book life, digital, library life

Read More in 2019

Last week I made a Twitter thread with a few tips on reading more – I had encountered a bunch of tweets from people commenting on how much (or little) they had read in 2018, and what their goals are for 2019. I thought it would be nice expound a little more on it. Plus, you know, I’m a librarian. This is kinda my thing.

1. Check out ebooks from your library.

It took me a little bit to adjust to the idea of electronic books when they first started becoming a thing about 10 years ago. I definitely preferred holding an actual book in my hand. But I had a conversation with a woman at the bookstore I was working at who was looking to self-publish her book on helping women get out of abusive relationships, and we talked about how convenient ebooks are because you can very easily hide what you’re reading from those around you (which a victim of an abusive relationship might need). I pinpoint this as when the tide started to turn for me with regard to ebooks. Now I could see a real benefit. And the list continued to grow.

But I didn’t really get into ebooks until my second library job in Georgia. My director was a voracious reader, and on her lunch break you’d see her with her iPad mini reading a romance novel. I decided an iPad mini was the way to go, and as soon as I got it I hopped on to OverDrive and started to checking out books. As a librarian I could participate in Library Reads, and got access to all the digital advance reader copies on Edelweiss. I dove in head first, and became a believer. Being in grad school, and a bout of depression that followed, had really slowed my reading game, and now with access to ebooks my reading kicked back into high gear.

One thing I found was that I could get through books faster, since I always had plenty of reading material on my phone. I could easily nab 5-10 minutes here and there reading while waiting for other things, and those minutes would add up. Getting ebooks meant I could read them on my work laptop when it was slow at the reference desk. And since it was free from the library, I could find a book wherever I had internet. Finished a book in the middle of the night? Check out the next one and keep reading! Read a couple of chapters and didn’t really like it? Return it and no harm done and no expense made! I made a lot of older women especially very happy once I helped set them up with an OverDrive account on their mobile device and suddenly their library got way bigger and way more convenient for them.

2. Read a few books at a time.

I always have a few books I’m reading. Sometimes I have one or two ebooks going that I’ll read on my phone, a print non-fiction book I’ll read with a pencil to mark passages I like and information I want to retain. Sometimes I’ll have an audiobook in the car for my commute or road trip. For some, this may seem like an overload, and occasionally it is. But I find it helps to motivate you to keep reading. If you only have that one book you listen to in the car, you’ll focus on that when you’re out and about. You have a book on the Nazis that’s well-written and drags you down a little bit, and you can break that up with a hot contemporary romance that’s fluffy and delightful.

I just know that if I have a few books going at a time, I’ll always have something to read no matter what mood I’m in. I find that reassuring. And then I get to a point where I finish them all in a row and get to update my Goodreads and feel very accomplished.

3. Try audiobooks!

Caveat, I have never been much of an audiobook person. That’s just my personal preference. But they are so useful! And when I was living outside of Atlanta and driving to see my friends in Charleston, South Carolina about 6 hours away, I enjoyed picking a good audiobook to keep me company. I found I liked non-fiction best for audio, and enjoyed celebrity memoirs the best. Lots of quick anecdotes to keep me entertained, and if I zoned out while trying to find my exit, I didn’t miss much.

My cousin goes through audiobooks like a baby goes through candy. And he listens to them at 1.5x speed to get through them faster! That may take some getting used to, but it’s an option for busy people who want to “skim” through a book

4. Try a reading challenge like Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge.

I took an Adult Popular Fiction class in library school. You’d think on the face of it it was an easy class, but not so. Our instructor was a local public librarian, and she DRILLED into us that every book has a reader, and every reader has a book. Never judge a person for what they’re reading, because reading is a joy that comes in many forms. Each week we focused on a different genre and read a book categorized in it. I never would have read “bonnet” fiction (typically Amish romances) otherwise. And my favorite week was urban fiction. I picked Thug Matrimony by Wahida Clark completely based on the title and was impressed with how good I found it. It’s not Austen, but the woman writes a good story, and I was further impressed to find that she wrote it while incarcerated. I have another level of respect for someone who writes a book that gets published while they’re in prison.

What I’m saying is, trying a reading challenge may help you find a new genre or author that you didn’t know you would like. Go to a different area of the library or bookstore and peruse it. Ask a librarian or bookseller for recommendations (as a former bookseller turned librarian, I can say I am so rarely asked for reading suggestions that it makes my week when it happens). Ask your friends and co-workers for their favorite books and read them. You never know what you may like!

