As part of our environment scanning, I’ve gathered nearly 40 position descriptions on library jobs in a couple of months – mostly from Australia, some from New Zealand. Many of these mention a requirement for ‘readers’ advisory’ skills, but I am interested to find out what each library service means by that.
Despite the national guidelines, are some services just adding the buzz words in without thinking what that entails strategically?
When just the term is listed in a sentence I wonder – is that further articulated in the library’s strategic plan?
Do you know what you’re supposed to be doing if  ‘readers’ advisory’ is in your position description?

For example – ‘Excellent skills in information technology and readers advisory services’, and
‘Undertake customer service duties plus reference, readers advisory and information work’.

And then I found more explanatory inclusions like this that really demonstrate what and why:

‘Ensure your library provides quality information, vibrant collections, and reading services that demonstrate a passion for libraries and for reading and an understanding of the need for these services’ (my emphasis).

Our library uses the wording below for information services/readers engagement. I adapted it from phrasing used by the Brisbane Library Service a few years ago, and was guided by the Standards and Guidelines for Australian Public Libraries (2011). (p.29) I have phrasing around ‘understanding the need…’ in our Readers Engagement Plan.

Staff will maintain a strong knowledge of information resources and tools, and ability to determine what the customer needs. Additionally, staff will engender an enthusiasm for reading with customers through reader engagement skills that demonstrate a strong understanding of the process combined with reading knowledge.

The 2011 edition of the Standards is due to be revised, and I have seen that NSW has included readers advisory in its guidelines (NSW Living Learning Libraries – p. 37). Both reports were produced by Sherrey and Ian at Libraries Alive! What does it mean on the frontline for NSW public library staff?

We’re finalising our survey for public library staff, and from that and interviews we plan to find out more about what readers advisory means to you and your service.
Let us know!

what does readers’ advisory mean to you?


7 comments on “what does readers’ advisory mean to you?

  1. There was a comment made recently in my library service that when looking closely at database statistics, Novelist was very rarely used. Personally, I use it all the time to find out the next book in a series, to get Who Writes Like.. recommendations etc for my library members. However, I don’t believe that other staff in our organisation use it (well the stats are proving it) and I wonder why.

    I know a number of people in our library community will seek out particular staff for reading advice – because they have known them for a long time and they like what they read. It is always fun when the person comes in when that staff member is not available. They don’t want to answer questions like, what have you previously read, what did you like about that book, etc etc because so and so staff member knows what they like to read.

    Having it as a standard/guideline in a report for each state makes it interesting. Because that means libraries have to have readers advisory as a skill somewhere in their strategic plan, job descriptions or part of the performance appraisal process as a required competency. It will be interesting to see how my organisation fits it in and then ensures it gets across to the performance appraisal level.

    • Yes, Sharon, the databases here in Queensland suffer the same fate. Because they’re online people (staff included) forget they exist. They’re valuable resources and when we use them customers are excited by their content and our service value rises. They are our tools of the trade and we should use them – it’s the value of diigo over desktop favourites in a way.
      Best wishes with yours.

  2. ‘Readers Advisory’ is a large component of my role. I’m by no means an expert, as with all libraries, staff read different genres and so the expertise is combined. My role is facilitating book clubs also and I have tried to initiate a book club for younger readers without success (most of our members are 60+) It is a fact of life that staff members don’t necessarily read adult literature, and even though training has been provided, feel more comfortable passing queries to a person who is able to discuss options. I predict that readers advisory librarian in public libraries will suffer the same fate as the reference librarian – replaced by apps and internet resources.

    • Thanks for your comment Heather. Bookclubs are a great reader service program – keep up your great work. I’m hoping your prediction doesn’t come true (I think I’d rather see the comfortable library staff move on!) 🙂

  3. At Nelson Public Libraries we have a team of staff who do shifts in our ‘fiction area’ and who get training in readers advisory methods and resources – we push our main readers advisory databases through to our catalogue search screen and we use them on our OPACs to demonstrate them to users when we help them look for books. We recently re-arranged our fiction area and the response has been very positive – with users engaging with us for help to find reads much more frequently than before. We have regular BookChat sessions at two of our libraries and we are planning on developing an online BookChat environment for our users in 2013.

    • Hi there Alyson,
      Thanks for commenting on our blog! It sounds like your library service is doing fabulous things! I would love to talk further about your proposed online BookChat environment that will be rolled out in 2013. It is something that we have been discussing where I work, in relation to a Mums and Babes book club. Looking forward to furthering this conversation. jo

      • Hi – we are going to be joining in with the New South Wales Readers Advisory Working Group twitter reading group and hope to launch some kind of blog when we promote the group – so users can join in in a variety of ways. All very new for us, but we are quite exited about it!

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