WEEK 12: Service review

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    • #2596
      Kate McKelliget

      This forum post will review an online readers’ advisory service for teenagers. I have chosen to review the service provided by the Sno-Isle libraries in the state of Washington, USA. Coincidentally, these libraries are a mere couple of hours from the town in which the immensely popular teen series ‘Twilight’ was set. No reference required, I’m just that cool that I know that off the top of my head. I chose this international service because I find it to be quite exemplary. I hope that this post will reveal why.

      The Youth Services Librarian Wikispace states that ‘readers’ advisory connects youth with materials primarily for pleasure’. The wikispace reveals three reasons why pleasure reading is so important:

      1. It is ‘an important internal asset needed for youth to succeed’
      2. it allows teens to learn, grown and develop socially and morally without putting themselves in the risky situations that the characters do
      3. simply, it improves reading skills

      However, unfortunately Agosto and Huges-Hassell reveal in their 2010 article that interviews with teens show that:

      most teens thought of public libraries as unwelcoming and “uncool”, keeping them from becoming more frequent library users

      Teens feel that both children and adults are welcomed by libraries but young adults are not. These feelings are not a whim but sadly a fact that has been identified in professional literature. As Booth writes in her 2007 article:

      Because teens see [librarians] as authority figures (or at the very least, adults), approachability and an open, positive attitude are of utmost importance

      On the Sno-Isle libraries’ digital branch, the librarians are not only welcoming but also cool. Staff are represented by cartoon avatars and their biographies reveal the staff’s favourite books, movies, music, websites, snacks, drinks, tv shows and video games. This immediately sets a positive rapport with the teens visiting their branch.

      The digital branch itself is also very cool. Agosto and Huges-Hassell reveal that teens are usually turned off by the library’s dated decor, strict rules, unwelcoming attitudes and a lack of resources reflecting their needs. Teens visiting the Slo-Isle digital branch are immediately welcomed by a destination that is unquestionably theirs. The ‘decor’ is appropriate, they are encouraged to play video games, read and contribute to readers’ advisory, there are homework resources, an events calendar for teen programs only, fun polls to take part in, contests, volunteer opportunity information, silly memes, a teen blog and links to social media (woah!). I realise that this isn’t reviewing the readers’ advisory service but I believe it is of the utmost importance. What is the use of having an excellent online readers’ advisory service if teens do not care to visit it? Similarly, what is the point of having an excellent readers’ advisory librarian in the library if teens do not care to visit the library in the first place? I believe that having this welcoming space for teens, that is so often overlooked, is really the first step in being approachable, open and positive.

      Of the readers’ advisory itself, Booth states three criteria (of course there are more criteria in an interview setting, such as eye contact etc, that do not apply to an online scenario)

      1. the use of appeal based descriptions
      2. the use of read-alike booklists
      3. the ability to recommend the books that the reader wants, not what you think they should have

      The Sno-Isle libraries’ readers’ advisory will reviewed using this criteria.

      1. Appeal based descriptions

      Appeal based descriptions are the opposite to plot based descriptions: they discuss the experience the reader will have, rather than the plot they will read (see page 25 of Booth for an example). As Booth states, appeal based descriptions allow readers to broaden their horizons: a particular  plot may not appeal to a reader, but the idea of a strong female character might. The Sno-Isle libraries readers’ advisory is both in the form of teen reviewed books and library described books. Unfortunately, neither of these forms produce appeal based descriptions. Of the latter, it appears to be linked directly to the library catalogue, which makes it simpler for the user to find the book but doesn’t provide the most ideal type of description.

      2. Use of read-alike booklists

      These book lists allow readers to peruse titles within in categories they enjoy or have just finished reading in to find books they may like and according to Booth they are becoming very popular. The Sno-Isle libraries does this extremely well! Check it out for yourself – it’s quite fun pursuing the titles! http://www.sno-isle.org/teens/booklists/

      3. Ability to recommend the books that the reader wants, not what you think they should have

      Booth states that this is of utmost importance, and she writes in her 2007 book:

      And most important, as with reference work, you will suggest a variety of materials based on what the patron has asked for, not what you think the patron should have

      The fact the the  Sno-Isle libraries include every teen book in their catalogue, as well as further external resources is perhaps enough to suggest that they are not attempting to persuade their readers to certain types of books but to explore all possibilities. This is especially important for teens because as Booth states:

      readers’ advisory for teens functions on the concept that reading of any kind, in any genre is valid and should be encouraged


    • #2602
      Katherine Lee

      Great post Kate! I reviewed a product produced by an American library too. There seems to be a real emphasis in American public libraries in appealing to their teenage audience. In the library whose product I reviewed the library has a teen advisory board, adolescents who volunteer in the library and just seem to make a greater effort to engage with their adolescent audience through a number of platforms. I couldn’t think of any Australian library that makes the same degree of effort to reach out to teenagers and wonder if this is something public libraries need to do more of?

      • #2751
        Kate McKelliget

        Hi Katherine! Thanks for reading my post – especially at a point when it wasn’t proof read yet! When I decided to do a service review this week, I knew that, because of my timetable, I would have to review an online service. Instead of searching through libraries’ websites for YA RA, I searched for YA RA in general. I would say that a lot of the literature and web content was all American. Yes, it seems that Americans are really on the ball RE: teens in their libraries. Like you say, they create so many different ways to meet the users of teens. Volunteering is one that I had never come across in my experience as a teen in Australia. Although I volunteer at a library now as a LIS student, I never knew of any opportunities to volunteer at my public library as a teen. And yes, things like advisory boards, which seem very common sense, were unknown to me before researching for this review. I think it would be great to see public libraries do more of this, or , if they already are (which Im sure many are), to make them more known to the public. I would like to do more reading about how well such programs/services are working for public libraries.  Will pop by your post to check it out soon!

      • #2777
        Leena Riethmuller

        It’s good to know there is a library out there with a teen advisory board –  I was thinking while reading Kate’s review how good it would be for teens to see other teens using the library and informing the library of what they need to cater for teens. 😀

    • #2679
      Deborah Fuller

      Great post Kate. I want to go on a field trip to Sno-Isle. I’ve just looked at the website and like you say it is really appealing, although I’m probably not the target demographic. I agree teens do seem to be the neglected generation, not just in libraries, they’re neither child or adult and do need to have programs and spaces geared to their needs and places that they can meet and be safe and accepted.

      • #2752
        Kate McKelliget

        Hi Debbie. Thanks for pooping by! A field trip to Sno-Isle sounds about perfect! I’m glad you took the time to look through their website.

    • #2778
      Leena Riethmuller

      Thanks for your service review Kate! When I started reading I thought “Yeah, whatever, like they managed to make a library cool for teens…” but then I went to the site and it’s so brilliant. I think my skepticism came from a place of thinking how savvy teens are at sussing out constructed coolness created by adults. But this site literally has things teens would want and use. As soon as I saw the ad with Snoopy on it saying “What’s cooler than being cool? Having a library card!” I knew it was a place run by librarians with a sense of humour and who really thought about their users.

      When it is clearly possible that increasing the teenage audience in libraries is possible, I wonder why libraries don’t focus on it more. Do you have any thoughts on why libraries don’t focus more on teenagers?

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