Have you been using the themes that are included in NoveList with your patrons yet? If not, or you read that question and thought, “What do they mean by themes?” then now is the time to get started!

Themes are popular and recurring plot elements found in fiction. Many readers have strong preferences about what themes they like or don’t like. For example, I’m a romance reader, and I’m *here* for a good sudden baby story but have no patience for secret baby stories. Tapping into themes helps you narrow down your readers’ fantasy preferences down to the hidden heritage books they really love. Add in appeal and genre, and you’ve got all NoveList’s story elements working together to help you find a book your reader feels was especially written for them.

If I’ve convinced you about the magic of themes, we have lots of ways for you to get started talking about themes with your patrons.

1. Review our themes and their definitions 
It’s hard to talk about themes for genres you’re not familiar with, so we’ve created a page in NoveList to help you explore all our themes and their definitions. Go to “Browse By” in the top menu and select “Themes.” These pages will help you sort the eerie mysteries from the real-life monsters and chosen family stories from family gathering ones. Adult and children’s librarians alike will find looking for picture books easier with the themes for younger kids. Themes make finding picture books on being a friend, coping with death, and Welcome baby! a snap. If you’re looking for information on all of NoveList’s story elements, make sure to download a copy of The Secret Language of Books. Once you know what theme you’re looking for, books with that theme are easy as pie to find in NoveList. Simply type TH rivals in the NoveList search box to find a list of Urban Fiction where “sometimes it’s strictly business; sometimes it’s personal.”

2. Create displays around books that share a theme
Themes are perfect for book displays. Pick one or two of your favorite themes and put up a display. Or, pick a genre and put up a display of books with a variety of themes, making sure to let your patrons know about the different types of books with bookmarks, shelf-talkers, or other signage. If you want to make your displays even easier, use one of the theme-based book flyers or display flyers from LibraryAware. We’ve got ready-made bookmarks, too. For your patrons that aren’t yet coming into the building or if your library is closed to the public, we have loads of ideas for creating virtual browsing experiences. Again, themes are a great way to start.

3. Invite your readers to share their favorite themes with you
There are many different ways to do form-based readers’ advisory, from forms on a website to cards a patron can fill out. Include themes in the options you give your patrons and encourage your readers to mix and match all the NoveList story elements. Build a display around some of your community’s favorite themes.

4. Show your patrons how to search for their favorite themes
We all have readers who are DIYers. These are the readers who don’t want you to hand them a book; they want you to show them how to find a book on their own. And they want to be able to search for books in their slippers. At midnight. Of course, you know your patrons can use NoveList from the comfort of their own homes. If NoveList isn’t yet easy to find on your website, we’ve got some tips for you. But with you and your patrons in mind, we’ve done one better. NoveList Select allows your patrons to mix and match their favorite story elements right in your catalog. Show your patrons how to use the story mixer, and they’ll come back to your catalog again and again in their quest for their next favorite book.

5. Keep learning 
No matter what tips and tricks you want to learn about in NoveList and LibraryAware, we’ve got training for you, from printable search strategies you can keep at the desk, to live training, to quick-hits YouTube tutorials. If you want tips to come to your email, make sure you’re signed up for NoveList News.

For a chance to have all your staff delve into NoveList Story Elements (including themes) and learn how to supercharge their readers’ advisory skills with genre, appeal terms, and themes, "Using Story Elements with Readers" is just one of the many live professional development courses offered as part of Learn with NoveList. Email learnwithnovelist@ebsco.com for details like costs, scheduling, and other offerings. 

Using Story Elements with Readers

Whether your readers love a steamy marriage of convenience romance or can’t get enough of thought-provoking first contact stories, the NoveList story elements — appeal, genre, and theme terms — provide a great way to talk to your readers.

Jennifer Lohmann is the Director of Sales & Marketing. She is currently reading Radium Girls by Kate Moore and working her way through the podcast You’re Wrong About.