Summer reading. These two words can instill both excitement and dread at the same time for a youth services librarian. Libraries across the country begin preparing for children and adult summer reading programs pretty much after the last summer reading program ends! A lot of preparation goes into creating exciting themes, distributing marketing materials, booking events, and coming up with lists of books that readers will enjoy. There are lists for everything such as cozy mysteries, 20th century satire, post apocalypse themes, true crime, books with barechested men on the cover, children’s books about princesses, pirates, Star Wars, etc. and the list of book lists goes on and on. How do librarians come up with these lists?
It would obviously take way to long for any librarian to read every single book housed in the library’s collection as well as keep up with every new book that gets added to the shelves. Readers’ advisory is not as easy as it seems at first glance. Even after taking a class on the subject I was still thrown for a loop the first time I was asked to provide an answer to a patron’s question “what should I read next”? It’s a very daunting question to have to answer because not everyone likes the same things. There are ways to fish for information: asking the patron what was the last book they liked, why did they like it, do they want something similar, or different? This is where lists come in handy; for instance, what to read after reading “Harry Potter” or “Stephen King fans may also like…” When it comes to creating these lists, or answering readers’ advisory questions that don’t fall into an already-made list, librarians can rely on their library’s catalog system.
Most libraries use either the Dewey Decimal System or Library of Congress Subject Headings to catalog their materials. This way, books with similar subjects can be grouped together. Horseback riding is in one category while Caribbean cooking is in a different category; therefore, they are found in different sections of the library. In libraries that rely on Dewey Decimal, fiction is usually arranged alphabetically by the author’s last name. This makes shelving material super simple. However, for a library user looking for books in a specific genre like romance, there is no way of knowing which book is which. This is where a catalog can help. Almost all books come with Library of Congress Subject Headings listed on one of the first few pages with all the publishing information. That information gets entered into the catalog system, therefore allowing users to search by subject. If your subject is too broad, say “paranormal,” then you’re going to get a long list of books. However, if you narrow your search to “paranormal romance” you will get a slightly narrower result. Library management systems (LMS) have come a long way in cataloging search. Traditional card catalogs have been replaced with electronic ones. Electronic catalogs are starting to allow tagging and more natural language search. However, it is a slow process and libraries could really use a good program, such as one that Access Innovations, Inc. could provide.
That being said, while librarians wait for their technology to catch up, they rely on the catalog, recommendations from other librarians, feedback from patrons, and associations like the American Library Association in order to provide the best readers advisory possible. These recommendations then turn into lists, such as Book Riot’s 30 of your favorite road trip books. For fun, I have come up with a summer reading list for tweens and teens. They are light enough stories to be enjoyable and not feel forced (no kid likes required reading) and at the same time, they have good main characters who learn a lot about self-discovery.
Return to Augie Hobble—Lane Smith
Ten Miles Past Normal—Frances O’Roark Dowell
Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend—Alan Cumyn
Because of Winn-Dixie—Kate DiCamillo
Nerd Camp—Elissa Brent Weissman
Happy summer reading everyone!
Jennifer Crawford, MLIS
Marketing Librarian for Access Innovations, Inc.