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.



Daring to explore


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.


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




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.





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!)


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.

thank you

To our blog followers, retweeters, commenters, survey respondents and those of you in the audience who we don’t know yet – thank you. Our blog has been viewed 869 times, mostly by New Zealanders and Australians, and we’re enjoying the journey.

We’ve been listed as #nzlibraries heroes by @Sallyheroes (one of our favourite NZ librarians) – check out how Jo’s Staff Picks post (and Chris’ work at Logan North) relates to NZ Bok4. Thanks Sally!

I had a great chat with Fraser Coast’s amazing Information Services Librarian recently. Karla has created a pocket-sized author/genre booklet and is complementing that resource with popular genre shelf-wobblers and genre booktalks (coming up this Wednesday night, a Fifty Shades discussion night).
I’m inspired by Karla’s success.

Do you know a library staff member doing great things in readers’ advisory services? We can start a new tag #RAchampion.

how do you connect your community with reading?

We talk a lot in our library service about connecting people in our community with reading, and this week quite a few great ideas were raised by staff.

  • add Recommended Reads labels to book and DVD spines because people like to read what others have read and enjoyed. The labels would make them easy to find on the shelves for customers and for adding to displays.
  • Taking reading to the nursing home residents (many of our staff have a great affinity with older people)
  • Partnering with a local art magazine by contributing reviews of library art-related books with reviews written by librarians
  • Promoting the add a review facility in our catalogue so people can share what they’re reading with others, with great incentives like books and awesome t-shirts.

I read about a great idea from two different sources this week.
The Victorians Love Libraries campaign and the Literacy Aotearoa Travelling Books project (LA via @SallyHeroes). We’re already registered on Bookcrossing, so could investigate doing something similar through there.

LA’s CEO Bronwyn Yates noted that ‘adult literacy is a major national issue’ (in New Zealand just as it is in Australia) and that ‘sharing the pleasure of reading books with others is hugely rewarding.’

What would be really useful in this country is a central collaborative project bank that library staff add to, gain inspiration from, and ultimately use to save time and duplication of effort, so that we can collectively make a huge difference. Have you seen the Love2Read Ideas Bank?

How are you connecting your community with reading?
How would you like to connect with your professional community to promote reading?



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?

it’s who you know

The point of going to a conference is to learn more about the profession, and to meet up with others in the profession. I’ve sometimes found the most valuable things happen outside of the conference framework, but happen because of it.
We both went to the QPLA off-year conference held at State Library of Queensland, Brisbane. It was a mini-conference but packed full of valuable information and ideas. More on that soon.

We’re grateful to Nadia Patch, Coordinator of Reading at Brisbane Libraries, for spending her lunch break in an interview with us. We were so impressed with the work Nadia does and how she works with the team leaders (branch librarians) to work on a coordinated and very successful approach to reader services. Nadia’s team had developed eye-catching genre bookmarks which feature a space for librarians to write their own recommendation before personally giving the bookmark to a customer.
And the BCC bookclub booklet features 40 reviews written by library staff – awesome production.

We were also excited to meet Sue McKerracher, Director of the Library Agency managing National Year of Reading. After the conference I was fortunate to meet with Jane Cowell and Tammy Morley at State Library (Jane is Director Public and Indigenous Library Services and Tammy is Manager Capacity Development). Jane and Tammy were very supportive when I asked the question – how can we work with State Library to support reader services in Queensland public libraries?
They’ve also suggested we submit an article to the PLC enews, so look out for that.

The conference was all about advocacy, and personally I found Sue Henzcel and DK’s presentations the most valuable in this area (Sue on metrics and DK on social media advocacy). I found a lot I can use to support reader services delivery in the public library service.

I finished my trip with a visit to Robin Lee at Brisbane Square Library (colleagues Suzanne and Esther had visited BSL and Fairfield to check out RFID) – and met some more wonderful Brisbane librarians.

Conferences and library visits are an invaluable opportunity to meet talented people who are doing great things in our industry.

Who have you met who has influenced your professional practice?


we work together just not in the same building

Jo and I live and work over 1000 kilometres from each other, but when Jo suggested submitting a joint application for the research scholarship I didn’t hesitate to say yes. The last time I collaborated on a project online was maybe ten years ago at uni and that was torturous. We were studying distance, but I didn’t know the other students and there were varying degrees of commitment to the subject. It was all pre-twitter, pre-interactive online communities. But Jo? We’re old twitter buddies. We both love Elvis. How could this not work?
We email a little. We work on the same documents in googledocs. We share articles on dropbox. We skype regularly. And then we tweet about stuff and chart our journey here on wordpress.
Do you work with someone, just not in the same building? How’s it going for you?