Friday, May 08, 2009

Notes from the workshop Novelist Plus

Five Central staff attended this session at Ridgedale on Tuesday, May 5. The presenter, Duncan Smith is one of Novelist's creators, researchers, and trainers. By the way, the "Plus" after "Novelist" is the addition of nonfiction to the database. Mr. Smith's presentation went beyond simply a "how to use Novelist Plus." He talked about how important the function of "reader's advisory" is to patrons.

According to Mr. Smith, fiction readers usually have about five favorite authors in mind when they come to the library looking for a book. Their hopes are that we have purchased the current or new books by their favorite authors and that there will be an available copy on the shelf. If not, they tend to drift, check the book carts for recently returned materials (it must be good if someone else checked it out - right?), or they will ask the librarian to recommend a good book.

Reader's advisory begins by a librarian asking the patron what their favorite books are. In a sense, we are asking the patron to tell us a story. They may tell us about their favorite characters, plot, setting, theme, subjects, or the effect the book had on them.

On our part, we should not push against a reader's taste but we should listen carefully and re-state or paraphrase to make sure we heard the story correctly and to acknowledge that we heard and understood what they were trying to convey. It's particularly important to listen for any part of the story that is re-stated or re-emphasized because that means it has important meaning for the reader. Acknowledging the reader's experience lets them know that we are celebrating that experience along with them. Remember, it is the quality of the interaction with the reader, not the frequency that matters. Mr. Smith reminded us that readers are engaged and creative as they read.

Duncan Smith remarked that readers are "escapists" and he asks, "What are they escaping from?" According to him, readers are escaping from a limited and narrow view. Readers want to live fully and reading helps "recover potentialities that our everyday lives take away." Now there's something to ponder.

The second half of the workshop was all about the functions of Novelist Plus and its many wonderful features. I did pay close attention but did not take many notes. Maybe my colleagues that were also in attendance can add to this blog. I noted that the juvenile nonfiction part of the database is curriculum based to help students with assignments. The database even has lexile ranges to assist us in finding materials suitable to young readers. Novelist Plus will put together series with short list capabilities to print out for the patron. Print lists are also available to help with displays. Finally, there are many, many subject keywords to assist us in our searches. I learned that the "xy" in a search field means "keyword" (I didn't know that). Should you want me to show you a function about Novelist Plus, please ask and I will be happy to demonstrate! I really do like Novelist Plus and have found it very user friendly. I also recommend this workshop if its offered again - it was excellent!

-Deb K.

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