Kaite’s Readers’ Advisory Workshop

Sitting in the Bonner Spring’s Library meeting room listening to Kaite Stover’s RA workshop with a dozen NEKLS librarians.

Determining a book’s appeal – what makes a book great?
(Taken from Reader’s Advisory Service in Public Library by Joyce G. Saricks and Nancy Brown, compiled by Kaite Mediatore Stover)

  • Pacing – the speed of the book.  The shorter the sentences, paragraphs and chapters, the faster the pace.  Look for dialogue v. description.
  • Characterization – Describes the type of characters.  Look for the length of time a character is developed – on the flyleaf, within the first chapter, during the course of the book, or over several books.  Does the book focus on one or multiple characters?
  • Story Line – Does the story emphasize people or situations/events?  Is the focus interior/psychological or exterior/action? What is the author’s intent? Serious or light? comedy or drama?
  • Frame – Is the background detailed or minimal?  Example, with Mary Higgins Clark, the frame is not so important.  Horror and Romance are all about frame, as is science fiction/fantasy – also called ‘world building.’  How does the book make a reader feel?  What is the book’s mood?  Is a special background integral to the story?  Book solely about frame: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.  Savannah is the important part of the book, more so than the characters or plot.
  • Other – “A picture is worth a thousand words” – carefully look at the cover.  Jacket blurb, artwork and typeface, assess the title and look at the physical dimensions of the book.  Big books are heavy!  Some authors have a brand – you can tell their book by their covers and/or spines (example, Jodi Picoult).
  • Blockbusters are hard to match, because they do well in all of these profiles.  For example, Da Vinci Code and Prince of Tides – hard to find read-alikes.  Talk to the reader to find out what part of this book they liked – the characters? the pacing? the story? the frame?

Using the Praise blurbs on the back to help with Reader’s Advisory – Many times the blurbs from other authors are potential read-alikes – This is how I discovered Julia Quinn!

Oh and I got a piece of chocolate for having a book on my iPhone (Eloisa James’ A Duke of Her Own)

How to read a book in 15 minutes! (these are all handouts, this one by Jane Hirsch and Lisa Sampley):

Mine: Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

  1. Cover – Dark, mix of nature with the web and lightning with a city scape
  2. Jacket blurb – ‘mythology for a modern age’ ‘Fat Charlie’s dad wasn’t just any dad. He was Anansi, a trickster god, the spider-god.’ ‘Returning to territory explored in American Gods…startling, terrifying, exhilarating, and fiercely funny.’ – Author blurb on back by Christopher Moore ‘fun read that leaves one with a proper respect for the eternal forces of irony and silliness.’
  3. Typeface – Medium sized, crisp, easy to read with plenty of white space
  4. Heft – 334 pages, not too fat, not too thin.
  5. Read some of the first chapter – The chapters all have subtitles – “chapter 1 which is mostly about names and family relationships’.  Funny, good start.
  6. Evaluate the following:
    1. Genre/type – fantasy
    2. Pace – fast, very short quick sentences
    3. Clarity – Very good transitions
  7. What is the format? – Seems to be straight first person narrative
  8. Relate to other books – continuation of the world from American Gods
  9. What kind of reader? I think there might be teens drawn to this after learning about Gaiman from YA like Coraline and his graphic novels.

One person here got lucky and had a Reader’s Guide in the back of the book!  Double Bind, I think.  I haven’t heard a title I want to read aside from the one I picked up – I like Gaiman and just recently listened to The Graveyard Book.

It’s just as important to know why a reader did NOT like a book, as why they DID like a book.  Pinpoint the negatives and find a book with the opposite appeal elements.

Resources for RA

Heather will be buying all of the print Resources that Kaite is sharing with us….including:

  • Great Books for Every Book Lover by Thomas Craughwell (over 2,002 reading suggestions and booklists – out of print, but you can buy it on Amazon).
  • The Read On series…by Libraries Unlimited, including Read On…Fantasy Fiction by Neil Hollands.  Reading lists by genre – crime, historical, women’s fiction and horror ($45 per book).
  • 500 Essential Graphic Novels by Gene Kannenberg. – NEED TO GET KCPL doesn’t own it! Shocking.
  • 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die – paperback, heavy but useful. Full of classics and popular titles.  Good synopsis info and bios and cover art for book clubs.
  • Read ’em Their Writes: A Handbook for Mystery and Crime Fiction Book Discussion by Gary Warren Niebuhr – good ‘handbook’ for book groups that only want to read mysteries.  Best: Mystic River.
  • What to Read: The Essential Guide for Reading Group Members and Other book Lovers by Mickey Pearlman.
  • The Reading List: Contemporary Fiction: A Critical Guide to the Complete Works of 110 Authors by David Rubel.
  • Book Lust by Nancy Pearl.
  • A Year of Reading by Elisabeth Ellington and Jame Freimiller.
  • Reading Group Choices: Selections for Lively Book Discussions

NoveList – Your Guide to Fiction powered by EBSCOhost – that is oh, so easy to get to via the NExpress online Catalog:

NoveList will be remodeled this spring, prior to ALA in June.

Readers’ Advisory Interview – it’s a conversation, you will be suggesting rather than recommending and encourage returns to gauge RA success!

Remember: Book appeals, book groupings – keep a list of what you read (Good Reads), Consult Amazon or NoveList or ask the Fiction-l email list.  Look for established reviewers on Amazon or the the reviews with a grain of salt.


  • Check the new book shelf regularly
  • Check Fiction displays if available -what’s moving and what’s still there
  • Check current Best Seller lists – NY Times Fiction and Non-fiction
  • Check Amazon‘s front page

Reader Arrives

  • Readers’ Advisory is NOT like Reference – you don’t need to know why they want to read a book!
  • Author’s you don’t know or like (keep your opinions to yourself – no judgments)
  • Genres you don’t know or like (go find someone who is familiar with a genre you are not)
  • Drawing a blank (walk to the fiction section and be inspired by the books themselves!)

You’re ready, where’s the reader?

  • Most are afraid to ask for help – RA is NOT a waste of our valuable time…do some wandering and ask, “Are you finding what you are looking for?”
  • Travel the fiction stacks when you have time or keep an eye on it
  • Don’t be afraid to offer suggestions.
  • Don’t ask “What do you like to read?”

Questions that will help:

  • Tell me about a book you enjoyed…
  • Do you have an author you never miss?
  • Have you read anything you disliked lately?
  • Do you like a book with a fast plot or strong characters?
  • What kind of book are you in the mood for?

The Interview

  • Be approachable – smile!
  • Get reader preferences and paraphrase
  • Remember the goal is frequency and quality – how often the same patrons keep coming back for the same service.


Read :: Talk :: Share


2 thoughts on “Kaite’s Readers’ Advisory Workshop

  1. Update: I listened to Anansi Boys because Kaite said that Gaiman hand-picked the narrator and actually had this actor’s voice in mind while writing the book. It was excellent.

    Also, Novelist was dropped by the State Library of Kansas and the link has been removed from the NExpress catalog.

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