Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Week Sixteen Prompt: The Future of Reading

My adult reading habits share a few similarities with the reading habits I had as a child. I will read almost anything at any time. I read for pleasure or professional development, and I look forward to graduating so I can increase my time spent doing the former. I panic if I don't have something to read in case I have to spend some time in a waiting room or can't sleep.

Technology has changed my reading habits some. I read a lot online, and that is the source of most of my news as well as satiate my endless appetite for scary stories and folklore. I tend to read print books almost exclusively, though I now listen to audiobooks and e-audiobooks.

I think reading and publishing will largely continue on the road they're currently heading: more access and more accessibility for both creators and consumers. Self-publishing will continue to develop as more platforms are created and blended in with library discovery layers and services. E-reading will continue and may see gains, but I do not foresee print dying in the next twenty years. Recent PEW studies show that while e-reading increases, most Americans, particularly millennials, prefer to read in print.   

Friday, April 21, 2017

Week Fifteen Prompt: Marketing

We as librarians know how great our collections are, but often collections don't see the use they probably deserve. A combination of physical displays, social media and traditional media presence, and tying in programming are good ways to market fiction collections and increase circulation.  

Physical displays are a great starting point to grab your users' attention. Use color, humor, and tie-ins to create fresh, flexible displays. In 20 Rules for Better Book Displays, Susan Brown recommends displays based on popular culture, current events, jokes, and anything that "reflect[s] your patrons' interests (2013). Chris Rippel recommends taking a page from bookstores in designing space to accommodate large displays and allow judicous browsing. "Librarians should observe how patrons move through [the] library" to determine where displays should be (2012).

Physical displays are limited to the geography of the library, therefore engaging social media platforms is a must. Many libraries post photos of displays or reading lists on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. It's a quick, continuous way to market ever-changing collections and interact with potential readers.

Traditional media is another way to promote collections. My local library publishes new books and the month's highest-circulated books in its largest local paper. I know this is effective because at the library I work in, we often help patrons find the books the read about in the adjacent city's paper.

Finally, programming built around collections promotes usage of those collections. Book discussion groups from traditional book clubs to genre lunches, where attendees meet over a lunch hour to talk about what they're reading in their preferred genre. Book clubs may also be run online though Goodreads or Facebook. Libraries can also host author talks which promote both works by that author and read-a-likes.  

Brown, S. (2013). Twenty rules for better book displays. Novelist. Retrieved April 20, 2017, from

Rippel, C. (2012). What libraries can learn from bookstore. Web Junction. Retrieved April 21, 2017, from

Monday, April 10, 2017

Week Fourteen Prompt: To Separate?

Deciding how to shelve collections can be a very difficult decision. On one hand, we want to "save the time of the reader". On the other hand, we may actually be making titles more difficult to find by putting them where a library user may not think to look. I am ultimately opposed to treating GLBT and African American titles as special collections including labeling and assigning separate shelving locations.  

It's true that shelving is a method of passive readers' advisory, but I think it's beneficial for librarians to examine their motives for separating fiction. GLBT titles are often the most frequently challenged books, admittedly usually children's and YA titles, but adult titles may be challenged because they may fall into the hands of a child. Moving "undesirable" titles to a separate collection is often a compromise when materials are challenged, as well as a method of keeping materials from their intended audience.  

Separate shelving may have a chilling effect on reading. The American Library Association is opposed to labeling, thus presumably opposed to separately shelving, GLBT collections. Identifying books as GLBT "may prevent library users from accessing them for fear of being outed" (American library Association). Shelving African American collections separately may also keep readers away from checking out titles because they assume the books "aren't for them".

I question whether GLBT and African American fiction really separate genres, and I think it's reductive to ignore the diversity of GLBT and African American authors and shelve them together regardless of subject matter. N.K. Jemisin wrote an excellent take on this issue upon finding her science fiction/fantasy series shelved in the African American fiction section of a public library.

Joyce Saricks wrote in a 2006 Booklist article that sometimes we focus too much on genre and get caught up in how to classify a book that seemingly defies classification. This dilemma often is resolved by shelving materials where we think our users would look. (Saricks, 2006). What about Beverly Jenkins? Should she be with Romance or in African American fiction? Does James Baldwin go in the GLBT, African American, or classic section?

I think good cataloging and readers' advisory, including passive RA techniques like reading lists, social media posts, and finding aids are the best way to promote these collections.

The American Library Association. Open to all: serving the GLBT community in your library.

Saricks, J. (2006). Thinking outside the genre and Dewey boxes. Booklist. 1 March 2006.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Week Thirteen Prompt:

People have the freedom to read what they want without fear of ridicule. Libraries have a responsibility to serve their patron base by building collections relevant to their interests, making them available, and promoting them.

If there are books intended for a younger audience that have mass appeal to adults, they should be available to adults. If those titles are in a YA section where adults are not allowed to enter, perhaps acquisitions staff should consider adding a copy of those titles to the adult collection. If budgets or space don't allow that, readers' advisory materials should point patrons to those titles. Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games are all series that my library has added to the adult collection.

