The pandemic was a learning experience for everyone. Library staff, library administration, and library users were reminded of a gratifying truth — the core of library service is a focus on books and reading. As people retreated behind closed doors, they moved through the one doorway that could never close to them — reading. Even as the world takes steps to move past the worst of the pandemic, people are taking the pleasures of reading with them. Readers look to library collections to enhance their lives with materials in all formats and they continue to look to library staff as the community experts in this field.
Readers’ advisors have always understood the power of reading to transport, soothe, excite, entertain, educate, and inform. The quarantine was maddening but our readers continued to connect and engage with our libraries. And in some ways, readers discovered new connections to our collection, through convenient readers’ advisory (RA) services like curbside pickup and personalized RA. And that left many readers’ advisors to face an unexpected conundrum. Library administration wanted to leverage the sudden public demand for readers’ advisory. RA staff were so busy *doing* readers’ advisory, they hadn’t taken time to strategically plan in a way they could articulate to library administrators and managers.
During this critical global situation, Stephanie Chase and I began to do some deep thinking about strategic planning for readers’ advisory services. We thought about what the public was asking for; what the existing trained staff could provide; what training could benefit other staff; and how to talk to administration using their language. We thought about how to plan for readers’ services in the case of a massive change in a library’s vision or direction.
With the help of NoveList’s outstanding and innovative team of RA experts, we created a course for practitioners of readers’ advisory, Strategic Readers Services: A Complete Plan. The goal is to help staff who are so busy doing RA they sometimes need help planning for RA.
This course is designed to help practitioners think strategically about the RA work they already do and how to show administration why it’s important this work continues. The course helps library staff and administrators envision how this work fits into an overall library strategic plan. Strategic Readers Services: A Complete Plan will help RA staff see how to support their library’s mission, work with other departments, provide a frank assessment of what is already being done in RA services, and decide on which services can be added (or removed).
Stephanie and I are excited to see this idea borne of the pandemic’s need for library services come to fruition through NoveList. While it may have taken a national crisis for us to think about readers’ advisory services in this way, we know there are many reasons a library may engage in a reevaluation of mission, goals, and vision.
NoveList, Stephanie Chase, and I want you and readers’ advisory to be at the top of your library’s agenda, and we hope this course can help you get there.
Kaite Stover is the Director of Readers' Services for the Kansas City Public Library. Currently, she is reading tarot cards, take-out menus, and An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo.