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Reference Question of the Week – 2/3/08

   February 9th, 2008 Brian Herzog

Massachusetts Center for the Book logoThis week's question is one heard often:

"do you have any suggestions for a good book?"

Librarians either love of hate this question. I've talked about various readers advisory tools (and the old standard, NoveList), but I learned of a new one this week.

On Thursday, I went to the Massachusetts State House to attend the presentation of the 2008 Massachusetts Book Awards (photos).

Each year, the Massachusetts Center for the Book evaluates hundreds of entrants in the categories of fiction, non-fiction, poetry and childrens books, and selects a winner and two honorees in each category.

Part of the criteria is that the author is a Massachusetts resident or the work in some way is significant to Massachusetts. Their website has the list of this year's winners as well as winners from past years, and I think this is a great resource for readers advisory. This year's books included Nathaniel Philbrick (Mayflower), Noam Chomsky (Failed States), and Martín Espada (The Republic of Poetry), among others, so these aren't local interest-only works.

What I also liked is that the Massachusetts Center for the Book is part of the Library of Congress' Center for the Book program. Which means, not only can I refer patrons to these few Massachusetts, but there are 49 other state programs, all evaluating and highlighting significant books.

I've used the Center for the Book for other things, but never the award winner lists for readers advisory. So not only was it a fun trip to Boston, but I learned something, too.

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