Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Week 16 Prompt

First, how have reading and books changed since you were a child, for you specifically?

I feel like I’ve come full circle as a reader. When I was young I read everything in sight. The public library was four blocks from my house and you would more often than not find my bike parked out front. (And by “parked” I mean laying on the grass in the library’s front yard.) I loved to read and carried a book with me everywhere I went and then some time around 6th or 7th grade I just stopped reading. I stopped going to the library. I stopped carrying books around with me. Looking back, I’m not really sure why. Maybe life got too busy. Maybe I had a hard time finding books that interested me. (I never cared for Teen books.) Maybe I was spending more time reading for school. I’m not sure. But that disinterest carried all the way through high school and college. It wasn’t until after college that I started reading for fun again. I remember moving to Louisville, Kentucky and walking down to the nearest branch of the public library to use the internet. (This was a long time ago!) It was the first time I had been in a public library in a long time. I walked in and just started browsing. I walked out that day with several books and started making up for lost time.

Now I can’t fathom not being in the middle of a book (or two or three). Reading is such a huge part of my life and my family’s life. We read books out loud together at home and in the car and it’s not out of the ordinary to find all of us piled up on the couch reading our own books, too. I think, in general, I’m still drawn to the same types of books and stories that I always have been but I step out of my comfort zone a bit nowadays because I feel that it’s important for my job.

Second, talk a little about what you see in the future for reading, books, or publishing - say 20 years from now. Will we read more or less, will our reading become more interactive? What will happen to traditional publishing?

We’ve had an interesting development in my library system over the last couple of years. Circulation numbers for print materials have gone up. Adult and juvenile print materials’ circulation numbers have skyrocketed. I find that fascinating and encouraging. Did we (as a system but also as a society) bottom out? Are my library’s recent trends a sign of change or just a return to more normal levels? It’s hard to say, but it’s always good when more people are reading!

I’m optimistic about the future. I don’t think people will stop reading but it’s realistic to expect that technological changes will impact how people read and how much they read. While I personally prefer to use a physical copy of a book, there’s no denying that the advent of eBooks has dramatically altered the reading landscape. I think that we will continue to follow the recent trends. Reading will stay steady but print sales will continue to decline. Publishing houses will have to adapt or they, like so many of their brethren, will go under. How will they adapt? I don’t know – but I’m excited to find out. Maybe books become experiences. Maybe they’re more interactive. It feels like we’re just beginning to find new and exciting ways to merge reading and technology. I think one of the great things about reading is that you can’t alienate a reader. We’re like escalators. There’s an old Mitch Hedberg joke: “An escalator can never break; it can only become stairs.” Take away all the bells and whistles and you still have a reader. And there will always be readers.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Week 15 Prompt

Three ways to promote my library’s fiction collection:

1. Social Media

A 2016 Pew Research Center study showed that more and more Americans are living their social lives online. 68% of American adults use Facebook. That is a staggering number. 3/4th of those people visit the site daily and more than half visit the site multiple times per day. Additionally, approximately 1/3rd of American adults use Instagram, 1/4th use Pinterest, and 1/5th use Twitter. Libraries have to have to use social media to promote their collections simply because that’s where our patrons are. However, social media usage has to be engaging. It has to be well-timed, not overdone or misused, creative, and strategic.

2. Go Outside

I went to PLA last year and saw several programs about taking library services outside of the library. I think this could absolutely apply to how we promote our fiction collection. We could do programs in coffeehouse or breweries. (My system has recently started doing both.) A library system close by has started a Book-Bike where a librarian bikes around town with a cart of popular fiction titles. (Depending on the day she will do either adult, teen, or juvenile materials.) Patrons can flag her down to check out materials. Real human interactions are so important when it comes to marketing. I’ve heard of systems going to farmers markets or parks and setting up “pop-up branches” to checkout books or just promote them. We should go to as many community functions as possible and we should be walking/talking book promoters at each and every one.

