Nearly two decades ago, I began keeping track of the books I read. There are few things I love more than making a list (a trait many librarians share, I think!) and I found that writing down what I read and when helped cement the book in my memory and boosted my confidence when suggesting titles to others. My tracking has taken different forms over the years – I started with a simple list in a notebook then moved onto online journals and spreadsheets, but I’ve recently returned to pen and paper. Sometimes the simplest solution is the best, and for me, jotting down a title, author, date read, and a few thoughts in a notebook continues to be the best and quickest option.
Why track your reading, you might ask? There are many benefits. The biggest, for me, is that tracking can unearth holes or oversights in our reading lives. In recent years there has been a great deal of discussion about the lack of diversity in the publishing world and when I looked back at my reading, I realized I was reading mostly white women authors. Without that cold, hard evidence, I would have thought I was doing okay in reading authors from a variety of backgrounds because I definitely sprinkled them into my reading life. But I couldn’t dispute the evidence that my stats were hovering right between 10 and 15% non-white authors before I started tracking. Being intentional about my reading enabled me to thoughtfully choose how to spend my reading time.
Tracking also helped me enormously when I worked in the public library because it got me thinking about why someone might like a book, even if the book didn’t work for me. Spending just a few minutes reflecting on what I read helped to make me a better readers’ advisor because I was training my brain to consider the story elements in a book when reading it. Obviously, you can’t read every book in the world, but by thinking of books in this way, you’ll start paying attention to how other people talk about books and identifying clues in what they might like to read.
Last, tracking your reading can simply be a satisfying record of how you’ve spent your reading time. I love looking back to see how my tastes have changed throughout the years and seeing patterns in what I read in different seasons.
Book tracking isn’t only for those of us who work in libraries and talk about books every day, though. A DIY book journal offers a passive program for your patrons and an effective way to engage readers with little effort from busy staff. Our new book journal templates in LibraryAware make it quick and easy to do. Just print out the professionally designed cover, back, and internal journal pages for patrons to pick up at your circulation or information desks, or fold the pages into a booklet to hand out at curbside. Create recommended reading lists featuring items in your library’s collection as additional pages. Want a wider reach? Save the pages as PDFs and link to them on your website and in social media posts for readers to print on their own. That's also a great way to provide endless refills.