Thursday, April 20, 2017

Week 16 Prompt

How have reading and books changed since you were a child?

First, I think that there is a much greater variety than when I was a child. Audiobooks are becoming more popular. There has been a rise in graphic novels. What graphic novels include has expanded. Graphic novels used to mean super hero comic books. While that is still very true, there are also full length novels. There are adaptations of typical novels. There are nonfiction graphic novels. The variety and availability is astounding. There are also ebooks now. You can get ebooks from a variety of vendors and read them on a variety of devices. They are also more accessible. Not only in terms of being able to get them, but also in the sense that people with disabilities have more options. There are applications that will read text on a page. You can enlarge the font on many devices. Some even let you change the background color. You have the ability to look up a word right there in your device rather than having to run to the dictionary (if people even keep those in their homes anymore). The sheer amount of ways that people can read and obtain books has grown.

Second, I think book use in schools has changed a lot. Over the last three years, I have held various positions in elementary and middle schools. When I was in school, we were always reading a book together as a class. It allowed us to discuss the book. It allowed students with a lower reading level to still be able to enjoy the book. It helped to show students that reading can be very enjoyable. It seems that most schools and classrooms have lost that. The amount of testing that takes place has grown. The importance of standards has made it so that reading as a class is more of a luxury in most cases. This means that the students are expected to read more on their own. I think that his means less students ultimately read or listen to a book. I think that it means that the discussion of novels has decreased and the variety of books that students are exposed to has lessened. I am afraid that this results in less lifelong readers. Maybe that is just me being paranoid, though.

What do you see for reading, books, and publishing in the future?

Unless the way our school systems are evaluated changes, I don't see the use of reading and books in schools changing much. I think that it is a result of our focus on standardized testing that has caused this. I really hope that doesn't mean that less children will grow up reading frequently, but it is a possibility.

I think that there will always be people that read and people that don't. It is a personal preference. I would like to think that the variety of ways to read will get more people involved in reading, but that may not necessarily be the case. If you aren't looking at books in general, you aren't going to pay attention when the formats of books change. There will always be some fluctuation, but I don't think there will ever be a time when reading is in danger. With the amount of public libraries, publishing companies, authors, and reading advocates, there is no way that books will get set aside altogether.

I think that it is very possible that the format and variety of books will continue to grow. How can it not? As we as a society grow and change and learn new things so do our ways to communicate with each and express our ideas and feelings. How they will change is a mystery, but I do believe that change and expansion are inevitable. I don't think the typical, physical format will ever be done away with, but there will be other options besides what we have today. People like the variety.

Week 15 Prompt

I am currently in a small library. We have limited space. The only displays that we have aren't even really displays. We keep the new books wrapped around the side of the circulation desk. This does attract a lot of attention. I really wish that we had more room to do displays since they seem to be the most beneficial for reader's advisory. We have books set up here and there, but not enough room anywhere to do anything themed. We do a few spotlights and some pairings.

If we had room to do displays, that would be my biggest choice. I would do them based around a certain theme. It could be genre, it could be topic, it could be character-related, it could be what the staff are reading. There are so many options available when it comes to displays. You are able to change them as frequently as you like and hit different things with each one. It allows for a lot of versatility.

We have started doing some lists, but there is the space issue there as well. We keep a best-sellers list and have posted some read-alikes for popular authors. I feel like annotated lists would be a better bet since it allows the reader to get an idea of what the book is about. There you have to compromise space, though. You can't fit as many books on an annotated list as you can on a read-alike one.

We have tried bookmarks, but they don't really seem to be a hit with our patrons. It is something that they just gloss over at the circulation desk. It is probably because we always have bookmarks setting out.

In a perfect set up, there would be ample room for displays.

As far as online goes, we do have a Facebook page and a Goodreads account. Through Facebook, we share the new titles available. Through Goodreads, we provide different bookshelves based upon genre and other topics. If we had a bigger online following, this would be much more helpful. Unfortunately, our online presence doesn't get as much traffic as we would like. The majority of our patrons fall into the senior citizen age range and tend to be less likely to check online resources. For a different community, though, this could be a good way to get reader's advisory out there.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Week 14 Prompt

To Separate or Not to Separate: GLBTQ & African American Fiction

I am currently working in a very small, rural public library. The majority of our patrons are very conservative. The majority of them are also senior citizens. Our biggest book circulations include Christian fiction, gentle reads, cozy mysteries, and crime novels. At my library, I could not justify setting aside a separate area for these topics, partially because our collection of them are not even substantial. There isn't any demand for these topics. Does that mean that I purposely don't order them? No, of course not, but they get added if they fit the genres that are frequently checked out.

