Reading Trumps Ignorance

Reading can often open our minds to the experiences of others in ways that our individual lived experience cannot. After the most recent election in the United States many libraries and readers have united to recommend books that can help  counter voices of prejudice and ignorance. #Resist.

Here is a selection of links to inform and inspire:

ICYMI:  Libraries Across Borders List – Books that Trump will never read – but you should


11 Books to Helps Us Make it Through a Trump Presidency

Donald Trump is afraid of Books

Libraries Resist: A round-up of Tolerance, Social Justice and Resistance in US Libraries
San Francisco Public Library’s We Love Diverse Books program:

But, what about fake news, you ask? Try these:

How to spot fake news:

A Policy Proposal for driving out fake news and promoting better sources of journalism:
Has your library used any of these ideas or similar to create displays, book lists or other RA activities?  Tell us in the comments.

Blind Date with a Book

If your library hasn’t tried a “Blind Date with a Book” display yet, put it on your radar for next year.  With a bit of planning and organization it’s a great way to inject a bit of whimsy into your displays.

The New Westminster Public Library has run a Blind Date with a Book for a few years now, and it’s great to hear patrons get enthusiastic when they see the display go up again.  We make sure we have signage that tells the public what to do (the first year a few people thought we were giving out presents and wanted to keep the books!) and use distinctive wrapping paper that catches the eye. We don’t limit ourselves to books – DVDs, audiobooks, and CDs have all made it in at one time or another.


We write brief descriptions of the book and print them on labels that we stick to the front, and photocopy the barcode and attach this too, so the surprise isn’t ruined by having to unwrap the book at checkout.


Once the display is up, we schedule social media posts on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and enjoy filling up the displays and getting feedback. Admittedly people don’t always like their blind date book, but taking a chance is part of the fun! This is a great way to get people to read out of their comfort zone. Staff across the library also enjoy having input as to what gets recommended, and everyone loves the challenge of writing a brief teaser description for the materials on display.


How does your library run a blind date with a book display? What clever ways have you found to entice readers to pick up something unfamiliar?


Reading Resolutions

New Year = New reading you?

One should not feel obliged to take a reading resolution in the new year, but the holiday break is a fine opportunity to review the past year’s reading habits or trends and to imagine new goals or intentions. So what kinds of reading resolutions are possible? I wanted to take the time to go through some of the more common ones if you are not sure whether you really need a new challenge, or to make or break a habit for 2017. I divided them into three groupings:

1)Number of books

2)Reading habits


1)Number of books tends to be the most common one I hear, probably because I spend too much time on Goodreads and the yearly challenge is strictly about the number of books you intend to tackle in the coming year. You can start any time and you can adjust it on the fly so if 20 was your initial goal but you are having a banner year – bump it up to 50 to stretch yourself. Or conversely: you were aiming for 100 and your life circumstances are going to make that impossible? Bump it back to something more obtainable and just slightly stretchy. One of my goals is roughly to read less books than I did last year, so I’ve set it for 50.

2)Next up is reading/book habits! Maybe you would like to do more reading during certain times of day: before bed, in the morning, during your commute. Maybe you would like to read more with partners or children. Maybe this year you will join a book club or article group to incorporate more community and discussion in your reading life. Other common resolutions address tackling that TBR pile or shelf that is taking over your apartment! You might commit to “shopping your shelves” the next time you’re looking to pick up a book to read. Another good one is to try visiting the library instead of bookstore when space or money for additional reads is an ongoing problem – it’s free and you must give the books back after (although no one is stopping you from purchasing a newly discovered treasure.) Related is a one-book-in = one-book-out policy, which seems cruel but perhaps necessary if space or clutter is an issue.

3)Last is one of my favourites: Diversify! If you’ve spent a little time reviewing your past reading habits and trends, you may have noticed a tendency to read similar kinds of things over time. That is not bad per se, we all tend to read what we know we will like, but maybe there is good stuff out there that you are missing! Or perhaps you’ve been feeling like you are in a reading rut. Well, one way to tackle this particular problem is to take on a reading challenge. Several you might have heard of include the Book Riot yearly Read Harder challenge, the Book Club for Masochists genre reading challenge, or a diverse reading challenge such as those several of my workplaces have run – where the focus is on reading more women, minorities, and local authors using a points system or review model. These can be fun, and have definitely stretched my reading above and beyond what I normally read. One of the benefits of joining a challenge like these is the community aspect, where you can talk and give advice on potential reads to meet the challenge – because if there is one thing I like almost as much as reading books – it’s talking about them too.

But you needn’t feel obliged to take on someone else’s challenge wholesale. I’ve seen some interesting adaptions to different challenges already, thereby creating your own personal reading challenge to explore an area, a format, or a genre you haven’t spent much time on before, or just try a whole bunch of new things. You can definitely take inspiration from some of the other challenges out there but don’t let that constrain your imagination.

What are my reading resolutions? Well, as I noted above, I’m trying to read less books, with more intention. I might be a certified book glutton based on my last year’s experience and I think slowing down will improve the experience (and maybe my memory). Secondly, my intention is to read more French language materials – so if you have any recommendations I’m all ears. My reading level is only intermediate so things that are age appropriate and don’t require me to spend more of my time in a dictionary than reading to understand what is going on is ideal (the last book I started that I really enjoyed was Madame Victoria by Catherine Leroux.)