3. Be Better at Our Job

As I’ve mentioned before, a former director of mine liked to say that we are in “the book business.” I’m always surprised when I meet people who work in a library who don’t like to read. Library staff are the front line of fiction marketing and promotion. If we don’t read – if we aren’t passionate about our business – than how can we expect our patrons to? We need to be aware of our collection. We need to know what’s popular, what’s coming out, and what our patrons like. We need to read! I’ve seen a few libraries that offer internal training modules that help their staff be more/better aware of their collection. Here’s an example from Tulsa City-County Library System. On one hand I’m a bit sad that it’s necessary for systems to do this but on the other hand – great! The better we are at our jobs and the more knowledgable we are of what our library has to offer than the better we can market and promote our library's collection.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Week 14 Prompt

This is, in my opinion, the most difficult prompt question we’ve had to tackle this semester. I have spent the last few days going back and forth. One day I’m in favor of separating the genres and the next I’m for keeping them together. In the end, I think I lean to the latter – but not because of a fear of segregation. Three reasons:

1. Space. Separating books into genres prevents you from maximizing your shelving. I have been the assistant manager of a small branch library for the last couple of years and we discovered that by combining genres we could take full advantage of our limited shelving. When I started we had 13 different areas for fiction titles: fiction, large print fiction, romance, paperback romance, paperback fiction, paperback science fiction, paperback historical romance, paperback mystery, science fiction/fantasy, classics, graphic novels, westerns, and mystery. The shelving was confusing and, since we are such a small branch, it was routine for a category to have very few titles in house. This left some shelves nearly empty while other shelves were jam-packed. It felt like we were constantly weeding/floating fiction and mystery titles (even though those were our highest circulation) while we always had plenty of space for westerns and SF/fantasy (which don’t circulate as much). By combining genres we were able to make our branch look better and maximize our limited shelving.

2. Discovery. While I disagree with the charge of segregation levied by the staff mentioned in the prompt, I do agree with the romantic idea of serendipitous discovery. It happens and I think, sometimes, it happens more than I realize. I’ve had numerous patrons tell me they grabbed a book not-knowing that it was SF/Fantasy or Romance. They grabbed it based on the cover and ended up loving it – fully admitting that they never would have grabbed it if they had known the genre. This tends to happen more in our “New Releases” area when all the recently published titles are face out.

3. Cross-genre Authors. There are several authors who write books that could be in multiple genres. This causes confusion not just for patrons but also for staff. Nora Roberts can be found in Romance or Fiction. James Patterson could be found in several different genres. By not separating genres you keep the authors’ works intact. Your patron wants a James Patterson book? They’re all under P.

I think there is also one big benefit to not separating: It keeps your staff sharp. You have to know your collection when it is not separated. You can’t just point someone in a certain direction, you have to guide them. You have to ask them questions. You have to interact. If a patron is looking for a Western or a Romance at a library where those genres are separate, than they can just walk over to the shelf and browse. But if a patron wants one of those genres at a library with an unseparated fiction collection they will need assistance from a trained staff member. This boosts the relationship between the staff and their community. Staff can also create various RA promotional items to help as well. Amish fiction is very popular at my branch so we routinely have displays of popular titles. You can also create reading lists or, something we just started doing, shelf talkers.

And one final caveat – I don’t think this is a hard and fast rule. What might work for one system might not work for another. Libraries and/or branches are not all the same. It is up to the staff/administration at each library/branch to make that determination.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Week 13 Prompt

When I was in the 8th grade I made the basketball team. This was a bit of a surprise to everyone, me included. I liked playing basketball and, thanks to a recent growth spurt, I wasn’t terrible at it – but I wasn’t the second coming of Rex Chapman. (I’m from Kentucky. All basketball players were compared to Rex Chapman.) Plus, I had different interests than the rest of my teammates. I was the theater kid. I didn’t listen to what was popular. I preferred to spend my time on bus trips (and occasionally in practice) reading books. 

Anyway, to get to the point, the boys and girls teams would often play doubleheaders so we would travel to away games in the same bus. On these trips everyone brought their Walkmans and would spend the majority of the trip talking (girls in the front of the bus and boys in the back) or sharing music. I had gotten teased for an album I was listening to. “Nerd music,” one of my friends called it. (I should add that the ribbing was all in good fun. I was teased as much as anyone else on the team – and I have always felt very grateful that I grew up where I did.) So I was sitting in my seat, alone, reading a book and listening to my “nerd music” when the undisputed prettiest girl in our class walked over to me down the center aisle of the bus and asked if I had the new Michael Penn tape. She asked if she could hear it and promptly sat down next to me. She had a splitter so we both plugged in our headphones into my bright yellow Walkman and listened to my “nerd music.” We ended up listening to side A, side B, and side A again – pausing and talking multiple times - before our bus pulled into the parking lot of Murray Middle School. It was the highlight of my 8th grade year. Afterwards quite a few of my teammates bought their own copies of my “nerd music.”

