Ex Libris: an E-Zine for Librarians sponsored by
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#266, October 28, 2005

SUBJECT INDEX to Past Issues

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Neat New Stuff I Found This Week

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My resume
Or why you might want to hire me for speaking engagements or workshops. To see outlines for previous presentations I've done, click on Handouts

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My Writings
A bibliography of my published articles and columns, with links to those available online.

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Order My Books

Net Effects: How Librarians Can Manage the Unintended Consequences of the Internet, and The Quintessential Searcher: the Wit and Wisdom of Barbara Quint.

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What IS Ex Libris?

The purpose and intended scope of this e-zine

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E-Mail Subscription?

For a combined subscription to Neat New Stuff and ExLibris, please click HERE, complete the form, and click on "subscribe." To unsubscribe, use the same form but click on "unsubscribe." To change addresses for an existing subscription, unsubscribe from that form and return to the page to enter the new address.

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Highlights from Previous Issues:

My Rules of Information

  1. Go where it is
  2. Corollary: Who Cares?
  3. The answer depends on the question
  4. Research is a multi-stage process
  5. Ask a Librarian
  6. Information is meaningless until queried by human intelligence
  7. Information can be true and still wrong
  8. Pay attention to the jokes

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Guru Interviews

  1. Tara Calishain
  2. Jenny Levine, part I
  3. Jenny Levine, Part II
  4. Reva Basch
  5. Sue Feldman
  6. Jessamyn West
  7. Debbie Abilock
  8. Kathy Schrock
  9. Greg Notess
  10. William Hann
  11. Chris Sherman
  12. Gary Price
  13. Barbara Quint
  14. Rory Litwin
  15. John Guscott
  16. Brian Smith
  17. Darlene Fichter
  18. Brenda Bailey-Hainer
  19. Walt Crawford
  20. Molly Williams
  21. Genie Tyburski
  22. Patrice McDermott
  23. Carrie Bickner
  24. Karen G. Schneider
  25. Roddy MacLeod, Part I
  26. Roddy MacLeod, Part II
  27. John Hubbard
  28. Micki McIntyre
  29. Péter Jacsó
  30. the "It's All Good" bloggers
  31. the "It's All Good" bloggers, part 2

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Cool Quotes

The collected quotes from all previous issues are at

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When and How To Search the Net

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Wanna See Your Name in Lights?

Or at least on this page, anyway? I'd like to print here your contributions as well as mine. As you've noticed, articles are brief, somewhere between 750 and 1000 words -- something to jog people's minds and get their own good ideas flowing. I'd also be happy to run other people's contributions to the regular features like Favorite Sites on _____. I'll pay you the same rate I pay me: nothing.

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Drop me a Line

Want to comment, ask questions, submit articles, or invite me to speak or do some training? Write me at: marylaine at

Visit My Other Sites

My page on all things book-related.

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How To Find Out of Print Books
Suggested strategies, resources, and finding tools.

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Best Information on the Net
bestinfo/default.htmThe directory I built for O'Keefe Library, St. Ambrose University, still my favorite pit stop on the information highway.

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My Word's Worth
an occasional column on books, words, libraries, American culture, and whatever happens to interest me.

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Book Proposal

Land of Why Not: an Appreciation of America. Proposal for an anthology of some of my best writing. An outline and sample columns are available here.

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My personal page

NOTE: My own essays for ExLibris are going to be sporadic for a while because I have a very full schedule through June 1, 2006, delivering presentations, coordinating and writing profiles for Library Journal's Movers and Shakers issue, and writing my next book. I'd like to keep publishing ExLibris regularly, though, which requires your help. Please consider submitting an article.

I would especially welcome articles from aspiring LIS students and from our profession's newest members. You are the future of librarianship, and I for one would like to know what directions you want to take it in. I hope LIS faculty members and established librarians will encourage students and new professionals to participate.

Thank you.


by Nancy Larrabee, Head of Information Services, Greenburgh Public Library, Elmsford, NY [email protected]

I feel strongly that librarians need to listen more closely to what readers are saying about their interests. I have heard many librarians grumble about having to recommend books, apparently finding the prospect of making a recommendation a nightmare rather than an enjoyable assignment. If you're among the librarians who are uncomfortable doing readers' advisory, you can motivate yourself to improve your readers' advisory skills by paying closer attention to what your steadfast readers tell you.

I've found that readers' advisory work works better when it begins with an exchange of ideas. As I lead the conversation, I focus on what the user likes and dislikes about a particular author or type of book. I pick out key phrases that help me understand how the reader might react to a book I might suggest.

