Category Archives: RA Questions

Free Reign RA – an anecdote

As a newly minted library technician in a public library system, I’ve spent the better half of my summer learning the ropes on how to provide reference services to a variety of patrons. It’s been a wonderful and continuous learning experience. But when it comes to readers’ advisory, a majority of the patrons that I’ve helped have been children, largely in part due to the Summer Reading Club. I should probably note that I LOVE recommending kids books, but I noticed that my experiences with recommending adult reads were few and rare.

Most often my adult patrons would ask for specific titles and authors they had in mind. As regular readers, they’re set in their ways and have done their research. But, one glorious evening, I had a patron who asked me to recommend some titles with basically zero guidelines. I was given FREE REIGN. She mentioned that she just recently got back into reading and the last titles she read were The Girl on the Train and the Hunger Games series. Aside from those books, she hasn’t done much leisure reading in the last ten years or so. I’m not going to lie, I was stoked, quite possibly overcome with so many titles, but also super nervous… What if the titles I recommended ended up being terrible and thus putting a damper on her reading experience or even her library experience? (I hope you’re picturing that scene in Spiderman where Uncle Ben tells Peter with great responsibility comes great power… But you know copyrights prevent me from inserting an image of said scene :D.)

I did a little more investigation into what she was hoping to find and here was her criteria:

  • Something light/fast paced for the summer
  • Open to romance, but not have it be the prime focus
  • Something that might captivate her as a reader

Again, so much room to explore and so many possible book recommendations! But what I noticed with my initial suggestions (the ones that jumped to mind instantly) was that none were actually available in the library at the time. So instead of mindlessly searching the cataloguing for books that were available, I took a walk through fiction with my patron.

I found that being able to physically scan the shelves and pick up books helped build a better relationship. I saw titles I read and/or recognized and I was able to give her a variety of options. But I also convinced her to put holds on several other titles that I thought would be meaningful to her reading journey such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half the Yellow Sun. By the end of our encounter, she left with three books and holds on three more.
I’d like to consider this to be my first real form of adult RA-ing in a library and it genuinely was a rewarding and memorable experience.  So what do you do when you’re asked for open-ended recommendations? What do you do when your go-to titles aren’t readily available? What are some other challenges or tips that you’d like to share?

 

Stephanie Hong is an Information Services Technician at Surrey Libraries

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What’s the Appeal? Using Appeal Factors and Field Codes in NoveList

logoNOVELISTLg

I have to admit that I don’t use NoveList nearly as often as I could when delivering Reader’s Advisory at the library desk. I was intrigued to learn that NoveList has been developing their appeal factors to help you find just the right book for a patron. Their appeal categories include Character, Illustration, Pace, Storyline, Tone, and Writing Style. Each of these categories can be broken down further into a list of adjectives (for example, do you want “candid” writing style or a “spare” writing style?) Please note, I haven’t included links because you have to navigate to these pages through our own library’s NoveList site.

NoveList has some pre-set searches including “I’m in the mood for books that are moving and haunting” (try Girl at War by Sara Novic) OR “action-packed and fast-paced” (try White Ghost by Steven Gore). You can also try their appeal mixer. The appeal mixer is a lot of fun—I chose “Character-Complex,” “Writing Style-Compelling,” and “Pace-Fast-paced” and received 135 recommendations including Tana French, Anna Quindlen, and lots of Sherrilyn Kenyon (who I was not expecting and have not yet read…) You can also adjust the results for adults, teens, kids aged 9-12, and kids aged 0-8.

In addition to appeal terms, NoveList has two-letter field codes that enable you to do Boolean searches. For example, to find suspenseful literary fiction, type in “GN literary fiction AND AP suspenseful” into the NoveList search box. Be sure to capitalize the field codes (GN for Genre and AP for Appeal Terms) as well as capitalize the Boolean operators. This search resulted in 200 results including Sarah Waters’ The Paying Guests and Emma Donoghue’s Room. They have list of all the field codes in a PDF here as well as a cheat sheet of the most commonly used field codes here.

When I receive requests about genres or styles that I rarely read, such as romance books without any sex, it’s good to know NoveList has field codes to help narrow down possible titles (“GN romance AND AP chaste”).

If you have access to NoveList at your library, explore the different appeal factors and field codes to see the types of searches that might help you solve those tricky Readers’ Advisory requests!

-Meghan S, Surrey Libraries

Surrey Libraries’ Book Advisors

We recently launched a Readers’ Advisory service at Surrey Libraries very loosely based on Multnomah County Library’s My Librarian. On our Recommended Reads page, patrons can now learn about the Surrey Libraries Book Advisors and their reading interests and send us an email for book recommendations. For example, see Book Advisor Naomi’s bio below

BookAdvisorNaomi

Book Advisor Naomi:

Pop culture, historical true crime, politics, fiction with vivid characters, graphic novels, thrillers, horror, science fiction, fantasy, teen fiction, classics, ESL Readers

I have a confession to make… I am a pop culture devotee. I love nothing better than to brew a cup of tea, cuddle down on a couch, and binge-watch a season of Empire with gossip blog breaks. My reading interests follow suit – give me the page-turners with the larger-than-life characters. Wherever the top is, this book better be over it. I want vivid characters to love or love to hate and plotlines steeped in melodrama. I also enjoy listening to podcasts covering pop culture, current events or comedy. I’d be happy to recommend a couple!

