Librarians, please discuss

Today I participated in an international twitter conversation around readers advisory. Abby tweeted this morning:

‘Librarians, a question: can you give good readers advisory without reading widely yourself? Please discuss.’

Some of the responses in chronological order are as follows:

I think you could give ‘good’ RA, but I don’t believe you could give great RA
Catalogue can’t give you everything. I think actual knowledge of genres, authors, styles could give that
Think passion and an interest in reading , books shine through conversations which result is great RA
Interesting question hey? If staff are not reading and talking about books can they give good RA?
Depends on what the ‘reader’ wants, if wants reader development that is one thing, if wants information about something that is another thing
Talking amongst colleagues is RA practice as well (to avoid clamming up with customers)
If staff are not reading and talking about books can they give good RA > nope
Sometimes I feel like RA is the best kept dirty library secret ever
And elicits both positive and negative reactions when talking about it
It’s like choosing books for kids, if you love books yourself your passion comes through
I think sometimes reading books is easy, talking books can be hard
Even harder when like me, you read a particular genre
How do I learn to talk about other genres with same passion
I would never trust a librarian who does not read
Talking with others about books ignites passion, debate and flurries of reserves
Chiming in as academic librarian: I can’t see how!
This is where I come unstuck, I don’t read widely because I read for enjoyment
However, I do read Good Reading magazine and other review resources so at least I know what’s out
You don’t have to *like* or be passionate about all genres, but do need knowledge
I think knowledge of the tools is important to show your reader is important too
Agree, we have to know what tools are there and how to use them
There is always ways to cheat – ‘talking about books you haven’t read’ book from Amazon
Love it! Hubby has 5 questions/statements he uses when pretending he has seen a movie #silly
I’d love to know those 5 questions!
‘Talking about books you haven’t read’ is actually in my to be read pile…..
I think you can, I pump a lot of people for information on genres I don’t read
RA training is important, it provides critical skills
I tried talking w staff about fav books from 2012, started with a blog post I had seen, no response
Will continue to try and talk books with my staff
And what do you do with a school library employee that refuses to read YA
Get rid of them? Lol! Write it into their job descriptions……
If it is made a requirement, you write them up
This has been a great discussion, I going to work on developing a genre reading program for staff…. Will blog here soon
I’m so excited about developing this readers advisory program for my staff that I feel a little feverish
(I am a big nerd)

The conversations played out for nearly two hours, with many different responses. What do you think? Can you give good readers advisory without reading widely yourself? What strategies does your library have in place to facilitate this?

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wish we were there (again)

We took a lot of photos in Auckland, mostly inside libraries and certainly of many librarians. Check out the many readers advisory techniques used in Auckland’s libraries on our flickr collection.

And if you’re visiting Auckland, please drop in to the libraries and say hello from us. We miss those guys!

As well as meeting great librarians from the public libraries we also met the very inspirational Fiona Mackie, President of SLANZA (great article about her and Word Up in Collected #9, pages 16-17) and Catherine Frew from the Corporate Library. We caught up with the marvellous Tosca Waera (Social Media Coordinator, the personality behind @Auckland_Libs), Sally Pewhairangi from Finding Heroes (who inspires us with her big ideas) and Paul Brown – our amazing tour guide and readers advisory expert.

Here’s a link to a LIANZA 2012 paper by Richard Misilei, the awesome manager of  Tupu Youth Library – South Auckland Libraries: Connecting with Southside Youth. A library service to be proud of. If you’ve been there, shout about it!

Auckland City Libraries

We visited Central City, Botany, Tupu, Onehunga, Massey, Titirangi, Henderson, Takapuna and East Coast Bays libraries.

Grand plans

Take Five

Take Five

I’ve been writing a readers’ engagement plan at work to support our venture into becoming the go-to people for all things to do about reading. I am interested to hear if other library services have developed strategic plans in this area. Let us know in the survey!  Early days yet with the survey and our research, but to some extent it looks like readers advisory is just another thing library staff are asked to do. It’s not necessarily built into strategic plans or job descriptions or professional development. Staff need these foundations to become great at connecting people with books (stories and information).

Ellen Forsyth asked on twitter today ‘Is it reasonable if I suggest that library workers should spend 10 – 15 minutes a day on their own professional development?’  She is currently working in Timor Leste and the question was for that region, but this is a concept that has been tossed around in this country. In this information profession we help people search for information, but in many cases spending time searching on one’s own at work is viewed as timewasting. I believe we need to be in the spaces our community is in. They watch The First Tuesday Bookclub, read the reviews in The Age, and listen to stories on radio. If our staff do not take time to find out about these resources, then we are not providing the point of difference over Amazon or the local chain bookstore.

Training and literary knowledge is required to gather together similarly themed books for Auckland’s popular Take Five program. This is a great program for fast issues for borrowers when you have RFID, and good training for staff to gather the right books together.
You don’t gather five books of the same format, but of similarly themed content – for example with 1984 you could have The Hunger Games, a George Orwell biography or Haruki  Murakami’s 1Q84 , a political book on totalitarianism and the 1984 DVD. Readers have the chance to extend their reading, to discover new reading experiences. You could extend those recommendations with bitly or QR code links to your eResources, and links to download the audiobook, and music suggestions like The Dead Kennedys and Rage Against the Machine who have referenced 1984.

For expert advice I recommend you head off to Information Online in February and check out Paul Brown’s session on contextual readers advisory. It’s amazing stuff, and something that really requires strong foundations in our staff to develop and deliver this service.