Monday, March 12, 2018

Happy Spring Break!

I just finished reading your book club experiences and I was SOO IMPRESSED! It sounds as if you learned loads, I hope you continue to participate or lead book discussions. They are very rewarding! I will be posting those grades and hopefully the special topics paper grades this week. Thanks again everyone!

Monday, March 5, 2018

Week Nine

Well, we are officially more than halfway through the semester! Congratulations - hope this is proving to be a fun and useful class for everyone.

This week we should have fun. Learning to moderate a book group can be like walking a tightrope - you want to find works with enough meat to provide good discussions, but you have to get to know your group and try to find books that will appeal to all. At the same time, don't feel bad making people get out of their comfort zone - reading books they are unfamiliar with is half the reason a lot of people join book groups. I will share a few examples from the previous instructor's book club groups (she had such great examples, I couldn't not share!):

"I once choose a Tom Robbins book, Another Roadside Attraction, for a book group I ran that my at the time boyfriend's mother belonged to. I hadn't read it in ages, but I remembered thinking it was brilliant. In case you are unfamiliar with Tom Robbins, he is very descriptive and enjoys talking about anatomy and drug use. In this case, he spent pages describing one particular piece of female anatomy that is generally not discussed in polite society, and the whole time I was reading it my face was getting more and more red, thinking, "I told Mark's mother to read this!!! What is wrong with me???" In the end, she was offended but not by that - there was some serious blasphemy in the book that I, as a non-religious person, had not even noticed. She still let me marry her son."

"I had some incredibly young, passionate, and intelligent young ladies in one of my book groups. Reading Pride and Prejudice was a wake-up call that infuriated them. They insisted that the women were in a form of slavery and that they should have prostituted themselves rather than being sold like slaves because at least then they would get to choose their clients. While an interesting point, it completely dominated the discussion and offended some of the people who really loved Jane Austen. One of the men in the group said he didn't know why we were reading it because it was irrelevant now as there was no need for feminism. Chaos ensued."

"When we read The Poisonwood Bible a new member came. He had not read the book. He had however, traveled extensively in India. This was not shown to be relevant, despite his repeated attempts to make it seem so by interrupting our discussions with anecdotes starting with, "Well in India they...." It was infuriating and very difficult to moderate. We later made a rule that you had to have read the whole book to participate in the discussion, but only instituted it when he was there. Which was inexplicably often even though he never read the books."

These are just a few examples of issues that she ran into. No book club is perfect! Currently, I am in four book club groups myself (I can't say no!). They are as follows:

1. The Lisa Simpson Book Club
     - We read different books that have been featured on The Simpsons. Are you as well read as TV's favorite eight year old? I run this at my library monthly, it is open to the public. (

2. Reading Between the Wines
     - A book club that I started five years ago as an excuse to drink with my friends but quickly formed into a "mostly" serious group that was sponsored by Harper Collins for a year and a half (we got free books every month and skyped and live tweeted authors, it was THE BEST). It is by invite only and hosted by a different member very month. Liquor still plays a role but we have gotten much better about actually discussing the book.

3. Happy Booker's Book Club
     - The unofficial Franklin College ladies book club. Meets every six weeks at a different restaurant. Books are mainly New York Times Bestsellers, by invite only.

4. Stout Stories
     - I co-run this with one of my co-workers. We meet at a different brewery or winery every month and discuss a book. It's a library program open to those 21 and up. It's so popular that there are often many on the waitlist that can't come. We actually have MEN attend, which is the best thing ever. So often book clubs are dominated by women. Also we have a huge spread of ages, we have lots of people in their thirties, some retired folks, a few parents, etc. It leads to great discussion! We cap it at 20 participants. (

If any of you have had enlightening experiences while leading or belonging to a book group, please share them in the comments.

Now I want to talk about some basic rules for book groups. First of all, if you are moderating, do not lead with your opinion of the quality of the book. Just like in readers' advisory, as a moderator you have a level of authority that will influence the opinions of your group. I also think that in a moderator-led group, there should generally be a rule that you need to have read the book to participate in discussions. Now, there are the less formal book clubs that are more of an excuse to socialize and drink wine where of course, there is a less formal structure. Moderator-led book clubs at a library though, are generally slightly more formal and attended by people who have a genuine interest in discussing the book, and the occasional person who just likes to talk too much.

