It’s the stuff around the stuff that’s important contextual readers' advisory presentation alia 2013 version 2

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  • Image – book sculpture entitled Connecting the dots. Artist – Daniel Lai
  • Image – Kevin Kelly, founder of Wired magazine and renowned futuristQuote from
  • The full quote is“…context is most often used as a reference structure that tries to put all worlds and views, including that of the observer and observed, into a consistent framework. (Mike Bergman – 2008). And when that framework fits and makes sense to us and, more importantly, our users? Coherence! Understanding! Happy Users!” Image and quote from – conventional approach to readers’ advisory has been for the librarian to focus on a book’s content, believing this to be where the strongest bond exists between the reader and the narrative. In fact, reading is an activity approached in the wider context of the reader’s multiple interests, and the multitude of ways these interest with, and are roused by, their experience with the story.And the reading experience gets even better when librarians, those savvy aggregators of content, understand and anticipate their readers’ requirements via pre-packaged media produced to our highest professional standards.
  • Quote from – Paul Brown, January 2013Major image – the ‘Hall of Bulls’, Lascaux Cave, France (estimated to be 17,300 years old)Minor image – Pioneer Plague. The plagues are a pair of gold anodized aluminium plagues which were placed on board the 1972 Pioneer 10 and 1973 Pioneer 11 spacecraft, featuring a pictorial message in case either Pioneer 10 or 11 is intercepted by extra-terrestrial life. Together with Frank Drake Carl Sagan designed the plaque, and the artwork was prepared by Sagan's then-wife Linda Salzman Sagan.See David McCandless’sTEDTalk on ‘The beauty of data visualization’ at need to make our readers’ advisory products much more visually appealing; ‘utilitarianism’ has become the altar at which we have sacrificed ‘pleasure’ and ‘desirability’ as key components of our information products.
  • Quote from – The universal traveler. A soft-systems guide to creativity, problem-solving and the process of reaching goals by Don Koberg and Jim Bagnall, p46.There are so many elements inside a story, which have actual and potential appeal to the reader, which when mined, can lead to the discovery of many other stories that cut across our libraries’ collections, some obvious, some not so, but all can be forged with the full deployment of the competency set necessary for the 21st century readers’’ advisory team. Not the least being –“Understanding of, and familiarity with, the depth and breadth of materials and resources in the branch and/or system, including material in all formats and media, both fiction and non-fiction.”Which includes, “creating [customized]read-alike lists or reading maps” Source – Readers’ Advisory Core Competencies, Ontario Public Library Association Readers' Advisory Committee
  • Public libraries would do well to heed the example set by FDR and his curtailment of the United States self-satisfactory isolationist policies. The single book review, inconsistently scripted to connect with the wider possibilities that a story’s narrative offers, is an act of splendid isolationism, representing an attitude of ‘couldn’t care less” about the implications for the reading experience beyond a narrow task-fulfilment role. (I call this ‘static cling’ representing an ‘Occupy’ mind-set where librarians are happy to continue producing occasional book recommendations and Top 10 lists… hardly markers of our true value after 2,000 of librarianship). The relationships between stories, and across library collections, are far more complex than the superficial treatment they are so often afforded through libraries standard readers’ advisory products. The usual output of single book recommendations, of ‘one-touch-point-at-a-time-between-the-reader-and-the-library-collection’ is less about the reader and more about the level of effort the public library is willing to expend for the benefit of its powerbase: The Reader.Quote from (Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882–1945), U.S. President. From a campaign speech when FDR was running for Vice President in 1920).Source - Nathan Miller, F.D.R.: An Intimate History, p. 173, Doubleday & Co. (1983).
  • Quote continues “Our desire to stand upon the shoulders of this giant should only be so that we may gaze upon even greater and more rewarding challenges, which we will accept with the insatiable curiosity driving our exploration for the multitude of ways that storytelling can bind us.”Quote from Paul Brown, December 2012.The requirement for readers’ advisory services in this realm is to, well, to become ‘exemplars of everything’. Reading Maps represent the ultimate playground where the library can test the credibility of its imaginative worth. Through ‘combinatorial creativity’ (pooling their innovation, knowledge and curiosity) librarians can engineer products that showcase the relational value of the content in and around the narratives residing in their collections and awaiting discovery. Why? Because “for audiences, the real value is no longer content but context.” (Mike Walsh) In this regard, Reading Maps epitomise the best of ‘service design thinking’.
  • Quote from also – ‘Why Content Strategy Can’t Live Without Context’ by Daniel Eizans at engines consume content by code; people consume content via meaning (and something called their ‘Personal Situational Context’). This business of providing reading advice can not be fulfilled by engineered algorithms alone.
