Know Your Literature – Keeping Up With The Kard… uhh… New Books.

Thanks to our dear friend Lauren Gibaldi for another great guest post.

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The role of librarian has expanded from simply helping people find books. But still – a good majority of patrons visit the library for just that – books. While it’s impossible to know every single novel out there, I think it’s smart to know what’s popular, what’s up-and-coming, and what many people may be asking about. (Of course, this goes a bit beyond library school, and more so into the job category, but it’s never to early to start paying attention to literature, right?)

So which books should you get familiar with?

How to learn about these titles

  • Keep up with awards once they’re announced. (i.e. Pulitzer, Man-Booker…) There’s the Caldecott Medal for children’s books, and YALSA has a ton of awards for young adult books.
  • Check out book columns from the New York Times, NY Magazine, New Yorker, and more. A good time to do this would be towards the end of the year, when everyone is creating a “best of” list. Also, keep up with prominent book blogs. (While Freedom by Jonathan Franzen was the BIG award-winner of last year, Room by Emma Donoghue was immensely popular.)
  • While it doesn’t change dramatically each week, the list, which is featured on the newspaper’s website, is good to browse every now and then. (For fiction, a lot of books will overlap with the previous few categories. For non-fiction, any presidential memoir will be on the list easily).
  • Oprah has her list of winners on her website. She’s the only person I’ve ever known to have Faulkner sell out in a bookstore.
  • After True Blood came out, tons of people flocked for the Sookie Stackhouse series. If a show or movie is getting a ton of buzz, look to see if it has a literary counterpart.
  • Keep up with publishing company blogs. They’re not shy about showcasing their new releases. Some even have specific library-related blogs.
  • Did you know half of the cast of Jersey Shore has book deals? And they (for some reason) sell? Yeah, know about them.

I actually love keeping up with books, so for me, this is an fun task. By just monitoring a few blogs, it’s easy to know what’s hot within the publishing world. It really helps, especially when someone comes in asking for “that book that’s going to be a movie with the girl from Glee in it.”*

* I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

Categories: Professional Life

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19 replies

    • Definitely, regarding Publishers Weekly!

      I usually follow the publisher’s blogs to see what they’re promoting, and what’s coming out. I really like The Book Bench on The New Yorker website for interesting commentary. I also really like YA lit (thus the desire to be a youth librarian!), so I follow some of the authors’ blogs. It’s interesting to see what they like!

      Oh, Entertainment Weekly has Shelf Life, and it’s great for pop culture stuff.


  1. How important do you think it is to actually read the books as opposed to knowing about them? I find it is easier to suggest titles to people when I’ve read what they’ve read and can suggest other titles I’ve read, but I know there’s NO WAY I will ever read enough to do that for everyone.

    I do try, however, to read books from “different parts of the library” about as often as I read what I want to read. Sometimes I surprise myself.


    • I also find it easier to suggest books when I’ve read them, but just knowing about popular books has been more helpful for me in my library position. I work at a university library, and it’s rare for a student to ask me for a book recommendation. Often, students are trying to find a book that they’ve already heard about. They’ll know some of the plot but won’t know the title or author.


    • I agree. I love recommending stuff i’ve read, but it’s not possible to read everything. I worked in a bookstore for a while, and used co-worker recommendations to help customers. That way I knew SOMEONE liked the book. I also keep in mind what’s popular. I haven’t read the Steig Larson books, but I can tell a patron that they’re quite popular/favorable to many readers.


  2. I agree with Heidi, it’s easier to recommend books to people if you’ve read them. I love comparing my books to my friends on Goodreads, it’s amazing to see how different all my friends tastes are. I’m trying to branch out and read other stuff I usually don’t read too. Next genre: mystery.


  3. A cool thing that one of the professors at my program has started is a monthly book club. It’s been a combination of chatting about the book and learning more about reader’s advisory. A great, relaxed way to meet other students, hear new opinions, and to learn how to better meet the needs of your future users/patrons/whatever word you want to use!


  4. I look forward to actually reading one of these… how do you call them… boooks? I swear here and now, someday soon I’ll get off the internet more regularly and try to read in long form. Maybe. 😉


  5. This is so timely! In my reference class this morning we had a lecture on reader’s advisory.

    I’m considering doing the “Five Book Challenge” (from Saricks’ “Guide to Genre Fiction”) to really start getting serious about RA.


  6. I was an English major and a Creative Writing major, and I used to dedicate hours and hours a week to being familiar with the latest books. Becoming a library school student has really messed with my ability to know adult fiction. Like Annie, I think mystery is next on my list of genres to explore, as I’m asked about it all the time, and I don’t know mystery at all. Or any genre fiction, really. I think I’m moving from being a deep reader to being a broad one. I feel sort of sad about this!


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