Category Archives: RA Tools

RA in a Day Genre Guides

Every year at our RA in a Day workshop we run “Speed-Dating Through the Genres”, brief ten-minute long presentations about various genres of books. The presenters also create printable guides to the genres, which you can find right here on our website! We now have almost twenty different genres covered, so check them out!

This year we added four new genres, the handouts and presentations for which you can find below. Thanks to the presenters who created these guides and presentations!

Classics for English Language Learners by Anna Ferri

Dystopian and Post Apocalyptic Fiction by Sarah Dearman

Feminist Memoirs by Stephanie Hong

Personal Finance by Jenny Fry

The Challenge of Reading Challenges

Our library celebrates its 150th birthday this year, and as a gift to the community we created a book of 150 reading challenges, which replaced the Adult Summer Reading club we have done in previous years. Our intention was to create a marketing piece for the library that would showcase our collections and share our enthusiasm with everyone who uses the library.  Erin Watkins, our Manager of Programs and Community Development, was instrumental in getting this off the ground.  Thanks, Erin!

This is what we discovered while putting the booklet together:

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Many hands make light work. We had staff from multiple areas of the library contribute ideas for the challenges, but we had one person compile them. This allowed for diverse interests, collection areas and material types, which we hoped would appeal to a broader range of our community. The challenges were meant to encompass all aspects of our library’s collection in as many formats as possible to inspire people to move beyond their tried and true reading, viewing, and listening habits. Literacy is not just about books, and having the challenges touch on multiple formats will give people a chance to explore areas of the library that they may have previously ignored or been uninterested in. Having staff from all over the library contribute really helped set the groundwork for the challenges. Having one staff member compile the results was a way to ensure we kept to task and made it to our goal of 150 challenges – one for each year the library has been in existence.

Enthusiasm helps! Staff enthusiasm for a project like this helps us all see how diverse our colleagues and their interests are, which makes the workplace a fun place to be. It also means that we are better able to use that knowledge in a readers’ advisory situation because if we don’t share the reading interests of the patron in front of us, we can certainly find someone who does.

More heads are better than one. Collaborative work meant that wrangling 150 challenges into a semblance of order so they could be put into a booklet was much more effective. It also established a way for us to riff off each other’s ideas and build on each other’s work. One of the most exciting aspects of this format meant we could move beyond the familiar territory of the Adult Summer Reading club booklist and offer book bingo, a crossword puzzle, and a drawing challenge as well.

We have built in social media components in terms of a section of the challenge being called “Share” where we encourage community members to share their challenges with us on social media, and we have already had some really fun contributions for community members.

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If you are thinking of doing something similar at your library, don’t hesitate! Not only will it reinvigorate your passion for connecting with library users, but it will empower you to learn even more about the collection in your own library and inspire your own reading/viewing/listening habits. We can’t wait for the conversations we’re going to have with our library users: in the stacks, at the desk, on social media – all about what we love to watch, read, and listen to. It’s going to be a great summer!

What are your plans for adult summer reading inspiration at your library? Comment below so we can all be inspired!

Shelley Wilson-Roberts is the Public Services Librarian II at the New Westminster Public Library.

Listen On…How Audiobooks can help you with RA

So much to read, so little time! It’s easy to feel overwhelmed attempting to keep up with fiction and non-fiction. I regularly take stacks of books home each week but can only manage to read a portion of them. Of course, I read reviews, browse our incoming New Books section and talk to patrons about books. But, for me, one of the best ways to keep up with reading is … to listen to books.

Early on in my library career, a wise colleague named Elfriede suggested that I listen to audiobooks as a way to acquaint myself with popular authors that I didn’t read. It had never occurred to me to listen to an audiobook. I loved reading; why would I want to listen to a book? Like many patrons, I associated audiobooks with people who didn’t like reading or couldn’t read because of vision problems.

Elfriede suggested that I could listen to genres that I didn’t usually read or books that didn’t appeal to me. I took her advice and checked out my first audiobook – Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold.   While Sebold’s book was popular at the time, I had no interest in reading it. I thought I‘d listen to the book for a while to get an idea of what it was like and then stop – ready to function more ably as a reader’s advisor. I started the novel on my drive home from work one evening. When I got home I couldn’t leave the car. I kept listening. The narrator, Alyssa Bresnahan, was mesmerizing. I felt like she was reading the book to me; I was hooked.

