Sunday, October 28, 2018

An Awesome App for Your Book Club

Have you heard of the Book Club App by Book Movement? My book club started using it and it has been so super helpful and fun to use! 

(This is where I tell you that this is not a sponsored post - I just think it's a really neat app!)

Book Club is a free app available for Apple devices (doesn't look like it's available for Android). There are links within the app to purchase books via Apple iBooks or Amazon, but you can use the app for free. I learned about it on Book Riot and their post lists several other apps that might be great for using with book clubs. We decided to try Book Club and it's really worked for us. 

Here are the things I love about it: 

Schedule your meetings, RSVP, and remind everyone all in the app. No longer are we all emailing each other a few days before asking who's hosting book club or trying desperately to remember to send a reminder email out. When we schedule our next meeting, I put it in the app and everyone has access to the information (date, time, who's hosting) right on their phones. Bonus: Book Movement sends automatic reminders to everyone, so we no longer have to think about that. 

Discover books and keep track of potential books your book club might like to read. This was always a struggle for us: choosing our next book. We'd have lists and lists of suggestions one month and then the next month we couldn't remember what was on our lists. The app allows you to save possible future books AND to vote anonymously, making it easy to give everyone a vote without putting anyone on the spot. 

The app automatically keeps track of your past books and meeting dates. I input the older information from before we started using the app, but now as each date passes the books get recorded in our Past Books section. I get a lot of satisfaction of keeping track of what we've read and I love that this keeps the meeting dates, too. No need for a "book club historian" if you have this app.

We've been using this with my personal book club, but I think it has potential for library book clubs, too, particularly if you have a group of regulars that come very frequently. It could be useful even just as a tool for letting everyone know about upcoming meetings and upcoming books. Once you create a book club, you can email members or share a code with them so that they can connect to your particular book club. 

Do you use anything to keep your book club organized? What works for you? 

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Seven Scary Middle Grade Books

It's October! Around here that means the wind's blowing colder, it's getting dark earlier, and lots of people are in the mood for a good scary story. Something we learned quickly as we were visiting schools for booktalks: kids LOVE scary stories. Not every kid, of course, but lots of them. So today I've got seven of my favorite scary stories for your middle grade readers. I would love to hear about your favorites in comments!

Doll Bones by Holly Black (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2013. 244 pages). Zach, Poppy, and Alice are best friends, getting together to weave awesome adventure stories starring their action figures, a pastime that none of their fellow middle-schoolers would probably understand. But things are starting to change between them and when the end of the game seems nigh, the girls visit Zach in the middle of the night to tell him that Poppy is being haunted by a mysterious china doll who claims that it is made from the ground up bones of a murdered girl. The friends must set off to figure out where the murdered girl lived and bury the doll or risk being cursed forever. This is the perfect fall read with a chilling atmosphere and a solid friendship story at its heart.

Hoodoo by Ronald Smith (Clarion, 2015. 208 pages). Twelve-year-old Hoodoo Hatcher was born into a magic family, but he hasn’t yet figured out how to harness his powers. When a spirit arrives in their woods, Hoodoo has a vision telling him that it’s up to him to defeat this demon, but how can he when he doesn’t have his magic? This is an atmospheric story with some seriously creepy magic going on. I would especially recommend this one for fans of historical and Southern gothic stories.

The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste (Algonquin, 2015. 234 pages). Eleven-year-old Corinne doesn’t believe in jumbies – what folks call supernatural creatures on her island home. But when she goes into the mahogany forest to get back the necklace the village boys stole from her… something follows her out. This is one of my absolutely favorites to booktalk. It's a strong friendship story, as well as being a terrifying tale of supernatural creatures. Readers who liked Doll Bones will love this book.

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier (Abrams, 2014. 350 pages). When two abandoned siblings find work at an English manor house, they quickly realize that all is not right in the house. People there have awful nightmares every night and each morning Molly finds muddy footprints that don’t match the feet of anyone living in the house. Can they save themselves and the family from the night gardener? From the warnings of townspeople that no one enters "the sour woods" to the dulling of Molly's bright red hair as she continues to live in the house, this book is filled with little details that add up to an un-put-downable scary story.

