Readers’ Advisory Services: In the Backroom

As a member of our Readers’ Advisory Team at HPL, I’ve become interested in what the catalogue can do to assist and promote RA services while at the same time, maintaining the integrity of the catalogue.  While I don’t mind creating local headings if they provide long-term benefits to access, I don’t feel comfortable adding RA “buzz” words that are “here today, gone tomorrow”.  So, how can we balance our cataloguing rules while meeting the needs of RAs?  This is something I’ve only recently been exploring.  Our first step here at HPL has involved creating genre headings that fall under the “Narrative Nonfiction”. 

This week, we’ve begun a project to create genres that fall into the narrative nonfiction category and add them to our bib records, where appropriate. The birth of this project began with the idea of a narrative nonfiction tutorial.  The first steps in our own project began through frequent discussions with frontline librarians and by looking at RA websites.  Also, I’ve been working with an adult services librarian in our system to come up with definitions of these genres for our scope notes. While cataloguers are used to compartamentalizing and organizing books into clear categories (at least, in theory this is how we work), I decided to pick the brains of those RAs who are actually doing the searching on the frontlines.  As a result, I asked an adult services librarian to create definitions of how RAs would define the different genres and what they feel would fall into those categories.  Not only has this created a working partnership with frontline staff, which makes us visible and relevant, it also provided us with scope notes for our authorities.

I’ve recently proposed holding a session on this topic at CLA Montreal.  Although I haven’t heard anything yet, I do believe this is an area of cataloguing that should be explored. My splash for the session is below:

With the growing popularity of RA services, what role does the library catalogue play?  Why is the library catalogue being passed over for databases such as Novelist? This workshop takes a closer look at the strengths and weaknesses of the library catalogue in RA services.  We will discuss the option of implementing RA “buzz words” as subject and genre headings, ideas for collaboration with RAs and the catalogue for enhancing Readers Advisory Services and what cataloguing departments need to do to get out of the backroom and onto the RA playing field

I’m looking for feedback on this idea.  Should we be exploring our role in RA services?  Do any of you have suggestions or comments about this?



Filed under Access Issues, In the Cataloguing Department, The Library Catalogue

2 responses to “Readers’ Advisory Services: In the Backroom

  1. Hugh

    This is something which we are exploring in UCD via several forums and I would agree – it is absolutely critical, both in ensuring that whatever arises in terms of ‘added value’ content is appropriate, while also enhancing links between two traditionally disparate areas. However, on both sides it may well prove to be a tough sell..

  2. Laurel Tarulli

    I’m already finding it tough to sell. On the cataloguing side, many cataloguers don’t want to open the catalogue up to RA’s input. RA’s seem to be of the opinion that the catalogue doesn’t play a role in RA services. There is such a divide between the two. Here at HPL, I’m hoping my presence on the team and “transparency” into the catalogue will help. I’ve already seen some great steps taking place, including having a cataloguing aspect on every RA tutorial that we put out.

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