Wednesday, 25 February 2015

The 8 Best Reader’s Advisory Websites

A bit of Continuing Education. Although mainly for books, I hope you get a new link or two to search. JN

by Rebecca Tischler
previously published 3/20/14

The 8 Best Reader’s Advisory Websites

As librarians, we’re supposed to be familiar with all of the books so that we can make recommendations, share new books and introduce our patrons to all these new and spectacular stories. The only problem with that is that there is no time to read all of these wonderful books. So we need to find other ways to be able to make recommendations without having read the books we’re recommending. Once of the best ways to do this is to use various book recommendation websites where you can browse through the reviews and thoughts of all those people who have read the books. So to help you out, here’s my list of the 8 best book recommendation websites, whether to help your patrons or yourself to find a new book.
Good Reads is one of the most popular book review websites on the internet (and Amazon bought it because of its popularity), and is incredible for making book lists. You can see which books your friends are reading and what they recommend, and track the books you’re reading, have read, and want to read. However, this website is completely based on user reviews and recommendations, which makes it difficult to find, for example, authors that are similar to one of your favorites unless you wade through a lot of user reviews.
Fantastic Fiction
Fantastic Fiction is a great website when you want to look up an author’s collection of books, and it even lists the books of a series in order. You don’t have to worry that you’re missing a book in the series, or that you’re going out of order, and the website even lists new books being released by the author. Each page even includes the books that the author would recommend as well as a section that lists other authors that visitors also looked at after looking at a specific author. It is a fantastic resource, not just for library use, but also for personal use. There are only a couple of issues with this site: first, with so many sections per page, the organization can get a bit confusing, and secondly, the site focuses on the popular authors, so unless you already know the name of that lesser know but wonderful author, you’re not likely to get introduced to them on this website.
Literature Map
Literature Map is not only helpful, but it is a lot of fun to play with. The user types in an author’s name and the website generates a web of other authors that have similar writing styles and genres. The closer the author’s name is to another, the more alike the authors are. This can be a great tool to use when you have patrons asking for help in finding a new author to follow, or to help find similar books for someone to try. Unfortunately, the site only recommends authors and not books, so even though the writing may be similar, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to be similar in the way you want.
What Should I Read Next?
What Should I Read Next analyzes the favorites list of all their members in order to recommend the best next read for any book. You can either just get a book recommendation for free by going to their main page and choosing a book title, and it will provide you a list of titles that others who have favorite it have also read. Or, you can join for free and build your own list of favorites to add to their extensive database. The analysis based on reader’s lists is surprisingly good, but book recommendations is pretty much all this website offers.
Your Next Read (USA)
Your Next Read provides book recommendations in two ways, and you can sign up and crate you own “Map” of books. To find book recommendations, you can either browse reading lists, or you can type in a title, and a web of 8 other books will appear (as well as Amazon reviews about the book you searched for). You can then click on another book in the web and 8 more books will show up based on the book you just clicked. You can also offer up recommendations of your own. Unfortunately, if you’re looking at a specific author or at a book in a big series, like Redwall, you run the risk of getting stuck in a book loop, where no matter what you click on, you keep seeing that same books over and over again.
Which Book is another fun site to play with as it helps you pick a book based on your mood, which you can do for free or sign up and create saved lists. The site provides a list of sliders, and you can choose 4 of the sliders to indicate your mood (are you looking for something more Happy or Sad, Expected or Unpredictable, Easy or Demanding, No Sex or Lots of Sex, etc…). Once you’ve indicated your tastes, it will provide you with a list that fits your mood (or you can explore their mood book lists). But if that way doesn’t work for you, you can create book lists based on character, plot type and setting. This site is great to help you find new books that you may not have thought you would like, but if you absolutely love a specific author, you’re going to have to think about why you love that author in order to find similar books.
Shelfari is a social cataloging website for books, which was acquired by Amazon in 2008. Users build virtual bookshelves of the titles they own or have read, and can rate, review, tag and discuss their books. You can also create groups that other members may join, create discussions and talk about books, or even other topics. Recommendations can be sent to friends, but the website does not produce its own reader’s advisory recommendations, it depends on its users to recommend for others. This website requires that you become a member in order to be able to do anything on their site, but it does create a community as well as a personal library for individuals that you can sort and organize based on tags and metadata, and you can even have different shelves for thing s like already read, currently reading, planning to read, wish list, currently owned and favorites. The main issue with this website is that it does require so much time and effort, although if you put in all of that time, you could end up with something really useful.
Library Thing
Library Thing is a social cataloging service so that you can store and access your personal library’s metadata (the metadata is imported from other libraries and Amazon stores). You can share and connect with others who share your tastes and the site will even recommend books based on your library. While this is a very in-depth system with lots of great features, it does require a lot of time and commitment.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Libraries Are Everywhere

