Some of Our Most Successful Posts

Previously I posted about “6 Blogging ‘Failures’ at Pages Unbound” and a commenter asked why I did not post some of our successes.  Maybe posting about how great we are here felt a little too egotistical.  However, who am I to deny the public what they want?  So here it is, by request: a few of our successes over the past seven years.

Posts that Generate Traffic

Blogging Advice

It’s no secret that blogging advice generates a lot of traffic–that’s why you see so many book bloggers turn into blogging advice bloggers.  Some of our most-trafficked posts include “A Complete Guide to Starting a Book Blog,” “Trends I Think We’ll See in Book Blogging in 2018,” and “52 Discussion Post Prompts for Your Blog in 2018.”  None of this is surprising.  After all, people want to be cutting-edge on their blog and they are looking for discussion post ideas since it’s well-known that discussion posts generate more traffic than views.  However, my personal favorite here is Briana’s “Complete Guide” because I like that it has everything in one place and does not make new bloggers scour our blog for relevant posts in a piecemeal fashion.

Book Reviews

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas (Spoilers)” and Nerve by Jeanne Ryan” are two of our most popular book reviews.  I assume the first one generates interest because it has spoilers and people want to know what others thought about the book in-depth.  The second one seems to be popular through luck; Briana had written one of the few reviews for the book when the movie was released.

“The Dilemma of Delphini Diggory (A Criticism of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child)”

We have done several book discussion posts over the years, but most do not  seem to generate traffic.  Two years later, however, Delphini is still going strong.  I like to imagine that people who don’t like her character at least begin to see why she might have been included in the play, after they read my post.

Writing Rambles: Tips for Writing Historical Dialogue

I guess a lot of aspiring writers want to know how to write convincing historical dialogue.  Awkward historical dialogue is one of my pet peeves (along with people who say Shakespeare wrote “Old English”) so I wish these writers success.

Some Personal Favorites

Because success means you enjoy what you do.

Classic Remarks

I think that discussing books with people is one of the most fun parts of blogging, so I loved that our bi-weekly feature invited other bloggers to discuss books with us.  People are still answering the questions and linking back to us, even though we don’t run this meme anymore.

“How Can Book Bloggers Promote Literacy?”

Promoting literacy is really important to me, so I loved seeing the discussions this post generated and all the ideas others have for promoting literacy.

“How to Obtain a Library Card When You Can’t Leave Your Home”

I see a lot of people say they can’t access their library.  So I thought it was cool to be able to offer a partial list of libraries where you can obtain cards online and then use them to check out e-books–often without ever having to leave your home!  (Though policies across libraries do vary. Some ask  you to show up in person to verify your e-card.)

“Six Easy Ways to Support Your Library”

I’m a fan of libraries and would hate to see any close or reduce services because tax dollars are withdrawn.  I think it’s important to remember that supporting libraries doesn’t have to be burdensome but can be as easy as placing items on the in-house cart to be counted for statistics.

 

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How to Access YA Books While at College

How to Access YA Books While at College

Leaving home for college does not mean you have to stop reading.  Most college students in the U.S. have access to various library resources in order to obtain the books they enjoy.  Below are some options that may be available to you.

The College Library

College libraries are typically to be used by students and faculty doing research so they will not, unfortunately, ILL books for you that you are not using for a class.  In the same vein, they may have a children’s book section with YA and MG titles, but they might prefer that these remain on the shelf for individuals doing research.  However, some college libraries do have separate sections or reading rooms that are purposely set aside for reading for entertainment.  You can go to your college library to see what resources they offer.

The Public Library

Many college students remain unaware that they are eligible to receive a library care from the city in which their college is located.  You will likely have to demonstrate that you attend the college or have an address in the city.  Usually this means you have to provide photo ID and a piece of mail showing your address (if it differs from that on your ID).  You can show a piece of mail from your university mail box if you live in a dorm.  Some libraries also ask to see your student ID.  You can call ahead or check the library website to make sure you are prepared before you show up.

If the public library is a fair distance from campus, your best option might be to go there once and obtain the card.  Once you have a library card, you can check out ebooks.  Ebooks return automatically once the loan expires so you never have to worry about walking back to the library when you are busy or worry about accruing fines.  You don’t even need a e-reader.  Kindle has apps for tablets, phones, and computers or laptops.