Two big things to consider when choosing books for your group - length and accessibility. As great a book as it is, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, with over a thousand pages, is not a great pick for a book group that meets monthly. Of course, know your group. A group that reads exclusively historical fiction or epic fantasy is going to be more tolerant of long books than a group that reads literary or general fiction. Also, accessibility. Is the book brand new? That means there will be a waitlist at the library and it's only out in expensive hardcover. Is it out of print? How difficult the book is to get a hold of needs to be a consideration. If you have the power to purchase books for your club through the library of course, this is less of an issue.

Due by Sunday at 10:00pm:

Book Club Experience posted to your blog.

Please be thorough! I want a blog post that is at least an equivalent to a page and a half to a two page paper. It does not need to be submitted through Canvas, only your blog. The assignment details and grading rubric however are on Canvas.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Week Eight

Hope you are all having a great week. Since papers are due at the end of this week, there is no prompt response due. However, please do the readings anyway (don't forget to look at the syllabus to see a complete list of readings!) - this week we are thinking about quality vs. demand in fiction - some pretty weighty issues. Do we spend lots of money on titles that are popular but that maybe aren't the greatest critical hits? Do we try to push people towards more "quality" books? Who defines what is a quality book and how? What is the role of reading? So many questions to talk about - I really picked the wrong week to have your papers due!

So, due by the end of this week:

1. Special Topic Paper
2. Women's Lives and Relationships Annotations

Can't wait to read your papers - as always let me know if you have any questions!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Week Seven

The readings this week are focused on book controversies. When providing readers' advisory services, patrons expect us to know the details behind books that are in the news - without passing judgment. The articles you are to read for this week talk about some of the most significant book headlines of the past. However book controversies aren't just things of the past, I'm sure many of you have heard all about the controversy behind the picture book, A Birthday Cake for George Washington two years ago. And this past year, the controversy over Milo Yiannopoulos' new book. There are always two sides to every story whether it be A Million Little Pieces or Lance Armstrong's "memoirs." It's our job to be informed and give non-biased information to patrons. We will also be doing our science fiction and mystery annotations this week. Be sure to read the chapters! Saricks has some interesting points to make about serving the readers of these genres.

Some of you know that I am a pretty big science fiction fan. I have a couple of resources available that I want to post on here - I know I put a lot of reading in the syllabus for this week so I didn't want to add any more required reading. But if you are one of those people who has never been able to "get into" science fiction, I highly suggest reading this article by Jo Walton. In it, she talks about SF reading protocols, or, how people who read science fiction read with a learned set of skills that people who did not grow up reading science fiction may not have. And here is a super-fun resource to share with patrons, it takes the NPR top one hundred SF and fantasy books voted on by listeners a couple of years ago and turns it into a flowchart.

Also, I want to remind you to be commenting on your classmate's blogs. Class participation is a huge chunk of your grade and there are a handful of you that have yet to leave any comments. Everyone should be commenting at least three times a week.

Due by the end of this week:
Prompt Response
Science Fiction and Mystery Annotations (practically the entire class is doing one or the other so I'm not going to put individual names here)

For our prompt this week, I want you to think about fake memoirs, author mills (James Patterons), and celebrity inspired book clubs. Basically write a readers' response to one of the articles you are reading for this week (see syllabus or links in this post for readings) - or talk about a time when a book or author that made headlines affected you personally or your work.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Week Six

Great job on your Secret Shopper experiences, I'm almost done grading all of them. I know that is can be very uncomfortable and awkward to pretend in this way, but I think it's very valuable to see how the people we are trying to help are treated - both the good and the bad.

This week, we are doing Horror, Gentle Reads, and Romance. As strange as the three of these seem to pair together, they actually go very well as all three genres are designed to elicit strong emotions on behalf of the reader.

We are also discussing integrated advisory this week. The concept behind integrated advisory is very simple: it's using forms of media other than books in your advisory. For example, if someone wants to get back into reading but they haven't read too much, you could ask what type of television shows or movies they like, or what kinds of games they like to play. The opposite works as well; I have nearly as many people ask me for movie suggestions as I do book suggestions. And I rarely watch movies, so I have to use sources - and these are not always as easy to find. With reluctant readers, having this knowledge and ability is even more valuable.

