Here are our bookslam titles from October 20th’s RA in a Day session. We hope you enjoyed hearing about them as much as we did reading them! Did any of the titles pique your interest? let us know in the comments below.
This year’s successful RA in a Day event (yes, a full day this year!) was held today at Vancouver Public Library’s Central branch. The BCLA Readers’ Advisory Group extends thanks to those of you who joined us in person today, or who chimed in the conversation on Twitter (#RAinaDay). We also offer thanks to Library Bound for once again sponsoring the event.
We’d also like to acknowledge that this year’s event took place on the ancestral, traditional and unceded Aboriginal territories of the Coast Salish Peoples.
RA in a Day 2015 opened with a literacy workshop hosted by Joan Acosta, formerly of The Westcoast Reader and Diana Twiss of Decoda Literary Solutions. Diana began by reframing how we measure literacy, explaining it is not an on-off switch; instead, we should consider literacy as a spectrum of how well readers can read.
Literacy and reading are learned skills that need to be practiced. Diana points out that reading consists of three cognitive processes: analyzing, interpreting, and monitoring. These are the skills and strategies that fluent readers often have. For instance, fluent readers are strategic and selective in their reading, and can make inferences, set goals, and monitor their comprehension. They often have background knowledge to assist them, and can summarize and reflect on their reading. Importantly, they expect to understand.
Meanwhile, struggling readers often read the entire text start to finish, rather than skimming or scanning. They may have more limited vocabulary or struggle with decoding sentences. They may have trouble connecting ideas, or reflecting on what they’re reading. They often lack background knowledge, and may not read widely or often.
It is important to remember that there are multiple and varied reasons for reading difficulty, including affects of aging, poor vision, physical or emotional stress, and learning disabilities, to name only a few.
In the interactive workshop, Diana and Joan asked us to work in small groups to analyze some books to attempt to find a fit between reader and text. Elements of the text that we can consider in terms of literacy levels include: the number and complexity of sentences, the number of words per sentence, multi-syllable words, presence of abstract words or idioms, presence of visual cues and sight words, and layout and organization of the page. Additionally, a personal story or narrative can connect a reader to a text.
It also helps us to know the reader’s familiarity with a topic, their background knowledge, their interest in the topic, reading skill levels, and comprehension strategies. Finding out some of these elements can help us match them with an appropriate text.
Finally, don’t hesitate to ask readers direct questions about their reading levels and comprehension skills. While there can be stigmas associated to literacy levels, we should work towards trying to shed these attitudes as most readers are approaching librarians because they want our support and guidance.
Coming up soon: reports on the inaugural BCLA RA in a Day BookSlam; our perennial favourite Speed Dating Through the Genres; and a keynote from Dr. Brenna Clarke Gray of Douglas College and Book Riot.
This year the interactive section of RA in a Half Day was led by our guest speaker, Keren Dali who provided us an opportunity to share insights, develop conversations, and exchange ideas about serving immigrant and ESL readers.
In discussing the use of fiction or films set locally, such as in Vancouver, the thought was that this would generate good integrated programming for newcomers, “old-timers” (immigrants already settled into the community), and native residents. Struggles included how to attract the mixed audience, how to evaluate it, and, in smaller communities, finding specific local materials.
The suggestion when talking about inclusive and integrated book clubs was that you could encourage integration by building immigrant reader opportunities into an existing book club. Concerns included worries about choosing materials translated into enough different languages, who would select the titles, could the library have them available in all necessary languages, and how to promote it. Dali encouraged us to accept the idea that libraries will not always be the place where readers get their copy of the book. Discuss this issue with the book club members, because if you buy the book in many languages, many of those books will never again circulate after the book club is finished with them.
In discussing the solicitation of feedback from immigrant groups including operating multilingual advisory groups, it was easy to list numerous advantages. A multilingual advisory group could crowd source local expertise in literature from various languages, helps the library develop a clearer picture of the need of these readers, mitigates the lack of formal research available on the subject of immigrant and ESL reader communities, and increases awareness of the collections and services libraries offer while building comfort and agency in that section of the community. There were definite concerns over having some local language communities or certain individuals dominate the conversation, a concern that Dali actually stressed on several occasions in her talk. In addition there were concerns about the level of understanding and expertise that the community had in using library tools like BiblioCommons or even in how to analyse the qualities of and recommend reading material.
