Sunday, February 26, 2017

Everything in Books is True! The Librarian Recommended It!

If it's printed in a book, then it must be true, right?

In my opinion, I don't mind celebrity book clubs - if someone likes the way Oprah thinks, and generally agrees with her ideas, then getting a book recommendation from her might lead to just the kind of book that person will enjoy. To that I say, "Hurray!" Anything that leads to books being part of the national culture is great. In addition, a celebrity places his or her own reputation on the line when they endorse a particular book. The trouble for all of us comes when those books turn out to something other than what they advertised themselves as.


As a case in point, Oprah invited author James Frey and his publisher, Nan Talese, onto her show after evidence surfaced that his book, which she had very highly touted, was at least a partial falsehood. (Time.com, Dec. 2008) Oprah had her own reputation to defend after she had given the book high praise based on the belief that it documented a true story. To her embarrassment, this was not the only time one of her book picks turned out to be false. (Time.com, 2008)


The problem for us librarians is that, like Oprah, our reputations, and the reputations of our libraries, are tarnished when authors turn out to be tricksters who just want to make a buck. Libraries, even in an age when some say their usefulness is declining, are still among the most respected and trusted community assets. David Vinjamuri in Publishers Weekly says:


"They’re the most trusted institution in America. Compared to the findings of a Gallup poll on “confidence in public institutions,” a 2012 Pew survey found that libraries are more trusted than any other institution, including the military, churches, and the police." (Vinjamuri, 2015)


Wow. Humbling. One reason that libraries enjoy such a good reputation, I believe, is that books themselves are seen as true. Print is sacrosanct and people have a great deal of respect for it. Unlike speaking, print has staying power. Traditionally it has been difficult and time-consuming to get a book published, involving a lot of vetting, copy editing, and so on. By the time a book hits the shelf, people feel that it has had authoritative, professional, ethical, review. In this age of tweets and "fake news" and online trolling, there is less confidence in online information, but published books are still held in high regard. Authors and publishers that engage in fakery and other shenanigans in order to get their books sold seriously undermine that confidence for all of us related to the book industry.


As John Horrigan from Pew Research points out, many people turn to libraries to help them discern between "good" and "bad" information.


"...a majority reporting that libraries have the resources they need and play at least some role in helping them decide what information they can trust."  (Horrigan, 2016)


What happens when we recommend books based on our trust in their veracity, and then that turns out to be false. We'll be just as embarrassed as Oprah, but without her resources to call an author up on the carpet. Our patrons will begin to lose confidence in our ability to vet sources, and we'll lose our good standing in the community. Worst of all, people will stop trusting books. Sad.


If your memoir isn't dramatic enough or interesting enough to sell, too bad. Sorry. Write fiction. Don't lie just to sell books or sell a point. Thank goodness for the journalists who took the time to find the truth.


And BTW, I have no problem with authors who make minor adjustments for flow or art or to protect someone's identity, although I think a little statement or disclaimer would be the best option.


Resources
Horrigan, J. (2016, September 9). Libraries 2016 | Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/09/09/libraries-2016/


Vinjamuri, D. (2015, April 3). The case for libraries. Retrieved from http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/libraries/article/66106-the-case-for-libraries.html

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Science Fiction Annotation

Wool 

by Hugh Howey


Simon & Schuster (2013)
ISBN: 978-1476733951
Available formats:  Hardcover, Paperback







Synopsis

In a ruined and toxic future, a community exists in a giant silo underground, hundreds of stories deep. There, men and women live in a society full of regulations they believe are meant to protect them. Sheriff Holston, who has unwaveringly upheld the silo’s rules for years, unexpectedly breaks the greatest taboo of all: He asks to go outside.

His fateful decision unleashes a drastic series of events. An unlikely candidate is appointed to replace him: Juliette, a mechanic with no training in law, whose special knack is fixing machines. Now Juliette is about to be entrusted with fixing her silo, and she will soon learn just how badly her world is broken. The silo is about to confront what its history has only hinted about and its inhabitants have never dared to whisper. Uprising.  (Amazon, 2017)


Characteristics of Sci Fi in this Book


Story:  Wool is highly speculative.  The characters have been placed in an untenable situation, living deep underground in a highly controlled society which is increasingly suspected to be based on false assumptions and manipulation.

