Huddle up! It’s time to talk about our readers’ advisory game plan. This season let’s focus on teamwork. While reading is often thought of as solitary activity, I find that talking about books, finding your next great read, and sharing suggestions with the community are better when you work together as a team by leaning on coworkers, resources, and experts. Here are some tips and tricks to help make you and your library the MVPs of readers’ advisory.
Rely on your coworkers and their individual strengths. We often think of readers’ advisory as a face-to-face conversation where a patron asks for a good book recommendation, and the librarian offers suggestions, advice, and guidance on what to read next. In reality, face-to-face interaction is just one kind of readers’ advisory, and it won’t be every staff’s strongest skill or favorite thing to do. Maybe you work with staff who have a ton of knowledge about books but don’t work at a public service desk. Or maybe you have newer staff who love engaging with patrons but are still learning how to make personalized reading suggestions. At NoveList, we know there are many ways for staff to participate because they each have different strengths. You can read more about how all staff can contribute to the mission of connecting books and readers in our RAx Readers’ Advisory Prescription guide.
Practice, practice, practice
The best way to get better at readers’ advisory is to practice talking about books and making suggestions. Find ways to share book recommendations regularly and intentionally with your co-workers, family, or friends. Try starting meetings with everyone sharing a quick book talk about what they’re currently reading and why they like it (or don’t). Maybe it’s a board where you can add post-its with book titles and a few descriptive words about each book.
Need ideas? Not sure how to get the conversation started? We’ve got lots of strategies for working with readers and providing excellent readers’ advisory service in the course, The Art and Practice of Outstanding Reading Recommendations. The NoveList story elements are an excellent way to describe books and can give you the vocabulary and nuance you need to really talk about the feel or experience of a book. So, look up that book you just read in NoveList Plus and then practice using our appeals, genres, and themes to share about it with your team!
Insert workout montage here. You’re squatting down to check out the book on the bottom shelf. You’re deadlifting a stack of 50 titles. You’re reading outside of your comfort zone! Sorry. Couldn’t help myself (please don’t deadlift stacks of books). What I mean by push yourself is: challenge yourself to expand your reading life. Reading broadly can help you become a better and more confident readers’ advisor (although please remember, you do not need to have read a book to suggest it). Consider starting a staff reading challenge. There are multitudes to choose from, including NoveList’s 2023 Reading Challenge, and many will naturally lead you outside of your regular reading habits.
Use your co-workers and their expertise. Do you work with someone who reads *all* the romance books? What about that fantasy-loving colleague from another department? Often well-read fellow coworkers love it when you walk a patron over and introduce them as the “history buff who knows all the best biographies.” You’re connecting that patron with an expert, and by listening in on the recommendations, you’ll build your own knowledge base as well. So, talk to your co-workers and find out what they read and if they’re open to being your go-to source for areas that are not your expertise.
Find a coach
Or rather, look for continuing education and professional development opportunities. You do not need to learn all of this on your own. Ongoing professional development keeps your skills sharp and relevant and can be very motivating! If you have a Staff Day, is there room in the agenda to include readers’ advisory training? Can you add attending one webinar a quarter to your goals and objective? Learn with NoveList offers professional development courses on working with readers, like Readers’ Advisory Foundations, as well as promoting your library. With both self-paced and live course options, you can find a format and subject that meets your training needs. Interested in bringing a group course to your library? Contact us for a free consultation.
Call in a pinch hitter
It’s happened to all of us. You’re asked about a genre you know nothing about. Or for no reason at all, you simply cannot think of a single title. If your library subscribes to BookChat, you can turn to an expert to get on-the-spot personalized recommendations. BookChat is staffed by LIVE specialists who have years of readers’ advisory and library experience across a wide range of genres and ages. They love getting to chat with readers and connecting them with great books. So, the next time you strike out, chat in and let us give you an assist.
Remember, there is no right answer when it comes to readers’ advisory. The goal is to offer possibilities and suggestions that readers can consider. You’re not trying to hand them the one perfect book they simply must love. Instead, you’re offering multiple suggestions that they may (or may not) be interested in. Based on their feedback, you can offer alternatives if needed. The books at the library are free, after all! Encourage patrons to take multiple books home. Tell them to read 20 or 30 pages. Maybe it’s a slam dunk! Maybe it’s a swing and a miss. Either way, we hope they’ll come back and tell you all about it.
There is nothing quite like matching a reader with a book they’re excited to read. Imagine Rocky on the top of those stairs. It’s a home run, touchdown, and gold medal all in one. I hope the ideas suggested here help you on your way to becoming a readers’ advisory champion.
Do you have other suggestions for great readers’ advisory collaboration? Did I mix up a sports metaphor? Let us know!