  • Quote from
  • Quote continues “If the reader has just finished a book, you could ask "What sparked your curiosity in that book?" The answer would provide other avenues (paths) for the advisor to pursue in acquiring more reading experiences for that reader.”Quote by Maureen O’Connor at
  • Quote from – Neal Wyatt, The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Nonfiction, p8.The construction-build process begins (after initial selection of a book and/or topic whose popularity with your library’s readers can be verified) with brainstorming all of the following literary elements which, when completed, should offer a complete landscape of the book – Annotations / Commentaries / Critiques / ReviewsAppeal Characteristics (‘Character’, ‘Language’, ’Pace, ‘Setting’ and ‘Storyline’)Author interviewsBook group discussion questionsExcerptsOther media sources (move/TV adaptations, fan sites, discussion forums, articles of authority, etc)Read-a-likesSubject matterThemesAssembling and mapping the elements which comprise the book’s entire landscape may result in a particularly large information set which then has to be condensed by the library team. Here, certain heuristics pertaining to information architecture can be applied.‘Organise and Cluster’. Arrange the story elements into logically coherent groupings which are consistent with the style and themes of the book.‘Focus and Magnify’. Select those groupings which offer the potential for the richest content, focus your research upon these, and then expand upon each one.
  • Quote from – Andrea Resmini and Luca Rosati, Pervasive Information Architecture. Designing Cross-Channel User Experiences, (2011), p xvi.Interpreting this quote – suggesting relevant connections amongst data, packaged in personalised slices of information-rich products, which make the apparently complex comprehensible, helps users achieve explicit goals, or stimulates latent needs. And through Reading Maps, properly executed, a dynamic of the relationship between the library and the reader is radically overhauled.
  • Quote from Cory Doctorow in Context. Further selected essays on productivity, creativity, parenting, and politics in the 21st CenturyThe relevance here for libraries is the competition for ‘fractured attention spans’ (Jay Baer) in the reality commonly referred to as the ‘Attention Economy’. Consumers’ attention to any business’s products and services has become a form of currency of its own. Too many clicks between thought and deed represent an elaborate dance that most internet browsers are unwilling to commit to. Thus, Reading Maps, comprehensive, one-stop shops of convenience, where relevant resources from across the library’s collection have been pooled together, will demonstrate a high level of ‘Satisficing’ (Herbert Simon) for its reading audience; the hard work has been done for the reader, satisfaction has been obtained with minimal effort (again, for the reader) and it immediately becomes obvious to them that wherever they encounter your library’s Reading Maps “here lies treasure”.One of the guiding principles of pervasive information architecture, which has direct relevance to the construction of web-based Reading Maps, and any digitally based library product, is that of ‘The Principle of Least Effort’. The lesson for libraries in the design of their readers’ advisory products is that the moment when a reader discovers your resource online, searches or reads through it, and considers further action as a result is very brief, so design them as highly engaging, visually entertaining AND richly informative packages.
  • Image from are not alone! Contextualised information-rich packages are already here, available on commercial platforms, and public libraries – while arguably the best resourced and most advantageously positioned to manufacture such readers’ advisory products (in terms of staff expertise, collection size and reading community) - are not the only players making significant contributions to new and imaginative relationships being woven between the stories we tell.The ‘MyMap’ facility on this site permits connection building across recommended titles by its members; as well as submitting and reading book recommendations written by the YouNextRead community, and voting ‘For’ or ‘Against’ particular selections, members can interact with these maps and collaboratively construct visual representations of the strength of relationships between different narratives. Quote from – Steal like an artist. 10 things nobody told you about being creative by Austin Kleon, p20
  • Images from from Shelley’s “diagrammatic paintings and graphical chronologies illustrate the interweaving of historical narratives about art and culture. This map plots the science fiction literary genre from its nascent roots in mythology and fantastic stories to the somewhat calcified post-Star Wars space opera epics of today. Rather than a narrative emerging out of the data, here the narrative structure precedes and organizes the data: the movement of years is from left to right across the grid that represents time, distorted and reconfigured into the form of a bug-eyed monster whose tentacles are like trace roots to pre-historical sources and whose body is the corpus of Sci-Fi literature. Science Fiction is seen as the offspring of the collision of the Enlightenment (providing science) and Romanticism, which birthed gothic fiction, source not only of Sci-Fi, but also of crime novels, horror, westerns, and fantasy (all of which can be seen exiting through wormholes to their own diagrams, elsewhere). Science fiction progressed through a number of distinct periods, which are charted, citing hundreds of the most important works and authors, and which includes film and television as well. “
  • Image ‘A Guide to Navigating NPR’s Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books’ from - Quote from – Piers Blofeld (publisher) in The Bookseller, 17 June 2011, p12.The quote continues – “The fundamentals of the reading experience remain the same – the innovation lies in finding new ways of presenting that experience to the public.”In 2011 NPR asked for its listeners to rank the top science fiction and fantasy books of all time. Over 60,000 people voted for the top picks which were then compiled into a list by their panel of experts. The result was a list of 100 books with a wide range of styles, little context, and no commentary to help readers actually choose something to read from it.SF Signal subsequently developed this flowchart to assist readers through the original list by importantly building CONTEXT around the multitude of preferential reading pathways.