Library Book Sales

Both university and public libraries tend to hold book sales.  Some libraries even keep a shelf or more of books for sale out all year long.  They may not be entirely free, but these books will be fairly cheap and you can feel good about supporting the library while you shop.

Little Free Libraries

Check if your city has any registered Little Free Libraries.  Some colleges also run book exchanges where you can take or leave a book.  You might be surprised at what you find!

If you sadly find out that your college does not have a book exchange, you can always start one yourself.  All you need is a location, a shelf, a sign, (and, of course, permission from the appropriate offices).  You can start if off by asking for book donations.  Faculty and grad students are always likely to have more books than they want or need.

Free Kindle Books

If you don’t want to go to the library, you can go to Amazon and search for free Kindle books.  Legal and free can’t be beat! And, again, you don’t need an e-reader.  You can download the free Kindle app for your tablet, phone, or laptop.

What to Do if You Owe the Library Money

What to do if you owe the library money

Some individuals worry about owing the library money.  Libraries, of course, typically charge minimal overdue fines to ensure that patrons actually bring the materials back on time.  Without a monetary incentive, sadly, some patrons would simply keep the books and DVDs forever.  However, the overdue fines should not discourage individuals from using the library.  If you find yourself owing money, here are some steps you can take.

Return the Materials if Possible

Library fines typically accrue daily until they reach a maximum specified by each institution.  However, once a certain amount of time has passed, the library concludes that the patron has lost the book/is never returning it.  They then charge the patron to replace the materials.  You can lower your fines by bringing the materials back.  Hopefully, your library will deduct the replacement fees and only charge you the overdue fees.

Other libraries are even nicer.  They may charge you overdue fees until you return the materials.  At this point, your fees are all forgiven.  Hurray!

See if You Can Replace the Material Yourself

If you have lost the item and cannot return it, you can see if your library will allow you to replace the item yourself.  The library is probably going to charge you the current price of the item (and maybe an additional fee on top for it to go through processing).  If you can get the book cheaper than its current going price (say at a book sale or a yard sale), then you are saving yourself money.

Pay the Minimum

Most libraries allow patrons to accrue fees until they reach a certain threshold.  At that point, their accounts are frozen until they get their balance under the minimum.  So, if your library freezes your account at $20 and you owe $20, you can pay one cent and continue to use your card until it expires.

Take Advantage of Days of Amnesty

Some libraries offer a day where any materials can be returned and the overdue charges on them will not be collected.  This day will not solve your outstanding balance, but it can help reduce your overall fees.  Or cancel them if you only owe on the items you currently have checked out.

Take Advantage of Food for Fines

Some libraries may allow you to donate food and have a specified amount of fines takes off your account.  If you can get some canned goods on sale to donate, you may end up spending less on the food than you would have to clear your account.

Read Away Your Fines

Another options your library may give you is reading books in order to lower your fines.  And, if they don’t, you can always suggest this program or another type of day of amnesty.  After all, libraries love finding ways to expand access to patrons.

How to Keep Your Library Fines Low

How to Keep Your Library Fines Low

Check Out a Few Items at a Time

Your library may allow you to check out 100 items at a time.  However, this may not be ideal if you are not positive you will be able to return them on time.  After all, a nominal fee applied to 100 items is going to add up fast!  So be realistic and check out what you think you will really be able to read and return in the specified time period, remembering that you may not be able to renew all your items if someone else requests them.

Keep Your Items in a Safe Place

Parents often worry about having their kids check out a bunch of materials because they are aware that three kids checking out ten books apiece could result in 30 books being charged fines.  To try to lower fines, many have a designated library book area where the books must be kept or even read.  This way, they aren’t being charged late fees on books they can’t find at home.

This rule also applies to eating and reading.  Keep liquids or other sticky substances away from your books.  Setting a book on the counter near coffee or water can be disastrous.  And do not place books in a bag or in the car with a water bottle that may leak.  Treat your books with care and you hopefully won’t have to pay a replacement fee!

Don’t DroP your Books and Run

If you borrowed 50 books and return them all at once, you may want to watch the librarian return the items rather than drop them and run.  Once the librarian has finished, ask them to view your account to see if any books are still listed as being checked out.  If so, the librarian should recheck the pile to see if you truly returned it.  If you have not, you know it’s somewhere at home and you can renew it on the spot.

Use the Book drop

Items dropped in the book drop before the library opens are typically backdated to the previous day.  So if your items were due on April 9, if you drop them on April 10 before the book drop is collected, you shouldn’t be charged for being a day late.

