Can I recommend …

CoverI’ve just found a new way to add to the ever-increasing list of book titles that I have great difficulty getting around to reading but have kept on my ‘For Later’ shelf in BiblioCommons. The cliché ‘better late than never’ springs to mind.

My shelf currently stands at a very respectable 17 (I’m sure there are people out there in ‘Library land’ openly gobsmacked at this paltry total BUT I have just had a cull. I was completely ruthless and it took only 2 minutes to cut it back from 27 to 17.

Oh the internal debating and agonising I didn’t put myself through! Most of these tomes have been on my ‘For Later’ shelf for an eternity and have either been recommended to me via colleagues and customers or I have read a favourable review in a magazine or newspaper and placed it onto the shelf before I forget the title.  Then I forget to look at the shelf and pick my next read from it – well nobody’s perfect!

Now I have another method by which I can add to this list – on the front page of the Christchurch City Libraries website right at the bottom of the page is a link called Books. This takes you to New in Books, Staff Picks, On Order and then Recent Comments.

ExampleRecent Comments deals with any comments or reviews of books from newspapers, library borrowers and library staff.  In a steady flow, these brief comments automatically move from one book to the next book that has been recently reviewed. Clicking on the cover will bring up a synopsis of the story line, publisher details followed by the heading OPINION where all the reviews appear.

Sometimes a certain sentence within a review personally resonates and is all that is needed to push you from apathy to action. Before you realise it, you’ve clicked on the book cover and are placing a hold OR adding to your ‘For Later’ Shelf.  If inclined you can even give the book a star rating.

Anyone out there enjoying the freedom of reviewing the books they read or feeling that they would like to give it a whirl?

Exploring New Zealand fiction online

CoverI like to read a bit of New Zealand fiction, but lately I have run out of ideas on what to read next, so I decided to have a bit of a poke around on our website in search of inspiration.

Book awards are always a good place to start of course and being a bit of a crime buff  I started with the latest Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel. This year’s winner, Blood men by Paul Cleave, looks like a starter to me.

Then I moved on to the New Zealand Post Book Award for fiction. The Hut Builder by Laurence Fearnley won the Fiction prize in 2011. This author is entirely new to me. The book is described in the Sunday Star- Times reviewer  as having “enormous integrity, is beautifully written and quietly proud of its Southern roots”. Sounds interesting. The New Zealand Book Council site described an earlier novel as ‘exquisitely realised… exact, sparing, lovely’

Taking a look in the new BiblioCommons catalogue, I found a lists on topics from New Zealand crime novels to New Zealand historical fiction (many new authors). The great Kiwi novel list introduced me to an earlier novel by Fearnley and a fantasy novel set in Christchurch.

There were also some hidden gems. A search for the Auckland Readers & Writers Festival in our blog led me to an interview with Vincent Ward mentioning his book The Past Awaits – not fiction but I thought it looked interesting. I also picked up a reference to Christchurch writer Tusiata Avia. Another entirely new author to follow up.

NZ on screen also opened up a new approach with its New Zealand Book Month Collection which allowed me to view a 1996 documentary on Hone Tuwhare and a selection of  films based on New Zealand books, including State of Siege, a Vincent Ward adaptation of one of Janet Frame’s novels.

All together I thought it a pretty useful experience and I’ll know where to go next time I need to branch out.

Listing to starboard (and beyond)

Books - they're waiting for you on the shelf ...

Sorting through a pile of papers the other day I came across a list that one of my children made, back in the day.  It was written in green and purple crayon, and decorated beautifully and intensively, and went a bit like this:

Things I like:  cats.  foxes.  my new bed.  singing.  drawing.  the sky.

And so on (it was quite a long list).  Seems listing is a bit of a family habit, and there’s so much to be said for sitting down with a blank piece of paper and pen, or a blank screen and keyboard.

With this in mind, I’ve got a bit of a challenge for you (and a treat, really).  Our new catalogue (oh, so shiny!) has a few features that make it truly a joy to play with, and one of the top treats is the list-making facility.  I’ve been having a blast creating lists online – it’s dead easy, and I can put whatever I want on them:

  • Books I have read,
  • Books I want to read,
  • Books the library owns,
  • or ones I’d like the library to own.

I can make my lists private, just for me, or public, so everyone can see and share my weird and wonderful finds.  I can name them, claim them, rearrange them …  I can think of all my favourite things (and not just books, but movies, music, websites too), and create one mega-list – say, Bronnypop’s Ultimate Reading and Viewing Wishlist.

Some days my Ultimate Wishlist could be called:
Books I want to read, with zombies and weird stuff, but not too much sexytimes, where the authors are cool and not pretentious, but still use quite big words.
Other days my Ultimate Wishlist might be:  True books about food critics who live in big European cities and eat delicious food.  And write about it.
Or even:  Books about librarians who have strange things happen to them, and solve mysterious mysteries, but not in a naff and cliche-d way, even though they have three cats.  And wear cardies.

So this is my challenge to you (two challenges, really):

  • Go have a look at BiblioCommons and find some lists you like (here’s some of the ones we’ve been working on for the library, and some for teens), and even have a go at making one yourself;
  • Tell us what your ultimate Booklist Wishlist title would be – comment below, and you never know, if it tickles our fancy enough, we may even have a go at creating it ourselves …

Bookshelves: Delving into the past or looking to the future.

Pile of boksWhile reshelving my bookcases after the last aftershock I stopped to look at the books I have collected over the years and realised that they reflect stories from my life.

The books I had to read for my Russian Literature paper at University (a few quick “easy” credits apparently), sit beside the forays into feminist theory shackled up with Marilyn French’s The Women’s room, and it’s easy to remember which book was read avidly from cover to cover and which was cast aside!

The next decade had titles reflecting life as a mother – breastfeeding, postnatal depression and the ever hopeful books that would inspire me to manage first the terrible twos and then the teenage years.

Scattered here can also be found various self-help titles promising eternal happiness and the perfect relationship. Looking back I remember books being my way of trying to make sense of all the changes in my life.  Recent years have seen the addition of craft, cookery books and more fiction with colourful jaunty covers than I probably would have bought in my 20s!

Our new BiblioCommons catalogue now gives the opportunity to keep a list of your own bookshelves, enabling you to keep track of what you have read but also giving an ideal space to keep lists of what you might like to read in the future.  You can also check out other people’s lists, follow readers who like the same books  and generally keep track of your bookshelves without having to pick them up after an earthquake!  Give it a go.

Love those lists! Have a play in our new BiblioCommons catalogue

CoverHave you taken a look at our new library catalogue yet? I’ve spent quite a bit of time exploring BiblioCommons recently, and I think I like it… a lot. It’s the perfect place for opinionated people like me to go and be, well, opinionated. You can speak your mind about library materials you love or hate, agree or disagree with other people’s comments, tell everyone what (or what not to) read, watch or listen to, and much, much more.

During my adventures in BiblioCommons, I’ve come across lots of weird and wonderful lists other librarians and library users have made. Here is a collection of my favourites (of what I’ve seen so far):