Michael C. Stewart, Kickstarter Blog· ·(edited by JN)

The word "library" used to conjure an image of a big brick building full of books where you had to be quiet all the time, but thanks to the internet, it's now a whole lot less specific. Take, for example, the Little Free Libraries that are springing up in neighborhoods all over the world. Anyone can download plans for a Little Free Library, build it, and fill it with books they want to share with their community. We've collected a few such projects on this map.
Resources distributed by a library now extend far beyond books too. Seed libraries store, catalogue, and share seeds, while tool libraries lend tools and other equipment out to members of the community. And some libraries have no physical presence whatsoever, such as sound libraries, which compile and share digital archives. Tons more examples of outstanding libraries are viewable using our Library tag.
We wanted an update on the state of libraries, so we spoke to a few creators who have firsthand experience creating or managing them.
Kauser Razvi looked at the vacant lots in Cleveland, where she resides with her family, and saw an opportunity. She started a program called Literary Lots, which transforms those lots into interactive educational spaces for children, in an effort to bring books off the page.
At his first architecture job after finishing school, Edward Boatman had trouble locating visual communication assets for his projects. That inspired him to co-found The Noun Project, a crowdsourced visual dictionary of over 100,000 symbols and icons.
Leslie Davol co-founded and runs a nonprofit called The Uni Project with her husband, Sam. The Uni is a portable reading room, intended to instantaneously transform nearly any public space into a library.
The Henry Miller Library in Big Sur, California, was founded in 1981, and Assistant Director Mike Scutari has worked there for the past five years. The Library is a nonprofit arts center and book store, and hosts all manner of community-centric events in their outdoor amphitheater.
The Henry Miller Library in Big Sur, California. Photo credit: Terry Way
The Henry Miller Library in Big Sur, California. Photo credit: Terry Way

What is a library? How would you define it?
Mike: We'd consider a library a collection of books — that's the baseline. But a library can also reflect the spirit of the community it serves or exude a particular sense of experience, depending on how it's curated.
Edward: A library is a resource to help humans find, locate, and ultimately use different types of media.
Kauser: A library is a place for communities to gather, where you can learn, seek information, gain knowledge, and seek access to things there aren’t available from another source.
Leslie: Public libraries do so many things these days: cultural programming, social services, maker spaces, tool shares, cafes. And, of course, Internet access. Sometimes they still have books too.
What's so important about libraries?
Leslie: Libraries embed some of our most cherished values in an actual place—a place that you can enter without having to pay, alongside people from all walks of life, where you can learn something and improve yourself. Try this: imagine deleting all libraries from the city. What remaining places would offer this combination of real services and symbolic importance? Without libraries, our society feels dramatically diminished.
Mike: They provide a sense of stillness and reflection in an ever-busy world. They provide a unique aesthetic experience where it's cool to simply sit down, read a book, and hang out for hours on end. There are no expectations or commercial demands beyond simply utilizing the space, and that's a rare thing. Lastly, public libraries provide excellent programming that supplements in-school learning and give kids a place to go after school.

