A few years ago, librarians at NYPL made national news for tracking down titles of books from only the faintest descriptions. How thrilling to see the work librarians do every day recognized by people outside of the profession! What struck me most about the librarians described in the article was that they were all gathered together in a room to do the work, even though much of what is described involved intense searching, a mostly solitary effort. 

It makes sense to me, though, that even though only one person was responsible for each correct discovery, having everyone in the room together was a vital part of the process. An intangible electricity comes from working with others towards a common goal and though I have never been what one would call athletic (I am much more likely to have a book in my hand rather than any sort of ball!) I suspect it’s like being on a sports team — a sense of being in it together, win or lose. 

Obviously, a global pandemic has made it more difficult to gather in large groups, but we’ve all become more adept at collaborating online and these same principles can hold true regardless of whether we’re face-to-face with our colleagues or communicating digitally. 

NoveList partners with LibraryReads to provide read-alike recommendations for each of the titles on their monthly Top Ten lists as well as their Hall of Fame titles. Four of us meet via Microsoft Teams to brainstorm suggestions and hash out what makes the best recommendation for each title. I don’t think I’m overstating it when I say that it’s the meeting, I look forward to the MOST each month. There’s something exhilarating about trading ideas and finessing our recommendations to be the best they can possibly be. And dare I say, it actually works better to be virtual than in person? Meeting virtually allows us each to work at our own pace, have the resources that we need open on our individual computers, and the chat function serves as a record of all the ideas and suggestions that arise. The variety of ways each of us approaches our search strategies helps make the process more robust. And I can guarantee that our recommendations turn out better than if we each individually thought of recommendations without any discussion. Often, one of us will make a connection or remind someone of a title the others hadn’t thought of. 

In fact, much of what NoveList does is based on this collaborative mentality. As you can imagine, we LOVE to think and talk about books all day long, and we often run ideas by each other to get other perspectives, trade book recommendations, or share the latest book news and awards announcements.  

The work we do at NoveList is different but reminiscent of how my library approached readers’ advisory as a team sport. I knew I could count on my fantasy-loving colleague to help me out when a teen patron had finished the latest buzzy debut fantasy and needed something to hold her over until the sequel came out. And as someone who almost solely reads fiction, you better believe I was turning to the reference librarian who only read history and biographies when I wanted the scoop on what I should be suggesting to our nonfiction fans. 

Of course, I can’t wrap up without suggesting a useful tool to help answer even the toughest readers’ advisory question, whether you’re by yourself five minutes before the library closes, or in a room full of librarians, cracking the internet’s most obscure reader questions.  

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Halle Eisenman is the Content Development Manager at NoveList. She is currently reading The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling.