For a short while, I worked at a local stationery shop. I loved that I could bike or walk to work and that it was a small, woman-owned business. It also didn’t hurt that I adored the products. OK, maybe it hurt my wallet a little bit. But I also found myself oddly nervous about it. I hadn’t worked in retail in years. But I had loads of public library work under my belt, and I found similarities during every shift:

  • Anyone could walk in the door for any reason. You never knew exactly what you were going to be asked. Sound familiar? 

  • People were very enthusiastic about the products! Everything in the store was handpicked by the owner, much like a library’s collection is carefully curated, often by multiple staff. 

  • I didn’t know everything about all the different products, but that was OK. Staff had support to learn through reading, watching videos, and trying things out. 

  • The more I worked, the more confidence I gained and the better my recommendations became.

  • Listening closely and connecting with the customer didn’t always mean making a sale, but it was still considered good customer service. I didn’t always hit my mark when recommending books, but readers always appreciated being listened to and not just mindlessly being handed a bestseller.

  • I was pleasantly surprised when I first felt that same rush I used to get when I would help someone choose books. There’s nothing quite like finding something to delight the person you’re helping, whether it’s stickers or stories.

You don’t have to be an expert in every genre or have read tons of books to successfully make meaningful book recommendations. Every interaction with a community member is an opportunity to showcase your library and create a lasting connection with that person. By using your resources and by practicing readers’ advisory, you will become more confident, and your readers will come back for more.  

If you’re interested in learning strategies for providing excellent customer service to all readers and would like to feel more confident matching readers to books in a variety of situations, look no further than our newly launched Learn with NoveList course, Understanding Your Reader: How to Recommend the Right Book at the Right Time. Use code APRIL for 20% off. You can find out more and register here.

Understanding Your Reader: How to Recommend the Right Book at the Right Time 

Coming up in the new year, I’ll be the instructor for a new course designed for frontline staff looking for quick tips for working with readers. This short course also positions reader engagement as excellent customer service that is essential to every library's overall mission. You won’t want to miss out on this one, so sign up for our Learn with Novelist newsletter to hear about it first!

Inspiration and news for everyone working with readers, promoting their library, and looking for staff training opportunities.

And if you’re attending ALA’s LibLearnX in Baltimore, I hope to see you at Building Community through Personalized Reading Recommendations on January 20th at 2:30 pm, where I’ll be presenting more on this topic with Erin Downey Howerton, Wichita Public Library, KS, and Joanna M. Arteaga La Spina, San Francisco Public Library. 

April Mazza is a Learning Engagement Specialist at NoveList. She is currently reading Foul Lady Fortune by Chloe Gong.