Friday, October 31, 2014

7 Time Saving Tips for Ordering Books

If I could go back in time and teach myself one thing, it would be this: your book vendors have great features in their standing order programs to make book ordering EASIER. Oh, the hours I could have saved, especially when I was away on maternity leave, but still trying to order books for my teen department.

Below are seven tips you should note about book vendors (assuming you use something like Ingram or Baker & Taylor. Please note, I use Ingram, so these suggestions are coming from my experience, though I know that it's a common feature among book vendors):

1. They will automatically make lists for you. These can be reports or automatic orders. Do note: if it is an automatic order, you still will be given at least two weeks to check the order and see if you want to delete anything. So even if you have a limited budget, you have full control of how many books are being bought and when. You can also change automatic orders to reports at any time.

2. If you upgrade your account (which doesn't cost much), you can get FULL TEXT REVIEWS on hardcovers from all the top sources: Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, VOYA, Publisher's Weekly, Booklist, etc. In Ingram, they only provide this for hardcovers, but you can find these reviews listed below the book's description, all together and in one place.

3. These full text reviews are handy if you are researching older books for your collection, especially if you realize you need books on a certain subject but know that you can't just rely on new publications to fill this gap in your collection.

4.  You can also create review alerts where they'll make lists of all books that have been reviewed that month. There is even an option to limit lists to only the starred reviewed books, if you don't have time to go through them all.

5. They make lists for you of books that are on award, book club, and state lists. You know, those places you're checking out anyway to see if you want to order them. And, since you are now receiving full text reviews, you can easily see what other people thought of these specific books, too.

6. Everything is customizable, which means you can select specific nonfiction sections, fiction, and graphic novels as well as the age of the audience, so you only get lists of books you care about.

7. Lastly, it is such a time saver to have all these books in your online cart, just waiting for you. Those seconds add up when you're typing in ISBNs and titles; especially if you can't remember if you already order it, so you're typing it in again.

Enjoy the time saved!

Photo Image from

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Beauty of Shortened URLs

There are many places that will shorten your URL links for free. My favorite is Bitly but there are other popular websites that basically do the same thing, such as TinyURL,, and The concept for all of them is very simple:

1. Shorten your URL to make it easier to read and retype.
2. Customize your URL so it will make sense to your viewers (for example, three lines of a long URL for a Teen Writing Competition can be shortened to
3. Gather statistics on how many times they were clicked, where patrons found the URL (from email to Facebook to newspaper websites), and what time of day they are being accessed.

Why use this for you library? 

1. It is perfect for fliers. No one wants to type in a long URL and it fits much better if you're putting the URL on a pull tab flier. I've used it for event registration to writing contest submission links.  
2. It is easier to read in email and you don't have to worry about sending broken links. 
3. It's click tracking information is useful for targeting your marketing efforts. 
4. It is easy to remember. I made a short URL for our page test, which made it easy to bookmark the test to all 10 of our laptops. I also made resource guides on my Google Documents account, so when I want to add more information, I just have to type in the quick URL to access it (handy when you share multiple computers with your coworkers).
5. It looks professional. If you want to upgrade to a paid service, you can customize the whole URL to only reflect your name. But even if you use the shortener's domain, it just looks clean and organized to see a URL that makes sense instead of a URL that is three lines long of gibberish.

It is very easy to use. Check out a screenshot of Bitly (Click on image to enlarge):

Friday, October 17, 2014

Floating Library Collection

Yesterday, I had the honor to present on a panel at the Massachusetts Library System's 6th Annual Teen Summit. If you are near the Worcester, MA area and work with teens, I highly recommend that you check out their website and stay tuned for their summits in October. (See below about the other sessions.) The positive feedback I received on my presentation encouraged me to post about it here.

MLS asked me to talk about my Floating Fiction collection, which I do with the local high school, but really, it works everywhere for any population. Want to check out book club reads to commuters at the train station? Done. Want to check out books to the kids stuck at the military base? Sure can. Want to check out materials to the homeless living at the local hotel? Not a problem.

It does not take a lot of time and it is free to do!

1. Make a Google Account.
2. Make a copy of my Google Form and update it.
3. Make a generic "Floating Collection" library card and then check your books out on it.
4. List these books on the Google Form for checkout.
5. Save the form URL on your laptop.
6. Go to the new location and start checking in/out books on this form to your patrons!

For more information and details, check out my handout.


The topic of the summit was the New Basics and there were great presentations about:

* Stating from Scratch: My 18: Month Quest to Fill the Library with Teens, Convert my Colleagues, and Keep My Sanity
* Capturing the Elusive Teenager: The Teen Artists Coalition of Cape Cod
* Teen Career Fair in the Library
* Connecting through Clubs: Nerdfighters at the Library
* Teen Study Week

The handouts are posted on the left.  People are doing great things with teens, a population that seems to be regularly be under-served.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Fantastic Fiction: Author and Book Database

My favorite author and book database is Fantastic Fiction. They do a lot of things right:

1. They cover 30,000+ authors and 350,000+ books, meaning that 99.9%, they have the information for which you are looking.

2.  They separate the book information into readable lists: series, including series numbers, publication dates and what format it is, to the new books coming out and their expected publication dates.

3. They include the covers with the books and you can click on the title to get the full book description.

It is my first resource I go to when I am trying to find a list of books in a series. However, it isn't perfect. They do not cover graphic novels or manga. They do not label what audience the book is appropriate for, which would be helpful with authors who suddenly decide to write for a new age group (like YA author Ellen Hopkins and her Triangles book...)  They also have lists of new authors and popular books, but there is no way to sort ages.

Check out the screenshot below:

Friday, October 3, 2014

Awesome Box: Sharing Patron Recommendations

The Harvard Library Innovation Lab came up with a great idea that is quickly spreading throughout the U.S. called Awesome Box. It is really simple in concept:

1. You go to their website and sign up:
2. They make you a special account just for your library and give you a widget to add to your library's website.
3. Then you make a box (any kind will do, from simple to fun) for people to return items that they think are awesome.
4. You check the items in (via the ISBN number) on your library account and then check it in normally.
5. Patrons can browse everyone's favorites and see what their fellow residents really enjoyed at your library.

It is a living, breathing display of awesome items that your patrons recommend. Totally awesome indeed!

The Harvard Library Innovation Lab is constantly coming up with new ideas and would love for people to try them out in their library and report back. If you are interested in participating, sign up for their bimonthly email newsletter, which also includes cool links to awesome things. 

An example of what patrons see when they visit your widget.

Update January 2016: Unfortunately, Awesome Box is no more. It was a great idea with over 500 libraries participating, this service will be missed!