Maximum Marketing

While researching for my “Ramp up Reading with Technology” sessions at the 2011 Upstate Technology Conference (Greenville, South Carolina), I stumbled across two free iPhone apps for YA lit:  the Maximum Ride Fang and the Maximum Ride Angel apps.

I excitedly installed the Fang app on my phone (I am such a geek!), considering the marketing possibilities that mobile devices offer for publishing companies and authors.  With the Fang app, you can quiz yourself:  “Who’s Your Flock Mate?” and take a photo of yourself with Max and Fang.  (Tried the photo with Fang – not very good quality unfortunately.)

With the Angel app, you can quiz yourself:  “How Max Are You?” and read the first 21 chapters of the book.  You also get a sneak preview of the audiobook.

With the rise in popularity of mobile devices, I’m surprised that publishers haven’t put more focus into developing free apps for YA series.  Seems this would be a promising playground for book promotion.    

You Can Take the Librarian out of the Library, but…..

I’m into my third week of summer vacation and loving every hectic and relaxing minute of it.  I have been back to the school library a few times to water plants, check on the mail that piles up over the summer, and just visit with office staff.

Today after stopping by the school library, I headed over to my local pubic library branch (two libraries in one day – nirvana!).  I had to return a couple of public library books that had been left in lockers at school  (those rascally kids!) and also turn in one of my book reviews for our public library’s Rock and Read summer reading program.

As I walked in the door, I heard my name being called – one of my favorite students was in the library with her aunt checking out  a load of books to carry home.  When I asked her if she was participating in the teen summer reading program, she said “no” and then gave her aunt a strange look.  Turns out her aunt reads as much as she does and wasn’t participating in the adult reading program.

So here I am, a school librarian, encouraging one of my students and her aunt to join the public library’s summer reading program.  Then up walks another one of my students who is also – gasp – not participating in the summer reading program.  Can I keep my mouth shut?  Or do I urge her to sign up, too?  Whadda ya think?

Photo attribution:

“Relaxing on the Beach” by Andrew Osterberg

Video: South Carolina Young Adult Book Award Nominees 2011-2012

South Carolina YABA 2011-2012 Video

The nominees for the South Carolina Young Adult Book Award for the 2011-2012 school year were announced earlier this month.  To encourage interest in the books, I promote them in a variety of ways:

  • SCASL Book Award Committee Brochure (contains book cover images and blurbs for each book)
  • SCYABA bookmarks (Follett Library Resources generously provides one free set of 50 for each SCASL Conference attendee)
  • bulletin boards
  • book displays
  • booktalks
  • book trailers
  • Animoto video

For the past two years, I have created an Animoto video of the nominees and have shared it here.  (Animoto allows you to upload the video to YouTube, but because YouTube is blocked in most (if not all) of SC schools, I usually share the Animoto link.)

What other ways have you promoted your state award list nominees?

Dr. Stephen Krashen: Education is Not Broken; the Problem is Poverty

Tori Jensen shared this YouTube video with me today.  It is worth the time it takes to watch it!

Do you want proof that school libraries are a major part of the solution to our problem in education?  Watch this video!  Do you want to know where we can get the money to support school libraries?  Watch this video!

As an aside, do you want to know three ways to prevent dementia?  Watch this video!

Exclusive New Book Preview for Bookclub Members

You know how some of your best ideas just “hit you” out of the blue?  Last school year, a senior service learner (who was also a member of our Bulldog Booklover Club) was assisting me in processing a new shipment of books.  We were like the proverbial kids in a candy store as we checked the books received off the packing list.

“Oooh…I wanna read this one!”

“I remember the reviews I read as I was considering this one; it is supposed to be awesome!”

My service learner grabbed paper and a pencil to start writing the titles of the ones she wanted to be sure to read.  After all, she was a senior, a voracious reader, and she didn’t want to miss out on one single book that could sweep her into another world for a few hours.

The “Aha!” Moment Strikes

What reader doesn’t love new books and the prospects for adventure, mystery, and/or romance each holds?  As we continued to pull each new title out of the box, I had one of those “aha” moments:  why not hold an exclusive new book preview just for our book club members?