In thinking about specific ESL communities that our libraries serve, the issue of having staff who speak the language of the immigrant communities was a major theme. Some libraries were struggling to serve smaller foreign language communities when they have a huge dominant foreign language community they have already identified and designed significant services for. A big part of the discussion revolved around how to break into these smaller language groups. Additional concerns revolved around how to assess the literacy level of various local language communities in their own native tongues so that our multilingual collections are representative of their reading level needs.
A discussion on multilingual collections including selection, management, and marketing them included some useful suggestions including building community partnership programs, employing pop-up surveys on the website and in house, contacting local adult education programs, and advertising to immigrant families via story time. Concerns included finding a good source for materials purchases, managing the scope including both your staffing and monetary resources, figuring out how to make the contacts, and dealing with a significant lack of knowledge in our communities generally (but yes in immigrant communities especially) about what is offered at libraries. They really encourage perseverance in connecting with these communities and educating them on library collections and services, a point that Dali re-enforced as being critical. Keep talking about your libraries programs and collections and keep working to build trust in with community.
A big thanks to the wonderful RA in a Half Day participants who shared some great conversations and ideas!
Another exciting RA in a Half Day from the BCLA Readers’ Advisory Interest Group kicked off in the Richmond Cultural Centre with on opening welcome from Theresa de Sousa, Librarian at Richmond Public Library. Again this year, BCLA Readers’ Advisory Interest would like to thank Library Bound for sponsoring the event.
Barbara Edwards, Community Relations Librarian at Vancouver Public Library introduced the first speaker of the day, Keren Dali, a researcher who studies the reading experiences of immigrants. Chock full of practical ideas and positive messages, Dali offered a wonderful amount of insight into how immigrants pursue and think about reading for leisure. She emphasized the interest of immigrant readers in reading in English, genre fiction, and not the obvious “easy reader” materials. However, they often do not understand how the North American publishing industry works (assuming, for instance, that hardbacks are unabridged and paperbacks are abridged), nor have experience in the vast array of genres that we have in the English literature tradition. They need guidance in understanding the landscape of English language reading materials from how the publishing industry and libraries work to the basics of genre designations and the big name authors in these genres. Find out what is popular in literature in their native language and help them translate that appeal into the appeal of various English language literature genres.
Communicating with people new to your own native language will produce interaction fatigue (repeating yourself, consciously simplifying your language, slowing your speech, making them repeat themselves). This is natural, reduces with practice, but can inspire anxiety and cause us to try to shorten these transactions or make us abrupt. Warmth, interest, and positivity in are critical in the Readers Advisory transactions as part of these inter-cultural interactions that are building their comfort and proficiency in Canadian society. Dali suggests that we often think of immigrant readers in our libraries as “newcomers” but many are actually “old-timers” who have been in the country a few years and are already adjusting to the culture. They are ready to move beyond materials on the immigrant experience, easy reader materials, and they want to move away from being served as readers with special needs. Above all, she encourages us to “ASK YOUR READERS!” Develop these conversations actively and via workshops, mixed ESL book groups, and immigrant advisory groups so that we are building relationships in this community and helping this population to develop comfort and build connections here.
Next up, Keren Dali will be leading us in an interactive activity on immigrant Readers Advisory services.
The BCLA RA Interest Group is busy planning our 3rd annual RA in a Half Day so save the date for Monday, October 20, 2014 at the Cultural Centre Performance Hall in the Richmond Cultural Centre next to the Brighouse Branch of Richmond Public Library.
The timing and details will be released as we get planning, but the fun half-day will include more action-packed “Speed Dating through the Genres” experts and inspiring keynotes. This is your chance to participate in an event that is all about readers’ advisory and love of the written (or spoken) word! Improve your knowledge of unfamiliar genres & formats (Steampunk, Audiobooks, Popular Science-, etc) and enhance your RA skills.
If you haven’t had a chance to attend an RA in a Half Day program before, check out our blog posts about the previous sessions! Stay tuned for details.