Use the Library E-Resources

E-books return themselves once the loan expires, so you never have to worry about accruing fines on them.  Problem solved!

Ask About Vacation Loans

Some libraries will increase the length of a loan if you explain that you are going on vacation and will not be able to return the book within the normal loan period.  This is a good way to stock up on beach reads without worrying about accruing late fees!

Call the Library and Explain Your Situation

Let’s imagine that you have used up all your renewals on an item, but you know you can’t get the book back on time.  Maybe you lost it.  Maybe you are in the hospital.  Or maybe you had to travel for an emergency.  Call the library.  Explain what has happened.  Ask what they can do.  You’ll never know if you don’t ask.

How do you keep your books in order to avoid late fees?

How Libraries Are Expanding Accessibility

How libraries are expanding accessibility

In the U.S., we are fortunate to have a large system of public libraries that provide books, videos, educational materials, and Internet.  The hope is that libraries will provide equal access and opportunities to all.  However, the effort to truly provide equal access is ongoing, and many libraries have become creative in finding ways to bring resources to those who may not be able to walk in to their local library.  Below are some ways that libraries are using to expand access.  If you can’t make it into your library, it’s worth asking about what other services they provide.

Library Branches

Many libraries maintain separate buildings throughout the city so that individuals who live in underprivileged neighborhoods or who live a long distance from the main library can still check out materials.  Though these branches may be smaller, they provide all the services of a regular library and can have materials shipped from the main branch.  Surprisingly, however, I have found that inhabitants of a city sometimes remain unaware that their library maintains branches.

Library Cards for the Homeless

Typically an individual has to provide an address in order to receive a library card.  This is because libraries are maintained by taxpayer dollars.  Individuals who live in cities that do not contribute to the maintenance of the library are supposed to get a library card from their home library.  They can then get a card from another library.  This system, however, poses difficulties for those who do not have an address.  Individuals living in safe houses or in shelters can provide documentation showing this and receive a library card this way.

Library Cards for Businesses

Some people live in one city but work in another.  Some libraries offer cards to employees of local businesses.  So check to see if this is a service available to you and if your business is willing to participate.

The Bookmobile

The Bookmobile brings library books to those who, for whatever reason, cannot make it to the library.  Bookmobiles typically rotate their collections, but they can also take requests for specific materials.  You may even be able to participate in the yearly summer reading program through the Bookmobile.

School Outreach

Librarians schedule school visits in order to encourage literacy, explain what the library offers, and to begin the library registration process.  Some students may have parents who cannot go to the library with them in order to show their proof of residency. Signing up through the school means that the school has already verified their residency.  The student can then show up to the library themselves, with their forms, in order to obtain a card and check out materials.

Pop-Up Libraries

Librarians often do community outreach, leading storytimes or making crafts at various organizations or community festivals.  In these cases, they may talk about library services and programs or they may even bring some books for people to take, in the spirit of the Little Free Library. These pop-up libraries  provide access to books to those who may not be able to walk or drive to the library itself.

Little Free Libraries

Some libraries also maintain Little Free Libraries, allowing people to take or leave a book throughout the city.  This system can benefit those who cannot make it to the library or who prefer to take a book without worrying about having to return it.

Kiosks

Libraries may run kiosks, which are basically vending machines for books.  They can be placed around the city so people can check out books at various locations.

Homebound Services

If you cannot leave your home to go the library to check out or return books, you can inquire to see if your library offers homebound services.  Some libraries have volunteers who bring books to your door, while others have experimented with mailing materials.

E-Resources

E-books are ideal for those who cannot make it to the library to check out or return books.  If you have a laptop or an e-reader, you can check out books from home.  The book then automatically returns itself when the loan expires, so you don’t have to worry about overdue fees.

How is your library getting creative to expand accessibility?

Blogging “Rules” I Ignore with Relative Impunity

Request ARCs to Stay Relevant

I like to think that books remain relevant because we continue to talk about them for months and even years after their release date.  If I have a recent release, sure, I’ll review it, but I don’t worry about “keeping up” with everyone else.  In fact, many bloggers seem to get tired of seeing reviews for the same book in their feed, so why not switch it up?

I also just don’t see the need to request ARCs.  In the U.S., interlibrary loan means that, even if my library doesn’t own a book, I can request another library mail their copy to me.  This basically means I have access to every book in every library in the country.  I may have to wait for a new release (most libraries keep “new” books for patrons), but I have plenty to read while I wait.  (I understand not every country has a library system like this–I am merely explaining why I don’t request ARCs.)

