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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5 comments on “Librarians, please discuss

  1. It was such a great discussion! So helpful to hear everyone’s opinions and it’s got me inspired to develop (and hopefully stick to) a reading program for my staff (and myself!). I used to be MUCH better about reading across genres when I worked at a library that did a lot of booktalking programs. Now that my current patrons don’t ask for a lot of booktalking programs, I have really let myself slip.

  2. Great question. I wonder though, if you aren’t a big reader, then why would you pursue a career in Libraries? I personally try to read out of my comfort zone (tried some Danielle Steel, SF, Fantasy) and have found a new passion for YA. That stuff is the s***. You don’t have to read everything, just try a little bit here and there and keep up with your Good Reading mags and pay attention to what your customers are saying. You might find a genre you never knew you’d like.
    Also, physically punish all staff who say “I don’t read”.

  3. Can you be a good doctor without being sick a lot yourself? Can you be a good attorney with having a lot of legal problems yourself?

    • Hi Robert, the question wasn’t ‘can you be a good readers’ advisor without being able to read (having low literacy)’ – it’s more about knowing all that you can about your product and your community’s needs around that product. I do expect a doctor to read widely on medicines and procedures and current practice,
      ‘Reading widely’ doesn’t necessarily mean reading novels from every genre either. Reading widely can mean that the librarian reads reviews in the major newspapers, and in Good Reading as Rani mentioned, engages with people as they talk about the books they like, checks GoodReads for the lists on genres you may not be familiar with, finds out which are the must-reads of particular genres. Do your staff discuss books and reading together? That’s a great way to learn about other genres and appeal characteristics without reading the whole book or watching the movie yourself.. Capture the titles and create staff recommendations for your community
      Staff who don’t read (books or reviews/information about books and reading) aren’t working to our national standard http://www.alia.org.au/publiclibraries/PLSG_ALIA_2012.pdf

  4. What a great topic. Of the examples of responses given the first and the last really resonated for me, It is possible to train people in RA, as Paul Brown has demonstrated so well, but I feel you will always be able to tell the difference between someone who loves books and reading and someone who is giving good customer service. Having said that if we make good RA a base standard for customer service then we are doing our jobs well. I also agree with Rani. I am trying to read outside my comfort zone, even if it is browsing and skimming when shelving and selecting. As for physically punishing staff…. any particular ways??? lol,

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