Naomi Eisenstat covers the basics of the horror genre at our RA in a Half Day event at Vancouver Public Library last October:
Definition: Horror fiction’s most basic definition is it’s designed to scare the reader. Its tone can vary from comedic to dour or hectic to suspensful, but all stories tend to maintain an atmosphere of menace. Unresolved or unhappy endings are the norm. Monsters of some kind usually frame the story. Horror fiction also has more graphic violence or sexual situations than most other genres.
RA Tips and Tricks
Instead of recommending horror by which type of supernatural force menaces the protaganists, look at how soon violence erupts and match that to the reader’s taste on the Storyteller vs. Visceral spectrum.
The graphic violence and sexual content in most horror can be shocking to some new readers.
Potential New Horror Reader Checklist
- Patron enjoys thrillers of any kind.
- Patron does not mind blood and guts.
- Patron prefers character-driven plots over action-stories.
- Patron does not mind fantasy elements in their novels.
Resources for Great Picks
The Bram Stoker Awards
Weird Tales Magazine
Spratford, Becky Siegel. The Reader’s Advisory Guide to Horror (2nd Edition). 2012.
Saricks, Joyce G. Readers’ Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction (2nd Edition). 2009.
Spratford, Becky Siegel. The Horror Readers’ Advisory: The Librarian’s Guide to Vampires, Killer Tomatoes, and Haunted Houses. 2004.
Fonseca, Anthony J. and June Michele Pulliam. Hooked on Horror: A Guide to Reading Interests in Horror Fiction. 1999.
Important Horror Authors and a Selection of Their Work
Interview with a Vampire
The Vampire Lestat
The Haunting of Hill House
We Have Always Lived in the Castle
The Lottery and Other Stories
Odd Thomas (Series)
From the Corner of His Eye
The Hellbound Heart
The Damnation Game
Books of Blood, v. 1-3
Daphne du Maurier
Don’t Look Now: Selected Stories
The Dunwich Horror and Others
Dagon and Other Macabre Tales
The Horror in the Museum and Other Revsions
In the Night Room
A Dark Matter
Joe R. Landsdale
Writer of the Purple Rage
Mad Dog Summer and Other Stories
The Collected Strange Stories
Something Wicked This Way Comes
World War Z
Mark Z. Danielewski
House of Leaves
A Study in Emerald
Turn of the Screw
Ghost Stories of an Antiquary
Caitlin R. Kiernan
The Drowning Girl
The Walking Dead
Joyce Carol Oates
Remember Why You Fear Me
Surrey Libraries’ Tanya Thiessen gives audience members an education on the new “New Adult” genre at our 2013 RA in a Half Day workshop at Vancouver Public Library:
“New Adult” Romance Resources
Description & History of Genre:
- So what is “New Adult”? Developed by St. Martin’s Press in 2009, “New Adult” (NA) is essentially a marketing term for the post YA reader, a hot subgenre of the larger Romance category. Some say this genre signals an intermediate step for readers between YA and adult fiction because the protagonists/main characters are in the 18-25 age range tackling issues of “new adulthood”. Often placed in a contemporary college setting, these characters deal with issues of identity – exploring their sexuality, often experiencing peripheral issues stemming from family/childhood abuse, substance abuse, suicide, sexual assault. And these titles are usually heavy on romance, sometimes bordering on erotica – many e-titles come with explicit sex warnings, so how much they are actually an intermediate step post-YA literature is somewhat debatable.
- Storylines are compelling, as the authors work to translate the intensity and passion of new adulthood into their stories. Often these novels will follow a formulaic theme of “Good Girl” meets “Bad Boy” with anger management issues. Many titles told from both the male and female POV, which is one of the reasons why the genre is so popular, as readers are hungry for the male voice (for example, Walking Disaster is the sequel, male “answer” story to Beautiful Disaster, and Charade alternates chapters told by the male and female main characters).