Pacing:  Novelist calls this fast-paced, but I disagree.  The characters are deeply introspective and their internal struggle to understand their world and how it came to be what it is slows the pace to a more moderate level.  It moves along enough to keep readers hooked, but not as fast as regular thrillers or adventures.

Setting:  The story is set hundreds of years in the future, in a post-apocalyptic world where humans are striving to survive in underground silos.  It’s very detailed and technical, explaining how the communications and manipulations have been able to occur and how the technology is ultimately used in exposing the truth.  The world-building is very realistic.

Tone:  The tone of this book is rather dark and very compelling.  It’s almost oppressive as we read about all the ways in which the protagonists are struggling.  It has a very gray, cold feel, but with a ray of humanity and hope.

Style:  The writing is very descriptive and strong.  Jonathan Hayes (author of A Hard Death) describes it as “muscular”. 

Characterization:  Sheriff Holston and Juliette each face a very real moral crisis.  The central “character” in the story is the challenge of an underground society and the ethical issues of centralized management and thought control.

Appeal terms:  compelling, intense, adventurous, suspenseful, realistic, moderately paced

Personal Note


My husband is a huge sci fi fan and he discovered Wool very shortly after its initial publication as an omnibus edition.  He insisted that I read it, and we were both hooked.  We read the entire series, which, kind of like Ender’s Game, became more and more existential as the series progressed.  Some of the characters are completely unlikable, and that makes it even more realistic.  I’ve seen a number of book trailers, posters, and art work by some of the numerous fans of this fabulous book, and I can’t wait for the movie to be made! 

Extras

Movie rights were purchased by 20th Century Fox and an adaptation is in the works with Ridley Scott (Alien) producing.

The book was originally self-published in separate short stories/novellas as Kindle shorts; popularity spurred its development into an omnibus collection of the first 5 original shorts into a novel which, in turn, became the first in the Silo series.  It then got picked up by a major publishing house (Random House UK) and was recently re-released by Simon and Schuster.  

Official Book Trailer




Readalikes



Sunday, February 19, 2017

Integrated Advisory Ideas

think of an innovative way to promote romance, gentle reads or horror at your local library (pick one, just one!). What would be most effective? A catchy display? Some passive programming? In what ways could you incorporate integrated advisory?

At first, I wasn’t sure which genre to pick.  Romance is a given for February, of course, (overdone maybe?) and we spend all of October promoting horror, so I was considering Gentle Reads, but I initially wasn’t sure.  Then I read the week’s assignments and the relevant chapter in the textbook and the lights went on. Yes!  I have also sometimes found myself in the mood for some “warm milk” and at my library we’ve spent the past year and half focusing on books and programs that celebrate the activities that used to bring women together in a community.  The references to quilting reminded me of an event we did last spring that fits the description of integrated advisory for Gentle Reads. 

We held a Quilt Show and invited all quilters in our county and the immediate surrounding counties to submit and display a quilt.  We invited a speaker to present a program on historical quilts, especially Indiana quilt designs, and then created displays with items we thought might appeal to quilters.  One key theme was the fact that quilting groups were a traditional way that women bonded and supported each other in times past, so we displayed books, magazines, movies, and audiobooks that featured Gentle Reads authors, stories, and inspired crafts.  In addition, quilts were used as a method of secret communication on the Underground Railroad, and many of the women in Gentle Reads books are just as clever at using feminine activities to solve problems/mysteries/etc. 

The monthly book club book was a quilting novel; I think it was one of Jennifer Chiaverini’s but I don’t remember for sure.  There are other similar books such as the Amish Quilt Shop mysteries which are popular in my library among those who like all the Amish romances.  We also featured children’s books including The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco, and Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt by Deborah Hopkinson.  We put up a whole display of them. 

