Trends in Readers’ Advisory Services

By Gwen Vanderhage

library conversation_1231292743Readers’ advisory — the art of recommending the right book to the right patron — is arguably one of the most important parts of a public librarian’s job. In an age when libraries are using their time and space for makerspaces, information literacy, gaming, job skills training, and computer use, the books still claim the largest share of real estate. Reading is not dead. Readers are still hungry to talk about books they love and seek help to find the next great thing. (See my colleague Paul Duckworth’s piece on reading here.)

Many libraries have experimented with and embraced readers’ advisory on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Instagram. Over the last few years, librarians have jumped on hashtags like #fridayreads or #tuesdaytitles to offer custom recommendations in a new way. Setting up an hour a week with a few librarians to dish out customized reading suggestions has been one popular idea. Some large metropolitan library systems have enjoyed enduring success using an attractive, short form questionnaire to email customized reading lists. Seattle Public Library’s “Your Next 5 Books” and Multnomah County’s “My Librarian” advertise these services and even provide links to the lists in Bibliocommons.

tattoo_1132435790A few intrepid libraries have taken a unique approach: Tattoo readers’ advisory. Multnomah County (Oregon), Denver Public (Colorado), and Durango Public (Colorado) libraries are among those that have pioneered this type of program. The libraries invite patrons to send in photos of their tattoos and the stories behind them; librarians then recommend titles that match the sentiment or “personality” of the tattoo. At first, these campaigns were largely conducted via social media, but Durango and Denver have since hosted live events where librarians and patrons can meet face-to-face to share their tattoos, stories, and recommendations. Denver has had so much success with this program that it recently hosted a fundraising evening featuring local tattoo artists who performed their art on patrons in the library.

During their last round of strategic planning, the Whatcom County Library System (WCLS), outside of Bellingham, Washington, chose to build a culture of reading in each location. To this end, all staff, not just librarians, were encouraged and trained in the art of “Reading Conversations.” Staff members have meaningful conversations with patrons about books while shelving in the stacks and working at the desk. Several WCLS librarians have a bookselling background and taught staff the quick method of “hand-selling,” which is used in the retail setting.

Hand-selling involves getting to the kernel of a recommendation. How do you compellingly describe a book in just three sentences? It takes practice! How do you avoid putting undue pressure on your patron to accept your recommendation, while giving them confidence to trust you? Give them three great titles and walk away. You want to understand the appeal factors in a plot, look for clues in the way publishers market and design a book, listen for cues in what patrons are really saying when they talk about books, and get comfortable talking about books you have not had a chance to read, yourself.readers_ advisory _1096210103

Whatcom County staff were encouraged to read broadly and try new genres. Internally, they were given a year-long game to lead the way, make it fun, and stretch their wings. Not all staff were naturals or comfortable with the idea of talking about books with strangers. Over the last two years, however, the culture inside the libraries has changed noticeably. Librarian Mary Kinser said:

“There’s a renewed energy and excitement around reading that is infectious – I hear it when I’m in the branches as a patron and I hear from staff all the time how much they enjoy the freedom we’ve granted them in spending time with patrons. I love being a fly on the wall and hearing staff talking about books, which we did not hear before Reading Conversations started. And the takeaway in all that conversation is more picks that we can share with patrons, of course.”

Excitement around books and reading—that’s what we’re all about!

For more Information:

“Inked RA: Libraries recommend books based on patron tattoos” (American Libraries March, 2018)

“Notes from the Field: Reading Conversations with Mary Kinser” (Booklist Online, February 9, 2017)

Gwen Vanderhage - 2.5 x 3

Gwen

After spending many years as a children’s librarian and collection development specialist at Denver Public Library, Gwen joined Brodart to share her passion for children’s literature with as many different libraries as possible. Click here for more.

Hipster Trends

Spiralizing & Instant Pots

By Fern Hallman, M.Ln.

