RAUNCON asks: Where do you learn about books?

When librarians registered for this year’s Unconference, we asked them: Where do you learn about books? Many librarians, especially those new to RA, are overwhelmed by the sheer number of books in the world, and we wanted to make a helpful list of resources that are actually used on a regular basis. Here, in order of how often they were named, is where the several dozen RAUNCON librarians learn about books:

Feel free to add your own to the list, or to register–registration for Friday’s Unconference closes today!

Introducing RA Unconference!

Librarians with a particular interest in readers’ advisory are cordially invited to join a group of like-minded folk at Darien Library on Friday, May 16, 2014, for the Library’s first annual RA Unconference. Or, as we’ve been calling it, RAUNCON. (Pronounced RON-CON.) Darien Library is sponsoring this unconference, so registration is free, as is lunch that day. There are 80 spots for interested librarians. The schedule can be found here.

In addition, the Library knows from hosting previous unconferences that travel can be a barrier to attendance for some librarians coming from afar, and is providing a $100 travel stipend for one attendee. If you would like to apply for the stipend, please submit a short essay (under 500 words) in this tumblr’s ask box, along with your name and library.

Many thanks to the Adult Reading Round Table, whose fabulous unconference last fall was the inspiration for this one.

You can register here–don’t wait too long! If you don’t currently work in a library, just put “not currently” in the Library field.

Feel free to ask anything else in the ask box or to email the Library’s Head of Reader Services, Stephanie, at sanderson at darienlibrary dot org. Feel free also to submit favorite RA resources, articles, &c, to this tumblr–we’d like to mirror the unconference online as much as possible for those who can’t make it!

Good morning! We are back in the Library after recovering from the Unconference, and hard at work compiling all the notes and and lists from Friday. And two people have already beat us to the punch! We’ll keep posting these links as long as folks keep writing them, so please send your notes and reflections to share with the RA world.

First, Kristi Chadwick wrote a great recap of the sessions she attended:

My overall takeaway was that while there does not seem to be any new trend waiting around the corner for reader’s advisory, it is something library staff are finding to really be entrenched in their work, and that it is an important part of customer service, engaging the community, and outreach.

Lauren Gledhill has posted a Google Doc of all the titles discussed in the “Nonfiction That Reads Like Fiction” session, and it’s a doozy! If your collection could use some help in this area, go to. Would also be a great place to start for a genre study.

Anna Call reports on #RAUNCON

Anna Call, the winner of this year’s #rauncon travel stipend, wrote about her day last week! She reports:

I had never attended an Uncon before Friday, so I wasn’t sure what to expect at the Readers Advisory Unconference. The concept is reminiscent of crowdsourcing: topics are suggested, voted upon, and collaboratively discussed by attendees, mostly on the spot.

Sessions were decided by post-it vote. I decided to focus on three weak areas in my RA resume: convincing people I’m an expert, recommending books I haven’t read, and recommending books I don’t like.

Marketing Librarians as Experts

This is a perennial problem for me. Between my boyish face and my affinity for comic books, I’m almost never mistaken for an “expert.” (Actually, most of the time, I count myself lucky to be mistaken for a librarian.)

One of the biggest problems we discussed at this session was “reaching” patrons. We agreed that librarians still struggle to make patrons understand that they are approachable while at the same time not opening up too much personal information. Several librarians discussed personal strategies, including electronic aliases, getting patrons to recommend, and developing an RA presence outside of the library. Everyone agreed that developing relationships with patrons was key.

This was also the first session I attended where the Awesome Box was mentioned. It came up in every single other session I attended thereafter.

Recommending Books You Haven’t Read

I haven’t read most books. This is a continual and constant problem. Luckily, I’m far from alone in my suffering, and plenty of people attended this session. As we talked, it became a little bit of a best practices discussion, with plenty of good advice coming from the most experienced members of the group. In fact, I really wish that some of the people who spoke up would write down their thoughts for the benefit of younger librarians.

Among many significant points made, what stood out to me strongest was the concept of leaning on staff for book expertise. Darien Library itself does this through its “You Are What You Read” feature. Knowing which staff members are well-read in which genres can strengthen RA systemically, which seems like a better idea than relying on one general RA expert.

There was literally enough material flying around this session to write an entire book, but these were some other points I took away:

-Use “suggest”, which is neutral; instead of “recommend”. Recommending titles gives you the responsibility for the reader’s enjoyment of the book, and if they hate it, watch out!