5. Don’t finish a book if you’re not feeling it.

I’m one to talk. It’s taken me a long time to allow myself the ability to release myself from a book I didn’t like. It helps that I have access to so many books for free as a librarian, so I feel minimal guilt over deleting it from my downloaded books on Kindle or returning it to the library. But really, if you’re not enjoying the book, put it down. Let it go. Give it up. Send it away. Return it. You have this librarian’s permission. There are so many fabulous books out there waiting for you, don’t waste your time on a book you’re not enjoying. Maybe you’re not in the right mood for it and give it a few months and you’ll be in a better mindset. Maybe it’s too hyped up right now and you need people to chill about it. Or maybe it’s just a badly-written book. Whatever it is, move on to the next book on your list and enjoy that.

 

Read what you want and in the format you prefer. Enjoy what you like. Just keep reading!

library life

NEWS FLASH: Book Returned to Library

Ever since becoming a librarian, I have developed a couple of pet peeves. One of them, is the need for local news outlets to sensationalize the relatively common library event of a book being returned to the library. I can sort of see how people think it’s so rare and newsworthy, as these books are old and many years overdue. But they all go the same — the library staff is surprised and delighted to get a book back, the patron frequently does it anonymously out of embarrassment or own up to their guilt and offer to pay the overdue fee, the overdue fee is calculated by the old library fee system or the modern one (though the patron is never asked to pay it), and the news story gets linked on my Facebook page by three people within 24 hours, and by a handful of people over the next eight months until another library gets an old book returned to the library and the cycle starts all over again.

My current library recently was the receiving end of one of these old books being returned to the library. The book dated from the 1890s, it had been checked out at least 40 years ago at a previous location, and while the author was somewhat notable in some circles, the book itself was not worth much. We put it up on Instagram, and by the end of the day the local news station had tweeted about it, and then a couple days later popped by for a TV news spot on it. I was the lucky devil who happened to be the supervisor our absent director picked to be the talking head with regards to this book that had been returned to the library.

Sadly I did not make the news – while I was sent on a wild goose chase to find the book in question somewhere in my director’s office, one of my co-workers with far more knowledge about the history of the library was mic’d and did the honors. My hands picking up the book for a shot and my laugh made the news spot and I’m perfectly content with that. But the thing that absolutely bothered me was that we had a HUGE Star Wars Day event that night, we were all wearing shirts for it, and the local news anchor didn’t mention it.

library life

The Struggle is Real: Library Patron vs. Email

girl-1064658_1920This is a daily occurrence while at the Reference Desk at my public library. I’m not even joking. I have some version of this exchange almost every day at the Reference Desk.

Patron: Can you help me? I can’t get this dumb thing to work.
Me: Okay, sure. What are you trying to do?
Patron: I need to get into my email to print something, and it won’t let me!
Me: Okay, you’re already logged in the computer, so just double click on a browser to get on the Internet.
Patron: I just double click on a browser?
Me: Yes.
Patron: Which one? [choice of Internet Explorer or Google Chrome]
Me: Doesn’t matter. [I know it does, but they wouldn’t understand if I tried to explain it]
Patron: But which one? Internet?
Me: [resignedly] Sure.
Patron: [clicks scroll wheel on mouse repeatedly]
Me: No, no, click it on the left side.
Patron: The left side?
Me: Yes.
Patron: [gingerly moves hand on top of computer mouse, gently clicks left side of mouse]
Me: You have to double click it.
Patron: [clicks twice slowly, achieves moving icon down a little]
Me: Here, try this. Click it once…
Patron: [clicks it once]
Me: … Now hit ‘enter.’
Patron: Hit ‘enter’?
Me: Yes.
Patron: This right here? [finger hovers over ‘enter’ key]
Me: Yes.
Patron: [hits ‘enter’]

Browser then opens to the library website as the default homepage.

Patron: It did this before! I don’t know what this is!
Me: This is just the library website. You just type where you want to go up at the top.
Patron: I want to go to my email!
Me: What email do you use?
Patron: What?
Me: Is it Gmail, Hotmail, AOL, Yahoo…?
Patron: Oh, um, Yahoo. [it’s always Yahoo]
Me: Okay, type in Yahoo .com up at the top here.
Patron: Up here? [points at address bar]
Me: Yes, there.
Patron: [starts typing in full email address]
Me: No, no, just Yahoo .com.
Patron: But I need to get to my email address!
Me: Right, but first you have to go to Yahoo .com, and THEN you can get to your email.
Patron: [gives me a look like they don’t believe me, types in Yahoo .com, then stares blankly at the screen]
Me: Hit ‘enter’
Patron: Hit ‘enter’?
Me: Yes.
Patron: [hits ‘enter,’ browser goes to Yahoo] Oh, yay!
Me: Okay, now click ‘Mail.’
Patron: Click ‘Mail’?
Me: Yes.
Patron: [clicks ‘Mail’]
Me: Now type in your email here. [Indicates screen]
Patron: Type it in here? [Points at screen]
Me: Yes.
Patron: My whole email?
Me: Yes.
Patron: [Uses search-and-destroy method to slowly type out their email, not knowing where the “@” symbol is, and inevitably getting at least two letters wrong]
Me: Okay, now type in your password here. [Indicates space under email address]
Patron: My password?
Me: Yes.
Patron: What if I don’t remember my password?
Me: Well, you need your password to access your email.
Patron: I do? But I don’t need it on my phone!
Me: Right, because your phone is set up so you’re always logged in. But these are public computers, so lots of people access their email through them.
Patron: [putters, contemplating this] Okay, maybe I remember it. [starts typing in a password]

