trials of a student librarian: readers' advisory, the library thing i love best

Of all the aspects of librarianship that I know about, the piece I'm most excited about is readers' advisory.

Readers' advisory is the library term for answering that important question... "What to read next?" Questions like, "Do you have any more books like this one?", "I'm tired of reading mysteries, I need something different," and "I loved this book, I want another just like it," are all about readers' advisory.

I was surprised to learn that adult readers ask library staff for book recommendations all the time. In my own reading, I am guided by almost exclusively by book reviews. It never occurred to me that people ask librarians about pleasure reading. But they do, in droves.

In the childrens' department, readers' advisory is a constant need. More than half the questions I hear from our young customers and their parents are a search for pleasure reading, and few things are more important. The key to childrens' educational (and life) success is good reading skills, and the key to developing good literacy skills is reading material that engage the reader. Just what will engage the reader is the big question.

Readers' advisory takes many forms. If your library has a "new and notable" table, a "staff picks" section, or a "How many of these great books have you read?" sign, that's readers' advisory. When a book is displayed face-out at the end of a stack, that's readers' advisory. If you see a sign with "If you enjoyed Very Popular Book, you might also enjoy... Similar Book That You May Not Have Heard Of," that's readers' advisory, too.

Readers' advisory websites like Booklist, Your Next Read, and Kids Reads have made library staff's job easier and faster. But the advent of these websites doesn't prevent people from asking librarians what to read next. A good thing!

The most active and intense form of readers' advisory is booktalking - giving a brief presentation to try to interest an audience in a book. Good booktalking is an amazing skill, something to aspire to. One excellent booktalk website is Be a Better Booktalker, written by Andrea Lipinski, a YA librarian.

I've been doing informal readers' advisory pretty much all my life - recommending books for my mothers' long-running book club, or having titles on hand to match people with books, and of course, the what i'm reading posts on wmtc. Now I'm realizing that this is my primary interest in librarianship: excellent readers' advisory is where I want to focus my energies, for a start.

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