Reader Advisory Service Chat

 

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Photo by Enokson / CC BY

I was delighted to be one of the Twitter Chat Champions on the topic of Reader’s Advisory Service.  Overall, the chat was lively and stimulating.  I found using Twitter easier this time around than our first chat, and I suspect others did too. I could concentrate on content rather than the mechanics of tweeting.  I thank everyone who participated and providing food for thought for this blog.   

One of the topics that created a hearty discussion was the potential for libraries to recommend books to patrons by analysing their loans history.  Many of us agreed with Kate’s comment:  I want my library to exploit my borrowing data the way amazon exploits my purchasing data. Sell to me library! Sell to me!”.  A few raised doubts though.  Karen commented: “Kobo (my ereader provider) does this… I don’t like it as I find it limiting”; and Tim: “Issues of privacy?”.  Guest tweeter Hugh, @hughrundle, proposed it can be done and wrote a paper on using library patron’s data to help them find what they want while still protecting privacy.  Learn more here.

On the topic of why RA is important, Kylie commented: “If ‘books’ are the library’s brand; readers’ advisory is kind of like the library’s ‘sales pitch’”.  A positive interaction between librarian and customer by way of effective RA creates a bond that is likely to result in a return visit.  In terms of qualities a librarian should possess to deliver RA, being approachable and non-judgmental, and possessing good listening and conversational skills were mentioned.  There was also agreement that librarians need to be supported by employers to deliver RA through professional development and time to evaluate resources.  In her research, Jo Beazley, a guest librarian tweeter, discusses the value of RA as a skill set librarians should have.

In relation to characteristics of good RA practice, Tim commented:  “Think outside the box. Going to a poetry slam on Fri night at SLV in Melbourne. Poetry made accessible.”  Going by his review, it was a successful event with many attendees.  An event like this is a great way to promote reading and the library, but, I think it is vital to “…know you(r) audience” (Helen).  It would be disheartening to organise an event and only have a handful of people turn up, even worse, none.

Keeping a broad view of what RA encompasses, will help libraries and librarians stay current.  Promotion and reaching potential customers is an important component.  With e-books on the rise and free internet apps readily available, such as Google’s, libraries would benefit from applying marketing strategies to maintain a stable customer base now and into the future.  A user-centred approach is key, with a shift of focus from collection to connection where librarians strike a balance between providing a positive user experience and challenging users to grow intellectually and personally.  As Hamish put it: “walking that crooked tightrope between challenging the reader and deferring to their tastes.”  

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Photo by Cory Doctorow / CC BY

RA is a core aspect of library service.  In a customer-focused model, it is an opportunity to improve customer relations and encourage return patronage.  Providing skilled librarians in delivering RA, using patrons’ borrowing data to recommend books to them, and innovative programs and events to promote reading to existing and potential users are RA practices libraries would benefit from exploring.   


8 thoughts on “Reader Advisory Service Chat”

  1. Wow Karen, great effort summarising the Twitter chat – it was a lively one! I definitely agree a user centred approach is needed, but I think libraries should take it a step further and get users involved in RA – I wonder if a move toward integrating user generated data via a participatory model might be possible and beneficial going forward?

    1. I wonder why libraries are not doing this more already – it seems like a no-brain to me?! Instead of librarians setting up book displays, we could have a theme and only put out a few books and invite patrons to add to the display. We could provide little review slips next to the book returns that people could fill out and slip in to the book as they return it – these could be left in the books for other patrons to read or attached to the shelves like bookshops sometimes do. Not to mention all the online possibilities. So many ideas!

    2. I agree that user-generated content is a good idea for libraries today and the future. I think it will be a more dynamic way of recommending books and other resources, and will encourage participation. To find a balance between positive user experience and challenging the user, I think their needs to be a place for ‘staff picks’ or ‘this is what the librarians think’. I see this on film review sites like Rotten Tomatoes. It’s interesting to see the difference between audience and critic scores and opinions. It might help users appreciate or try something new that they did not consider before.

  2. Hi Karen, very interesting blog. I really like your “staff picks” & Sharee’s ideas as these could be generated immediately without sacrificing privacy. I think a true Library 2.0 will take a while as we address privacy issues- i predict this change rapidly when we are in the work force! Anitra

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