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?

Down on the beach

It is hard to believe today is our last day of visiting Auckland City Libraries! We headed north and our first stop was Takapuna community library on the North Shore. We met Helen and Jacquie, who showed us around, held a morning tea for us and discussed their library’s great initiatives for readers and the community.

The neighbourhood project is an outreach project to the local community by the library with the intention of getting to know the local businesses in the area, and sharing relevant library information with them. This also includes a readers advisory service as they answer questions. They are also piloting a personalised service for older readers that has been received well.

Of the many conversations we have had over the last week about librarianship, today we were reminded about the importance of seeking out opportunities when they arise. Being a yes person instead of saying no, and never knowing what possibilities we are turning down.

Takapuna library values the literary history of the area and staff work closely with writers and publishers in the area, leading to links with local writers’ centres and author visits including Michael Palin.

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East Coast Bays Library was the last library on our week long tour. We met Anne, Joy and Sarah who feel very strongly that the reading experience must engage customers and promote the collection. We heard about their twice monthly book chats where people bring two or three books in and talk about them with the group. While facilitated by staff, the group operates a peer to peer readers advisory within the group. The books recommended could easily be added online and shared with the wider community via library website, library blog and Pinterest!

The shelving and display of newly returned items, and new books has created a browsing zone for customers, who then borrow heavily from this area, thus reducing returns shelving by up to 47%.

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We had a late lunch in the area and braved the crazy winds to walk along the waterfront and view Rangitoto Island from a northerly perspective.

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We are looking forward to spending some time reflecting on the many ideas we have heard and practices we have observed from our time in Auckland. Thanks to all who gave up time to speak with us, we are so very grateful.

We all read here

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Day 4 of our study visit and today we visited some of the libraries to the west of Auckland. First up was Titirangi Library, surrounded by lush rolling countryside and the harbour. I am sure if I worked there I would have my nose to a window gazing at the views! We talked to Rachel and staff at Titirangi, and asked what type of things do you do for readers advisory in this library? Rachel responded straight away with, ‘we all read here and love talking to our customers about books’! Best answer ever!!

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Next up was Massey Community Library, co-located with a YMCA and a daycare centre. The spaces are built around Eco principles with water features outside helping cool the inside of the building. Of interest was the amount of staff on the floor talking and helping customers.

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Lastly we visited Waitakere Central Library, co-located with the Unitech across the road. This library had a fabulous local studies collection, and had much more of a research focus, reflecting the community it serves.

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Alison and I have been amazed at the variety of libraries and the communities they serve within Auckland City Libraries. We have been introduced as the librarians from Australia (haha!!) and have been blown away by the generosity shown to us by all the staff we have spoken to. Thank you so much for sharing your libraries, collections and ideas.

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Everybody trundling

I find it very funny that both Australians and New Zealanders speak English, and yet there are words that I have no idea what they are talking about!! For example ‘trundlers’, the NZ equivalent to a shopping trolley!! Such a classic word ūüôā

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Today we visited three different libraries within the Auckland City Library service. First was Tupu youth library at Otara where we met Richie and his staff of children and teen librarians. Tupu is a purpose built library created to meet the needs of the youth in the community, and to provide safe spaces for young people. I really loved this space and idea, and was impressed with the staff and their vision for their service built on community and respect.

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Next up was Botany Library where we met Karen and her staff. Botany library is located in a shopping centre and was built with retail principles in mind. Extended opening hours, purpose built equipment that promotes and displays collections and staff recruited to reflect retail principles of customer service and deliver a high end retail experience.

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Last up was Onehunga Library, where we met Rachel and her team, and were reminded of why we do our job. Onehunga is located in what was traditionally an industrial, lower socio-economic area that is changing into a boutique community. Rachel believes attitudes make a big difference to the service you provide, and has staff greeting community members and spending time with them on the floor. We loved how she encouraged readers advisory using the young people in her library!

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We also witnessed Phillipe – one of the children who use the library everyday – thank Rachel and her staff with flowers and a song for the time spent helping him this year. Alison and I were very moved, and it was a lovely reminder of the importance of libraries in local communities.

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Last up, I saw this recruitment sign, and was very taken by it! What message does it send? Who is their intended audience? What type of people do you think would apply? What skills would they need? Made me wonder about recruiting librarians and what we would put on a poster such as this….

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Daring to explore

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Today we spent the day at Auckland City Library. This morning we caught up with Anne Dickson and Jolene West, Libraries Advisors, from the Youth Service Development team. Anne and Jolene discussed their summer reading program ‘Dare to Explore’, and their teen readers advisory program ‘Fuse’. We were lucky to be there when their ‘Dare to explore’ activity packs were delivered, and got to see them first hand. Both programs involve tracking reading, completing challenges and foster relationships between young people and their families, libraries and librarians.

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We went to the Auckland Art Gallery for lunch and more chatting, and spent a lot of money in the gallery shop!

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This afternoon we spent time with Tosca Waerea, Social Media Extraordinaire! Tosca talked about making social media streams relevant, and the need for staff in these spaces to stop, collaborate and listen. She also discussed readers advisory and the role social media can play in this field.

