with 2 titles: Broken In: A Novel in Stories by Jadi Campbell; and Auschwitz: A Doctor’s Eyewitness Account by Miklos Nyiszli, accompanied by their publisher descriptions. I’m pretty sure this is machine-generated, and there’s no space on the form for comments like favourite (or despised) authors, etc. It is interesting that they are using our branding (the bespectacled, bun-headed “Librarian”) to sell the service. (I’ll admit I’m intrigued by the first title, which is a first novel, not available in my library system.)

I looked around, but I didn’t find any other for-profit sites in this market. Has anyone else come across anything?

Video: Seattle’s David Wright at RA in a Half Day

Did you miss David Wright at our RA in a Half Day Workshop on Oct. 30th? No worries! You can watch the Seattle Public Library librarian’s inspiring keynote on the power of form-based and digital readers’ advisory right here on the What Are You Reading Blog!

This video would make a great training tool, as well as provide persuasive arguments to administration for why form-based and Facebook-based RA is so great. Please stay tuned for more videos from RA in a Half Day, which we’ll post over the next few weeks.

David Wright Revving Up RA in a Half Day 2013

RA in a Half Day, 2013 was kicked off with a friendly welcome from Robbie Burma, Co-Chair of BCLA’s Readers’ Advisory Interest Group and Branch Head of the Mount Pleasant Branch of VPL, who thanked Library Bound for sponsoring the event.

The thrills and chills on this Halloween RA in a Half Day began with David Wright, Readers’ Services Librarian at Seattle Public Library and frequent contributor to NovelList, Booklist, Kirkus, and so many other review spaces. Demonstrating his talents as a reader and celebrating adult story time, he began with a hair raising short story. This treat was followed up by an amazing whirlwind look at innovation, inspiration and collaboration in RA, with a real emphasis on the fact that just doing RA work is innovative! People are ready to be excited and engaged and amazed by these services.


David gave a particularly strong look at Form-based Readers’ Advisory and using social media effectively in Readers’ Advisory. He discussed the advantages of both these methods for encouraging collaboration across staff and even between patrons. Asking on Facebook “What is the saddest book you ever read?” can develop a rich conversation among patrons and librarians. All of these collaborations can be built upon to help show patrons how the library is hearing and responding to their reading interests.

What are You Hearing? Podcasts and RA

I know I use huge 80s headphones when getting my dose of Ira Glass.

I know I use huge 80s headphones when getting my dose of Ira Glass.

There are a lot of ways to track the shivering swarm of new information from Book World. I read blogs, I read the newspaper, I visit my bookclub, I repetitively poke my friends’ shoulders until they surrender to me their thoughts on Donna Tartt — but I find podcasts the easiest way to learn about different books while on the go.

Here is a sample of some of the book review podcasts I follow:


This podcast is hosted by two librarians of the Twinsburg Public Library. They often talk about a bunch of different books surrounding a theme, which gives me a chance to sample a little bit of everything. They sometimes showcase author interviews as well.

book-review-podcast-logo2009-articleInline-v3 Inside the New York Times Review of Books

Each week Pamela Paul, editor of the New York Times Review of Books, sits down with major authors to discuss their work. This week’s entry (October 20th) includes an interview with Donna Tartt and Helen Fielding, amongst others.

This podcast is brought to the front of my queue when downloaded — witty and fun hosts with great chemistry and eclectic selections. You can also follow the show’s Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook accounts.


Who were once three are now two, but two “chicks” continue to provide a strong overview of the comic books scene. With comics frequently going for grimgrittydark, I especially appreciate their eye for materials that are suitable for kids and adults.

The_Papa_of_the_Phonograph,_Daily_GraphicSo that’s something for us, but I wonder if it is possible to integrate podcasts into our readers’ advisory work in other ways? I like finding stuff my patrons like even if this means finding stuff outside my library’s collection. Furthermore, podcast listeners are often also readers who are on the lookout for reads that touch upon their iTunes queue.

historyofrome' The History of Rome 

A popular example is The History of Rome podcast by Mike Duncan — it’s exactly what it sounds like. It covered the rise and fall of the Roman empire in weekly segments over several years. This is great for any reader with an interest in classical history or even historical fiction.


RadioLab tells interesting stories of when humanity intersects with science. They also maintain a handy-dandy Tumblr that recommends books related to their shows. This is popular with the show’s listeners who want to continue the themes of the episode with a good book.


Along the science and technology bent is StarTalk, hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson. He discusses the marvels of the galaxy in witty, engrossing manner with comedians to astronauts. Tyson is also a prolific writer so listeners may want to check out his books in between new podcasts.


This is a great podcast for readers of classic lit. Major works of literature are re-examined with a quirky bent and juxtaposed with modern pop culture faves. Recommend it to those just discovering the classics or any Austenite you can track down.

What podcasts do you follow to keep your readers’ advisory edge? Have podcasts even come up before at the information desk? I’d love to hear from you!