I have mixed feelings about separating these topics in general. Depending upon your patronage, separating these topics could either increase circulation or decrease circulation. For my library, I think that people would feel self-conscious if browsing sections labeled like this, similarly to how they might feel looking at the YA section. Because these aren't common books for most of our patrons, being singled out so blatantly could have a negative effect on circulation of these materials.

I have mixed feelings about separating these topics in general. I understand that promoting books with GLBTQ and African American characters can be empowering and bring a lot of attention to these books. At the same time, though, isn't our overall goal to be inclusive of all types of people? Would putting them in the spotlight help or hinder this goal?

Ultimately, I think the best decision would be to stick to displays. Libraries could display books specifically of these "genres". This could create some attention and allow for perusal without setting them completely in their own area. I also think that it is important, though, to make sure you include these types of books in your regular displays. They contain a variety of genres. It would be easy to find a GLBTQ or African American book that fit in with a genre, appeal, or topic specific display. This would help patrons to consider them as typical books. By using both of these display methods throughout the year, I think that you would be able to do the best of both scenarios for these "genres".

Monday, April 3, 2017

Week 13 Prompt

Justifying YA and Graphic Novels in the Library

In a lot of the classes I have taken there has been a huge emphasis on the mission statement. Your library's mission statement should be able to support everything you do in a library. This includes providing young adult and graphic novels. Mission statements tend to be very broad. The simple phrase "providing recreational materials for all age groups and interests" can be a simple enough way to justify including young adult and graphic novels in your collection. 

I think it is very important to provide a wide range of materials to your patrons. Some people would never pick up a young adult or graphic novel unless given the chance through proper display placement. It is healthy to have a variety in the materials you provide.

What it really comes down to, though, is your community. Each community is different. Your collection should reflect your community's needs. I think that these collections are worth investing in at any library, but the amount of time and money spent investing in them will depend on your community and patrons. If you get a lot of young adults traffic or you are trying to increase young adults traffic, then you will most likely spend a lot of time and money on your young adult section. If you get a lot of requests for different graphic novels or the latest volumes in a series, you are going to want to focus time on that section. If they don't seem to be circulating much, though, maybe you only need to stick to adding the best sellers and/or award winning titles. Or maybe your young adults really stick to one genre, so you would need to focus your time on that. 

I guess my bottom line is that I think it is important to provide these different genres, but to what extent is dependent upon your individual library. Knowing your patrons' preferences and having a mission statement that supports the growth of these areas will help you justify having young adult and graphic novel collections at your library should you run into any complaints or questions.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Week 12 Prompt

Where is the book on the narrative continuum?
Mixed (combines highly narrative moments with periods of fact-based prose)

What is the subject of the book?
The book focuses on the decline and fall of the Romanov family, both from the viewpoint of the Romanov family and their poverty-stricken people, all while somehow being able to make you connect with both vastly different sides.

What type of book is it?
This book is kind of a mixture of a biography of the Romanov family and a historical look at Russia's people during that time period. Maybe historical isn't the right word. It describes the experience of various civilians during the Romanov rule and its demise. They are typically from someone's point of view; like an individual, mini-biography of different Russian citizens.

Articulate Appeal
What is the pacing of the book?
I would consider this book to have a measured pace. I like that there were breaks between where the book switched back and forth between the Romanov family and the people of Russia. I think that this made it easier to read and kept it from feeling slow.

Describe the characters of the book.
Of the Romanov family, the book focuses on Nicholas and Alexandra,the tsar and his wife. We see the circumstances that they went through, how that influenced their decisions, some glimpses of their personality through outside sources, and a bit into their emotions. There are also several short stories of different Russian peasants. Each of these tells a set of difficult circumstances that the peasant encountered. The author writes in a way that allows us to connect with all of the characters, whether royalty or peasant.

How does the story feel?
This book definitely has a dark and grim feel. The time period was not an easy one and the author makes sure that you understand that.

What is the focus of the story?
The focus is the experiences of both the royalty and the peasants leading up to and during the fall of the Romanov family.