At the time, we were still in our old facility and decided to set up a preview display in our conference room.  Invitations were created and announcements were made and I arrived at school earlier than usual on the morning of our first preview to set up the waiting area for our book club members.   Because our space was limited, I could only allow three members at a time into the conference room to pour over the new books and choose the one they were allowed to check out.

Eager faces awaited me as I opened the library doors at 7:30 and a horde of students raced to the back to claim their space in the preview line.  Excitement bubbled over – letting me know that this was a tradition in the making.

Setting Up the Preview in our New Facility

We still use a conference room in our new facility, and even though it is smaller in size than the first conference room we used,  it contains bookcases and tables perfect for setting up the display. 

Our book club members love this membership perk; watching them as they make their selections (and smell those new books!) makes the time and effort of setting up the preview worth every minute.  I photograph each with his/her selection and request a honest review of it when each is finished reading.

An added bonus:  other students in the library the morning of an exclusive new book preview often ask to see what our members are checking out and ask to have a copy of the book held for them.  Seeing the excitement of their peers creates more interest in new arrivals than do announcements or displays.

How do you promote new books?

Advocacy: WBALTV Segment Promotes Children’s Books

The Best Books Of The Year For Kids – Video – WBAL Baltimore.

Barb Langridge of was recently featured on Baltimore’s WBAL Channel 11 News.  In this segment, she discussed several recent honor and award winning books:

1.  Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein  (Caldecott Honor)

2.  A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip Stead and Erin Stead (Caldecott Winner)

3.  Dave the Potter by Laban Carrick Hill and Bryan Collier (Caldecott Honor and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award)

4.  One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia  (Coretta Scott King Author Award)

5.  Bink & Gollie by Kate DiCamillo and Tony Fucile  (Geisel Award)

6.  Heart of a Samurai  by Margi Preus  (Newbery Honor)

7.  Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool  (Newbery Award winner)

~Barbara Langridge,

Barbara is a booktalker extraordinaire and in a five minute segment convinced me to read all seven books.

Promoting Books

Watching Barb animatedly talk about these children’s books started me thinking. How can we use Barb’s experience to promote our libraries and library programs?

  • Offer to do a similar booktalk for your PTO or other parenting groups in your area.
  • Share the video with the education reporters for your local newspaper and television stations.  Offer to provide a similar service to both.
  • Locate your local independent newspapers/newsletters.  Contact the editors and offer to write a column focusing on children’s books (or in my case, young adult literature).
  • Are there parent bloggers in your area who might appreciate a guest blogger?  Contact them and offer to write a post.
  • Contact after school care programs in your area to offer to do booktalks.
  • Is there a college or university in your area that offers an education degree?  Contact them and offer to be a guest speaker for classes.

Be Prepared

You know your community.  When you approach others to offer to speak or write, be prepared with local statistics and research that backs the power of reading. Have an example booktalk you can do on the spur of the moment or an example of your writing about books to share.

At a loss for where to start with books?  Why not choose award winning books (as Barb did in this video segment) or use your state’s award nominees?

One Last Word (or two or three)

Bravo WBAL Channel 11 in Baltimore for seeing the need to offer this service to your viewers!

To show your support for the segment and this television news program’s support of reading, please leave a comment on the video segment page and like the Facebook group for abookandahug.

Visit and check out a new feature:  tools for children to create booklists.

Barb’s Books Alive program is carried on a cable network.  Do you know of any similar programs on children’s literature?

Organizing Booktalks

Reader’s Advisory can take many forms, but my favorite is booktalking.  The beginning of a new semester is the perfect opportunity to reach out to teachers and offer to do booktalks for their classes.

Last week, I gave booktalks for twelve classes.  Each booktalking session averaged three to seven books which can become a management nightmare.  I use the following method to organize booktalks so that if teachers wish for me to booktalk more than once to their classes, I can be assured I am not repeating myself.

Organizing Booktalks

1. First, I created a spreadsheet of the books from which to choose (and keep adding to it).

The spreadsheet includes the author, title, and up to three genres.