And a quick reminder: Tomorrow is the last day to register for RA in a Half Day! Procrastinators of legend, now is your time!

Read Between the Lines – Form-Based Readers’ Advisory


Form-based Readers’ Advisory has been gaining steam in public libraries. I heard buzz about Seattle Public Library’s Your Next 5 Books so when I got the chance to learn about it straight from the source at The Beyond Hope Conference in Prince George this June, I was excited.

Seattle public librarian David Wright gave a fascinating presentation on SPL’s straightforward and very successful forms-based RA. They researched the Williamsburg Regional Library’s form-based RA and decided the form was a bit lengthy for their users so they shortened it to a one page form. From June 1, 2011 to June 1, 2013, Your Next 5 Books generated over 3000 personalized reading lists carefully selected by 10 librarians.

In addition to the form, they offer Facebook RA Days intermittently in which they ask the public for RA questions over a period of a few hours and follow up with personalized recommendations.

David Wright will be joining us as a Keynote at our RA in a Half Day event at Vancouver Public Library on Oct 30 so please register today!

I had the chance to learn more about form-based RA by enrolling in an ALA webinar on Aug 7 entitled Rethinking Readers’ Advisory: An Interactive Approach by Rebecca Howard and Laura Raphael. This webinar has since been expanded into a six-week eCourse starting Nov 4, 2013.

The brief webinar gave me lots of food for thought and I’m sure the six-week online course will help you answer the following questions:

  • What are the benefits of Form-based RA? How can you make a case for it at your library
  • What length of form should you use?
  • What questions should you ask?
  • Who should be on your RA team?
  • What are the key components of a final form?
  • How do you manage workflow?

According to Howard and Raphael, the 3 parts of every good form should:

  • Ask about favourite books or authors
  • Ask about the main focus or appeal
  • Ask about their preferred genre

The next 3 parts should:

  • Determine their current reading mood
  • Determine what topics are verboten to them
  • Determine what books and authors they do not like


The Tulsa City-County Library has its own form-based RA service entitled Your Next Great Read. The library has also created an RA course specially for their staff. You can take a look at it too. 

If you have questions about form-based RA or ANY aspect of RA, bring your questions to RA in a Half Day on October 30.

Readers Advisory and Literary Prizes


The recent Booker shortlist announcement got me thinking… should I promote the finalists? How? And if I promote the Booker, should I also promote the Giller? What about the Pulitzer? The Women’s Prize?

There are so, so many literary awards that it can get overwhelming. That’s why I want to know from you: if you had to pick JUST ONE literary award to promote, which would it be? Take our Awards poll and tell us what you think! And then tell us about your reasoning in the comments section, and let us know if we missed anything!


Heidi Schiller, North Vancouver City Library (Visit my Reader Blog!)


Better Blogging

MacBookLibrariansToday, I’ll be blogging about blogging. How very meta!

I started my library’s Readers’ blog, The Top Shelf, about two years ago and it has steadily grown in readership ever since. Last year we had more than 4,000 views, and this year we hope to double that. But that doesn’t mean we are satisfied. When it comes to blogs, it’s important to constantly be improving and experimenting, both because you learn from mistakes and because the ever-changing technology demands it. From my experience, I’ve compiled a few tips to improve your library blog’s readership, credibility and effectiveness.  Many of these are goals for my own blog, and will be taking my own advice over the next year.

  1. Read other blogs, especially ones that aren’t library related. It’s useful to get outside the echo chamber and notice what keeps you coming back to a blog and why it works.
  2. Use a conversational tone. If you have trouble with this, speak the post out before, or as, you write it.
  3. Keep it short.
  4. Use images, and give their creators credit.
  5. Give your blog a facelift. Upgrade to a paid theme for usually no more than $75. (WordPress offers these in-house, or you can purchase them at themeforest.) Stay tuned for The Top Shelf’s makeover this September!
  6. Get yourself a legit url. Instead of, it will only cost me $17 a year to be
  7. Find out who your readers are. Create a polldaddy survey and ask their age, gender, profession, etc., as well as what types of posts they like and don’t like. Offer a prize as an incentive.
  8. Encourage interactivity and participation. Ask your readers to comment on posts. Ask them specific questions. Ask for recommendations. Offer prizes and giveaways. Invite them to write a guest post.
  9. Similarly, encourage community participation in the blog. Feature local readers, interviews with authors, guest posts by authors and book-related people, profiles of library staff, video reader reviews, etc.
  10. Use multimedia: video, images, podcasts, polls and surveys.
  11. Have regular columns and features. Be sure to create categories for them.
  12. Post regularly: once a day is our goal, but twice a week is realistic for now.

Now it’s your turn: What are your tips, goals, best practices for your library’s blog? What has worked? What hasn’t? Please comment below!

–Heidi Schiller, North Vancouver City Library

(Photo courtesy of Mike Licht)