This could go on for some minutes while the patron maybe remembers their password or does not and gets increasingly more frustrated. If they do manage to log in —

Patron: [has over 5,000 unread messages in email inbox] There it is! Thank you! I just don’t get these machines!

If they don’t remember their password, I attempt to help them reset it, but they never remember a recently used password, backup email, or answers to security questions, and 9 times out of 10 decide whatever they needed to print wasn’t really that important and storm off.

Now, helping a patron to print something from their email is a whole other story.

digital, library life

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.

library life

Public Librarianship – the downlow

I’ve had a mixed reaction from people I’ve known for years when they find out I’m a librarian. Most go, “Oh, that makes sense!”, but I did run into a high school buddy who had assumed I would end up an accountant. Anyway, a Public Librarian is what I am, and probably will be for the foreseeable future. And while most librarians are not of the “shushing old lady with a hairbun” type (and can we PLEASE move away from that already!), I am not of the “dye my hair a funky color, dress steampunk, and have lots of Twitter followers” librarians either. I’m far more middle ground. I’ve been in the profession a solid two years, and have been reflecting on my career expectations. While I am pleased with the position I am currently in (and very lucky to have it), it has occurred to me that my job is quite different from what I had initially anticipated. And while some of it has to do with the kind of library I work it, some of it has to do with the profession at large.

  • I rarely talk books with the public. My library keeps track of the “reader’s advisory” interactions we have at the desk (when we talk books with a patron and hopefully make a good suggestion to them of what to read next), and in the past few months we’re still in single digits for the grand total. Which, seeing as many librarians enter the profession because of a love of reading and books, is super sad. I’ve been proactive about reading ARCs (advance reader copies of books), and spend some of my work hours creating book lists for patrons, and practically BEG patrons to talk books with me, and it almost never happens. A lot of this has to do with the community I’m in, and the size of the library. We’re not big enough to have a specific reader’s advisory department, and though we do have some voracious readers for patrons, they tend to be old ladies who have specific interests for what they read, and they don’t need me to help them out. So I find myself brainstorming about ways I can use this book knowledge I’ve curated, channel it, because IRL I tend to only talk about what I’m reading with my library director.
  • Libraries in general are moving towards a more “community center” kind of mentality, what with the different kinds of programming, MakerSpaces, and things of that nature. But at least in the two communities I’ve worked in thus far, the library is pretty much just the place where harried moms can take their children for a short break, unemployed people can apply for jobs and force me to realize how little they know about computers, and where the odd community organizations will hold some function in our meeting rooms and then maybe one of them will wander into the rest of the building, be impressed, but never set foot in here again. Also, where middle-aged women can get ALL the mystery and romance novels they desire, all by well-known authors or specialty publishers who publish frequently. People in my demographic don’t use the library, and everybody knows that. So many people don’t use the library because they don’t read much, and if they do, they buy the books. Most people don’t even realize they can check out eBooks from the library for free! (This has become my life’s mission, to tell the masses about free eBooks at the library.) In general, college students don’t come here. Professionals don’t come here. My demographic, my people, don’t come here.
  • When I tell people I’m from the library, I usually get a glazed-over look from them. To a lot of people, I have a super boring-sounding job. They don’t know how much work I put into a program that hardly anyone shows up to. They don’t know all the different kinds of books I buy that nobody checks out. They don’t know that I went to grad school to get this job. They don’t know that I am a creative person, looking for ways to have the library help them. The especially annoying interaction will involve the other party saying something along the lines of, “Oh, I never read. I bet you hate me! Har har har!” When I meet someone new and learn their profession, you can bet I’m already thinking about ways to use your skills in a library program. But some people just brush me off because they think my job is boring.

I’ve been thinking that I may want to get back into book retail someday, since that’s where my interests lie. Maybe I’ll change what kind of library I work in. Maybe I’ll go for another degree and end up in a completely different field. I don’t know yet. But I do know that sometimes it’s really hard to be a librarian.

book review, library life

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, library life

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!