2. Next, I gathered the booktalks I have created (or found) on each title.  These are all titles I have read; one of the primary rules I learned in my YA Lit course was to only booktalk books you have read.  Creating booktalks is often time consuming, so when I don’t have the time, I use Nancy Keane’s Booktalks — Quick and Simple.  I file these alphabetically by title.

3. Finally, I created a simple booktalk chart template that I use for each teacher.

I keep all of this information in my Booktalk Notebook that I keep for reference at the Circulation Desk.

Giving the Booktalks

Once a teacher requests a booktalking session, I confer with him/her to determine a few factors I need to consider as I plan:

1.  length of time teacher wants to stay

2.  class composition (equal numbers of males and females?)

3.  student interests (At the beginning of the semester, teachers often can’t provide a great deal of information, but if they have done interest surveys they might be able to share if any students are in band, chorus, orchestra, student council, or participate in any sports.)

Then I pull together from three to seven books based on teacher information.  I use the template to record the titles I plan to do for each class. If this changes (sometimes I can tell from a class’s attitude as they enter the library that I need to change a title or two), I note the changes after the booktalks.

I set up a display of the books I plan to booktalk in front of the Promethean board, and as students enter and are settling in at the tables, I play an Animoto video I created on the current year’s South Carolina Young Adult Book Award nominees. Brochures on each table provide more information about each of these titles. I end the booktalks with a book trailer and tell the students that they are free to check out the titles I used on the table.  It is always SO rewarding when students run to get a copy of the books on the table!

Analyzing the Booktalking Session’s Effectiveness

Often I can tell if a title is going to get checked out as I am doing the booktalk.  High school students don’t fake interest in books; their body language speaks volumes.  And, bless their hearts, some students are not ashamed to say, “I’m getting THAT book.”

Other ways I use student feedback to help me improve my booktalks:

  • A quick look over at the table a bit later as students are checking out books lets me know if a title (or titles) didn’t get checked out.  I make a note of this on the template.
  • If a title did not get checked out, I discuss the booktalk and title with my service learners and the other media specialist to see if I can pinpoint the reason for lack of interest.  If possible, I revise the booktalk before giving it again the next block.  Sometimes this works, sometimes not.
  • If students ask me if I have more copies of one of the titles I booktalked, I put the title on hold for them and make a note of it on booktalk template.

I would love to read about your booktalking methods and sessions.  How do you organize your booktalks and what techniques have you found to be successful?


Favorite YA Reads of 2010

Wendy Stephens, author of Wendy on the Web, recently wrote a post detailing her favorite reads of 2010 prompting me to consider the YA novels I had read this year.  Which are ones I have or will recommend over and over to my students?


Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

This is the first installment of the Infernal Devices series that is the prequel to the Mortal Instruments series, my favorite YA fantasy series of this century.  Cassandra Clare has captured the essence of the Mortal Instruments world with this novel; I felt as if I had fallen right back into this delicious world of Downworlders and Shadowhunters – even though the novel involves different characters and is set 100 years ago in England.

Clare does not disappoint in this story of sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray who has traveled to London to be reunited with her brother who has mysteriously disappeared.  She is captured by the Dark Sisters who awaken and help her perfect her power of shapeshifting.  Once she escapes from their clutches, she takes refuge at the Shadowhunters’ London Institute and continues to search for her brother.

Science Fiction

Lockdown: Escape from Furnace by Alexander Gordon Smith

Another first in a series, Lockdown introduces us to Alex Sawyer who has been framed for the murder of his best friend and sentenced to life in the legendary Furnace Penitentiary. Furnace is a prison like no other, buried a mile underground and ruled by inhuman creatures who take pleasure in randomly kidnapping inmates from their cells.  The inmates are dragged, kicking and screaming, from their cells and undergo horrific, though unknown, experiments which transform them into hideous beasts.

No one has successfully escaped from Furnace, but the thought of spending the remainder of his life there propels Alex to team up with two other inmates to attempt the impossible.  Smith succeeds in keeping the reader mesmerized and anxious to  discover what will happen to Alex.