Alice Sebold

Before I started listening to books, I was one of the few librarians I knew who didn’t really like mysteries and thrillers. Now, after starting listening to books to increase my reader’s advisory ability, I devour mystery series. Just like I look forward to the latest Richard Ford or Miriam Toews in print, I can’t wait for the latest Flavia DeLuce mystery by Alan Bradley in audio. Other favourites include Louise Penny’s Armand Gamache series, anything by Denise Mina, Ken Bruen, James Lee Burke or Lee Child.

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I’ve become attached to certain narrators. I’ll listen to anything read by Simon Vance (Peter May’s Enzo files or Chris Ewan’s Good Thief’s Guide mysteries), George Guidall (from Lillian Jackson Braun’s cat cozies to Jeffrey Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme thrillers) and the inimitable Barbara Rosenblat (especially the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters). I’ve joked that Ralph Cosham, who is Louise Penny’s Gamache to me, could read the cereal box and I would keep listening. Audiobooks read by narrators with accents are especially appealing as the story and characters are so enriched. The Help by Kathryn Stockett, read by multiple narrators, is one of my favourite ‘listens’ – and a book that I didn’t really want to read. I think the audio version is better than the book. An AudioFile reviewer noted that “audio is THE way to be inside this story, brilliantly cast with four voices…[the narrator’s] musical speech and emotional connection to the characters are riveting.” Generally, I stay away from author-read titles. But Amy Poehler’s Yes, Please and Tina Fey’s Bossypants, both read by the author, are not to be missed.

Tina Fey

I find it quite difficult to recommend books I haven’t read. Similarly, it’s tricky to find author read-alikes if you haven’t read the original author. Listening to audiobooks can help you differentiate your James Patterson’s from your David Baldacci’s. Haven’t read Janet Evanovich – and don’t plan to! – listen to the fabulous C.J. Critt or, for more recent titles, Lorelei King narrate the witty travails of Stephanie Plum.

Audiobooks are the perfect companion for any activity. At the library, I am constantly trying to promote audiobooks as an alternative to reading. After a busy work day, being read to rather than reading is a soothing way to end your day.  You can suggest patrons use the automatic shut off feature of their phone or iPod if they say that they fall asleep listening to books. Commuting is, perhaps, the best opportunity to listen to books. For those who can’t read on a bus suggest listening instead. Road trips and audiobooks are like chocolate and peanut butter – they go together!

I guarantee that you will not regret listening to an audiobook. It will  provide you with a broader base to provide reader’s advisory services – for every 1 print book that I finish I probably listen to 2-3 audiobooks. You may even become an audiobook zealot like me!

For audiobook reviews and more go to: audiofilemagazine.com.
Look for the monthly Earphones Award winners, Audie Award winners (annual award for outstanding audiobooks) and audiobook reviews.

Stephanie Crosbie is an auxiliary librarian at the New Westminster Public Library.  Her nose (or ears) are frequently stuck in a good book!

Librarians’ Choice at Burnaby Public Library

Avid readers are always looking for good reading recommendations. In the age of internet, social media, and sites like Goodreads, you might think that the opinions of librarians wouldn’t be of much interest to library users but, of course, the opposite is true. It’s important for librarians to recognize this and position themselves as a preferred source of inspired reading recommendations.

When I started working at the McGill branch of Burnaby Public Library several years ago, then Library Manager Barbara Jo May had been doing a book recommendation program for a couple of years, similar to her “Ain’t on the Globe and Mail Bestsellers List” sessions at BCLA conferences. Librarians delivered fast-paced reviews of recommended reads. I participated as a newbie to booktalking, and when Barabara Jo left I carried on coordinating the program.

We decided to call the program “Librarians’ Choice”. We use four librarians (including Information Clerks sometimes) and cover about twenty books in an evening. Each book review is about two minutes. Some popular titles are included, but the focus is more on the “under the radar” books that might otherwise be missed.

