Monday, March 27, 2017

Welcome to Week Twelve and Prompt

Hope you have had a great week! This week we are discussing non-fiction and reviewing different types of book awards.

Non-fiction often poses a dilemma for readers' advisors. If the RA librarian is separate from the Reference Desk, isn't non-fiction the reference librarians' job? However, quite often anymore, someone isn't saying, "I'm looking for a book on social economics," they are saying, "I just read Freakonomics and I found it fascinating, but I was an English major and don't know math. Any other books that are like Freakonimics but that I can understand?" That type of question takes a readers' advisor. What about Freakonomics interested the reader? The sociology of it, or the study of numbers that made it possible? And why?

The difference here is between task-based and non-task-based books. If the reader is looking for a book to show them how to fix the sink, a guide to the best hikes in the area, or a biology textbook, then appeal is not as relevant. However non-fiction is very readable, and many people, myself included, read it for pleasure. These readers are the ones who need our help.

Neal Wyatt has written the book on RA for Nonfiction. In it, she discusses how we can do what we do with fiction for non-fiction. Here is what we need to look for in the non-fiction we read and suggest:
  • Narrative Continuum  - How much does this book read like a novel? How many narrative devices does the author use to make it a page-turning work? 
  • Subject – Many people are looking for a subject, just as in fiction they are looking for genre. However, a person who says they want to read about the restaurant business because they loved Kitchen Confidential are going to enjoy the equally raunchy and irreverent behind-the-scenes take on the hotel industry Heads in Beds more than A Thousand Hill to Heaven, the inspirational story of a couple who opened a restaurant in war-torn Rwanda. 
  • Type - memoir, biography, letters, essays, history, social sciences, reporting, travel narratives - these are all types of non-fiction that readers will ask for. Often they won't know the word for it. 
  • Appeal - We can use a lot of the same appeal factors that we use for fiction:
  • Pacing- influenced by fact and theories, needed to be digested by the reader; also how much knowledge of a subject a reader brings to it the faster the pace will go. The more narrative a story is the more quickly it will unfold. For readers who want more details and facts about the subject this isn't always a good thing - however for readers looking for an enjoyable take on the subject it can be. 
  • Characterization- reader interaction with characters vary: often the author intends for the reader to either identify with them or to observe them as separate.
  • Storyline – 
    • Affects narrative nature, focus of story, subject treatment. Books with a great story that are highly narrative are the best to “transcend the Dewey Divide”, as Wyatt puts it.
    • Intent of author – to educate or to entertain?
    • Easy to read or crammed with facts
    • Subject focused – history, science, biography; whereas travel cooking memoir – more about story than subject
  • Detail – descriptions, maps, illustrations etc
  • Learning / Experiencing: teachable moments (Freakonomics) versus sharing an experience (David Sedaris)
  • Language –does writing style matter – lyrical or sharp edged
  • Setting – location, does it need to be brought to life? Most NF takes place somewhere
  • Tone- light or dark

Please do the readings located in the Canvas files this week and in the syllabus. Wyatt also writes articles for Library Journal that I highly suggest reading - she is an approachable and incredibly knowledgeable part of the RA community and getting to know her work is a great way to keep up with the scholarship on Readers' Advisory.

Due by the End of this week:

Non-fiction and literary Annotations
Week 12 Prompt Responses

Week 12 Prompt

For your prompt this week, please complete the Readers' Advisory Matrix, found on the last page of the reading title RA Guide to Nonfiction in the Canvas files, about a non-fiction book you have read. If you have not read a non-fiction book recently, feel free to use some of the techniques on how to "read" a book in five minutes such as Mary Chelton's handouts or any others we have covered to get a feel for a non-fiction book. I look forward to reading these!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Final Assignment - More Information

I've received a lot of questions about the final assignment recently so I thought I would post some more details about it. Some people have asked if they can use organic work-based experiences for the Readers' Advisor is In Lab, and I have to say, I think that would be difficult to do. Let's take a more in-depth look at the assignment:

Lab A: The Readers' Advisor is In!

Provide readers advisory services to at least 5 different people. Do not use participants real names; create a reader profile describing their reading habits and preferences; list a few of the questions you asked them, indicate which tools/bibliographic aids you used to find other books; what you recommended; what they read; how well you met their reading interests. Submit paper via Canvas Assignment. Please use consistent formatting in whatever style you prefer.

These criteria are meant to create ideal readers' advisory conditions that rarely organically happen in a library, in order to let you learn as much as possible about your subject and see how well you do and what you could have done better. We can't expect our patrons to be our lab rats! Let's break it down a bit.

1. Create a reader profile describing their reading habits and preferences: Here you will want to find out what your friend/family members like to read. Find out what types of books they generally like and why - find out what types of books they don't like and why. You may already have this information if this is someone you are close to, but it doesn't hurt to ask the why's just in case their reasoning is different from what you expect.

2. List a few of the questions you asked them: Give us a basic idea of your interview. Even if you know your person and their reading habits well, you never know what they might be in the mood for. When I did this assignment for Dr. Copeland (she designed the class and the assignments - I just update the readings), one of the friends I enlisted did not want to be interviewed; he said you know what I like, just pick something. When I did - I picked several fantasy novels for him, knowing those were the books he always borrowed from me - he took them and I didn't hear from him. I asked him couple of weeks later what he thought, and he said "Oh, you know, I haven't gotten to them. I just haven't been in the mood for those lately." It was very frustrating, come to find out he'd been reading exclusively non-fiction for months. I was then able to find several books he enjoyed, and it taught me a lesson about assuming I know what someone wants!