I learned a valuable lesson that day: Don’t be embarrassed about what you like. So, to get to the question at hand, yes – we should absolutely serve adults who enjoy YA literature and graphic novels and, frankly, anything that can be found in our library. I can’t even fathom not doing that! And how do we work to ensure that we serve them? Simply by serving them. I think if we bring attention to the fact that reading YA or graphic novels are not legitimate literary choices for an adult (which is totally bunk) than we risk alienating our patrons and making them feel bad or embarrassed which will, in turn, put a big ol’ damper on their reading enjoyment. Everyone should feel free to listen to his or her “nerd music” or read his or her “nerd book.” Who cares what other people think? If an adult comes up and asks for help finding a YA book than the response should be, “Sure. No problem. What kind of YA book are you looking for?” The same goes with Graphic Novels and anything else in our collection.

My wife is a professor of theology. She has a PhD from a prestigious university. And she loves reading YA novels. Woe be unto the librarian who tells her it’s not a legitimate literary choice!

Young Adult Annotation: Every Hidden Thing

Oppel, Kenneth. (2016). Every Hidden Thing. New York: Simon & Schuster.


Rachel Cartland and Samuel Bolt are the children of rival archaeologists in the 19th century who are both on the hunt for fossils that will make them household names. Actually, rival isn’t a strong enough word. The fathers despise each other and go to great lengths to sabotage the others’ work. In a romance reminiscent of Romeo & Juliet, Rachel and Samuel fall madly in love – despite their fathers’ wishes – and run off together into the unforgiving Badlands to find the elusive bones of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Equal parts adventure, suspense, romance, and Archaeology 101, Every Hidden Thing is a page-turner until the very end.

Young Adult Characteristics

* Point of view is from a young adult. Chapters alternate between Rachel and Samuel. This actually caused a bit of confusion because the chapters weren’t labeled and they always used first person pronouns. The only difference was the font and when your eyes are as bad as mine it’s not always easy to notice the slight difference!

* Independence – Both characters long to be out of their fathers’ respective control. They are able to find that independence as well as respect and love in each other.

* Fast-paced – The plot is fast paced but the author’s choice to alternate p.o.v. also keeps the book speeding along.

* Representation of minorities – Rachel struggles to be considered an equal in a man’s world. Also – the book deals quite a bit with Native American culture.

* Optimism – (Spoiler) Despite hardships and struggles, the book keeps it’s optimism and delivers in the end.

* Emotions – So. Many. Emotions.

Appeal Terms

Genre: Historical Fiction
Storyline: Action-packed, Character-driven, Intricately plotted
Character: Well-developed, Brooding, Likeable
Pace: Fast-paced
Tone: Romantic, Suspenseful
Writing Style: Richly detailed, Engaging


The Boundless –Kenneth Oppel
Compass South – Hope Larson
Code Name Verity – Elizabeth Wein
Dodger – Terry Pratchett

Personal Notes

* The book was inspired by the real life story of Edward Drinkwater Cope and Charles Othniel Marsh – two archaeologists who were bitter rivals in the 1870s. Between the two of them they found and named over 100 different species all the while trying to discredit each other very, very publicly. Oppel read about the two archaeologists and thought, “What if they had children who fell in love?”

* I am not a big fan of Young Adult fiction. I tend to avoid it at all costs. Too many “feels” for me. But I purposefully chose Young Adult as one of my genres for this class to force me out of my anti-Teen shell. I loved Kenneth Oppel’s The Boundless and the premise of Every Hidden Thing was enticing – so it seemed like a good fit. And by in large, it was. The style/pace was very similar to The Boundless but with one key difference: the feels. Oh…there were feels. Oppel went all in on the romance and I was a wee bit surprised with some of the descriptions! I’m sure it’s tame compared to a lot of Teen books but it just caught me off guard.

* The publisher pitches the book as “Indiana Jones meets Romeo & Juliet.” Who doesn’t want to read that?!