Mesa County librarians write new reference guide for readers

Diana Tixier Herald and Sam Stavole-Carter with their new book

Diana Tixier Herald and Sam Stavole-Carter show the new reader’s advisory book they wrote, “Genreflecting.”

When readers across the country ask, “What should I read next?” a new book by two Mesa County Libraries librarians could help them answer the question.

Diana Tixier Herald and Sam Stavole-Carter co-authored the latest edition of “Genreflecting: A Guide to Popular Reading Interests,” a 459-page reference guide to help librarians, booksellers, and readers discover fiction titles and authors that they might enjoy. This eighth edition of “Genreflecting,” published by Libraries Unlimited, contains 2,887 titles written by more than 900 authors.

“Everybody’s a reader if they can find the right book,” says Herald. “It just takes one book, and then they’re hooked.”

One of a librarian’s many responsibilities is providing reader’s advisory, which means helping patrons select books that they will enjoy. Some readers like specific genres and are happy exploring them in depth, while other readers hop from genre to genre. “Genreflecting” is structured to guide all types of readers to their next reading adventure. 

The book contains chapters on historical fiction, mysteries, thrillers, westerns, romance fiction, fantasy, horror, and science fiction. Each chapter begins with a short explanation of the genre and a discussion of trends within the genre, followed by list after list of titles and descriptions, sorted into categories for easier browsing. “Must-Reads” are flagged so readers won’t miss the cornerstone titles of each genre, and award-winners and books that have been made into movies also are noted.

Some titles are listed in multiple chapters, improving the chances that readers will find them. For example, many titles in Craig Johnson’s series of mysteries featuring Walt Longmire, the fictional sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming, are highlighted in separate chapters on mysteries and westerns.

How does one choose and sort nearly 3,000 titles?

“Our experience working with (library) patrons helped guide the selections,” Herald says. 

Personal and professional experience were key in helping the authors sift titles for “Genreflecting.” Herald, youth collections librarian at Mesa County Libraries, has worked in libraries since 1976, including a total of 10 years in Mesa County. She holds a master’s degree in librarianship and information management from the University of Denver and is author of several readers’ advisory guides. Stavole-Carter, teen services librarian at Mesa County Libraries, has worked in libraries for five years, all at Mesa County. He recently completed work on a master’s degree in library and information science.

Both authors are voracious readers with distinctly different styles of reading.

“I tend to read a couple in one genre and then move on,” says Stavole-Carter. “If I stay too long in one genre, I get bored.”

Herald sets a reading plan for herself and uses it to read about 300 books per year — she notes that she’s read as many as 500 in a year.

“That’s one of the reasons for ‘Genreflecting,’” she says. “Nobody has time to read everything.”

In an age of technology, it might seem that old-fashioned reader’s advisory is facing obsolescence, replaced by computer algorithms that choose and suggest titles based on a person’s online browsing habits.

Not so, say Herald and Stavole-Carter. Computer algorithms lack the ability to talk with people and detect the subtleties in preferences that can make all the difference in a book choice. Sometimes, successfully matching a reader to a book boils down to a librarian’s instinct.

“So much of the time, it’s having a conversation with a person and it’s pulling something out of the blue,” says Stavole-Carter. 

“Reader’s advisory is one of the services the library offers that is unique, and you can’t find it anywhere else,” Herald says.

Next time you’re puzzling over what to read next, stop by your nearest Mesa County Libraries location and talk to one of our knowledgeable staff. In addition to their personal knowledge of books, they’ll have access to tools — like “Genreflecting” — that can point you in the right direction and ensure that you’ll enjoy your next reading adventure.


Posted in General, Kids, Teens.

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