Tag Archives: Readers’ Advisory

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.

louise Penny

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!

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BPL’s Summer Reads

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Every year, since 2007, Burnaby Public Library compiles a list of 100 titles to suggest to patrons during the summer. We call it Summer Reads. The person behind one of our most popular RA initiatives is Diane Sura, our Readers’ Advisory extraordinaire from the Bob Prittie Metrotown branch.

During the year, Diane jots down notes about the books she reads to make her task easier when Spring comes and it’s time to start working on the summer recommendations. Besides her own titles, she also asks staff for suggestions and searches the mainstream media book lists. She usually selects books that were published in the past couple of years.

There are five categories in the list: Canadian, Fun, Thought-Provoking, Get Away (travel, sci-fi, historical) and Just Good. “What fits into each category is pretty fluid, it’s more a way to manage the displays and lists,” says Diane.

The books must be available in trade paperback and they have to be titles we have in our catalogued collection (a great part of our paperbacks are uncatalogued). We buy extra copies for the program, put a Summer Reads sticker on the cover, and display them during the summer. Diane says we try to get a broad mix of genres, with 10-20% non-fiction. “While we do not pick ‘beach books’, we do try to pick books that are very ‘readable’ and gripping,” she adds.

We promote the list on our website under Staff Picks as an interactive PDF document. Some of our patrons like it so much they start asking about the Summer Reads before we start promoting it at the beginning of July. Diane reports “many people use the list as recommended reading for the entire year.”

Here are five books from this year’s list:

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All My Puny Sorrows, by Miriam Toews
Yoli is desperate to prevent the suicide of her sister Elf, a celebrated and happily married pianist. Blending sadness and humour, this is a heartfelt account of Toews’ own tragedies.

ancillary-justice

Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie
Debut novel that has won every major sci-fi award. All that is left of the colossal starship Justice of Toren is Bereq and she is out for revenge.

delicious

Delicious!, by Ruth Reichl
When the iconic New York food magazine Delicious is shut down, newly hired Billie Breslin stays behind to man the complaints and recipe hotline, rather than return home.

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Brilliant Blunders, by Mario Livio
Drawing on the lives of five great scientists who have changed our understanding of life and the universe, Livio shows how the scientific method advances through error.

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Why I read, by Wendy Lesser
Magazine editor Lesser draws on a lifetime of pleasure reading to describe her passion for literature. “Iconoclastic, conversational and full of insight.”

Share in the comments the RA programs/initiatives that you have in your library during the summer.

Image: Michael Coghlan

Ana Calabresi is an Auxiliary Librarian at Burnaby Public Library, she is crazy about reading lists.

Beyond the Hunger Games: A booklist for teens and adults

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If you saw my reading log, you wouldn’t think I’m well into my thirties. The fact is that I read a lot of children’s and teens’ books. I know books are written – and marketed – for specific target groups, but I believe any book has the potential to reach other audiences than the writers or publishers intended for. That’s especially true between young and older adults. There are many YA books that are also interesting to adults (hey, I LOVED The Hunger Games!) as well as lots of adult books that can spark teens’ attention too. For example, Kidsbooks bookstore in Vancouver label their adult section “teen plus”.

Lise Kreps (Adult services) teamed up with Rachel Yaroshuk (Teen services) to host a readers’ advisory event last month at the Burnaby Public Library’s McGill branch, where they recommended a list of books that could be enjoyed by either teens or adults. “A lot of teen fiction won’t interest adults, for example if it’s strictly about school & boyfriends, and not particularly well written. Likewise, adult books about middle-aged identity crises, no matter how well written, don’t interest most teens,” says Lise. “But there are now a lot of good writers creating really excellent books that just happen to be marketed to teens, and anyone can enjoy them.”

Sixteen people came on a Thursday evening: seven were teens. Lise was impressed by how well read the teens were, “they knew a lot of my books already!” They were also very eager to share their own suggestions. For future book talks, Lise says she would like to focus more on new books or really old ones, that the teens may not know yet.

The audience clearly enjoyed the session, as they reported on the feedback forms, and would like to attend similar events in the future. One person suggested that we also include e-books available among the recommendations.

Here’s a list of some of Lise’s and Rachel’s recommendations:

The Woefield Poultry Collective, by Susan Juby
(adult, contemporary, humour)

woefield-poultry-collectiveWelcome to Woefield Farm, a sprawling thirty acres of rock and scrub somewhere on Vancouver Island, complete with dilapidated buildings and a half-sheared sheep. When Prudence Burns, an energetic twenty-something New Yorker and failed YA author, inherits the farm, she arrives full of optimism and back-to-the-land idealism, but without a scrap of experience or skills. She also seems to have inherited Earl, a cranky old farmhand and banjo-player who’s hiding a family secret. They’re soon joined by Seth, the 20-year-old alcoholic, celebrity-blogging boy-next-door who hasn’t left the house since a scandal with his high school drama teacher; and Sara Spratt, a very focused eleven-year-old looking for a home for her prize-winning chickens, including one particularly randy fellow called Alec Baldwin. When Prudence discovers that the bank is about to foreclose on the property, she has to turn things around, fast – and a few wilting organic radishes won’t cut it. The four of them must pull together to become an unlikely family and find surprising ways to save Woefield. Sequel Republic of Dirt just published this spring.

What I Saw and How I Lied, by Judy Blundell
(teen, historic)

what i saw and how i liedNoir-ish mystery set in 1947, filled with plot twists. Fifteen-year-old Evie’s step-father Joe is back from World War II with a surprising amount of money, and starts a business. But he’s acting strange and drinking too much. Out of the blue he suddenly takes her and her mother for an extended visit to Florida. There, he is none too pleased to bump into his old army buddy, the charming and handsome Peter. Evie finds herself falling in love for the first time with Peter, whom she feels treats her like an adult. But very slowly she realizes she is being drawn into a complicated web of lies between the adults. After a boating accident results in a suspicious death, Evie has to testify at the inquest. She must rethink not only her romance with Peter but her relationships with her parents, as everything she thought she knew about all three of them is turned upside down. What I Saw and How I Lied won National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.