We are excited to interact with our readers in another capacity and to see where this program takes us! Unlike Multnomah, this project is not specially funded, so we will be hosting it on a smaller scale and adapting the program and evaluating it as we go along. Any questions? Please email bookadvisor@surrey.ca

Multnomah County Library’s “My Librarian”

Similar to the Edmonton Public Library, Multnomah County Library in Portland, Oregon also has a Readers’ Advisory team! I had the opportunity to learn more about this program during their session “My Librarian: Personalization and The Future of Reader Services” at the American Library Association (ALA) Conference.Laural_2

Not suprisingly, their program is called “My Librarian” and currently consists of 13 enthusiastic library staff members who offer personalized and specific recommendations to patrons. These team members offer staff training, deliver outreach, participate in public events, contribute to social media, and respond to individual RA requests in just 4 hours a week (or roughly 10% of their time, ideally).

This program was created to “facilitate more personal connections for online readers.” Staff members conducted a focus group study, coordinated a series of conversations at ALA conferences, and collaborated with Seattle Public Library to develop the program. A grant for $190,000 helped this project get off the ground.

What staff learned from their research:

  • Libraries are often the last point in the book discovery process. People mention word-of-mouth, bookstores, & online resources before they consider libraries as places to attain reading recommendations. Libraries are competing with Scribd, Goodreads, Powell’s Daily Dose emails, National Public Radio’s Book Your Trip series, the New York Times Book Review, Nancy Pearl,  & Kindle Fire with their 10 second customer response rate to name a few.
  • People respect librarians, but don’t want to take up our time
  • People value asynchronous readers’ advisory (RA), but are hesitant to engage
  • Patrons have been very enthusiastic about the personalized librarian recommendations
  • Email is the preferred way to communicate the service

How did they recruit & train their team?

  • Staff members were encouraged to apply by showcasing their hobbies, talents, and passions
  • They solicited applications from anyone in an information services role–25 applied from over 200 staff
  • Team members were trained in RA skills, Drupal, virtual reference skills including chat and Skype, email tracking software, booktalking, and Novelist over a series of four classes
  • One training activity included visiting Powell’s to find read-alikes in the stacks and book-talk them to one another

What does the exMatthew_2_0perience look like?

  • It’s like match.com for books! Each “My Librarian” has a profile with a photograph showing their personality, a biography, monthly recommendations, blog posts, and a contact link
  • The goal is to respond to each question within 48 hours and to offer 3-5 recommended titles

How was the program marketed?

  • The program was first announced through an email to all 39,000 subscribers
  • Library Journal & The Oregonian featured the program, and it was then picked up by people on Twitter
  • They featured a tile ad on their website
  • They included it on their Google + account and in a Google ad
  • They paid $400 for an ad on Facebook, reaching approximately 30,000 people (as opposed to 560 people reached through an organic Facebook post)
  • The mobile app promoted it
  • Print ads are forthcoming

Thanks to Alison Kastner, Jeremy Graybill, Temlyn Chun, and Laurel Winter for the information.

Tanya Thiessen on the New Adult Genre

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.

Helpful Resources:

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.

Graphic Novels with Matthew Murray

SLAIS student Matthew Murray explains Adult Graphic Novels at our 2013 RA in a Half Day on Oct. 30th at Vancouver Public Library:

Adult Graphic Novels Resources:

Awards

American Awards:
Eisner Awards
• Most extensive awards
• Many different categories
www.comic-con.org/awards/eisners-current-info
Harvey Awards
• Voted on by comic book industry professionals
www.harveyawards.org
Ignatz Awards
• Generally focus on “indie” comics and creators
• Small press creators or creator-owned projects published by larger publishers

Canadian Awards:
Doug Wright Awards
• Awarded to “alternative” comics and creators
• Best Book Award
• Best Emerging Talent
Joe Shuster Awards
• More “mainstream” comics (ie. superhero)
• Awards for best writer, artist, cartoonist, etc.