Two librarians start off and alternate, then we break for refreshments which gives staff a chance to chat with the attendees, then the next two librarians go on. We provide a booklist so the audience can follow along, and we have often observed patrons madly taking notes. We put display books in the room, and encourage people to browse and talk. The program takes ninety minutes, usually 7 pm to 8:30 pm and we pre-register.

I coordinated this program for four years at the McGill branch. The loyal following that Barbara Jo built up early on continued to grow. Our turnouts would range from 30 to 40 plus, with our International Mysteries evening going viral! Some events were themed — for example: Varieties of Love, Historical, Thrills and Adventure, Real Reads (non-fiction). But many events were a generic selection of mostly fiction with some non-fiction as well and promoted with reference to the seasons: Fall into Books; Winter Reads; Spring into Summer.

BPL-touch-of-mysteryWhen I moved to the Bob Prittie Metrotown Branch a year ago, I discovered that the reading tastes are a little less eclectic than at McGill. Metrotown readers *love* mysteries, so we have so far hosted two mystery evenings at Metrotown, the first one also went viral so we had a full house; the second attracted 30 plus avid mystery readers. We are planning another mystery evening in the fall, and will try a general one in November. We are also planning to include DVD recommendations in at least some of our events. Librarians’ Choice also continues by popular demand at McGill with new librarians coordinating.

It is really gratifying to see people return to the library with their Librarians’ Choice lists as they read their way through the recommended titles. There is a real eagerness to get the inside scoop on what library staff are reading, and I think this is part of the appeal of this type of program. Also, avid readers just enjoy being at an event where something they love doing is celebrated.

And here is a little inspiration for library staff: I was on the Information Desk one day and a woman approached me and said “I just wanted to tell you how much I love the book events that you do. Reading is a solitary, introverted activity, and your events create community among readers.” Wow!

Georgina Flynn is the First Floor Information Desk Supervisor at Bob Prittie Metrotown Branch,
Burnaby Public Library

Celebrating Black History Month at the Library: Websites to Inspire

ZoraBlack History Month, also known as African-American History Month in America, is an annual observance in February in Canada and the US for remembrance of important people and events in the history of the African diaspora.

If you are looking for books and/or promotion ideas, check out these links for inspiration:

The CBC’s 10 Books to read for Black History Month.

The Guardian’s Black History Month reading list.

Flavorwire’s 10 recent nonfiction books to read for Black History Month.

NPR’s reading list of black letter collections.

The Village Voice offers 10 Lesser-Known Books About Race.

HuffPo’s 14 Books to Read This Black History Month.

So tell us, how are you celebrating Black History Month at your library?

-Heidi Schiller, North Vancouver City Library.

Image of Author Zora Neale Hurston via.

Readers’ Advisory for Santa

You’re making a list, you’re checking it twice… ok we’ll spare you the rest of the jingle, but if you’re anything like me, you’re deep in a panic over what to get that pesky relative or friend with exacting and specific taste in books. Instead of second guessing while lining up at your local book megastore, or kicking yourself over your misfired selections at the online checkout, take advantage of your library’s forms-basanta-reading-520x345sed readers’ advisory service to make the picks.

The blog highlighted the growth in forms-based RA in our post of September 2013 and since then, more public library systems have added personalized book recommendations services to their websites. With this explosion of professional expertise online why rely on store displays that push overstock or superficial online read-a-like prompts (Herman Melville to Clive Cussler!?!?).

Some public library systems have tailored their forms service to specifically address a desire for recommendations to third parties. At Vancouver Public Library we offer a Great Gifts service as well as our standard Books Just for You forms-based RA. The former offers a shortened layout with language altered to accommodate the third-person gift-buyer. When responding, we are sure to limit our recommendations to titles that are easily available from Canadian booksellers and simple to source for the shopper.

If your Library offers a forms-based RA service, explore the possibility of adapting the questionnaire to be suitable for gift shoppers. If that’s not a possibility, try advertising your existing service’s ability to function as gift recommendation maestro. Don’t worry, Santa will thank you.