What do all good libraries have in common?
Kauser: Great librarians. Great librarians can open your eyes to new books and ideas, and help lead you to things you might not have otherwise be able to find.
Leslie: Libraries are nothing special, I think, without people behind them—not just to answer your reference questions but to act as hosts of these important spaces.
Mike: In an age of automated customer service and unsolicited "cold texts," it's difficult to find places where you can talk to a real-live human, face to face, without a paralyzing sense of urgency. It's refreshing. 

The year is 2050. What are libraries like in the future?
Edward: I recently tried the Oculus virtual reality headset, it was hands down the most powerful technological experience I’ve ever had, and I can’t imagine that libraries won’t use this technology in the future. Imagine browsing through the Library of Congress in your living room.
Kauser: I think in 2050, when I’m really old lady, people will feel the need to get out of their digital world/pods and the library can be a place where so many ideas and mediums mix.
Mike: Libraries will fully embrace their role as a community gathering space.
Leslie: I have no idea! Ours will still have real books with pages you can turn, I can promise you that. Our little institution lives or dies by our ability to attract people’s attention, engage them, and delight them in a world that is saturated with screens. We have great pop-up books.
What advice do you have for people that want to create a library of their own?
Kauser: It’s the ideas of collection and bringing together that are so important for a library.
Leslie: Build a collection of great books. Share.
Mike: Don't be intimidated by new technology trends or keeping up with the Joneses. Rather, embrace your strengths — things like your connections to community organizations, individuals, and your area's history.
Edward: Build around you a community of like-minded passionate people that share your vision. Then empower this community to help collect, curate, and share the content within your library. You’ll find as this community grows, so will your library.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Libraries Aren't Just Books Anymore

I am known by some as a 'Twitter Troller'.  I am often checking out Twitter to find out what is going on in my community and in the library world.

On Monday night, in my usual tour of the Twitter world, Scott Rosts, the journalist covering the St. Catharines City Council budget meeting and the St. Catharines Public Library presentation, tweeted this:

 'As a side note.. it's incredible just how many different services are provided by the library outside of the traditional book borrowing...'

As we know, 'Libraries Aren't Just Books Anymore'!

As the was stated at the meeting, libraries offer e-books, programs, DVDs, online movies, etc.. etc.

This brings us to a very interesting article that came out this week in Public Libraries Online: Community Centered: 23 Reasons Why Your Library Is the Most Important Place in Town

Going beyond the traditional materials, online products and programs, libraries do more:
Libraries as Community Builders
Libraries as Community Centers for Diverse Populations
Libraries as Centres for the Arts
Libraries as Universities
Libraries as Champions of Youth

What does your library do to make a difference?

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

E-Books Are Damaging Your Health: Why We Should All Start Reading Paper Books Again


Reading in and of itself has plenty of benefits for our minds: Studies have shown that reading over the course of a lifetime (or even starting to read consistently when you’re well into your 60s and 70s) can prevent mental decline. Along with keeping your mind sharp and enlarging your knowledge base, reading can expand your sense of empathy, too. A 2013 study found that when people were transported into the emotional travails of books' characters, they grew to become more empathetic in real life.
So the act of reading is great, of course. But the way you’re reading also has an impact on your physical and mental health. In our technology-driven world, the paper book has been replaced by electronic devices — Kindles and Nooks, and even reading on your laptop or smartphone. Good old-fashioned books are no longer seen as practical.
There’s something simple and special, however, about reading a classic paper book that e-books seem to lack. Recently, I was reading before bed while I drank a cup of chamomile tea, and I found that it not only relaxed me, but I fell asleep almost immediately, I slept soundly through the entire night, and I woke up feeling refreshed. I found myself pondering events and scenes in the book, the imagery glowing in my mind in place of my typically exhausting anxieties. I’m going to believe it wasn’t a coincidence: Putting aside my phone — which, in addition to texting, has access to the cyclical, distracting spirals of Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat — and focusing on a tale that took me outside of myself, somehow, inexplicably, helped me feel better on many levels.
Researchers have been examining the differences between reading regular books and e-books for years. Many of the studies have shown that reading old-fashioned books has plenty of advantages over e-books, which can be gateways to other electronic distractions, all of which screw with your sleep. This is why you should ditch the screen for printed pages.