Our book displays included many of the books and authors mentioned in our textbook:  Debbie Macomber, the Big Stone Gap series, Richard Paul Evans, and Jan Karon.  We also included the full set of the Foxfire books, The Laundry Book by Cheryl Mendelson, and She Got Up Off the Couch by Haven Kimmel.  Movies included in the displays ranged from The Help, to Fried Green Tomatoes, and Gilmore Girls seasons. 

Audiobooks were promoted as a great way to listen to your favorite heartwarming stories while still doing your sewing, gardening, cooking, and chores.  Playaways are especially growing in popularity among our patrons who like to garden.

Pinterest crafts each month always reflect what the ladies of the library are currently reading, which is usually a Gentle Read.  These are crafts that are practical, beautiful, and feminine.  This month they’re making car air fresheners:  clay medallions with essential oil.  During the Quilt Show month, the Pinterest Club made a needle-felting craft. 

http://janasbooklist.blogspot.com
I love the whole “warm milk” thing.  I really think that could be made into a wonderful display with a nice variety of books and movies, perhaps with a red-checked cloth and pictures of cookies-n-milk?  Fun teas?  Sprinkle some cookie cookbooks and cute seasonal craft books in as well for some cross-genre selections…   Maybe a poster or bookmark with similar blogs or websites could be created – ideas include PioneerWoman, MaryJanesFarm, and LittleHouseLiving.  Another fun idea would be book playlists for some of the really popular Gentle Reads authors and then put out CDs by some of the artists from the playlists (remember to put Spotify or other music site on the bookmarks and encourage women to make their own playlists!).  Depending on the setting of the book, the playlists could really be fun – like southern style folk music or historical tunes.  I’m thinking of the styles of music on Andy Griffith, or 50’s/60’s pop music.  Wouldn’t that be a blast?  Likely it would also boost interest and circulation in our audio music collection. 


Now that we’ve talked about Gentle Reads, I’m SO totally in the mood for Lake Wobegon!  My husband says I’m burly and strong, while he’s good-lookin’!  

Ah, the All-Powerful and Omniscient Book Reviews…

Different publications review different types of books and they allow different types of conversations. For example, Booklist will not publish negative reviews, while, as you have all seen, Kirkus has no problems with it. Ebook only books, which are increasingly popular (especially in the romance genre) see little to no reviews in professional publications unless they have a big name author, and then still it's usually only RT Reviews (formally Romantic Times) or other genre heavy publications. How does this affect collection development?

In my library we subscribe only to Kirkus.  When I first began my current position I had no library education, so I only knew what I was shown.  Because of this, I only bought books that were reviewed by Kirkus, mistakenly believing this to be the “best” of what’s out there.  After all, if there were other good reviews and sources, wouldn’t my library be subscribing to them and encouraging me to use them?  Wrong. 
As I visited other libraries at roundtables, read YALSA, ALA, and other library journals and blogs, I discovered a whole wealth of reviews and collection development tools.  Without those we were a “Kirkus outlet”, not a library!  Now we’re much more diverse and are continually looking for quality sources to help find the great books/ebooks/movies/audios that our patrons (our neighbors) want.  (I really like VOYA and EpicReads as well as some off the wall teen blogs.)
BTW, I noticed a year or so ago, that Kirkus knocked points off reviews for lack of “diversity”.  What?!  Could they please just review the merits of the story and not add political correctness?  I (and my patrons) want to know if it’s a great story – I, as a librarian extraordinaire, can find additional materials to ensure that we have a diverse and inclusive collection.  If they’re knocking a book for lack of whatever group is currently “in”, I have a much harder time determining if the story itself is a good fit for my patrons.  As an example, High School Runner by Bill Kenley is a book about a freshman boy on a track team in small town Indiana.  Since my library is in a similar small Indiana town where high school sports are vitally important to the community, this book is likely to resonate with my teen users even though it has no “diverse” characters.  Instead, it reflects its setting, which is very realistic – most small farm towns are fairly homogenous in demographic.  Of course, I balance the collection out with authors like David Levithan, Matt de la Pena, Rainbow Rowell, Libba Bray, and Jandy Nelson and many others.  C’mon, Kirkus, give me a straight up review!