Participate in Tons of Memes to Get Views

We used to do memes, but, after a few years, I realized all my Top Ten Tuesday lists featured the same book.  (My favorite characters, favorite quotes, and favorite settings all, strangely enough, come from my favorite book.)  This seemed like it would be kind of boring for our readers, so I stopped.  However, I don’t think traffic has decreased because our most trafficked posts are discussion pieces and not memes.

Furthermore, I have seen other bloggers note that their feeds look all the same on Tuesdays and Wednesdays–everyone is doing the same memes.  So, again, I want to switch it up.  A blogger might randomly pick my meme out of dozens of the same meme to read, but I think there’s a larger chance that they would select my post to read if it didn’t have the same title as a bunch of other posts in their feed.

Comment Back without Exception

I try to visit the blogs of people who leave comments, but I don’t stress myself out about it.  When I have time, I’ll go through recent posts and try to get to mostly everyone.  But, after a designated amount of time spent doing this, I stop and move onto the other things I have to do.  I think most of our readers understand that real life comes before blogging and several have commented that they don’t expect anything in return for the comments they leave.

Personally, I think this is a freeing thought.  Bloggers do like to comment back and be friendly–that’s one of the great things about book blogging!  However, they’re also very understanding that sometimes it just doesn’t happen and that’s okay, too.   So no one should feel bad about not having enough time to do everything they “have” to do.  I see bloggers apologizing all the time for being away for health problems or family situations, but no one should feel guilty for putting their health and happiness before blogging.  It’s okay.  Take the time you need!

Of course, it is true that bloggers typically see increased traffic on their blogs when they comment on other blogs.  This is why so many bloggers post about the need to comment back.  However, I believe that even commenting should come in moderation.  While it is important to get your name out there, it is also important to focus on building relationships with bloggers whose work you actually like (rather than commenting literally everywhere under the sun) and important to focus on your mental health as a blogger.  If trying to comment back on literally every single comment out of 50 comments is too much, try commenting on maybe 20 instead and go from there.

What blogging “rules” do you consider optional?

Why I Think Reading Slumps Are Valuable

I see posts about reading slumps around the blogosphere on a fairly regular basis.  There are posts from bloggers worried about being reading slumps and posts from bloggers giving advice on how to overcome reading slumps.  Honestly, before I started blogging, I never would have considered that reading slumps were so troublesome to people.

Reading slumps are a natural part of being a reader.  There will be times in life when our emotions or our health or our circumstances will make reading more difficult or less appealing.  There will also be times in life when we do not feel like reading, but for no particular reason.  Days will pass and picking up a book simply will not occur to us.  This is okay.

I have never viewed reading slumps as a negative.  Rather, I see reading slumps as an opportunity to recharge and an opportunity to pursue other interests.  Sometimes, blogging can make reading seem like a competition. We may feel that we have to read 200 or 300 books to keep up with everyone else–even if this is unrealistic due to our personal circumstances.  Or we may feel that we have to keep up with all the latest releases in order to be relevant and gain greater blog traffic.  But reading is not, for most us, the only interest in our lives.

A reading slump is really a gift. On those days that we do not read, we have an opportunity to turn to our other hobbies.  We might decide to paint, to garden, to play with our nephew, to watch a movie, or to simply sit on the porch and daydream.  We might decide to go new places, to talk to old friends we have been ignoring, to learn a new language, or to go for a walk.  The possibilities are endless now that we have more time open to us–time we would normally spend reading.

Reading slumps give us permission to find joy in those other things we like to do.  They remind us that we do have hobbies that do not seem so much like a competition.  But they also remind us that it is okay to spend some time simply doing nothing.  Those moments when we lie in the backyard and look up at the clouds or those moments when we cuddle our cats and tell them they’re pretty are valuable, as well.  Those are the moments when we give ourselves permission to take care of our mental health, to let things go while we relax.  Moments when we reconnect with ourselves and remember our secret hopes and dreams.  Moments when we can connect with other people–or our cats. We do not always need to be busy to be doing something important.

Reading slumps happen to everyone and they usually go away on their own, given time.  I have never worried about the days when I do not feel like reading.  Instead, I take the time I have been given and I try to do something wonderful with it.  Something I might not have done otherwise.