-Our job is not to tell the reader whether *we* liked the book, but whether *they* will like the book.

-Instead of trying to read everything, have a few “sure bets” in your back pocket for an on-the-spot advisory session. I’d even go a little further and suggest having familiarity with the books that majorly affected their genres, such as Lord of the Rings.

Recommending Books You’re Not Comfortable With

There are entire subcategories of books that make me wince. This is usually because of personal problems with the message contained within the book. One example: recently, a patron asked me for good books about how vaccines cause autism. She didn’t want to know *whether* vaccines cause autism - she was already there. She just needed to know more about the process so she could convince a family member not to vaccinate their children.

Yes, I gave her a book. No, I don’t remember which one. (I was busy keeping my opinions to myself.) But hey, successful advisory!

Many librarians at this session agreed that less is often more. It’s critical to know your boundaries with patrons because they aren’t there for your opinion about their reading habits. After all, this may be life itself to the librarian, but it’s a brief visit for them. Most of the patron’s relationship with the book will take place outside of the library. We’re just the middlemen.

Several librarians had stories at least as colorful as the one I related above, many of which involved everyone’s favorite breakout bondage fanfiction piece, Fifty Shades of Grey. A few librarians mentioned that patrons often judge themselves for their own reading tastes, and that looking for correlations on Goodreads and in the checkout lists of bolder patrons might be more useful than trying to pump skittish patrons for information. Displays, book lists, and other tools were mentioned as good ways to amplify RA under these circumstances.

The generally incredible organization and the highly engaged and welcoming staff of Darien Library were both huge factors in the success of this uncon. But the heavy use of Twitter really helped to make RAUncon a constructive event. Watching other sessions happen through the notes of other librarians, I really felt like I had more than a 100% experience. Personally receiving brand-new RA material from up-and-coming author Emily St. John Mandel was the perfect way to kick it all off.

I look forward to next year. If you weren’t able to make this fantastic event on Friday, then don’t miss the next one.

She also posted a fabulous linkdump on her blog that includes links to just about every resource and idea mentioned on Friday. Thanks, Anna!

RA Unconference Schedule

Here’s what to expect the day of the RA Unconference, which as a reminder, is Friday, May 16, 2014, at Darien Library:

9am Coffee and meet-n-greet
9:30am Keynote, given by awesome author to be announced soon
10am Unconference planning and voting
10:30-11:30am Session 1
11:45-12:45pm Session 2
1-2pm Lunch and talking about books with strangers (or sustained silent reading–your choice)
2-3pm Session 3
3-3:30pm Regroup and concluding remarks

Look good to you? Register here!

We here at RAUNCON wish to congratulate Anna Call, who has been awarded this year’s travel stipend to the RA Unconference!

Anna is currently the Head of Reference at Boxford Town Library. Before that, she worked as a research librarian at a scientific facility, and before that, she attended Syracuse University while working in the Onondaga County Public Library system as a page. She attends the Massachusetts Library System Readers’ Advisory Genre Study and currently chairs the Merrimack Valley Library Consortium Reference Committee. In July, Anna will be starting at her new position as Adult Services Librarian at Wilmington Memorial Library. Anna also reviews for No Flying, No Tights, a librarian-run graphic novel review site; and for ForeWord Reviews, an indie publications review magazine. In addition, she writes about both librarian and non-librarian topics at her own blog, The Strange Days of Boston, and you can follow her on Twitter at @evil_librarian.

We still have a few spots left, and registration closes Wednesday, so register right now if you want to join us and Anna and all the other librarians who are way too excited about readers’ advisory!

#RAUNCON is pleased to announce our 2014 keynote speaker: Emily St. John Mandel! Emily St. John Mandel is the author of four novels, most recently Station Eleven, which is being published in September 2014. More on her upcoming book:

“An audacious, darkly glittering novel about art, fame, and ambition set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, from the author of three highly-acclaimed previous novels.

One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time—from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as The Travelling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains—this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet. Sometimes terrifying, sometimes tender, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.”

We are so excited to have her joining us on May 16. Will you be joining us, too? There are still spaces left but the list is now filling up rapidly. Register today if you can!

An Unconference is an event where every attendee participates! No one sets up the schedule in advance; those who love a particular topic, have stories to share, or who want to know more about something sign up at the event to organize a session or just participate in one others have created.
—  We could write a long explanation of what an unconference is, but a fellow tumblarian already has! Thanks, Fancy Librarian. We are asking you to suggest potential topics for sessions when you register, but nothing will be selected until that day.