When working with readers, the way you recommend books can take many different forms. From in-person conversations to online promotions or book displays, readers all have different preferences when it comes to interacting with your library and finding their next read.  

Staff also have different skill sets and strengths. But all staff, no matter their experience or area of expertise, can match readers with books in one way or another. We know libraries are strongest when readers’ advisory (RA) services are as varied and creative as your community and staff are! Here are 7 easy ideas for working with readers that anyone can do. 

  1. Create timely displays. Holidays, seasons, or yearly happenings like back-to-school are all easy ideas for displays. But timely can also mean trending. Think about ways you can tie books into pop culture, movies, or TV. Create a display of superhero books when the next Marvel or DC movie premiers. Put out the latest celebrity book club picks. Or grab people’s attention like New Hanover County Public Library did with this book flyer, You are Kenough. Timely displays let patrons know you are regularly refreshing content and staying up to date with their interests. 
  2. Share what staff are reading. Staff picks are a perennial favorite and for great reason! Librarians love to share what they’re reading, and patrons love to get “insider” tips on the best books. A rotating “staff of the month” display, booklists with a short staff bio and top recommendations, or online book widgets of staff picks are all fantastic ways for any staff to highlight some of their favorite reads. Readers may find a staff member with similar reading interests who becomes their new best-reading buddy. What a great way to create lasting connections with readers! 
  3. Sticky note RA. Looking for a low-cost, low-tech way to provide reading suggestions? Add a sticky note inside the cover of a book that says, “Enjoying this book? Try these next!” and list a few read-alikes. You can do this for new books, books on the holds shelf, or just as a random surprise in some of your favorite titles. Save time by using NoveList Plus to find title, author, or series read-alikes crafted by experts. Then, sneak these little notes into titles to surprise and delight the next reader to check them out. 
  4. What your neighbor is reading display. I love this lazy librarian hack. Create a display of “in demand” or “popular at the library reads” and stock it with recently returned items. Readers LOVE knowing what others are reading. This is the community version of staff picks. Bonus tip: if you’re behind on shelving, you can just push the cart of recently returned items out and add them to the display – or leave the cart nearby for browsing! 
  5. The Last Chance display. This is a way to promote some of those “hidden gems” in your collection. Pull titles that haven’t circulated in a while, but are still worth promoting, and put them on display for patrons to discover. These could be newer titles that have just gotten skipped, “bottom shelf” titles that people must crouch down to browse (and therefore often miss), or titles that are up for weeding. If you’re not sure if a title needs a second chance or not, the levels of recommendation in Core Collections can help! Good collection promotion includes promoting your entire collection, and last-chance displays are an easy way to surface some lesser-known titles.
  6. Talk to readers, including your colleagues! Talking to others about what they’re reading and sharing what you’re reading, is a great way to practice and hone your reader recommendation skills. Not only will you get more comfortable asking about books and describing them yourself (key points when it comes to making book recommendations) but you may hear about new titles and authors you wouldn’t have discovered otherwise.
  7. Keep learning. Working with readers is a skill. It takes ongoing practice, learning, and the right tools. But that doesn’t mean it has to be intimidating or time-consuming. You can keep up to date by following bookish conversations on social media or signing up for a few book-related newsletters. Slowly expand your own reading by finding a reading challenge or reading titles outside of your regular genre. Look for continuing education and training opportunities in a format that works for you or fits your schedule. Learn with NoveList has several options to choose from. And finally, remember that readers’ advisory is a team sport, and you do not have to do this on your own! 

Do you have other easy ideas for working with readers? We’d love to hear them

The Art and Practice of Providing Outstanding Reading Recommendations

Connecting readers with books they love is a core library service. But talking with readers about their tastes and then trying to match those readers to books is a lot harder than it sounds. Learn how to navigate common scenarios librarians face when working with readers

Lauren Campbell is a NoveList Librarian. She’s currently drinking iced-coffee and reading Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree.