book life, digital, librarian

Using Evernote for Reader’s Advisory

I love reader’s advisory. I love learning about new books and backlist titles, and figuring out what someone might like to read next based on their past reading habits or other interests. Sadly it’s not something I’m asked to do a lot in my current community face-to-face (no matter how much I beg), so I channel my energy into making RA bookmarks of various topics that patrons can passively pick up and use. (And some of them have been quite popular, so I must be doing something right!) And since I am the primary selector for adult fiction, I come across A LOT of new titles that sound awesome and I want to make sure don’t get lost in the stacks. My solution? Evernote.

evernote-logo-design

Evernote is a free application (with options to upgrade, but the free version is perfectly acceptable for my needs) for gathering information. I added the plug-in to my browser, and it can clip articles I find interesting so I can access them later. It’s just a nice, clean way to organize. And it dawned on me a number of months ago that it would be a great way to collect book data as well!

As I go through a catalog, or read a book blog, or skim through a publisher’s email push, if a book sounds good to me for any reason, or is part of a trend I’ve noticed recently, is related to a popular movie release that might spark further reading interest, or is applicable to a display I might want to do, I make note of the title and author in an Evernote list. Later on, when I want to make up an RA bookmark on that topic, or am building a display, I have a list ready to go of fresh titles (and some backlist) to suggest to my patrons.

Evernote desktopAt last count I had 48 lists in my “RA Book Lists” notebook, with topics like “Roaring 20s,” “Small Town Stories,” “Georgia Novels,” “Fairy Tale Twists,” “Ripped From the Headlines,” etc. And that number grows with every month! If a new topic piques my interest, I start another list!

Best part? I can add tags and keyword search! So I can see if I put a book in multiple lists, or if I have already created a list for haunted houses, or if my World War II list is big enough to start breaking out into sub-lists. As you know, the larger the collection, the better the cataloging needs to be.

I have the Evernote app on my iPhone and iPad Mini, and the desktop app on my home and work laptops with my account linked on all of them so I have easy access to my lists wherever I am if I find a new title to add to a list, or to suggest a book to a friend.

evernote appThis might not be the optimal method for everyone, but I’m sure getting a lot of success out of it! It’s digital, it’s portable, it’s got the metadata I need, and now I can keep tabs on books that might otherwise get lost in the shuffle.

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book life, books, librarian

Favorite Books of 2014

Happy New Year!! I rang in the new year by myself – super enjoyable because I watched disaster films! (It’s sort of become a family tradition.) Airport, Airport 1975 (which is one of my favorite films of all time now, simply because it’s so over-the-top and if you grew up watching Airplane! you’ll recognize where the gags came from), and the original Poseidon Adventure. So many famous movie stars in all of them, too!!

Anyway, back to bookish things. In 2014, I read 74 books, for a total of 24,542 pages. 27% male writers, and 63% ebooks. Not too shabby. I set my Goodreads 2015 Reading Challenge to 60 books because if I read more, great! If I don’t, no matter!

This was the first year in a long while where I actually kept track of what I read (honestly, I think the last time was middle school where you could win prizes based on how many books you read), and the first year since becoming a librarian that I read so voraciously! I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read, and I’ve dipped my toe into some genres I don’t normally read. I’m looking forward to lots of great reading to come. But I did want to document my picks for 2014:

1. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Hands down, my favorite book of the year. If anyone asks me for a book recommendation, this is the first one I mention. It’s categorized as science fiction, and is set in a dystopian society of sorts, which had initially turned me off, but the reviews were so good, and the premise so intriguing I threw caution to the wind and dove in. I stayed up very late to finish this book. It’s an intense emotional roller coaster that follows a few different story lines, and will make you sit and think about the book long after you’ve read it. It starts with a famous actor dying on stage during King Lear, and all the characters we follow throughout the rest of the book are connected to that one night. We see what life what like before that night when the pandemic flu came, and what life was like after, up to 20 years later. It’s absolutely fascinating, and heartbreaking, and utterly beautiful.

2. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters. I had not previously read any Waters, but won this book from a Shelf Awareness giveaway and gave it a try. DUDE. First off – it’s historical fiction, very evocative of the era just after World War I. Not quite Downton Abbey level, but that connection may still draw you in. The relationships in this book are complex and heart-wrenching, and will appeal to many. And there’s a murder in it, and once you reach that point in the book, you can’t put it down. I was told to set aside a weekend to read this, and that was definitely the case. You’ll get sucked in and won’t let up until the very end.

3. As You Wish by Carey Elwes. Like most people, I LOVE The Princess Bride! When I heard Elwes (“my sweet Westley”) was publishing a book about his experiences with Princess Bride, I was overjoyed. Elwes definitely delivers! The book is SO SWEET. You can tell this man had the time of his life making this movie, and loved the cast and crew for enabling this silly little film to be made. He’s utterly charming as he tells about how he got the job, what working with Rob Reiner was like, his relationship with Robin Wright, and a number of fun stories about Andre the Giant. Plus he gets fellow cast and crew to tell short asides about their version of events. An absolute delight to read, and you’ll want to watch the film again immediately after reading.

4. The Forgotten Seamstress by Liz Trenow. I read this earlier in the year, and once I finished it I immediately had to write an aunt of mine to tell her she should read it. The MacGuffin (if you will) is an old family quilt. A modern English woman is going through her own daily troubles, and is trying to find out more about this quilt that was passed down in her family. Meanwhile, we alternate to a young English woman in the past who might have connection to the quilt, and we follow her sad life after a very Downton Abbey run-in with a man of means. Not quite a cozy mystery, but if you’re into family history, upstairs/downstairs stories, and mysteries that don’t necessarily involve a murder, this one may be for you.

5. The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman. This was one of the first books this year that I flipped out over. We follow a young immigrant Russian girl go from rags to riches over the course of her life. She is badly injured after her family comes to America, and is taking in by an Italian family who make gelato. She grows up with the family, learning the business, and gaining shrewd business practices that will help her continue to climb the economic ladder. The woman is like a more humorous Scarlett O’Hara, who finds herself involved with so many 20th century milestones it’s a little like Forrest Gump, too. A hefty book, but a mighty entertaining story of a woman determined to make her life better than what she was handed.

Plenty more on my list of great reads, but these particularly stood out, and were ones I found myself recommending to friends, family, and library patrons alike. Onward in 2015!

book life

My love/hate relationship with BookTube

So as I stated in my last post, I recently discovered BookTube. I am both intrigued and annoyed by the phenomenon of BookTube. I love it for showcasing lots of great books, and getting the enthusiasm from other book lovers rubbed off on you. But there are a couple of things that really get under my skin about the BookTube community (at least what I have seen of it thus far):

“This book is SO GOOD. UH. SO GOOD. I JUST LOVE IT. And this cover is GORGEOUS.”
This is about 90% of the reviews I have seen. Just unleashed giddiness. But as a potential reader, I would like to know WHY do you find it a good read? What is the plot? Did characters stand out? Was the writing evocative? What other books are like it? What kind of reader might like this book? As a book professional for a number of years, I find this extremely lacking, and not good sells at all. If a publisher or author is sending you a review or even finished copy of a book, I would think you owe them a little more time and space in your videos. Which leads me to my second point…

“LOOK AT ALL THE BOOKS I GOT.”
I get book hauls. I do. But these BookTubers… they seem more materialistic than anything. They get sent books for review, sure, but they also buy books like crazy, and might buy three copies of the same book because they want the UK cover and the new reboot cover in addition to the one they actually read. Some people are book collectors, and I get it, but I also get annoyed with all these book haul videos that number DOZENS of books that these BookTubers cannot possibly read. I just seem them as greedy teens who are being reckless with daddy’s money. YES, I do see a number of review videos, but that leads me to my third point….

All YA. Almost nothing but YA.
I like YA. I do! But I’m very selective with the YA I read because I find much of it fluff, and I’m in charge of Adult Fiction purchasing at my library, so that’s what I pay the most attention to. So I get bored super fast with the majority of BookTube videos that just gush about YA titles. Where are the literary fiction BookTubers? If they do go into literary fiction, it’s mixed in with YA, and it’s frequently something like, “what classic books should I read?” *sigh* Again.

I wish there were more vibrant librarians on BookTube. Book professionals who know how to book talk, and have some method to the madness of book accumulation. Avid readers of adult fiction who can speak more authoritatively about it than just on dead white guys. Librarians who know their stuff, yet can also command a video camera with enthusiasm like the best young BookTubers. Many librarian book talk videos are of poor quality, and have not particularly inviting women (not many guys in general) talking about books. That’s also boring. And after a few solid updates, they stop having the time or energy to keep producing and uploading videos. Many of the reader’s advisory librarians are busy doing their jobs, or posting useful blog links, and are thus not able or equipped to make BookTube videos. But it’s still my wish.

Le sigh. I’m not the kind of person to actually make this change, I just know what needs to be done. That can be an annoying position for everyone. But I hope some more outgoing and experimental librarian tries to tackle an unexplored area of BookTube!

book life, books

BookTube and September Haul

Do you know about BookTube? I only recently discovered it. It seems to mostly be young ladies in their teens or early twenties to make videos about the stacks of YA novels they just got, and gushing about how beautiful the covers are. I think it’s neat (if somewhat overwhelming), but I would be more into it if there was more… uh… grown-up(?) content to be had. More literary fiction, maybe some subject non-fiction. So I briefly entertained the idea of starting a BookTube channel myself doing that very thing. But the more I thought about it, the more I decided against it because A) I don’t think I look very good on camera, nor do I have camera equipment besides a webcam, B) I don’t know if I want to make the “brand” commitment and stick to it, and C) that’s a lot of content creation, and I don’t know if I want to dedicate some of my free time to doing something that will inevitably stress me out. So I’m backing off the idea of BookTube and going to see about doing more on the Twitter side of the bookish social media, and maybe use this blog as more of a platform for what I would put in a BookTube video without the anxiety of being on camera and working in a medium I’m not as familiar with.

So, in the spirit of BookTube, I thought I would do a “September Haul,” here on the blog! (Because, gosh, my TBR is sinking under the weight.)

September 2014 Book Haul

Continue reading “BookTube and September Haul”

book life, books

Reading Lists

Book-Journal-Books-to-Check-OutUp until recently, I have not kept track of my reading. No completed lists, occasionally a list on a lone page of my Moleskine notebook of “To Be Read” (TBR), but nothing formal for sure. Once I became a librarian, I started to think that perhaps it would be a good idea to keep track so I could recall certain titles during reader’s advisory chats – that is, when someone comes up to me and asks what book they should read next.

I’ve had a GoodReads account for a few years, but for awhile didn’t take advantage of it, and it wasn’t exactly fitting my needs. Plus I wasn’t reading a whole heck of a lot at my last job, so it didn’t seem necessary to keep a reading list anyway. (I have since started updating it more regularly. We’ll see if I can keep it up.)

That changed when I assumed my currently position, where one of my primary job duties is ordering the adult fiction titles. Something shifted, and suddenly I was reading voraciously again! I started to keep a running list on Google Docs, the most recently read on top, formatted into four lines:

Title
Author
tags/keywords
a short summary/who I would recommend it to/my reaction

So far this year, I have found this running list super helpful. It’s available online so I can access it at home or at work, and occasionally I’ll print it out so I can have quick access to it at my desk. (As much as I like the Cloud and digitizing, there is something to be said for having a print copy of something.) I also highlight the titles of certain books that I feel have a wider appeal that I could recommend to a variety of patrons.

Book Riot recently posted about how managing editor Amanda Nelson tracks her reading. She uses a Google Docs spreadsheet (available to download though the link) and uses it to also track the diversity of her reading habits. I contemplated switching over to this method, but ultimately decided I’d rather have my little bit of metadata to jog my memory. But I do applaud the effort. For someone in her position, I think it’s very valuable to be aware of the diversity of a reading list.

Related to all this, last year a new program called LibraryReads got started. I love it – librarians from around the country contribute to a monthly list of the top 10 best books being published in that particular month. It’s a great collection development tool, and is great marketing for our patrons. I’m a big fan. The program hinges on librarians reading digital galleys, or digital advance reader copies of books (ARCs) – publishers put these out either in print or digitally so reviewers can read the book ahead of time, and then tell people about it so there’s a certain amount of hype for when the book is actually published. I got my iPad mini at Easter, and so I finally had an eReader device I could use to take advantage of this program and read some ARCs!*

LibraryReads asks that all nominations for the list be made the month before they’re actually published. So if I wanted to nominate a book being published in November, I would have to read and submit my nomination by October 1. Then a few days after October 1 the list of top 10 books for November is compiled, and I can order the books on that list, and put out the marketing materials provided by LibraryReads so my patrons know about those titles. Hopefully I’ve read a book off the list, and can get the conversation rolling with that!

I quickly discovered that I was having trouble keeping due dates for these nominations together. I had been keeping a print planner, but a few months ago decided to switch completely over to Google Calendar (one less thing to carry, and my calendar is accessible on my laptop, iPhone, and iPad). So I started to keep a list of ARCs to Read as a task list on Google Calendar. And then it was only natural that I finally have a formalized (or, at least, collated) list of TBR that I also make a Google Calendar task list. I add in the notes area a quick summary, or reason why I want to read a particular book. My TBR list is quite long, at least 70 titles at the moment, so having a little reminder is especially helpful. (No, I doubt I’ll read all those books, as my TBR will continue to grow. But it’s good to have a deep well to draw from when I’m picking my next read.)

I use the app GoTasks so I have all these task lists at my fingertips. So far I have been ENORMOUSLY pleased with it – all of my reading logs are in one place, I don’t misplace book recommendations, and when I’m thinking about what to read next, I have a handy dandy list I can refer to, all ready to go.

So that’s how I keep track of all my reading! How about you?

*They don’t have to be digital ARCs, but those are the easiest to get ahold of, at least through the LibraryReads set up. I also win ARCs off GoodReads, or other mailing lists I’m on. Those print copies of ARCs are usually reserved for book reviewers and booksellers, and they do pile up fast! I’ll be doing a post at the end of the months of the print ARCs I acquired this month alone – quite a number!