August 22, 2015 at 1:21 pm #1205Kirsty RobertsParticipant
Before I started the readings for the week, I had never heard the term ‘Readers Advisory’ before. In fact, I had no idea there was a particular title reserved for this field of work – I had assumed the task of suggesting and recommending materials to library patrons was simply a given aspect of library work. It hadn’t really occurred to me that perhaps this job required additional training or allocated time to refine it as a skill.
After engaging with the readings however, I was able to form my own opinion on the service and its importance in different library contexts. I personally find the service invaluable and, as I expressed in my tweets, I consider it important to improving the circulation of library resources and promoting wider literacy. I also feel that it draws in reluctant readers who are hesitant because they aren’t sure what they’re looking for.
Quite a few of those engaged in the Twitter chat were of a similar opinion – that Readers’ Advisory held value to library patrons – but there was a significant divide when it came to opinions as to whether or not those involved in Readers’ Advisory needed to actually be readers themselves.
Quite a few were adamant that being a voracious reader was essential to making confident, appropriate recommendations while others, such as myself, were less convinced that this was a necessity. I noticed this same divide in many of the readings I engaged with – Thornton-Verma and Schwart’s study yielded a participant who believed that “staff who don’t read widely or have trouble articulating appeal factors feel uncomfortable with RA”, while another in this same study stated the opposite: “we stress that they don’t have to have read everything, that there are tools and resources for them”. While I agree that reading widely would be beneficial to those working in Readers’ Advisory, I feel that the use of RA tools and resources could be sufficient – such as the ‘Quick Dip’ method or the use of a review notebook, as suggested in this guide to Readers’ Advisory by the Library Video Network.
As many others noted in the Twitter chat, regardless of whether or not these librarians are well-read or well-versed in genre or appeal characteristics, the most important tool available to those engaged in Readers’ Advisory is their ability to listen objectively. The service is unlikely to remain successful if those providing it cannot meet their user’s needs or make suggestions without bias.
While I wasn’t aware of it at the time, I participated in Readers’ Advisory during my placement earlier this semester. A number of Brisbane City Council libraries, including the one I was placed at, run a Home Library Service for the home bound and elderly and a part of this service is selecting materials for these patrons. When joining the service, the patrons included a list of preferences for resources – format, print size, genre, length, author, etc – and the responsibility of selecting these materials each month is given to an allocated librarian. At my placement library, the same librarian was responsible for the same group of patrons each month and each of them expressed to me that this aided in their selection process, as they developed better knowledge of their patron’s likes and dislikes over time. The downfall, however, was that while these patrons were given suggestion sheets alongside their selections each month, many of them rarely bothered to fill them out – meaning the librarians couldn’t tell whether or not they’d enjoyed what had been selected for them.
What I noticed during my placement was that the Team Leader regularly provided time for the librarians to become familiar with new books or engage in Readers’ Advisory tasks, which had made them all far more capable of providing this service with confidence. As the readings and the Twitter chat suggested, having time to refine these skills is invaluable in any library context and is necessary if Readers’ Advisory is going to continue to flourish in the future.
- This topic was modified 5 years ago by Kirsty Roberts.
August 23, 2015 at 9:27 am #1252Deborah FullerParticipant
I have read your reflection with interest Kirsty. I also was a Twitter Chat Champion last week and could identify with the themes you highlighted in the reflection. I particularly found interesting your personal experience, whilst on placement at Brisbane City Libraries and found it heartening that readers’ advisory is considered part of the role of the librarian and that they are given time to familiarise themselves with new additions to the collection.
August 24, 2015 at 9:39 am #1344Stephanie VenturatoParticipant
Hi Kirsty, Yeah I’d never heard of RA either, just assumed it was a natural part of libraries. Yeah I don’t think you necessarily have to read something to be able to recommend it, though I sometimes think it can be useful when someone specialise in a particular area such a children’s literature. I think it could be really hard to be across all topics, especially if a client is particularly well read. what do you think? I’m glad your experience at the public library was so positive, I think it would be a real shame if libraries lost that skill, I agree I think it’s invaluable.
September 13, 2015 at 4:43 pm #1945Will WoodParticipant
Interesting post! I agree with the point you made about being a voracious reader not being an essential qualification for providing a good readers advisory service. For me it comes down to the fact that all people are individual and just because you may have read the same book as me we may not share the same opinions about it. I feel that due to this reason readers advisory provided by someone who merely reads a great amount and makes recommendations based on personal experience needs to take care that this does not become information that is personally biased. To this end I feel that the use of RA tools and resources can provide better assistance to patrons because they are created in consultation with many people and are formed from many opinions therefore catering to as many people as possible.
October 6, 2015 at 2:27 pm #2329Chris SonneveldParticipant
Thanks for the great post and sharing an overview of your work experience. I also wasn’t aware of the term Reader’s Advisory before the Twitter Chat and feel that I would have enjoyed reading a lot more if I had access to a service like this when I was younger. I have always found it difficult to find a book I can get hooked on and after a number of failed attempts at trying to enjoy a book I usually stop for an extended period of time. Though I don’t think that RAs necessarily have to be voracious readers I do think they should have foundation knowledge on how books may differ, current trends and popular authors and have knowledge of online resources that will not only assist them as an RA but also for their patrons. At the end of the day not every recommendation is going to be a success but like you’ve said the success of an RA service will depend on creating awareness of the service and providing time to RAs to hone their skills.
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