Study visit

As part of winning the QPLA scholarship, Alison and I have the privilege of visiting Auckland Library Service for a week long study visit. We get to spend time with a variety of librarians and staff from many different libraries that make up the service, and talk all things readers advisory/development.

I will try and post a couple of photos each night from our day.

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We also spent the day with Karen Craig, Reader Services Coordinator from Auckland City Libraries. She graciously gave up her time to show us around the city branch, and talk about how physical spaces can enhance a readers advisory service (we will devote a new post to this!)

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After giving up on finding any free wifi that actually connected us to the Internet, we meandered around Auckland CBD, looking like tourists and taking in the sights.

Book talking

Book talk at Riverbend Books

I attended an end of year function at Riverbend Books a few weeks ago and was blown away by one of the best examples of book talking I have seen.  I ended up with a list of titles from outside my normal genres that I simply must read, as well as a list of titles to give as presents this Christmas. Wikepedia states:

A booktalk in the broadest terms is what is spoken with the intent to convince someone to read a book. Booktalks are traditionally conducted in a classroom setting for students. However, booktalks can be performed outside a school setting and with a variety of age groups as well. It is not a book review or a book report or a book analysis. The booktalker gives the audience a glimpse of the setting, the characters, and/or the major conflict without providing the resolution or denouement. Booktalks make listeners care enough about the content of the book to want to read it. A long booktalk is usually about five to seven minutes long and a short booktalk is generally thirty seconds to two minutes long.

Pru from Jimboomba Libray in Queensland has introduced Book talking with her Junior Book Club.  She says:

We look at the display on new items mostly from the JF collection that have come in during that month.  I have read a couple of the books and talk about why I did/did not like the book, intended audience and genre recommendations. Sometimes there are new Beginner Readers that may be of interest to the boys.

Next we go around the group and ask what the kids have been reading, did they like it, what type of genre, who do they think would like to read this type of book.  This is only a couple of sentences form each child and they only join in if they want to.

Also displayed is another part of the Junior collection such as Audio Books, JNF or mags.  This is to show the kids that there are other things at the library that can be borrowed.

Does your library provide book talking as one of your readers advisory tools? If so, we would love to hear about your experiences.

Staff picks

Following on from our last post on connecting our communities with reading, today we feature Chris Orpen, Regional Librarian from Logan North Library, in Queensland. ¬†She attended “Best Sellers” readers advisory training with Paul Brown in November 2010, and then introduced retail principles of customer service and visual merchandising via staff picks into her library.

Chris writes:

Encouraging staff to write regular short reviews for shelf talkers has always been a problem.¬† All start out enthusiastically but the demands of day to day ‘busyness’ often pushes the reviews to a low or non priority.¬† We developed a simplified process to overcome this issue.¬† Each staff member has a colour coded book mark with a 5 star graphic and their name.¬† They simply choose a book they enjoyed or would recommend, place the bookmark inside with the label showing, and place it on our designated end displays.¬† Using this method we have loaned over 11,000 ‘staff picks’ in the last 12 months.

We had always planned to expand this concept if the project was successful.¬† To overcome the lack of written review, each staff member has their photo (with the corresponding colour code) on display near our Readers Advice desk.¬† Accompanying the photo is a dot point list of reading preferences and hobbies/interests.¬† This assists borrowers in selecting items of common interest.¬† The concept has proved very popular with many borrowers ‘following’ particular staff members, and it also adds a personal aspect to our selections.¬† An unexpected advantage has been that new members get to know the staff much more quickly.

 

Chris’s paper, ¬†‘If the shoe fits… the heart and sole of a retail librarian‘ is definitely worth a read!!

Our Research Project

Embedding readers advisory in professional practice as a key collaborative strategy in Queensland public libraries  

It is the intention of our research to establish a collaborative network for Queensland public library staff to share information and expertise, to recommend inclusion of RA in position descriptions, to communicate the value of readers advisory as a core library role, to share RA content and strategies, and for Queensland strategies to articulate to interstate sharing and into a national strategy.  We have planned online meetings with key readers advisory staff in New South Wales, Victoria and other states and a research visit to Auckland Libraries to work further with staff there who practice readers advisory.

Readers Advisory (RA) is identified as a public library service in the Standards and Guidelines for Australian Public Libraries but even in this National Year of Reading (NYR12) some Queensland public library services have been unable to or have not trained staff, identified RA in their strategic planning, identified RA in position descriptions, participated in national NYR12 programs, or offered RA as a service.

We believe that having trained staff working together to offer a quality RA service across Queensland public libraries is a strategic step towards library futures, both generally, and to support national developments that arise from National Year of Reading.

BRIEF OUTLINE OF AIMS & OBJECTIVES OF PROJECT

  • Establish collaborative partnerships between public libraries, and collaborative networks amongst public librarians to support delivery of RA in public libraries,
  • To support a central knowledge base – with an online public research space and RA groups (form will emerge from research)
  • Share information and resources on best practice RA, including incorporation of RA in professional practice (position descriptions, strategic planning, ongoing training)
  • Promote international collaboration on RA through promotion of NYR12 to New Zealand public library staff
  • Provide recommendations to Queensland public library services where implementation will ensure public libraries are seen as the place to go for expertise and reading services, and will ensure libraries are key organisations in national developments post-NYR12.