Does the language matter?
I think that the language used makes it feel less like nonfiction. The author uses adjectives well. There is not a dense vocabulary (though it does include some Russian words). There are quotes from other people. This all makes it an easier nonfiction read.

Is the setting important and well-described?
The setting in a typical sense is not essential, other than it happened in Russia during the late 1800s and early 1900s. What is important here is the time period and what the people experience rather than it takes place in such-and-such city.

Are there details and, if so, what?
There are dates listed when important. Most of the details are narrative in nature. They describe the daily life or important events in people's lives. There are quotes throughout.

Are there sufficient charts and other graphic materials?
There is a family tree and a map at the beginning of the book and pictures throughout.

Are they useful and clear?
Yes. I flipped back to re-examine the family tree and map multiple times. This helped me to keep track of the people and the geography that were being discussed. The pictures help to give you a feel of what the people were like and dealing with during this time period.

Does the book stress moments of learning, understanding, or experience?
I think that this book is meant to stress experience. We are looking at the collapse of the Romanov family. We are meant to see why it collapsed and experience the life that the different people involved experienced in order to help us understand why it happened.

Why would a reader enjoy this book?

  1. Experience driven
  2. Dark and grim feel
  3. Easy-to-read language

Literary Annotation: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Details -
  • Title: Station Eleven
  • Author: Emily St. John Mandel
  • Publication Date: June 2, 2015
  • Genre: Literary Fiction
  • # of Pages: 352
  • Setting: mainly Canada and U.S., before and after a pandemic
Synopsis -
Station Eleven follows the lives of five individuals before and after the pandemic of the Georgia Flu. Each of their journeys are connected. We get to see how the world looks differently to each individual character and their reflections. During their lifetime, a flu like no other has hit the world, taking countless people with it. The survivors are left with little more than their own skills and what they can scavenge. Will they be able to start over? How will this effect their lives? What is important in the world anyway? Follow an aging actor, a paramedic-in-training, an artist, a dear friend, and a traveling Shakespearean actress to find out what drives them and how they cope. 

Fantasy Characteristics -
  • Typically award-winning (while this did not win, it was nominated for two awards)
  • Character-centered (story focuses on how the individuals cope with their lives rather than specifically what caused these conditions)
  • Thought-provoking (characters reflect on the important aspects of life and how it has affected them rather than their emotions)
  • Story is layered and includes background details (all characters have some important connection to the character Arthur, also focuses on past and present situations and making sense of them both, isn't really a straight storyline and jumps between moments in their lives)
  • Characters are very introspective
  • Darker tone (post-apocalyptic world)

Read-a-Likes -

Awards or Lists -
National Book Award Finalist
PEN/Faulkner Award Finalist

My Thoughts -
I enjoyed this book. I love to see things from different characters' perspectives, especially while trying to see the connection between each one. I liked seeing the different points in each character's life. I wasn't sure about it when I first started, but the last line of chapter two had me hooked. It reads, "Of all of them there at the bar that night, the bartender was the one who survived the longest. He died three weeks later on the road out of the city." At this point, I had forgotten that it was based around a pandemic. I was very much intrigued and loved the style of writing. The bluntness of it after these characters had been sitting around talking just appealed to me. It is definitely a very thought-provoking book. There are a few things that frustrated me, but only because I like to have things wrapped up somewhat at the end. One of the characters, Kirsten, cannot remember the first year of her life on the road after the pandemic. We never get to see that part of her life. There also isn't really any conclusion. The people go on as they were, trying to build a life. We don't get to see what the world ends up like or see any connection outside of North America. These things were slightly irritating, but I was okay with it because it doesn't really fit in with this genre anyway. Bottom line: If you are looking for a book that will leave you thinking afterwards, read this. If you like plot-driven stories with tidy endings, don't read it.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Week 11 Prompt

Personal Preferences
I typically go with what is the most convenient. I have no problem with eBooks. I like that they are much lighter in my purse. I don't go anywhere without a book, so this can make a big difference. I like the immediacy of eBooks. I do not like the long wait lists that come with the more popular eBooks through my library's lending system. (They use OverDrive.) If it is a book that I am going to permanently add to my collection or read over and over, though, I want the physical book. There are times where I just want something familiar. For those books, I want the physical copy. I love seeing them placed on my shelf. If it something that I don't know I will love yet or am impatient to read (and the library doesn't have it available in any format and waiting 2-3 days to get it from Amazon is unbearable and I can't go to my local bookstore because it is completely unorganized and half an hour away), I am okay with purchasing an eBook. While permanent collection is compromised of more physical books, I wouldn't put myself in Camp Anti-eBook.