  • Small Demons Welcome to the Storyverse video at from the video presentation – “Anything that exists in stories is here to be found because these are the details we obsess over. They connect us with the stories and they connect our stories with each other.”
  • Images from Neal Wyatt’s Reading Map for The Terror by Dan Simmons. Although perhaps not as visually arresting as subsequent examples of this advisory tool, Wyatt has stuck to the game plan and not allowed ‘scope creep’ to warp her presentation; she has remain focused on the central topic, and under 5 secondary-level headings (‘Real’, ‘Imagined’, ‘The Terror’, ‘Hobbes’ and ‘Inuit’) presents an intelligent collection of further reading (18 Nonfiction and 9 Fiction titles), book reviews, podcasts and web links that could reasonably be expected to meet the ‘What Next?” and “Anything More?” range of enquiries from a reader fascinated by Dan Simmons gripping, fictionalized account of the lost 1845 Franklin [Artic] Expedition.Image from - from – Neal Wyatt, LJ Series, “Redefining RA”: Reading Maps Remake RA. Recreate a book’s entire universe online, and transform readers’ advisoryat
  • Quote from – Neal Wyatt, LJ Series, “Redefining RA”: Reading Maps Remake RA. Recreate a book’s entire universe online, and transform readers’ advisory at RA. Reading Images from - usual suspects appear under 7 major headings in this Reading Map (suggested Fiction and Nonfiction with annotations, author interviews, a reading group guide, embedded videos and links to various websites). Given the importance of ‘Location’ in this novel, particular care has been taken to incorporate relevant resources which attend to the possible high interest of the reader in the places identified throughout the narrative.
  • Quote from – Mike Walsh, Futuretainment, p233.‘Intelligent Bundling’ is fully evident in this Reading Map for Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games trilogy. In 12 sections the reader/fan is guided through an expansion of the world KatnissEverdeen had to survive, including links to interactive games and fans discussion forums; books, videos and articles on such a broad range of topics encompassing ‘Survival’, ‘Reality Television’, and ‘Child Soldiers’, as well as suggested dystopia fiction (separated into ‘Teen’ and ‘Adult’ pages). Image from -
  • A page from the quirky and information rich Alice in Wonderland Reading Map produced by library school student ‘Jen’ (Dominican University, Illinois)which can be found at focus and delivery of this map is a fine example of how fans – not just readers – can be served by librarians who recognise the strong associations people can form with their favourite stories, devouring all aspects and details which comprise the fictional universe of these works.You can find a full listing of over 40 Reading Maps produced by students at Dominican University at http://raforall.blogspot.comQuote from – Maria Popova, ‘Networked Knowledge and Combinatorial Creativity’ at
  • Image – The landing page of Paul’s own 1984 Genesis Book Reading Map, to be published later in 2013 on
  • In a joint project with Sally Pewhairangi, ‘His’ and ‘Hers’ Reading Maps of Haruki Murakami’s Magnum opus,1Q84 , will be presented later in 2013. You can follow the progress of the development of these maps on Sally’s blog (, where we will be posting updates about all matters relating to the process, including those of Reading Map construction, design considerations, content, selection criteria, etc. We are also embracing a collaborative approach with the community at Finding Heroes, inviting them to contribute their suggestions during the production phase.
  • Quote from Stephen Pugh (Oranjarra Partners, Aptos, California) in LIANZA Conference 2011 Handbook, p66.There is an impoverishment in our readers’ advisory focus on content alone, which does not recognise the context of the relational value between networked knowledge, and then between that knowledge and the reader. If this doesn’t devalue us, then it certainly doesn’t differentiate us from the pack we’re running with. We must refuse to become trivialised as traffickers in heaps of celeb-kiss-and-tells and Twilight-a-likes. Contextual Readers’ Advisory is an exact measure of who we, as information professionals, claim to be.