Small Spaces by Katherine Arden (G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2018. 218 pages). When Ollie’s class school bus breaks down on the way back from a field trip, the creepy scarecrows in the fields start to look all too real. Their teacher goes for help and the bus driver has some strange advice for the kids: “Best get moving. At nightfall they’ll come for the rest of you.” And then Ollie’s broken wristwatch displays a terrifying message: RUN. Katherine Arden, author of popular adult fantasy books, is a master of atmosphere and she brings that to this middle grade book, too. There were so many passages that I just read over and over for the shiver down my spine before I raced on, needing to know what happens next.

Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh (HarperCollins, 2017. 276 pages). When Harper and her family move to a new home, rumors are that their new house is haunted. But Harper doesn’t believe them… until her little brother starts acting very strange. Could he be possessed by a spirit? And how can Harper save him? This creepy mystery from We Need Diverse Books founder Ellen Oh totally reminded me of the scary books I loved to read as a tween. Details of Harper's Korean-American family and portrayals of the racist microaggressions Harper faces make this title stand out in a sea of haunted house books.

A Path Begins (The Thickety #1) by J.A. White (Katherine Tegen Books, 2014. 488 pages). When Kara was a little girl, her mother was convicted of witchcraft and hanged. Now, Kara and her family are outcasts. One day, a strange bird appears to Kara and leads her into the Thickety – the enchanted forest that no one is supposed to enter – and Kara finds her mother’s spell book. She knows that she should leave it behind or destroy it – it’s illegal to have magic books – but it’s the one thing she has of her mother’s. So Kara takes it out of the Thickety. And that’s just the beginning of the story. I've written before about how much I love this series of books. If you have readers who are into magic and witchy stories, this is a can't-miss!

Ooh I hope you've found the perfect scary tale for the young readers in your life here, and I'd love to hear about your favorite scary reads! Tell me all about 'em in the comments!

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Lucky Duck Collection

Tons of people want to read what's popular right now. So how do we get these popular books into the hands of our patrons who want to read them when they have long holds lists?

A photo of our Lucky Duck bookshelf with books and a display sign that explains the checkout rules for the books.

One thing I've implemented is our Lucky Duck collection. Lots of libraries have something like this - I've seen it called Lucky Day, Bestsellers, and Bestseller Express among other names. Basically, it's a collection of bestsellers and popular titles that have special checkout rules to ensure that they're on the shelf as frequently as possible. In our case, that means they check out for 7 days with no renewals and no holds can be placed on them. If a patron comes in and sees the book they want on the shelf and they want to read it right away, they're a lucky duck and can skip the long holds line!

Photo of Lucky Duck book Lethal White by Robert Galbrait. The sticker reads "Lucky Duck Collection. 7 day checkout. No renewals. Limit 2."

We still have copies of these books in our regular collections so you can certainly be placed on the holds list and wait your turn. I still purchase additional copies of popular books as the holds lists grow. But we wanted to give patrons a chance that the book that they want RIGHT NOW might actually be on the shelf for them if they came to visit us. For some popular books, a wait can be as long as six months until your hold comes in, and pretty frequently the wait list is at least a couple of months.

My goals in implementing this collection are:
  • Increased patron satisfaction - patrons being able to get the hot new book without having to wait months for their name to come up on the holds list. 
  • Increased staff satisfaction when they're able to show patrons a Lucky Duck copy instead of constantly telling them that they have to wait. 
  • Increased visits to  the library - if patrons know there's a chance that the hot new book will be there for them, maybe they will visit the library more often to check. 
  • Smaller or more quickly moving holds lists - maybe some of the patrons on the holds list will check out the Lucky Duck copy instead. 
  • Increased circulation - since these popular books only check out for 7 days instead of 28 days like our normal collection, there's the potential to get LOTS of circs from each copy, making it a great investment for our library. 
Some issues I've had with this collection are: 

There's no way with our ILS to have patrons who check out these copies automatically come off the holds lists. In order for the specific circulation rules to apply (the biggie is that these copies do not satisfy holds), they have to be placed on a separate record. This is not ideal, but even if a hold does come in for a patron who's read a Lucky Duck copy, the worst case is that it sits on the hold shelf for a week and then goes to the next patron.