- Another reason why these titles are so poplar is because of accessibility – most titles are available in e-format, if not exclusively as an e-title. There’s a lot of “word of mouth” advertising for these titles – New Adult book groups and NA booklists on Goodreads, blogs (Maryse’s Book Blog is often cited for reviews), websites, etc. Replacing the old Harlequins, titles are cheap, or free (you can find a lot of free books in the New Adult or Adult Contemporary Romance in iBooks) and read your guilty pleasure in private on your phone/ereader/tablet. In fact, the development of the genre has come from titles that were originally self-published online, for example, Colleen Hoover’s NA novel, Slammed, was originally self-published on Amazon. Slammed was on the NY bestseller list and the author was still getting rejection letters from print publishers. Readers are driving demand – Cora Carmarck wrote her first novel, Losing It, about a college girl desperate to lose her virginity, in 3 weeks. Carmarck’s goal was to make $1000 – at a price point of $3.99, she ended up making about $200,000, and landed a six-figure deal with HarperCollins.
- From a publishing perspective, the New Adult genre developed from a desire to continue a relationship with all those voracious YA readers who got interested in the YA genre by reading The Hunger Games and Twilight – just like E.L. James’s inspiration for Fifty Shades… was Twilight. (Ah, yes, Twilight – like a gateway drug!) Readers seem to crave this new genre, and it’s creating a new source of revenue in an industry that is looking for an injection. A Publisher’s Weekly article talks about how the avid YA readership is getting older, and there is a hole in the larger Romance genre that NA fills with its more mature themes. Publishers are keen to keep this group of readers happy, and I think that these themes of identity, not to mention the heavy romance, attracts older female readers…after all, who doesn’t want a little romantic escape in their life?
- Just as with Romance generally, there are lots of New Adult titles that offer the paranormal aspect. Jamie McGuire of Beautiful Disaster/Walking Disaster fame is working currently on a NA zombie/post-apocalyptic novel. There is so much potential in this category that some YA authors are dabbling with the NA genre – Meg Cabot’s new book features a young college woman and more sexually explicit themes.
- Abbi Glines’s The Vincent Boys & The Vincent Brothers books were self-published in YA, but she recently released uncut versions of these titles that are labelled appropriate only for ages 17 and up. And a NY Times article on the NA boom notes that publishers are looking seriously at the idea of titles coming in 2 versions in the future so that they can be marketed to both YA and Adult audiences – the double dip, so to speak, to include older readers as the majority of book buyers are over 18.
Considerations for Libraries
- Content and classification. How do we catalogue 2 versions of the same title? How will this impact readers? Sometimes it is unclear whether the title is YA or Adult Romance – the New Adult subgenre essentially covers everything from John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars to the Fifty Shades… trilogy and a lot in between.
- It’s unclear at this point if the “New Adult” tag will mean anything to readers – online, readers seem to see it more as a sub-genre of Adult Romance than YA. I don’t think we’re going to need to create another pull-out genre of our larger fiction collection at this point, but given the popularity of these titles, you will want to be aware of this sub-genre for those coming in for readalikes.
- While sex and coming of age themes are not new in YA, the more explicit sex in NA makes it important for us to make sure we can discern readers looking for fast-paced stories in the New Adult age range and those looking for more descriptive/explicit content (erotica).
- Looking to purchase New Adult titles for your library? The “Romance/Erotica” sub-section of “Fiction” in Publisher’s Weekly lists New Adult titles.
- Note that many titles are part of a series, often a trilogy.
- Many titles are self-published, in e-format exclusively, so can be hard to purchase. Although as the genre grows, these will likely be available in print depending on e-sales.
Charles, John. “Core Collection: Adult Romances for New Adults.” Booklist, 15 Sept 2013, pg. 46.
Driscoll, Molly. “Is a ‘new adult’ genre the step between YA and adult books?” The Christian Science Monitor, 3 Jan 2013.
Hunter, Sarah. “Core Collection: YA Romances for New Adults.” Booklist, 15, Sept 2013, pg. 76.
Kaufman, Leslie. “Beyond Wizards and Vampires, to Sex.” The New York Times, 21 Dec 2012.
Rosen, Judith. “New Adult: Needless Marketing-Speak Or Valued Subgenre?” Publisher’s Weekly, 14 Dec. 2012.
Wetta, Molly. “What is New Adult Fiction, Anyway?” Novelist, Aug 2013.