I have posted two more documents in the week five files. One is two reviews of an ebook only romantic suspense novel, one from a blog and one from amazon. Look over the reviews - do you feel they are both reliable? How likely would you be to buy this book for your library? Is this ebook even romantic suspense?

Ebooks and Me: A love/hate story

I must confess.  I’m completely in love with my Kindle.  If I could only rescue 1 thing from my burning house, it would be my Kindle.  (Ok, after all my sentimental stuff, but you get what I mean.)  I’ve gotten so spoiled, I had to read a regular book not long ago and holding the pages open was annoying, lol.  And when it was time to go to sleep, I had to, ergh, find a bookmark!  I dog-eared, sshh… 
But – so many ebooks are self-published, full of errors, and poorly written.  They’re awful.  It seems that anyone with a computer can throw a book out there, get a few friends/family to write nice comments on Amazon, and poof, they’re authors.  I have frequently purchased books for myself that turned out to be boring, typo-riddled, mistakes.  Ebook only reviews to the rescue! 
Ebook reviews are super helpful in winnowing out the best books that our patrons can actually read and enjoy. A helpful feature is the note regarding formats so we don’t end up with a collection that is heavily weighted toward only Adobe readers and leaves out mp3 and Kindle readers and vice versa.  In addition, some books are very graphics heavy and won’t read well on a regular ereader, but will look great on a tablet or laptop.  Those technical issues are not addressed in a normal review, but are generally noted in ebook reviews.  As an example, most manga, graphic novels, children’s picture books, or books with a lot of charts and graphs, are very difficult (if not impossible) to view correctly on a plain Kindle.  A reader needs a tablet to view these.  Knowing which books are worth purchasing, and what technological constraints to be aware of, make ebook reviews absolutely essential for me, whether the book is available in print format or is ebook only. 

The other document contains some reviews of Angela's Ashes, by Frank McCourt, an incredibly popular memoir. These reviews are all from professional publications, feel free to find more on your own I just nabbed a few from the Book Review Digest database for you. How do these reviews make you feel about the possibility of adding Angela's Ashes to your collection?

We actually have Angela’s Ashes at my library already, but honestly I had never looked at it because of the depressing title.  I thought it would be another horribly depressing story of hardship-survival-hope which is deeply moving, but emotionally draining. After reading these reviews, I have a different perspective and find myself intrigued.  The Booklist and SLJ reviews, in particular, drew me in with their focus on the humor and love in the story, rather than focusing on the misery.  They made me feel a bit of the Irish humor and the spirit of the author.  It sounds a little like a man in my community who tells of his upbringing by a grandfather during the Depression; his parents were either AWOL or jailed, and he often had nothing to eat but lard sandwiches and hickory nuts that he and his friends scavenged for in the local woods.  He tells these stories with great humor and doesn’t feel sorry for himself in the least, but instead says that’s just the way it was in those days.  He, like McCourt, is a man of great love, humor, and storytelling.  Dang it, I think I just added another book to my “must-read-soon” list…
Reading these various reviews back-to-back was really telling.  Kirkus focused on the misery, only mentioning love and humor in the very last sentence.  It seems the reviewer really wanted to focus on the profound, deep, meaning underlying the story.  Library Journal read almost like an encyclopedia entry; like Kirkus it focused on “the burdens of grief and starvation”.  Booklist, in contrast, gives us a glimpse of the spirit of the family with Italy upstairs and Ireland downstairs – what a fun way to make a bad situation manageable.  It doesn’t overlook the poverty and neglect, but focuses instead on the humor and love, and gives us a glimpse of the writing.  School Library Journal really brings out the humor aspect, describing the book as “funny and uplifting” with a story about trying on the parents’ false teeth.  If I read only the Kirkus review, I would be expecting something like A Child Called It, but the SLJ review makes me think more of A Girl Named Zippy only deeper. 