Because we don't charge fines, we don't have any consequences to try to ensure that the books actually come back in 7 days. I've seen some libraries charge higher fines on these items to try to get them back on the shelves. I was worried that people would just ignore the 7-day checkout, but for the most part they do seem to get back on the shelves quickly! 

I'm still trying to figure out a system for when to order a copy for the Lucky Duck collection. Since previously I would order an additional copy when our holds list hit 5 holds per item, that's what I'm looking at for ordering Lucky Duck copies. But it's not ideal - some authors I know are going to be so popular that I'm ordering enough copies from the start so that the holds ratio is not getting to five copies. Now that we have this collection, I will probably adjust my ordering of these known popular authors.

And I haven't yet begun to think about how/when to weed this collection. I guess when normal copies of the books are appearing regularly on the shelves, it'll be time to take the Lucky Duck copy out and either make it a circulating copy or weed it.

One reason I really wanted to try out this type of collection was so that we could have some popular adult titles on the shelf at our new Digital Branch, but circulation of browsing books has been low out there so far. I have to keep in mind that it's only been open about 6 weeks, so lots of folks have not yet discovered it. And I've found that many people hear "Galena Digital Branch" and think there are NO BOOKS there, which isn't true. I did a Facebook Live video last week when I brought out some new teen and children's books and I might try doing more of that to try to raise some awareness. We may find that folks prefer to just wait and pick up their holds at the branch (which they are doing PLENTY!), which will be fine, too.

So far, I'm seeing these books getting tons of checkouts and staff have been very enthusiastic about it, so it seems like it's working well for my library right now!

Do you have a bestsellers or similar collection at your library? How do patrons like it? Do you have a system for what titles to add? 

Monday, October 8, 2018

So We Opened a Branch

Last month, I didn't blog very much. One of the reasons is that we were very busy opening up our very first branch library. Our new Galena Digital Branch is located in a restored historic home and it's a very small and cozy space, so it has a VERY small physical collection, but it does have physical books there. It also provides internet access, space for individuals to work or groups to meet, a play area for children, devices for check out and use within the library, and a Makerspace with a 3-D printer, laser etcher, sewing machines, and more.

This has been a huge undertaking on the part of our director and it's her vision that's shaped this wonderful new space, providing a much-needed access point for the more rural parts of our county. Staff throughout the library have worked on parts of this branch and put in an amazing amount of effort to get everything ready. From a collection development standpoint, it's been a really interesting project to work on. We are learning every day about what folks want from this branch location and what's going to be our best bet with a physical collection up there.

Here is our tiny Children's Area - two bookshelves, a small table and play items. 

We started with children's books. Knowing that young kids may not have the ability or level of access needed to utilize digital materials, we wanted to make sure to have physical books on the shelf for them. Board books, picture books, and easy readers are the most popular with our patrons up there so far. We also have a collection of children's and teen fiction and nonfiction. We got a great deal on a couple of large Junior Library Guild subscriptions which help ensure that there is always something brand new on the shelves up there.

Our tiny Teen and Adult collections. Teen shelves on the left and adult on the right.

Since we opened a couple of weeks ago, we have also debuted a new Lucky Duck collection of best sellers and popular books that have holds lists. We have a collection of Lucky Duck at the central library and a small collection of them at the Digital Branch to try to ensure that we also have some popular adult books on the shelves. A patron requested some large print to browse, so I sent a small collection of new large print books up there, as well.

The print collection at the branch is almost entirely a floating collection. Everything is processed identically to the central library books and we float books up to live on Galena's shelves as needed. They get changed to a temporary collection in our ILS and we put red masking tape on the spines as a visual queue of where they go when they are returned.

And patrons can request any circulating item to be delivered to the branch from our central library. Often we can provide 24-hour turnaround.

And of course we are emphasizing the digital collection, as well. We provide ebooks, downloadable audiobooks, and downloadable media through Overdrive and Hoopla. We are also really utilizing our databases and I'm trying to determine what our most-needed digital resources are and provide training for staff. We don't have space for a physical collection of test prep materials, but staff can show patrons how to access Testing and Education Reference Center and Gale Courses for SAT practice, etc.

I'm really excited that we have been able to open this new location and I'm really excited to see where it goes from here and how we can creatively fill the needs of our patrons with such limited physical space.