Realistic Fiction

Girl, Stolen by April Henry

Finally, a stand-alone novel!  Sixteen-year-old Cheyenne Wilder is laying down in the backseat of her stepmother’s Escalade when Griffin Sawyer, another teenager, decides to steal the car.  His father runs a chop-shop and Griffin is hoping to prove he can be an asset to his dad.

Griffin doesn’t realize Cheyenne is in the back seat until it is too late and now he must decide what to do with her.  Cheyenne, who is blind, tries to convince Griffin to let her go because she can’t identify him. When his father discovers that Cheyenne is from a wealthy family, Roy decides to ask for a ransom.

A fast read, the last third of the novel is a suspense-filled ride that you can’t put down.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Seventeen-year-old Mia loves her life.  She is close to her parents and younger brother, she is a talented cellist hoping for a scholarship to Juillard, and her boyfriend Adam “gets” her.  But in the proverbial blink-of-an-eye, everything changes.  Mia’s family is involved in a fatal car crash, with Mia being the sole survivor.  As she lingers in a coma, Mia is completely aware of what has happened and can’t imagine life without her family.  Will she find the will to fight for life without them? This poignant story takes you on Mia’s mental journey to a decision.

What titles have you recently read that you are recommending to your students?

Free eBooks for Your Kindle, Nook, Sony Reader, etc.

I finally did it; I gave in and  asked for a Kindle 3 for Christmas.  (Looks like I wasn’t the only one:  “Kindle 3 Is the  Best Selling Product in Amazon History.”)   Friends and family have had Kindles for quite some time and have all been pleased with them, but I was holding out for an eReader that met all of my requirements.

Did I find it in Kindle?  No.  But, after playing with several of these eReaders at my local Best Buy, I decided Kindle was the best fit for me.  (The one thing Kindle lacks as far as my definition of the “perfect” eReader is the ability to read EPub format so that I can borrow and read books from our public library on it.)

My good friend and gadget guru, Heather Loy, had shared a blog devoted to free and low cost eBooks with me months ago.  I had added it to my Google Reader and even downloaded some of the free books to read on my iPhone, iPod Touch, and Mac.

Since my Kindle arrived, I have discovered a couple of other worthy blogs devoted to free eBooks and thought I’d share them:

Books on the Knob

Free eBooks and Tips

Kindle Nation Daily

Happy reading!

Improving the Reader’s Experience, One Step at a Time

“Mrs. Bullington, what’s a good book to read?”

More often than not these days, my answer to this question is one of several book series that have been popular in our library:  the Mortal Instruments series, the Hunger Games series, the Immortals series, the Wake trilogy…the list goes on and on.

Helping Students Help Themselves

Once students have read the first book in the series, they often want to check out the second title.  If I am not working with a teacher, student, or class, I love to help inquiring readers locate the right book.  But what about those times when I’m not available?  How can I still assist readers?

Last year, I created a Recommended Reads notebook that is displayed on one of the counters at the Circulation Desk.  It has been one of the best reader’s advisory tools in our library.

This year, I decided to tackle the series in our collection and “Operation: Save Our Series” was launched.  Each title in a series is identified with a label located under the call number.  The label simply states “Series” and the number of the title in the series.  We began pulling books and applying the labels three weeks ago.

To ensure accuracy in labeling, I checked those titles with which I was unfamiliar using the Mid Continent Public Library’s Juvenile Series and Sequels site. After an intensive first week, my service learners had identified and pulled myriads of series from the shelves.

They Just Keep Coming!

Who knew we had so many series?  It seems each time I walk through the fiction area, I notice another series that has escaped our labeling efforts.  Slowly, but surely, we are creating order out of series chaos.

The next step in the process is checking the catalog records for each series.  Unfortunately, many records do not indicate that a title is part of a series, so in spare pockets of time (we all know how rare those are!) I am updating catalog records to reflect this.

Efforts are Rewarded

At our book club meeting this week, I shared the new series labels with the students.  While many members are daily library users and had seen “Operation:  Save the Series” in action, others were pleasantly surprised by the news. All twenty-four students burst into applause at the announcement, though, making our efforts all worthwhile!


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