Graphic novels are a format rather than a genre, but they are treated as such despite the diversity of genre and style. Many people think of Sunday comics and superheroes and assume that all graphic novels are for children. I think that the focus on how graphic novels impact reluctant readers contributes to this belief, too. It never fails to amuse me that people think graphic novels lack literary merit; many of them are quite complex works of art.

Since so many graphic novels have been adapted into popular films and television shows, libraries should be collecting them, yet many do not, believing that their patron base has no interest. How do they know that? Perhaps there is a whole patron base that stopped coming to their libraries because they never found what they were interested in reading. Additionally, graphic novel collections should be shelved according to their intended audience.   

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Week Twelve Prompt: Readers' Advisory Matrix for Nonfiction

The Voyeur's Motel

Gay Talese

Grove Press

233 pages

Narrative Continuum

Mixed; highly narrative


Sociological portrait of one man


Human sexuality


Gay Talese is a sociologist who was studying human sexuality in 1980 when he was contacted by Gerald Foos. Foos told him that he had purchased and modified a motel outside Denver, Colorado expressly for the purpose of “satisfying his voyeuristic tendencies”. Foos told Talese that his meticulously recorded observations could illuminate human sexuality; they corresponded for thirty years before Talese wrote the book.

This books is a quickly-paced, intimate glimpse into the life and psyche of a voyeur. Much of the narrative recounts Foos’s life and marriages; his observations of his guests’ sexual habits are sometimes transcribed and sometimes paraphrased during the decades he ran his motel. Foos’s experience and observations provide a lot of insight into human sexuality in the 1960s-1980s. There are accompanying photos of Foos and his motel, but there are no charts, graphs, or overtly scholarly information.     

Why Would a Reader Enjoy This Book

  1. Tone, nonjudgmental recounting of salacious events
  2. Characterization, introspective
  3. Learning/Experiencing

Annotation: Literary Fiction

The Goldfinch
Donna Tartt
Little, Brown and Company
784 pages

The Goldfinch is the story of troubled Theo Decker’s life from adolescence to adulthood. After his mother was killed in a terrorist attack at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, traumatized Theo absconds with the titular, real-life painting. What follows is a coming-of-age story with a dash of the criminal underworld thrown in. The Goldfinch won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

Literary Appeal
The Goldfinch is a character-driven work that features a cast of complex, memorable people; among them is the charming delinquent Boris, elderly antique dealer Hobie, and the wealthy and damaged Barbour family. At 784 pages, the story is leisurely-paced and richly-detailed. Tartt employs the symbolism of the famous painting of a bird chained to a perch that relates multiple characters’ lives and obsessions; everyone is chained to something: addictions, memories, or another person. The tone is quite melancholy, and though the book is long, the author describes characters’ journeys through loss and grief so lyrically it propels the story forward.       

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Burnt is the tale of fourteen-year-old June who is mourning the loss of her beloved uncle in 1987. This is a YA book, but readers who like a haunting coming-of-age story will like Burnt’s portrait of grief. This story also features quirky characters

The Secret History is Donna Tartt’s first novel and features similar pacing and stylistic complexity. Like The Goldfinch, it is a coming-of-age story that details the often debauched youth of several characters and employs both symbolism and elements of danger.

She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb is about the troubled life of Delores Price. It is similarly-paced, engaging, and melancholy. There are multiple characters, both sympathetic and cruel. Delores ultimately overcomes her horrific childhood and adolescence, and the ending is uplifting.  

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Annotation: Historical Fiction

The Hamilton Affair
By Elizabeth Cobbs
Arcade Publishing
408 Pages

The Hamilton Affair is part historical fiction, part biographical novel, and part love story. The novel is told from the perspective of both Alexander Hamilton and his future wife Elizabeth Schuyler in alternating chapters and details their lives through childhood to Hamilton’s death in a duel. With a supporting cast of characters includes figures like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, The Hamilton Affair covers the Revolution and early post-colonial history through the lens of a marriage well-known to fans of Hamilton’s eponymous hit musical. As the title suggests, much time is spent detailing Hamilton’s scandalous affair with Maria Reynolds and the effect it had on his marriage and political future.  

Historical Appeal  
Set in the colonial and post-colonial era, the writing is very engaging. Readers get a sense of the economic and social struggles common to that time period. The historical setting is richly detailed, though the story is primarily character-driven. Characters who actually lived are realistically portrayed as flawed but sympathetic, and though Cobbs takes liberties with certain subjects, there is enough documented history for readers who want accuracy.

Ben Franklin’s Bastard by Sally Cabot is another character-driven historical novel about people who actually lived. It is similarly set during the Revolutionary, and deals with the scandalous life of a founding father. The book is detailed and dramatic.

Patriot Hearts by Barbara Hambly is a richly-detailed account of the Revolutionary War from the founding mothers’ perspectives. It balances biographical information about Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Dolley Madison, and Sally Hemmings with personal narratives. Focusing on Sally Hemmings adds a layer of drama to the story for readers who want a little more.   

The Traitor’s Wife by Allison Pataki is an account of the life of Peggy Arnold, wife of Benedict, and their betrayal of the Revolution told by Peggy’s maid. Readers who want richly-detailed accounts of the colonial era will like this authentic look at historical figures who do not often get starring roles.