Submitted by Tim McMillan, Librarian at Vancouver Public Library

Teen Book Finder App

The other night, I had an RA dream. Not a nightmare, exactly, but I woke up vaguely frazzled. yalsa app 4In my dream I was at a library job interview, and I had to booktalk two books that the interview panel gave me. I had 5 minutes to get my thoughts together. No problem, I thought. But then some of my co-workers distracted me with random chatter about their weekends, and then I couldn’t find the books. I knew what they were, but I started to panic and couldn’t think of their titles. Once awake, I believe they were, A Wrinkle In Time and Harry Potter (#1). Some leftover angst from a grade 5 tour I once gave in the 90’s, perhaps.

No point to this tale, really, but I came across an app that might have been useful in my dream. YALSA’s Teen Book Finder!

 

 

 

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Kind of a cute little tool, it organizes all of the past YALSA award winners, as well as Booklist’s teen choices with a variety of sorts, including year and genre. It also has a map function where it can supposedly find the closest library that owns the title you choose. However, I tried A Thousand Splendid Suns while in Port Coquitlam, and it gave me VPL (Central) as the only public library in the lower mainland, plus some college libraries. Perhaps this feature works better in the US.

It’s available for iOS and was recently released for android.

I came across another intriguing RA app in the works, the Librarian Book Recommendation App from the In the Stacks folks.

In the Stacks

If you’ve got any handy RA apps to recommend, please post!

The Machine: Using a Raspberry Pi for Readers’ Advisory

Today’s post comes from Matthew Murray, one of the two UBC student representatives with RAIG, a current MLIS candidate at UBC, and someone who’s involved in too many different projects.

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A Raspberry Pi is a tiny, low-cost computer that was created to teach young people about computer science and programming. They’ve been embraced by the maker community and are being used for everything from robots to spinning wheels to cellphones to Minecraft servers.

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A few months ago I saw a post on Tumblr that showed an “Electr-O-Matic Book Fortune Teller” that used an Arduino (a computer similar to a Raspberry Pi) to print book recommendations onto receipt paper when people pushed a button. This seemed like a relatively easy project for myself and some other students to use to get experience working with a Raspberry Pi.

The first step was setting up the Raspberry Pi itself. Raspberry Pis run a version of Linux that’s a lot less scary than you might think. We messed up our installation, but you don’t have to do that!

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Next we had to set up the mini thermal printer (we bought ours from Adafruit). This involved cutting and stripping some wires, then screwing them into a DC power adapter so we could plug the printer into a power source. Then we installed the printer driver onto the Raspberry Pi.

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Once we did that we connected the printer to the Raspberry Pi’s GPIO pins using the included wires and printed off a test page.

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Actually, first we wondered why nothing was working once we’d hooked everything up. Turns out you need to plug the HDMI cable into the Raspberry Pi in order to have anything show up on the computer screen. Despite being supposedly intelligent, tech-savvy graduate students, we forgot to do this at least four five times (so far) during this project.

Once we had the printer working we started work on hooking up the button. This is a complicated process that involves:
1. Acquiring a button that doesn’t actually have the necessary connectors.
2. Purchasing the wrong resistors.

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Of course you can choose not to follow our steps directly and just get the proper pieces the first time. Either way, you then wire everything into a breadboard and connect it to your Raspberry Pi. (Your breadboard doesn’t have to be quite so long, but we ended up using ten resistors instead of one because we originally had the wrong type.)

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You’ll then have to install or create a program on the Raspberry Pi that understands when your button has been pushed and tells the printer to print a review. We’ll hopefully have one available on our blog soon! The reviews for our machine are ones that we wrote and include title, author, and a brief description. You could choose to include other information such as ISBNs or call numbers.

Once all of that is done you’ll have a working machine that will print off book recommendations! You’ll probably want to get some sort of box to put everything in, but we’re still working on that.

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We haven’t completely finished this project yet, but we’ll be posting updates (and eventually complete instructions) to the ASIS&T at UBC blog! In the future we might expand the machine so that it will have more than one button to allow readers to pick from different genres, moods, or other qualities (books with covers the colour of the buttons?)

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We’ll be showing off our machine at the Vancouver Mini Maker Faire on June 7th-8th at the PNE, you should come by and check it out!

Throughout the month of May students from UBC’s School of Library, Archival and Information Studies will be posting their best Readers’ Advisory tips to the RAIG blog!