3. Indicate which tools/bibliographic aids you used to find other books: This is fairly self-explanatory. Let us know if you used Novelist, the Saricks textbook or a Genreflecting book your library has, Goodreads, Amazon, Readers Advisor Online, whatever!

4. What you recommended: Again, fairly self-explanatory.

5. What they read; how well you met their reading interests: Just so you know, you will not be graded poorly if you don't score a hit every time. This is meant to be a learning experience. Also, if someone does not end up reading the books you recommend, try to find out at least if they think they would like them. We can't force people to read, as much as we would like to.

And remember - you need to do this for five people, then write up your experiences with each person and reflect on them in a paper. This is a time-consuming project, but it is fun, and you learn a lot!

On to the other option:
Lab B: Reading List as Community Service

Create an annotated book list on a topic of interest to adult readers. Work with a public librarian to negotiate a topic relevant to the library’s community.Write about the various aspects of the experience, e.g., the library, the community, factors considered, tools used, the product (display, flyer with list); how selections were made; and the final list. Submit paper and other bookmarks/ brochures/flyers via Canvas assignment to me. Please use consistent formatting in whatever style you prefer.

For this lab if you work at a library you are free to work with a librarian at your location to create a list. It does need to include fiction. If you do not work in a library or you want to provide a list for a different library find a librarian willing to work with you to create a booklist. Working with a library is part of this assignment. They may want a list on vampires who knit, or fiction that celebrates spring! Really, you just want the librarian to help you come up with a topic that is relevant to their library and patrons, and talk about the style/type of list they prefer. One point here - many librarians think annotated lists are unnecessary - I disagree, as should you by this point in the class! If they do not want an annotated booklist please create one anyway. Just tell them your professor is mean. It must include some fiction - that being said, feel free to integrate non-fiction, DVDs, music, audiobooks or other parts of the library's collection into the list.

You can refer back to some of our readings on annotation such as the Chelton handouts. I would prefer to see lists with at least 12 books on them, however if your librarian wants it as a bookmark or a small slip of paper obviously you may not be able to fit that many. For your assignment, please send me through Canvas assignment both the final product (the list, a picture of a display with the list, a link, whatever depending on what format the library would like) and a paper talking about your experience as listed in the assignment description. Write about the various aspects of the experience, e.g., the library, the community, factors considered, tools used, the product (display, flyer with list); how selected were made; and the final list. Two pages should suffice.

This assignment sounds a bit easier than the other; but it is more difficult to write good, short annotations than it sounds. Please write your own annotations using appeal factors - do not use ones you have found on Booklist or Amazon. If you are the main RA person in your library and create the RA info and displays, feel free to work with yourself. If you are a having a difficult time finding a librarian to work with, let me know and I can help. But not the day before it is due. :)

 Please let me know if you have any questions that I haven't covered here.

Welcome to Week Eleven and Prompt

Hope you all had a great spring break and were able to relax and have some fun.

This week we are talking about ebooks and audiobooks. Ebooks are here and whether we like them or not, we need to support our patrons who do. Since you guys are taking an online course I have to assume that you enjoy technology more than the average bear; but if you still don't like ebooks I hope you decide to give them a try. They may not be for you - but I've yet to meet a voracious reader who tried them and didn't like them. Maybe you don't like them the same way you like your physical books, but just for convenience or travel or to read at night without a light, etc.

Audiobooks are a great way to pass the time in cars, I ALWAYS have one on when I'm driving! A narrator can make or break an audiobook, I've had some narrators that were soo awful I had to turn it off after a track or two. But as audiobooks grow in popularity so does their quality. Many celebrities will narrate and many times authors will narrate their own (which is great! I highly recommend Tina Fey's, Carrie Fisher's or Amy Poehler's audiobooks!).  There are a lot of people who do most of their reading through audiobooks. These patrons will often have favorite narrators, who will greatly influence their choice of books. I will listen to anything narrated by Wil Wheaton or James Marsters (Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer); they could narrate a phone book and I would still want to listen!

Please do the readings this week - I am posting a couple of extra things in the Canvas files. Also, don't forget to check out syllabus and do those readings as well! I know there is a lot of reading this week, but it's all very useful!

Now that specter of the midterm assignment has passed, I would like to remind you that you are soon going to need to start working on your end of semester assignment if you haven't already. Remember, you have two options, but both require time and planning. Take a look at the assignments again and start thinking!

Due by the end of this week:

1. Prompt Response
2. Fantasy, Historical Fiction, and Western Annotations

Week 11 Prompt 
Ebooks and audiobooks are a part of our landscape. What does the change in medium mean for appeal factors? If you can't hold a book and feel the physical weight of it in your hands, how does that affect your knowledge of the genre? How about readers being able to change the font, line spacing, and color of text - how does that affect pacing and tone? How about audiobooks? Track length, narrator choice, is there music?  For this week, I want you to think about how ebooks and audiobooks affect appeal factors - also think about appeals that are unique to both mediums. Please feel free to use your own experience and that of your (anonymous of course) patrons. I look forward to reading these!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Happy Spring Break!

I just finished reading your book club experience papers and I was SOO IMPRESSED! It all 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 this week. Thanks again everyone!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Welcome to 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. Rockin' Reads
     - We read a music memoir and then watch concert clips while we discuss the book. I run this at my library monthly, it is open to the public. (
2. Reading Between the Wines
     - A book club that I started four 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. One month they outnumbered the ladies! 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. I will post the rubric and assignment on canvas shortly.

PS the syllabus has an article (Reads Well with Others) that can no longer be accessed in the databases. Please disregard that and just read the other one.