Publishers

Dark Horse
IDW
Image
• The third through fifth biggest comic book publishers in America (after Marvel and DC)
• Major sources of genre (science fiction, etc.) graphic novels
• Publish many media adaptations
• Dark Horse also publish manga

Drawn & Quarterly
• Canadian literary/artistic publisher
• Publish manga/international work
Fantagraphics
• “Alternative” comics publisher
Oni Press
• Small, well-respected popular fiction publisher
Dynamite
• Publish many adaptations of existing books and movies
Vertigo
• DC’s “mature readers” imprint
Viz Media
• Leading manga publisher

Best Seller Lists
Comixology
• Website where users (not librarians) can buy access to comics
• Lists what’s currently selling well digitally
www.comixology.com/comics-best-sellers
Diamond Comics
• The biggest comic book and graphic novel distributor in North America
• They release monthly lists on their website of the top selling graphic novels, manga, and comic books
• Reports sales to comic book shops
www.diamondcomics.com (click on Industry Statistics in the sidebar).
The New York Times
• Features weekly lists
• Reports sales through bookstores and websites
• Paperback: www.nytimes.com/best-sellers-books/paperback-graphic-books/list.html
• Hardback: www.nytimes.com/best-sellers-books/2010-07-11/hardcover-graphic-books/list.html
Reviews, News, and Info
Comics Alliance
comicsalliance.com
Comics Beat
comicsbeat.com
The Comics Journal
www.tcj.com
Diamond Bookshelf
www.diamondbookshelf.com
Graphic Novel Reporter
www.graphicnovelreporter.com
Publishers Weekly
www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/comics/

Previews
Comixology
• Features free digital previews and sample issues
www.comixology.com
Net Galley
• Offers digital galley proofs of upcoming grapic novels
www.netgalley.com
Developed and Presented by Matthew Murray
thematthewmurray@gmail.com
thematthewmurray.weebly.com

 

Challenging RA Questions

This year RA in a Half Day responded to some of the takeaways from last year’s event and included more interactive components and RA interview role playing. Tara Matsuzaki served as the master of ceremonies for a scintillating series of challenging RA questions presented as mock interviews. Questions were presented to the audience and every table was asked to come up with recommendations and ideas for how to solve their reading needs. Imagine a room of 70 talented librarians, MLIS candidates and library allies leaning in and sharing their collective skills and knowledge on readers’ advisory. It was a flood of ideas!

War Films for Dad – Heidi Schiller, North Vancouver City Library

Heidi Schiller acted the part of a patron looking for war films, especially from WWII, for a father who has already seen all the classics. The audience really picked up on looking outside of film towards TV series like Band of Brothers and Foyle’s War. The question also came up as to whether or not he would like a humorous adaptation such as MASH and how far outside WWII he would be interested in going. So some suggestions even looked at the similarities of war films based in the 20th century conflicts to films like Gladiator or Troy based on conflicts in much earlier eras. There were a lot of suggestions for where to find quality suggestion lists, from various library websites to even the genre page on Wikipedia.

Moving from YA to Adult Fantasy – Meghan Savage, Surrey Libraries

Playing the part of a teenage patron wanting to move out of YA fantasy literature into adult Fantasy, Meghan challenged the audience to meet her interest in stand alone novels or short series with a romantic flare. Neil Gaiman’s work came up immediately and universally as a great cross-over author from YA to adult fantasy. Kelley Armstrong was also mentioned as an author who wrote both YA and adult fantasy, though much of her adult works is more urban in focus. Sharron Shinn, author of several fantasy series with a romantic focus, and Jim Butcher, with a more adventure driven series, were mentioned as authors of series that can be consumed out of order without too much disruption of story lines. The point was also made that fantasy contains many sub-genres to consider.

Positive Graphic Novels to Teach – Robbie Burma, Vancouver Public Library

Robbie Burma offered the biggest challenge to the audience by playing the part of a teacher looking for sunnier graphic novels to suggest for a 12th grade general English curriculum. It proved to be proved to be a real challenge to rule out the grittier, more violent and/or darker graphic novels while remaining age appropriate and maintaining literary depth. The end result was the need to dig deeper into the patron’s needs and widen the collaboration by audience members as much as possible to get to the best suggestions. The most consistent mentions were for Escape to Gold Mountain by David H. T. Wong and American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang.

Just a Good Book – Anthea Goffe, Fraser Valley Regional Library

It can be a stumper when the patron’s interests are really broad and vague so Anthea played a male patron just looking for any good read, fiction or non-fiction, but hopefully something that had a little literary merit balanced with a fast paced story. A few questions pulled out her appreciation of Hunger Games and Into Thin Air and her dislike of John Grisham and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. The audience found this challenge great fun and indulged a taste for gushing about many great titles and authors ranging from Bill Bryson to Lee Childs and from Margaret Atwood’s series beginning with Oryx and Crake to The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J Maarten Troost.

Pre-loaded E-reader Gift – Barbara Edwards, Vancouver Public Library

Finally, Barbara brought in the factor of eBooks by asking for recommendations including both fiction similar to Amy Tan or Downton Abbey and some quirky cookbooks to pre-load on an eReader gift for her daughter-in-law. The issue of the eReader type was brought up both in the mock interview and by audience members. Issues included the inability of Kindle owners to download library eBooks in Canada and the quality of visuals for cookbooks on a black and white eReader. The existence of The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook seemed ideal, at least on a colour eReader, but the audience also realized a need to ask more questions about what “quirky” meant in relation to cookbooks.