I can definitely say that I am in Camp Don't-Even-Suggest-An-Audio-Book. I understand their merits for other people, but they are definitely not my cup of tea. I am very much a visual learner. Pretty much my only experience with audio books dates back to elementary school. The teacher would occasionally make us follow to a recording of a book that the class was reading. I hated it. I always finished reading before the narrator. I despised the chiming sound that mean you had to turn the page or that the chapter was finished. I felt like the background noises meant to coincide with the text's descriptions just completely threw me out of the experience. Not everyone shares my preferences, though. I get that and in no way do I think that they are useless.

Initial Thoughts
With my personal preferences, I did not at first realize the implication that format could have in this case. They are still the same book after all, right? The only things that I could come up with are the advantages for people with disabilities. For the most part, there is a lot that you can alter about an eBook. If you have trouble reading small print, you can make the font larger. If some colors are harder to read, there is the option to alter that. If the font itself is unbearable, you can change that. Don't have a reliable way to get to the library? Check out an eBook. Do you rely on a transportation service due to mobility issues? Check out an eBook. Will you end up pulling your hair out if you try to go to the library with your crazy children who have to touch everything and need your undivided attention or will run around? (I've totally been there.) Check out an eBook. Work during the hours that the library is open? Check out an eBook. There are so many advantages to this format.

After the Readings
I never thought about the fact that you can't see how much is left could make a difference. I am afraid that is all I will think about from now on. (Thanks a lot, Dunnebeck.) I can definitely see how that could be an important appeal factor. If your excitement (or dread) builds up as you see the end of the book approaching, then the eBook format probably isn't for you. I have run into the problem of trying to find a specific part in a book for reference. If you need to remember exactly which character they are talking about, for example. Skimming back through to find that spot is definitely much harder in an eBook. On the flip-side though, attaching notes and highlighting is much easier. EBooks allow you to look at a list of the notes and highlights that you have made and go back to those spots specifically. This could be an advantage for someone who takes extensive notes during a book. (I occasionally do this if I am reading for an assignment or trying to find out who the murderer is in a mystery. Have you ever read The Westing Game? It is one of my favorites from middle school and definitely one that could require note-taking depending upon your style.) You also have to consider how easy it is to physically read an eBook. Reading an eBook makes it much easier to read at night because you don't need as much light, but at the same time it can be very hard on people with sensitive eyes to read on a back-lit screen. I never really thought about how all of these factors could relate to reader's advisory until this week's reading.

Audio Books
Initial Thoughts
I honestly don't know much about audio books. I am overwhelmingly a visual learner, so I haven't had an personal experience with them myself. I can understand their value for people who learn or pay attention better when presented with things in an audio format. I also hear a lot about people who travel a lot or are taking a long road trip using audio books. Audio books could also be beneficial for those patrons who have a visual impairment.

After the Readings
I knew nothing about audio books before reading this week's article and blog post. I never even put any thought into the narrator; I assumed that the book was narrated by the author. Are the narrators featured just as highly (or more so) than the author on the case? Do certain narrators stick to certain genres? Just from the different descriptions of narrators I can understand the importance of choosing the right one. It needs to match both the tone and mood of the book while also appealing to the listener. Patrons can have preferences between male and female characters, reading pace, and voicing characteristics. I assume that there are narrators with different accents as well. This could have an effect on whether or not a listener enjoys the audio book. Then there is the format of the audio book. You have tapes, CDs, and streaming. I know that you can get audio books through Amazon's Audible and that OverDrive provides streaming audio books. It seems that a lot of people use audio books in a vehicle though. Would it be practical or even accessible to use these in the car? They would need to consider what they would be using it on. How are audio books formatted? Is there a track for each chapter or does it just go from beginning to end? Do they all have cues at the end of each chapter? Are there some that use multiple narrators in order to voice different viewpoints? I didn't realize just how much I didn't know about audio books. This reading left me with a lot of questions. I can definitely understand how their is more to reader's advisory of this format than simply whether or not you like to listen to a story rather than read it.