1. You're Missing Out On Important Information

A 2014 study found that readers who used Kindles were less competent in recalling the plot and events in the book than those who used paperbacks. Researchers still aren’t quite sure why this occurs, but it might have something to do with being able to physically and visually track your progress in a real book.
“In this study, we found that paper readers did report higher on measures having to do with empathy and transportation and immersion, and narrative coherence, than iPad readers,” said Anne Mangen of Stavanger University in Norway, an author of the study, according to The Guardian. “When you read on paper you can sense with your fingers a pile of pages on the left growing, and shrinking on the right. You have the tactile sense of progress, in addition to the visual. … Perhaps this somehow aids the reader, providing more fixity and solidity to the reader’s sense of unfolding and progress of the text, and hence the story.”
Digitization of text also means it’s likely to be more fragmented, full of disturbances and links that can lead you to anywhere on the Internet. Reading on an iPad with the ability to check Facebook provides an avenue to take “breaks” way too often. And in order to retain information, you need to read in long, undisturbed chunks of time.

2. E-Books Get In The Way Of Sleepytime

A recent study out of Harvard University found that reading an e-book before bed lessened the production of an important sleep hormone known as melatonin. As a result, people took much longer to fall asleep, experienced less deep sleep, and were more fatigued in the morning.
“The light emitted by most e-readers is shining directly into the eyes of the reader, whereas from a printed book or the original Kindle, the reader is only exposed to reflected light from the pages of the book,” Charles Czeisler, lead author of the study, told the BBC. “Sleep deficiency has been shown to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic diseases like obesity and diabetes, and cancer. Thus, the melatonin suppression that we saw in this study among participants when they were reading from the light-emitting e-reader concerns us.”
In contrast, reading an old-fashioned book can actually help you sleep better. By taking your mind off the things that you may normally stress about before falling asleep, a book can clear your mind and also make you sleepy, easing you into a full night’s rest. In addition, soft light being reflected off the pages of a book doesn’t signal to your brain that it’s time to wake up like the glaring screen of an e-book or phone.

3. Screens = Stress

Reading helps you de-stress faster or just as fast as listening to music, taking a walk, or having a cup of tea or coffee, according to a 2009 study. When researchers measured heart rate and muscle tension, they found that people relaxed just six minutes into reading.
But reading on a device might cancel out this effect, and may even impact your stress levels negatively. Repeated use of mobile phones or laptops late at night has been linked to depression, higher levels of stress, and fatigue among young adults. Constant use of technology not only disrupts our sleeping patterns and throws off our circadian rhythms, but it fosters a shorter attention span and fractured focus — online, we jump from meme to meme and link to link, checking Facebook intermittently. Social media and technological distractions also always seem to foster guilt and regret, and before we know it, three hours have passed and our brains feel like mush.
It's hard to put my finger on what exactly draws me to paper books, and makes me avoid electronic ones. Perhaps it's the tangible qualites: Turning the pages of a book helps me mark my progress, and underlining prose that stands out to me makes reading a very intimate occasion. It could also be the science behind it: that regular books ease our minds into sleep. But it's likely that reading allows me to rely on a singular focus to transport me to a new world, leaving all my stresses and personal problems behind. I stop the selfish cycle of technology that centers around checking my Facebook or Instagram, or taking selfies, as I wait for my brain to get rewarded from notifications and likes. Real books allow me to step outside myself and enter someone else's world. The modern world, after all, can be tiring.
Reading an old-fashioned paper book might seem out of style, wasteful, or impractical. But don’t underestimate the simplicity of holding a physical book in your hands, flipping through the pages, and not having anything else to shift your focus to. Commit to the classic paper book and you'll get the full, healthier experience.