Focus college students preparing for exams at cafe

Every library has its own system for identifying new titles. Many depend on automated lists from vendors, book review sources, or publisher catalogs. These schemes are necessary and useful, but they don’t always cover every patron demand and interest. As a collection development librarian at Brodart, I am exposed to a huge number of titles from a wide range of publishers every month. This allows me to identify many small but interesting trends in publishing, particularly in adult nonfiction.

I review new titles by publisher, Dewey Decimal number, price, and publication date. I focus on those that I think will be of greatest interest to public libraries. As I’m doing this, a title or two on a new topic by a reliable publisher will catch my eye, and then I notice when other publishers follow suit and jump into the fray. Sometimes I’ll become aware of a hot blog trend on a subject like cooking or craft-related themes and similarly-themed books begin showing up soon after.

I told some librarians about some of these micro-trends at ALA Book--3Midwinter, and they chuckled. One suggested that we call them Hipster Trends. A few recent topics: books about playing the ukulele, making crafts with duct tape, and knitting and crocheting small creatures called amigurumi. There have also been recent spikes in books about such diverse subjects as all things “Beauty and the Beast,” raising chickens, and meals made in mason jars and coffee mugs.

Maintaining displays of titles about current topics like these can make your library look hip and up-to-date without requiring a big financial investment.

The latest subjects to catch my eye are for the kitchen. In particular, books about spiralizing and instant pots have become very popular. I’ve put together a small list of related titles.

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Instant One-Pot Meals: Southern Recipes for the Modern 7-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker

Indian Cooking with Your Instant Pot and Other Multi Function Cookers: 75 Classic, Naturally Gluten-Free Recipes Made Better in Less Time

How to Instant Pot: Mastering the 7 Functions of the One Pot That Will Change the Way You Cook

Dinner in an Instant: 75 Modern Recipes for Your Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, and Instant Pot

The Art of Great Cooking With Your Instant Pot: 80 Inspiring Recipes Made Easier, Faster, Richer and More Nutritious in a Multi-Function Cooker

The Essential Instant Pot Cookbook: Fresh and Foolproof Recipes for the Electric Pressure Cooker

The Big 10 Paleo Spiralizer Cookbook: 10 Vegetables to Noodle, 100 Healthy Spiralizer Recipes, 300 Variations

Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook: Quick & Easy Recipes for Everyday Eating

The Ultimate Instant Pot Pressure Cooker Cookbook: 200 Easy Foolproof Recipes

The I Love My Instant Pot Recipe Book: From Trail Mix Oatmeal to Mongolian Beef BBQ, 175 Easy and Delicious Recipes

Spiralize Everyday: 80 Recipes to Help Replace Your Carbs

Super Spiralized: Fresh & Delicious Ways to Use Your Spiralizer

Instant Pot® Obsession: The Ultimate Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook for Cooking Everything Fast

Spiralizer Skinny

The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook for Your Instant Pot: 80 Easy and Delicious Plant-Based Recipes That You Can Make in Half the Time

Paleo Cooking With Your Instant Pot: 80 Incredible Gluten- and Grain-Free Recipes Made Twice as Delicious in Half the Time

The Spiralizer Cookbook: Delicious, Fresh and Healthy Recipes to Make the Most of Your Spiralizer

Spiralize This!

Zoodles Spiralizer Cookbook: A Vegetable Noodle and Pasta Cookbook

Spiralize and Thrive: 100 Vibrant Vegetable-Based Recipes for Starters, Salads, Soups, Suppers, and More

Titles are available to Brodart customers for ordering on Bibz, under Featured Titles – Hot Topics.

Stay tuned for more “hipster trends” in the coming weeks. In the meantime, let me know your thoughts and what emerging subjects your patrons are asking about.

 

fern

Fern

Fern has worked for Brodart as a Collection Development Librarian since 1990. She also did a stint as a reference librarian in the CNN newsroom and is married to a newspaper librarian. Click here for more.