Michael Connelly, Janet Evanovich, John Grisham – these crime fiction authors should probably be familiar to any librarian working a reference desk. But if you have little interest yourself in mysteries, suspense or thrillers, or have so many other things you want to read, like me, you might not know the vast universe that is crime fiction. Yesterday I attended a Mid-America Library Alliance (MALA/KCMLIN) workshop hosted by the Mid-Continent Public Library titled Murder & Mayhem @ Your Library: How to Help Today’s Crime Fiction Readers. Becky Spratford, Readers’ Adviser at the Berwyn (IL) Public Library, library school instructor and contributor to EBSCO’S NoveList, presented several tips on basic RA service, guided participants through the different sub-genres of crime fiction, and shared different creative ways libraries can market their materials both online and in house.
If there’s one thing that I took away from Becky’s presentation on RA service, it’s her Ten Rules of Basic RA Service. Among things that seem like common knowledge, like read widely (at least speed read widely) and read about books, she advises suggesting books, not recommending books, and points out that everyone reads a different version of the same book. That last one reminds me of a common motto from a humanities class I took in college, “Everyone has his or her own point of view that affects what they experience and how they interpret that experience” – and it definitely makes sense and fits when talking about crime fiction. Another great suggestion of Becky’s was instead of focusing on basic plot summaries when suggesting titles, try figuring out adjectives that could be used to describe a book and see which other titles fit.
I’ve read one James Patterson book, Along Came a Spider, and loved it. I read The Bone Collector by Jeffery Deaver, some suspenseful Dean Koontz novels, I was mildly obsessed with the relatively unknown Jane Jeffry series by Jill Churchill, and, of course, I had to check out Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series. That’s about the extent of my crime fiction knowledge, but Becky shared many resources that will be every helpful in expanding my horizons. My favorite resource for all things crime fiction that Becky shared was the website Stop! You’re Killing Me, which lists “over 3,900 authors, with chronological lists of their books (over 43,000 titles), both series (4,400+) and non-series.” If you’d like to check out other resources that Becky suggested, her blog, RA for All is a wonderful resource for both RA service tips and crime fiction info.