  • Quote continues “Until we pay attention to them – because someone whose taste and opinion we trust points us to them, and we integrate them with our existing pool of resources, and they become a part of our networked knowledge and another LEGO piece in our combinatorial creativity.” Quote from Maria Popova at Coudal (of Coudal Partners, a Chicago-based creative advertising agency) continues the theme: “Our number one value isn’t in any of the skills we have. It’s that we’re essentially curious.” Which, in just those few words, could almost be The Holy Writ for the 21st Century’s readers’ advisor.Take immediate action to become ‘Curiosity Sherpa's’ by consuming the following super resources.  Articles -‘Networked knowledge and combinatorial creativity’ by Maria Popova at‘Re-create a book's entire universe online, and transform readers' advisory’ by Neal Wyatt (Library Journal, 2006) at ‘7 reasons to make maps’ and ‘Brainstorming session for ‘Jonathan Strange & Mr.Norrell’ Map)‘Reading maps made easy’ by Becky Spratford and Christi Hawn at‘What is a Reading Path’ by Maureen O’Connor at‘Why Content Strategy Can’t Live Without Context’ by Daniel Eizans at – Futuretainment. Yesterday the world changed now it’s your turn by Mike Walsh (Pahidon Press Limited, London, 2009)Pervasive information architecture. Designing cross-channel user experiencesby Andrea Resmini and Luca Rosati (Elsevier, Inc., Boston, 2011) Reading Maps -Berwyn Public Library (Illinois) at Wyatt at Heights Library (Illinois) at maps (Dominican University, Illinois) at Reading Map Platform (suggestion) - Reading Paths – Videos‘The beauty of data visualization’ by David McCandless at‘Embracing the remix’ by Kirby Ferguson at Welcome to the Storyverse by Small Demons at Forthcoming Attractions: Reading Maps Produced in New Zealand - 1984 (George Orwell)Reading Map at (release mid-2013)His and Hers1Q84 (Haruki Murakami) Reading Maps at (release late 2013)


  • 1.  It’s the stuff around the stuff that’s important!  Contextual readers’ advisory, intelligent bundling and the ‘remix’ reader  A presentation by Paul Brown at ALIA Information Online 2013
  • 2. “We’ll come to understand that no work, no idea,stands alone, but that all good, true and beautiful thingsare networks, ecosystems or intertwingled parts…”
  • 3.  Coherence! Understanding! Happy Users!” “
  • 4. “The contextual relevance of data and itsexpression through visualization are intrinsic components of human communication .”
  • 5. I“ nformation obeys no border. Once deep insideany single thing you begin to find connections to everything.”
  • 6.  “ We must open our eyes and see that moderncivilization has become so complex and the lives ofcivilized men so interwoven with the lives of other menin other countries as to make it impossible to be in thisworld and out of it.”
  • 7. “Contextualisation represents an early 21st CenturyEverest for readers’ advisors to climb.”
  • 8. “To make discovery work, we have to rely onoffering books that speak to a range of tastes, whichis best elucidated by a group of individuals who makejudgments”.
  • 9. “Assembles content from multiple sources to createnew works…Reading enough to find common strandsamong multiple works...”
  • 10. “The Reading Path is a way for the readers advisor tomake more creative connections between the reader andbooks of interest to that reader.”
  • 11. “Readers go to a book because of its subject, but they stayfor everything else.”
  • 12. Our understanding of the complexity of way-findingecosystems… “changes everything, actually.”
  • 13. “ The net is an unending NOW of moments anddistractions and wonderments and puzzlements…”
  • 14. “It’s not the book you start with, it’s the book thatbook leads you to.”
  • 15. “History of Science Fiction” by Ward Shelley (2011)
  • 16.  “…old wine in new bottles.”
  • 17. “All the people, places and things from the world outsidethe story. And here’s where they all come together. It allbegins with a book.”
  • 18. Children’s pick-a-path An ‘ABC’ or ‘Adventure, Boys & Contraptions’ 8a 8b 1 2 3a Seeking adventures in fantastic places? 3b You’ve come to the right place young 3 8 explorer. Ready to take on more gangs of How about more Crikey! Extraordinary bullies? (They pirates (above) & games that actually don’t stand a some school come to life – Mum I Step right up. chance, huh?) baddies? (right) want, I want, I want! Magic, games & mechanical wonderments abound here Fancy a few contests involving all sorts of 4a contraptions? Build things yourself Mechanisation, both (right) or compete fact (left) and fiction Managing grown- against thousands (below). All really ups: the Good (left) (below) whizz bang stuff the Bad (right) and7b young dude. the Ugly (er, right 7 again) 4 6 5 7a 4b
  • 19.  T “ hey offer patrons the best of the library interms of resources, expertise and imagination.”
  • 20. “They help the RA librarian contextualise thecollection and practise skills on a deeper level.”
  • 21. “Aggregators of the future will create value byunderstanding the individual preferences of customersand creating personalized slices of entertainment forthem.”
  • 22. “…to truly create and contribute… we have to be able toconnect countless dots.”
  • 23. “Orthodoxy means not thinking-not needing to think.Orthodoxy is unconsciousness."
  • 24.  “Please remember: things are not what they seem.”
  • 25.  Who we must not become: “bibliographic hospiceworkers concerned only with making the terminallyill library as comfortable as possible before itexpires.”
  • 26.  Who we must become: “’Curiosity Sherpas who leadus to things we didn’t know we were interested in untilwe, well, until we are.”