Tuesday, November 17, 2009

RA in a day round-up (finally!)

Here, finally, are my notes....!

Our first session was "Blogging books and blogging at your library," about the process of blogging. The first speaker was George Murray, editor, poet and founder of Bookninja blog and e-magazine. George talked about his average day and the process of blogging for him: he admitted to being rather obsessive about checking news sources (he reads 10-15 newspapers a day, never mind how many blogs he checks). He generally reads the news and opens various tabs in his browser with articles he wants to go back to, or things he wants to post about. He also says he is obsessive about posting on Bookninja. He underlined the importance of posting every day, suggesting that this is where you can really gain and maintain a following. He pointed out that people who aren't using a feedreader to access your blog posts are going to the site: if they don't see anything new, they won't bother coming back. He stressed that consistency, reliability and personality are all key for a blog: consistency in the timing of your posts (when and how often), reliability in the content of your posts (you should post the same type of news), and personality in the voice of your blog. A tip about developing that personality: write as if you're talking to someone, even though there is no one in the room with you when you write!

George also talked about the history of Bookninja, its following (which he credits, in large part, to the Bookninja personality, which he has underlined in conversation with me is not actually him!), and reader involvement in the blog. He talked about the variety of feedback he receives through the comments on the blog (he says you're guaranteed good traffic on a post about either Stephen Harper or Margaret Atwood!). He also mentioned that, despite the Bookninja persona's rather irreverant tone, he has never been dragged into court over anything, although he may have made some enemies (he stressed this is not a tone that we, in a library blog, have the luxury of taking!).

Random add-in comment: George came up with the best explanation I’ve heard of for Twitter: it’s like an online bulletin board, or a latter-day telegram!

The second speaker was Jackie Sasaki, a.k.a. "Muffy" from Ann Arbor District Library’s blog, and the author of their “Fabulous Fiction Firsts” feature. AADL has blogs set up for everything from gaming to exhibits, events, and software development (see here for a complete list of AADL blogs). They have both “categories” and “subject genres” for each post, and can add images using the record # in their catalogue or the ISBN. They have a category for “series” posts, such as Jackie’s “Fabulous Fiction Firsts,”, and they even have a category for posts that promote their foreign language collections (these posts are written in the relevant language: so far, they are blogging in Arabic, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and Russian). Jackie talked about the collaborative process of library blogging. In AADL, everyone, even a desk clerk, is required to blog; they also invite guest bloggers to write posts (eg. about local history). Jackie outlined their process for each post: titles, tags, links, login info. Interestingly, although each staff member has a login name, they all have the same password, so if Jackie has a typo in one of her posts, for instance, someone else can login and fix it for her. For the techies out there, AADL is using Drupal as a CMS. Posts to any AADL blog Jackie also had some great tips for websites to help your library find blog topics: she suggested everything from the local newspaper as a source of a blog post, to the website moviefone.com for information about books that are being made into movies, to blogging about community resources (unemployment being a popular topic of late…). She answered the question, “Why blog?” by saying that it’s good service, it increases patron participation in the library, it provides value-added content, promotes partners and develops partnerships, and is a “community-building” activity.

The second session of the day was a promotional talk by one of the sponsors of the day, Gale's Books and Authors database. All I have to say is, mmmmm... I am a sucker for Venn diagrams ... see page 4 of this.

We then took a lunch break. I ate at my poster session table! I didn’t get to visit many other poster sessions, but they included: Connecting with Readers in Library 2.0 (with Dawn Connolly, Book Buzz Librarian @ TPL), Book Club Sets (with Caitlin Fralick from Kingston Frontenac Public Library), Teen Book Clubs (with Debra Smith and Cindy Pomeroy-White; Children & Youth Services, Barrie Public Library), and One City, Many Stories (with Joanne Kraemer, Hamilton Public Library). Meanwhile, I co-presented a poster session about reading maps with my (former) colleague from Westmount Library, Lora Baiocco. We tried to tell our “story” of reading maps in Montreal and Ottawa. The library director at Westmount heard about maps at PLA in 2006 and brought the idea back to greater Montreal community librarians. A template was developed by the committee for use in their libraries; we brought examples of maps from Westmount, Cote St-Luc and Pointe Claire libraries from this time period. I then adapted the template for use in Ottawa when I moved here. Beyond the basics, I should say it was such a joy to work with Lora on this. Not only is she a talented librarian with a great eye for the visual design of both maps and poster sessions about maps, but working with her made me feel like my current and past library jobs were meeting, in a very collaborative way, in the t

Our lunchtime speaker was teen and adult fantasy novelist, Kelley Armstrong. She spoke about the writing process, and about the special challenges of being a writer who writes for both teens and adults (some bookstores shelve all her books together; what is appropriate content for what age; cross-over appeal, etc). She also read from The Summoning, the first volume in her latest teen series. Kelley also kindly autographed a book for one of my Algonquin students, who is a big fan.

The first afternoon session was entitled “Serving teens through readers’ advisory,” with Heather Booth, Teen Services Librarian at the Thomas Ford Memorial Library in Western Springs, Illinois and author of Serving Teens Through Readers’ Advisory (ALA Editions, 2007). She talked about the importance of that “home run book” – the one that you may have read as a teen that stuck with you. “Kids that find that book,” she reminded us, “are readers,” and this, in turn, improves their scholastic attitude and achievement. She outlined the reasons teens read, grouping the reasons into three broad categories:
  1. Empathy: teens who read for empathy read for a shared experience, a personal connection with a book
  2. Mental vacation: sort of the opposite of #1! Teens who read for a mental vacation want to read something that will help them escape from real life.
  3. Information: These teens read to learn about a culture, an experience, a life, or a situation.
She emphasised how “What would you like to read?” may often be an alien question for teens; they spend much of their time being told what to read (by their school and/or by their families)… so it may take them awhile to articulate an answer, and they may need help identifying what they like about particular books (that whole appeal factor vocabulary!). Heather talked about the teen brain (the amygdala is running the show) and how that influences reading selection, not to mention how it affects an RA interview with a teen! She talked about other things that affect the RA interview with teens: they view us as authority figures, they have trouble with abstract thinking, they judge more based on plot, they have a shorter reading history (shorter lives!) so are sometimes less comfortable deciding on a good book. Heather recommended focusing on the teen, not the question they have, first: sometimes we are already running through optional answers and recommendations before the teen (or any patron, for that matter!) has stopped talking. Take a deep breath!

Heather’s advice: be specific with your descriptions of suggested books, be brief, and present options. One very concrete tip I loved: never hand teens books; they will take them out of politeness! Leave them on the edge of a shelf instead; they will not feel as pressured, and you can check which ones they didn’t pick later to “check” how your RA interview went! She also talked about tricky situations (homework help; RA by proxy, i.e. with parents, and faking it: when you haven’t read the teen books you are recommending).

Another tip: keep a binder of recommendations in your teen zone. The shy teens will appreciate it. For more information, check out the wiki for Heather’s book.

The second, and last session for the afternoon was one in which I participated, “Genre Talks: Narrative Non-Fiction with members of the RA Committee,” and I'm going to leave that summary for another day... It will be looooong!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the fantastic summary of the day! I only finished my write up yesterday and it's still offline.
    It was great working with you and I hope we can collaborate on something again soon - be it poster sessions, presentations or even coffee.