Do you think it's fair that one type of book is reviewed to death and other types of books get little to no coverage? How does this affect a library's collection?  And how do you feel about review sources that won't print negative content? Do you think that's appropriate? If you buy for your library, how often do you use reviews to make your decisions? If not, how do you feel about reviews for personal reading, and what are some of your favorite review sources?

I think that as ebooks become more and more popular, they’ll get more coverage and enter the mainstream.  They’ll also get more coverage as they become more professional, with copy editing, layouts, and so on (technology development is helping with new home publishing software and templates).  Along with audio books, many are superbly created productions with full sound and video effects.  These are beginning to get more attention.  We, as librarians, can help push the demand for good reviewing as we seek to find the gems for our collections and our patrons by sharing our blogs and tips with each other. 
I appreciate reviews that include negative content, since that helps me focus in on the strengths and weaknesses of a book.  We all know that a particular reviewer may find something offensive that is a non-issue for someone else, but I find it very helpful to know when a book has stereotyped characters, confusing or contrived plots, and so on.  That may not mean that I won’t buy it, but will help me in steering it toward readers that like similar books.  For example, I have a whole group of teen girls that totally love shallow, paranormal love stories.  They want that certain type of heroine and that certain formula of plot.  Think of Harlequin readers – these books are pretty much all the same, and that’s what they want (loved ‘em when I was a teen) – not great literature, but you need these in your collection.  A good review, in my opinion, gives the pros AND cons of a book so that you, the expert on your collection and your patrons, can make a really informed choice.  We don’t have time to read every book out there (a dream), so we HAVE to rely on reviews.  We don’t need book cheerleaders – we need book reviewers.

For my personal reading, I like Goodreads and I particularly love to read the negative reviews.  Some of them are truly creative and funny, and they often intrigue me enough to read the book that they hated.  Sometimes it seems that the thing a person disliked about a book is that same thing that draws me to it – weird.    

Thursday, February 16, 2017

High School Runner: Freshman by Bill Kenley
Paperback: 284 pages
Publisher: River's Edge Media, LLC 
Language: English
ISBN-13: 978-1940595221
May 15, 2015

Kenley’s debut work is a funny, gritty, and insightful look at the world of high school sports and the struggles of growing up, in a memoir-style novel. 

K1 begins high school full of conflicting feelings.  He’s excited, but nervous, about joining the track team following an unexpectedly successful community race earlier in the summer.  He is confronted with his embarrassing twin brother, Hyter, an emotionally unstable coach, psychopathic team captain, and the ups and downs of athletic competition, but the biggest challenge is facing his own failings.  K1, whose real name is Sherman, is from a small Indiana town and has discovered a hidden talent for running.  He hopes to distinguish himself from his twin brother on the track team and is crushed when Hyter also joins the team and turns out to be just as talented.  The team captain, Slade, is intimidating and rumored to be violent, cursing at everyone routinely.  K1 tries to stay out of his way and out of trouble, but ultimately is drawn into the drama of the team and betrayed by his own weakness and ambition.  Characters are multi-dimensional, richly drawn, and sympathetic.  They’re very real with both flaws and virtues.  There are some references to running lingo that non-runners may not understand, but they are only minimally distracting.  Dialogue is extremely real, including some explicit language.  Teens, particularly, will relate to the moral dilemmas and personal insecurities faced by the main character.  Adults who enjoy reminiscing about high school, or reflecting on youthful escapades will also find much to savor in this short, memoir-like, novel. 


This is a quick read, full of angst, cheating, winning, and small-town life with a very real feel.  It’s similar to popular TV shows like The Wonder Years and A Christmas Story and is a sure bet for sports fans and reluctant readers.    

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Week 3 Prompt

Hey folks, you’ve got to check out Novelist if you can.  This is a super, super database for book lovers but the catch is that your library has to have a subscription to it.  If they do, you’re good to go.  If not, make sure and ask them about it next time you go to the library and let them know you really want this.  So…  below you’ll find some examples of questions we get at the library a lot and how we might be able to find answers, or at least some good leads, on Novelist. 