For this week's prompt, I would like you to 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? Pretend you're pitching an idea to your boss and write at least a paragraph in your prompt response. Hint, pinterest can come in handy, so can Facebook's ALA Think Tank. Have fun with this one!!

Remember, by the end of this week I will need the following posted to your blog (you don't need to submit anything through Canvas):

  • Prompt Responses 
  • Romance, Gentle Reads, and Horror Annotations

The following students have annotations this week:

Bailey, Craig
Bartkowiak, Amy
Burcham, Shawn
Cory, Lindsay
Hight, Holly
Hoyt, Rachel
McDowell, Dana
Roberts, Catherine
Saia, Amanda
Turner, Chelsea
Vanzo, Brittany

Gentle Reads
Bhatt, Lisa
Flennery, Katherine
Hoyt, Rachel
Huizenga, Paige
Kammeyer, Megan
Richey, Anna
Spurgin, Jeannine

Bedwell, Emily
Berry, Melanie
Chronister, Andrea
Geesy, Laura
Gritten, Ricke
Jones, Dustin
Kindle. Kelly
Lubelski, Carter
Martin, Chase
McGill, Cristi
Renno, Malissa
Rice, Sarah
Richey, Anna
Sparrow, Masada

Monday, February 5, 2018

Week Five Prompt

Hope you are getting your reviews read and written. For this week's prompt, I want to start a conversation about the different types of 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 (check out this savage review - 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?

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?

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?

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?

Personally, I love to read reviews, but usually the shorter the better. If it's too long I feel like I might as well just read the book. When I used to buy, I loved RT Reviews - it's very genre heavy but that's what everyone read where I was. For fun, I subscribe to Locus magazine and I love their science fiction and fantasy reviews, and for romance you can't go wrong with Smart Bitches Trashy Books. I flip through Library Journal, Kirkus, and Publishers Weekly to keep myself up to date on what is coming out.

For fun check out to see some of the greatest "bad reviews" from Kirkus. They are brilliant and savage. This isn't assigned reading by any means and you don't have to mention it in your prompts. I thought I would just share :)

Thanks folks, I look forward to reading your prompt responses!

Week Five!

Hope you have had a great week and enjoyed your secret shopper experience! I haven't gotten a chance to read all of them yet - but I am looking forward to it. I should have feedback and grades posted by the end of the week.

Due by the end of this week:

  • Adventure & Romantic Suspense Annotations
  • A Kirkus-style review of a book you loved or hated 
  • Prompt Response

For this week, we are reading about the Adventure and Romantic Suspense genres and about book reviews. These are very fun genres that are really popular right now so please make sure to read those chapters in your textbook!

For the book review reading I have asked you to look over several different book review websites and write a Kirkus-style review. Kirkus has two things that make it stand out from other review sources - first, it is anonymous. This means that an aspiring writer can publish a bad review without alienating a publisher, or a librarian can publish one without angering a popular author. The second thing Kirkus has going for it, is format. Kirkus uses a very specific format that allows librarians and booksellers to quickly skim a review and find out if the book is one that they want for their collection. The first sentence or two is always a quick summary of the book, then the middle paragraph is a more thorough summary with criticism, and the last sentence or two sum up the reviewer's feelings about the title. Please go to the Kirkus site or look up some reviews of books you have read in the library databases - many databases provide access to Kirkus, I believe Academic Search Premier is one.

The PowerPoint in Canvas is about professional reviewing. If you're looking to see your name in print, earn some cash, or just score free books, be sure to check it out. I've been reviewing professionally for a few years and it is very gratifying! I don't always get paid, but I get to see my name in print and I average about 140 free books and audiobooks a year. Plus it's great networking and am awesome resume booster!

Also, it may seem early, but you might want to start thinking about your midterm assignment. I have asked you to write a paper on a topic related to readers' advisory (please email me the topic for approval prior to writing the paper).

I will post the prompt later this afternoon. The following students have selected this week's genre's: adventure and romantic suspense. Be sure to check out their blogs and comment on their annotations and/or prompt responses.

Bhatt, Lisa
Jones, Dustin
Kammeyer, Megan
Roberts, Catherine
Vanzo, Brittany

Romantic Suspense:
Blair, April
Flennery, Katherine
McDowell, Dana
Richey, Anna
Shafer, Mary
Spurgin, Jeannine