Traitor’s Blade, by Sebastien DeCastell
(adult, fantasy)

traitorsbladeThe King is dead and the Greatcoats are disbanded, leaving Falcio Val Mond and his two companions reduced to working as bodyguards for a nobleman who refuses to pay them. Things could be worse, of course. Their employer could be lying dead on the floor while they are forced to watch the killer use magic to plant evidence framing them for the murder. Oh wait, that’s exactly what’s happening. With swashbuckling action and rapier wit reminiscent of a combination of the Three Musketeers, Game of Thrones, and Terry Pratchett, Traitor’s Blade is the first book in Sebastien de Castell’s dynamic new fantasy series, continuing in Knight’s Shadow coming out this summer.

Here Lies Arthur, by Philip Reeve
(teen, historic)

hereliesarthurA riveting reimagining of the Arthurian legend, told through the eyes of Merlin’s apprentice Gwyna, a scrawny orphan servant girl he finds hiding in a river to escape invading Saxons who destroyed her village. She seeks protection from the bard Myrddin, who uses Gwyna in his plan to spin tales transforming young Arthur from a local thug into the heroic King Arthur. Here Lies Arthur won the UK’s Carnegie award, and deserves to be known better.

Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi
(adult, memoir)

Persepolis-book-coverSatrapi’s autobiography is a timely and timeless story of a young girl’s life under the Islamic Revolution. Descended from the last Emperor of Iran, Satrapi is nine when fundamentalist rebels overthrow the Shah. While Satrapi’s radical parents and their community initially welcome the ouster, they soon learn a new brand of totalitarianism is taking over. Outspoken and intelligent, Marjane chafes at Iran’s increasingly conservative interpretation of Islamic law, especially as she grows into a bright and independent young woman.

Laughing at My Nightmare, by Shane Burcaw
(teen, memoir)

laughingnightmareWith acerbic wit and a hilarious voice, Shane Burcaw describes the challenges he faces as a twenty-one-year-old with spinal muscular atrophy. From awkward handshakes to having a girlfriend and everything in between, Shane handles his situation with humor and a “you-only-live-once” perspective on life. While he does talk about everyday issues that are relatable to teens, he also offers an eye-opening perspective on what it is like to have a life threatening disease.

The King Must Die, by Mary Renault
(adult, historic)

kingmustdieTheseus is the grandson of the King of Troizen, but his paternity is shrouded in mystery – can he really be the son of the god Poseidon? When he discovers his father’s sword beneath a rock, his mother must reveal his true identity: Theseus is the son of Aegeus, King of Athens, and is his only heir. So begins Theseus’s perilous journey to his father’s palace to claim his birthright, escaping bandits and ritual king sacrifice in Eleusis, to slaying the Minotaur in Crete. When Crete makes Athens send seven boys and seven girls as tributes to compete to the death in the Bull Ring, Theseus volunteers to go. (Sound familiar? This story inspired Suzanne Collins to write The Hunger Games.) Renault reimagines the Theseus myth, creating an original, exciting story from Theseus’s own perspective as an ambitious, brave, and lusty young adventurer.

Art of Getting Stared At, by Laura Langston
(teen, contemporary)

art-getting-stared-atSixteen-year-old Sloane Kendrick is determined to produce a video in less than two weeks to get a film school scholarship. Unfortunately, she must work with Isaac Alexander, an irresponsible charmer with whom she shares an uneasy history. On the heels of this opportunity comes a horrifying discovery: a bald spot on her head. Horror gives way to devastation when Sloane is diagnosed with alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease has no cause, no cure, and no definitive outcome. Determined to produce her video, hide her condition, and resist Isaac’s easy charm, Sloane finds herself turning into the kind of person she has always mocked: someone obsessed with her looks. And just when she thinks things can’t get any worse, Sloane is forced to make the most difficult decision of her life.

What other books would you add to this list?

Photo by Dan Foy, on Flickr, under Creative Commons license.

Ana Calabresi is an Auxiliary Librarian at Burnaby Public Library.

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

Introducing the Library Bound Student RA Award!

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Library Bound and the BCLA Readers’ Advisory Interest Group are pleased to announce The Library Bound Student Readers’ Advisory Award!

Are you a BC resident currently enrolled in an MLIS or Library Technician program? Are you interested in Readers’ Advisory services? You can apply for funding for this year’s BCLA Annual Conference!

Deadline: Monday, March 16, 2015 by 5 pm.

Award: Full 2015 BCLA Conference registration plus one night’s accommodation.

How to Apply: Email the following to Heidi Schiller at hschiller@cnv.org:

  • Tell us your name, your school, and contact info
  • Describe why you are interested in Readers’ Advisory in 500 words or less
  • Confirm that you are a member of BCLA. (Not a member yet? It’s free for students! Sign up at the BCLA website.)

The Fine Print: Only current BC residents intending to work in BC after graduation are eligible to apply. Applicants must be registered in either a Masters of Library and Information Science/Masters of Information Science (or equivalent) program or a Library Technician program and be a student at the time of the March 16, 2015 deadline. The institution can be located in BC or elsewhere (via online study). Members of the BCLA Readers’ Advisory Interest Group will screen applicants and choose the winner. Applicants must be current BCLA members. Award covers full BCLA Conference registration plus one night’s accommodation (to be arranged through BCLA). No other expenses (travel costs, meals, etc.) will be provided.

Image via.

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.