1.       I am looking for a book by Laurell K. Hamilton. I just read the third book in the Anita Blake series and I can’t figure out which one comes next!
a.       The Lunatic CafĂ© is the next book in this series.  I did a “series” search, found the correct series, and then scrolled down the list checking release dates.  Easy to use search feature!

2.       What have I read recently? Well, I just finished this great book by Barbara Kingsolver, Prodigal Summer. I really liked the way it was written, you know, the way she used language. I wouldn't mind something a bit faster paced though.

a.       After searching by both title and author, as well as the advanced search feature, I couldn’t really narrow down the pacing aspect of this question, but the top read-a-like numerous times was Anthill by Edward Wilson.

3.       I like reading books set in different countries. I just read one set in China, could you help me find one set in Japan? No, not modern – historical. I like it when the author describes it so much it feels like I was there!

a.       I was able to do some searching around and utilize the limiting features to narrow down the ideas to historical books set in Japan with very detailed writing style.  The number one pick is The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet, and I see Memoirs of a Geisha listed a bit further down.  From this point we’d have to have more discussion to help the patron decide exactly what she’s interested in. 

4.       I read this great mystery by Elizabeth George called Well-Schooled in Murder and I loved it. Then my dentist said that if I liked mysteries I would probably like John Sandford, but boy was he creepy I couldn't finish it! Do you have any suggestions?

a.       There are 2 ways to approach this question.  I did a search for read-a-likes for that specific title, which returned a nice selection offering titles by Martha Grimes, Dorothy Sayers, and so on.  A search by author read-a-likes suggested a list of 9 authors (none of whom was Sandford), so that gives us a direction to explore as well.  I thought it was interesting that a book by Martha Grimes was listed as a read-a-like for the title, but she’s not listed as an author read-a-like. 

5.       My husband has really gotten into zombies lately. He’s already read The Walking Dead and World War Z, is there anything else you can recommend?

a.       Some ideas might be Mutated by Joe McKinney or The First Days by Rhiannon Frater.  A search by genre>horror leads to a list called “Creature Feature”.  This in turn brings up a nice list of possibilities, and if the list is changed to the detailed view it offers a small blurb about each book so that one can easily see which books feature zombies.  It can also be sorted by popularity which is helpful to discover titles that are currently hot.  This patron sounds like somebody who’s into pop culture since those titles are definitely in demand due to their TV/movie counterparts, so popularity may strike a note with this guy.  The best strategy I found was to search for “World War Z”, which brings up that book along with a list of read-a-likes, but then scroll down and use the refiners to limit the search to horror, zombies, and zombie apocalypse.  This returns a very specific list of books which looks like just what our patron is searching for.  Top suggestions here would be Cell by Stephen King or Day by Day Armageddon by J.L. Bourne.

6.       I love books that get turned into movies, especially literary ones. Can you recommend some? Nothing too old, maybe just those from the last 5 years or so.

a.       How about The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers or Room by Emma Donoghue?  Both are listed as literary fiction although Room is slightly more than 5 years old.  I found these by searching the genre “books to movies” and then refining the search by literary fiction and sorting by date.

7.       I love thrillers but I hate foul language and sex scenes. I want something clean and fast paced.
a.       The sub-genre Christian Thrillers would seem to fit the bill here.  When sorted by popularity the top choice offered is Unspoken by Dee Henderson.  On the other hand, Christian doesn’t seem like exactly what this person is asking for, just less graphic sex, so if a quick browse through the Christian Thrillers doesn’t offer anything that my patron wants, I’d have to go to the Advanced Search option and use some limiters such as “thrillers NOT explicit” or similar.  This brings back a nice selection of titles from authors like John Grisham, Newt Gingrich, and David Baldacci.  In the menu on the left I noticed a sub-genre called “adult books for young adults”.  These are adult/teen crossover titles and will likely be cleaner than regular adult titles. 