What about you? Reading resolutions you’ve taken on? Tips for my resolutions? Opinions on the resolution impulse?


Author Read-Alikes

Lately  I have been receiving many author read-alike requests from patrons. A useful tool for recommending read-alike authors is the Literature Map: the Tourist Map of Literature. The Literature Map is part of Gnod (Global network of discovery). It is based on Gnooks, Gnod’s literature recommendation system.

I really like how authors enjoyed by the same readers are grouped close together on the map, and the more often that they are recommended together, the closer they appear to each other. The map provides a wide variety of authors, and it is easy to see which authors are most similar and which are a little different. For example, I get many requests for read-alikes for Louise Penny.  Some of the closest authors on the map to Penny are Erin Hart, Elly Griffiths, and Charles Finch. These are  recommendations that work well and I am happy to recommend them to patrons.

However, it is also useful to note the authors that are placed a little farther away. Val McDermid, Laura Lippman and Maeve Binchy are not perfect matches, but they might be similar enough that the reader might consider them and be willing to try something new.

Another great tool (that I think we all probably use quite often) is NoveList. I love using NoveList for author read-alikes, mainly because I can access excellent printable lists. Why is this useful? Having something to hand to patrons is fantastic.  They have a list of potential great reads that they can explore at their leisure.

Here are some of the titles I have recommended for Louise Penny read-alikes:


-Sally Gwyn, Fraser Valley Regional Library






Quick Reads

Enjoyable as it is to immerse your self in an inches-thick book, having the time and focus to do so is becoming somewhat of a luxury–especially during the busy holiday season. Here are a few excellent titles to recommend to patrons that will only take a short time to read.


Vinegar Girl by the renowned author, Anne Tyler is a modern-day retelling of Shakespeare’s, “Taming of the Shrew”.  The story centers on Kate Battista, a preschool teaching assistant whose quirky personality always makes her presence known.  She is put to task when approached by her scientist father to help his lab assistant stay in the country by agreeing to marry him. The drama that ensues between all the characters is mixed with more humor and gentleness than the original version but still makes for a lively, interesting read!


Timothy Christopher Greene’s latest novel, If I Forget You, is a story of lost love. Twenty-one years after a love affair this memorable couple have parted; a chance encounter brings them back together.  Each has married, Margot still unhappily married and Henry, now divorced.  This love story is told in both past and present; each chapter brings a shift in time and delves into the different stages of a relationship. As the book evolves, each realizes that it is a love worth fighting for and one they do not want to lose again.  This novel confirms how the choices we make can change the path of our lives forever.


Jacqueline Woodson’s, Another Brooklyn is breathtaking! This unforgettable novel explores the beauty and hardship of girlhood in 1970’s Brooklyn. Woodson manages to bring four black girls, August, Sylvia, Angela and Gigi, and their separate home situations, to life in vivid color. The story follows their lives and struggles and the family conflicts that they all endure.  The friends share their hopes and fears and learn all about the complexities of youth, loss, friendship, family, race and religion.


Father’s Day, by Simon Van Booy is a beautifully written book about a little girl named Harvey. Harvey becomes an orphan at the age of six following a car accident that took the lives of her parents. Harvey is put in the care of her father’s estranged older brother, Jason, who has more than his share of problems.  An ex-con and recovering alcoholic he is now suddenly thrown into the most important role of his life so far, that of a legal guardian to Harvey.  Together they negotiate the map of life building beautiful memories while learning the importance of family.


The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, by Phaedra Patrick is a fast read with unforgettable characters that move through grief and the process of starting over.  After forty years of marriage, Arthur’s wife dies unexpectedly.  On the first anniversary of her death he decides to clean out her belongings.  It is here he finds a gold charm bracelet full of charms.  He makes it his mission to trace his wife’s life through these charms.  It is amazing what he discovers not only about her but also about himself in the process.

-Caroline Wandell,  Fraser Valley Regional Library




BC Reads

My father-in-law Frank loves to read  about the history of British Columbia. He enjoys wilderness adventure stories and pioneer memoirs.  While searching for a good read for him, I have discovered some useful resources to find books for library patrons who are interested in reading about BC.  

BC Booklook’s  Literary Map of BC is useful to find authors who write about a particular area of interest. The site also has links to BC author blogs, and archives of BC bestsellers.


Powered by 49thShelf, BC Books Online offers a user-friendly searchable database of books and eBooks written by BC authors. I was able to find many titles about Frank’s particular area of interest:  the Cariboo-Chilcotin. There are many reading lists based on subject, theme, and place.

Here are some BC reads that I have recommended over the years:


What are your favourite BC reads?

-Lori Nick, Terry Fox Branch, Fraser Valley Regional Library

RA in a Day 2016

A sign stating "Welcome to RA in a Day 2916" behind a silhouette of a microphone

Welcome to RA in a Day 2016!

The BCLA Readers’ Advisory Interest Group is proud and grateful for the success of RA in a Day 2016! Our warmest appreciation and thanks to everyone who attended the event, or who followed along on social media (#RAinaDay16). We would also like to thank our supportive sponsor Library Bound.

This year the event was held on October 18, 2016 in the Vancouver Public Library’s Central Branch. The Readers’ Advisory Interest Group would like to acknowledge that this event took place on the ancestral, traditional and unceded Aboriginal territories of the Coast Salish Peoples. Continue reading