Readers’ Advisory Sessions at PLA 2014: Audiobooks

Today’s post comes from Anna Ferri, the 2014/15 BCLA student representative, one of the two UBC student representatives with RAIG, and a current MLIS candidate.

This year I was bound and determined to make it to the Public Library Association Conference in Indianapolis, March 11-14, 2014. Since the conference is only held every other year, this was my one chance to attend as a student, with both the reduced conference fee and with no one’s agenda but my own interests. Accordingly I went to several Readers’ Advisory sessions and brought back a few tidbits to share. For brevity’s sake, I’ll post a couple separate blog posts during this month on sessions I attended. The full program for PLA is on the conference website, along with an array of handouts for each session that are really worth checking out.

All About Audiobooks: Improving Readers’ Advisory for Listeners

One of the first sessions I attended, and one of the standout sessions of the whole conference for me, was “All About Audiobooks: Improving Readers’ Advisory for Listeners”. This panel included librarians, a representative from NoveList, a board member from the Audio Publishers Association, and the founder of AudioFile magazine. Their incredibly informative discussion was organized around the new audio recommendations feature in NoveList, available with NoveList Plus, and the Audio Characteristics appeal terms they developed for that purpose. But the discussion ranged far and wide and was peppered with a lot of excellent advice.

For instance, remember that your ear cannot skim content that your eyes might skip over. While this may seem like a reference to slogging your way through a long dreary text, the real point here was about the reader’s sensitivity to content. With audiobooks, it can be especially important to assess a listener’s tolerance for foul language, violence, sexual content, or even more particular things like children getting hurt or misogynistic language. It isn’t as easy to skim past or skip over difficult content in the audiobook format.

Another suggestion was that full cast audio plays can be an excellent recommendation for families who are traveling together by car for the summer. A good western or adventure tale with a full cast, sound effects, and good production values can keep all ages engaged and amused. But be wary of how sound effects might impact drivers. A thrilling cops and robbers tale can get a little too exciting for mom or dad when the sound of a siren comes blaring out of the stereo.

Appeal Characteristics for Audiobooks

It was exciting to hear that NoveList has taken the time to develop a rich set of appeal terms (34 to be exact) around audio characteristics. These are listed at the end of their downloadable guide to appeal terms. These terms can be used to group together or help delineate audiobooks in a way that is relevant to how listeners experience narration and production along with the more traditional plot, tone, writing style, etc. Whether used within the bounds of NoveList or just kept on hand as a ready way for any librarian to discuss audiobooks with patrons, they are a fascinating and potentially useful list.

“Detached”, for instance, refers to narration that is “emotionally removed from the story” and can ask the reader to do more of the emotional work or interpretation of the novel. Remember that the audio appeal characteristics refer to the narration style and not to the emotional content of the book as a whole. Audiobooks with a “detached” narrative style can be especially good for book clubs. The panelists suggested Night by Elie Wiesel as read by George Guidall as an example of an effective use of this narrative style.

Audiobook RA Resources

The panel also listed several of the key places to go to keep up to date on quality audiobooks. Of course there’s a bit of a bias towards resources curated or sponsored by organizations represented on the panel, but these are still some excellent places to scan for keeping up with current audiobook trends.

The Listen List – A yearly list from ALA’s RUSA of 12 excellent audiobook titles including fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and plays, each presented with a description of their appeal and several listen-alikes.

AudioFile Earphones AwardsAn ongoing recognition of the best audiobook narration in current tiles published in the AudioFile magazine and available on their website.

Audie Awards – Sponsored by the Audio Publishers Association, these awards recognize “distinction in audiobooks and spoken word entertainment”. Both the winners and finalists from past years can be found on their website.

AudiobookRex.com – A new website from AudioFile that is updated weekly with a curated list of select audiobook reviews. One especially nice feature is a little button at the top of the page that brings you to a list of categories, including Top Picks, for easy browsing. It’s a ready way to bite off a manageable chunk of the most current audiobooks.

Throughout the month of May students from UBC’s School of Library, Archival and Information Studies will be posting their best Readers’ Advisory tips to the RAIG blog!