So where do I find interesting new books to read?  Well, first of all, I work in a library.  One of the most fun things to do is:  SHELF READING!  When possible, I choose to read shelves in areas that have the types of books I like.  I always find something cool.  Read shelves, folks, and find those hidden treasures. 
Next, I’m the Teen Librarian which means I have to read reviews and such to make collection decisions and I generally choose several to actually read so that I can booktalk them and offer good RA to teens.  I’ve discovered that a lot of YA books are really fun and imaginative and I love reading them. 
At my quarterly YA roundtable, we each bring book titles to share and recommend to each other and I’ve found a number of awesome books that way. 
One of the MOST FUN ways to find books to read is when I visit a school classroom and I have the teens booktalk to me for every title I booktalk to them.  WAY FUN, you’ve GOT to try it.  I pick a couple of their suggestions to read and report back to them the next time I visit.  Double benefit – I get to read something fun, and they feel valued. 
These are all variations of word-of-mouth type discovery, but sometimes I just want a new book to read and I’m out of ideas.  In that case, I go to either Goodreads or Amazon, depending on my mood.  On Goodreads, I can look and see books that I’ve put on my want-to-read shelf, but these are generally YA books and sometimes it feels like working. In that case, I head for Amazon.  I put in books that pop into my mind that I liked, and look for Amazon’s suggestions.  It’s a bit like diving down the rabbit hole, but I nearly always discover something new and surprising.  The randomness of what other customers who bought my book also liked leads me to unexpected and interesting directions.  Now that I’ve had a chance to try Novelist, I could see that becoming a core resource for me personally, because of the ability to search by mood.  Love that. 

Secret Shopper Library "Field Trip"

What an eye-opening experience this was!

I was a little excited and nervous as I headed for my secret assignment - what if they could tell I'm a librarian?  What if I come across sounding weird or unnatural?  I reminded myself to just act casual.

Well, there was no need to be concerned, the librarian certainly wasn't.  I went in and there were several people standing in line at the circulation desk while a young high school girl helped them checkout their books.  I browsed around waiting for an opportunity to approach someone.  A middle-aged woman finally appeared at the desk, so I went up and initiated my question.  I explained that I love Mary Roach's books, but I've read them all and wondered if she could suggest a similar author.  She replied, "I don't read adult books. I'm a children's librarian."  She did look it up on her computer, but I have no idea what database or site she was using.  She then said, "I don't see any listings here."  She didn't make any eye contact, and was very dismissive in her attitude.  I tried to engage her in more of a conversation, but she just started helping someone else, and said (sideways while not looking in my direction) that she'd call if she heard of anything.  She didn't even end the conversation, just sort of ignored me.  Wow.
She didn't find anything for me and I left feeling very unsatisfied.  I've been to that library once before, last year, and the people working that day were very nice, but after I left I remembered hearing from a friend that they were very rude to her.  I wonder if it was the same lady.  In any case, I've certainly learned how NOT to do Readers Advisory!  Even if she was unable to find a good suggestion for me, I think she should have taken the time to ask more about what I liked about Mary Roach's books and at least try more than one quick (30 seconds at most) search in only one place.

I did a search myself (less than 5 minutes) and found that Mary Roach is not listed on Novelist at all, but when I looked her up on Goodreads, I scrolled through her author page and found titles that she has rated and voted for.  One that sounds like fun is "Best. State. Ever." by Dave Barry.  I've read some of his other books and his humor is just the kind of wacky that I like.  This gave me the idea that if I can't find an exact match for someone, finding out what that patron's favorite authors like to read may inspire them.  Another tool for the toolbox.

A quick Google search also revealed this read-alike graphic by Waukegan Public Library (www.waukeganpl.org).  I was interested to see the Bill Bryson book listed here as that was one I had in mind.

I generally expect that other librarians are more knowledgeable than me and have all kinds of secret library wisdom.  This was a very enlightening exercise in many ways!