I always seek to make any reader feel at ease during a readers' advisory interview. I always know I'm on the right track when the readers offer comments like, "the library needs more copies of books by Dan Brown," or "the library has a fantastic Harlequin romance collection."

I've found that asking good, open-ended questions is fundamental to helping you link patrons with books that match their tastes. What did they like about Eleven on Top by Janet Evanovich? If they liked reading a series about a quirky bail bondswoman, I might try to interest them in books by Sue Grafton. But if I find out they liked the series because of the characters of Morelli and Ranger, I might be more inclined to suggest books by Suzanne Brockmann or Julie Garwood, authors known for their tall, dark, and handsome heroes.

If I haven't read a book they mention, I'm open about that, but I talk instead about what I DO know about it -- perhaps a great review I've read, or an author interview, or simply the fact that there is a long waiting list for copies, all of which make for good selling points. I saw an interview of Elizabeth Kostova, the author of The Historian on television this summer. I'm still waiting for my copy of the book, but enjoy hearing about other reader's reactions in the interim. I regard readers' advisory work as a professional challenge: finding the most interesting and intriguing book for a specific interested reader.

It helps to be alert to the resources your patrons are using to find their books. Many times an interested reader will come to the reference desk with a title of a book torn right from their morning newspaper. A second person might give me part of a title and say he heard it on the radio and does the library have a copy? If I have difficulty locating the title, I'm not afraid to ask more questions! What talk show was he listening to? Did their friend tell them about the book? This is my chance to pick up a possible new source of information.

Is a book worth their time and energy to read? A potential reader often wants to find a summary of the book to help answer this question. Often in a hurry, she will approach the desk looking for help, so it's helpful to have review sources and suggestions ready at hand. I take note of what titles generate excitement among my patrons. I'm able to suggest websites readers can browse on their own such as Hennepin County Library's Find a Good Book website,, the reader's reviews on, or Novelist. When patrons want to browse more systematically, I can show them print sources such as Fiction Catalog and Genreflecting.

I want to propose several ideas on how to encourage adults to get more involved in reading at the library.

  • Create a monthly brochure of book reviews and invite readers and other colleagues to contribute. Remember librarians are not the only ones who read. Asking others to contribute helps present a more appealing list of reviews. Post a selection of the reviews on the library's website. Distribute this brochure throughout the community. Encourage community leaders to review a book for the library. Change the theme and the contributors every month to keep the material fresh.

  • Throughout the year, offer interested readers an opportunity to nominate the best books of year. At the end of the year, coordinate a formal community event to announce the winners.

  • Survey your readers to discover what authors they would like to see come to the library. This helps you gets a sense of what authors people are reading in your community. It is a bold idea to get a celebrated author to come to your library. Strive to make it happen!

  • A public library should always have a perennial book display where readers have made the suggestions. Have volunteers be responsible for re-stocking this display. Keep in mind what happens always when books are waiting on an ordinary book truck to be returned to the shelves. Interested booklovers invariably flock to this truck to see what others have been reading.

  • Chat with users online about books they are reading. A librarian could also pick one book a month to discuss with the library's online users. With so many online publishing tools competing for the same audience of users, librarians shouldn't hesitate to go online when it comes to readers' advisory work.

    Librarians can easily improve their readers' advisory skills by paying more attention to what readers say and do. We cannot assume we know what readers want without getting them more involved.

    I believe that librarians need to be more enterprising in offering more library services and programs related to readers' advisory. If given the chance your avid readers will wholeheartedly teach you about finding what they want.

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    Up to now, books still represent the most economical, flexible, wash-and-wear way to transport information at a very low cost. Computer communication travels ahead of you; books travel with you and at your speed. If you are shipwrecked on a desert island, where you don't have the option of plugging in a computer, a book is still a valuable instrument. Even if your computer has solar batteries, you cannot easily read it while lying in a hammock. Books are still the best companions for a shipwreck, or for the day after the night before. Books belong to those kinds of instruments that, once invented, have not been further improved because they are already alright, such as the hammer, the knife, spoon or scissors.

    Umberto Eco. Vegetal and Mineral Memory: the Future of Books." lecture at the newly opened Bibliotheca Alexandrina. Al-Ahram Weekly, 20 - 26 November 2003

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    You are welcome to copy and forward any of my own articles (but not those by my guest writers) for noncommercial purposes as long as you credit ExLibris and cite the permanent URL for the article. Please do NOT copy and post my articles to your own web sites, however. Instead, please copy a brief excerpt and link to the URL for the remainder of the article.

    Ex Libris: an E-Zine for Librarians and Other Information Junkies.
    Copyright, Marylaine Block, 1999-2005.

    [Publishers may license the content for a reasonable fee.]