The Catalogue IS an RA tool: Annual RA Training Day

In November, our Readers’ Services Team will be holding our annual Ra training day. As usual, it is an introductory training for new staff, or for readers’ advisors in the library who either need a refresher or haven’t yet attended a formal RA training. New this year, we’ll also include a handful of staff from our regional libraries, exposing them to RA work in the library.

Last year, I blogged about this as it was the first ever RA training that included a catalogue component. As you know, I am a BIG advocate of using the catalogue for readers’ advisory services and that yes, it is indeed an RA tool.

Last year, my presentation was a bare-bones introduction to this concept, with a total of 15 minutes to present on the catalogue. But this year, even though I’ve been allotted a larger time-slot, I’m finding that my presentation is longer than the new 45 minutes I’ve been given.

Because it’s an introduction and a training course for RA’s, I’m attempting to find a balance between ideas and concepts, and hands-on, useful information regarding readers’ advisory services in the catalogue. I’m taking a lot of this information from my APLA presentation this past Spring, but tailoring it into how these ideas are actually practiced within our library system.

While I want to go in to social catalogues, enriched content and examples of what other libraries are doing to enhance readers’ advisory work, I have to remind myself that these professionals need practical information on how to analyze a bib record and bring out information that will assist them in searching for appeals and read-a-likes using structured searches based on subject headings and genres. As important, I need to expose them to all of the collaborative work that goes on between front-line RAs and backroom RAs (cataloguers). This includes the creation of new genres, reading lists and links from a bib record to our readers’ blog (currently a proposed collaborative idea).

In addition to this, I want to explore why the catalogue has not traditionally been considered an RA tool (ex. The card catalogue) and how it has been evolving into an RA tool through collaboration, enhanced cataloguing practices, the emergence of social catalogues and vendor products such as NoveList Select.

After the training session (November 9th), I will post my finalized slides, along with my thoughts on how the presentation went.

I’m also interested to hear if any of you host RA training days at your libraries and if a catalogue component is included – and why or why not.



Filed under Access Issues, Social catalogue, The Library Catalogue

2 responses to “The Catalogue IS an RA tool: Annual RA Training Day

  1. LynneW

    Since all staff perform almost every public-interaction task (circulation, reference & RA) here, Readers Advisory has been a part of our regular staff development efforts since I started here and took over the job.

    We discuss ways the catalog hinders and helps with information retrieval, and try to brainstorm – on an ongoing basis, not just during training – how to make it more user-friendly and helpful. We have instituted a policy where we add as much value as possible to a bibliographic record, including series information, 856 field URL links to author websites and (for government information especially) downloadable files, and enhanced content such as awards, multiple subject headings, 520 (plot summary), and expanded notes fields for such things as the author/title of all items in anthologies, details of the music on CDs, etc., whenever possible.

    When we had a subscription to NoveList, we trained staff on that database (as well as other alternatives) and search strategies; we were the first with our ILS to incorporate a persistent reciprocal link from the database to our PAC, and it would show the item’s status in our system in real time and allow the person to place a hold on the item.

    I look forward to seeing your slides, and am in awe of anyone who can cram all your objectives into one 45-minute session! One tip that a more seasoned presenter shared with me: touch briefly on the concepts, and at the end have a handout, or set up a wiki or some other online component, with sample searches and assignments they can practice on their own. Once people have the general idea, encourage them to create their own searches with subjects that interest them, to see where the catalog fails, and then come up with additional information that would have helped find those sources. If you can get them to buy into the idea that it will help them in their jobs, people come up with some incredible insights!

    Good luck,

  2. Laurel Tarulli

    Lynne – sounds like your library is doing a lot of great RA work – and collaborative work, of which I am encouraged to hear.

    Our library does many of the things you’ve mentioned. Because not every member in our library is a readers’ advisor, this training is an introduction to what readers’ advisory is and how to do it. Since I’ve joined the team, many of the enhanced content in the catalogue also includes personalized annotated summaries provided by our readers’ advisors, which include appeals language and built in reading lists that are created by RA’s such as “If you liked Suite Francaise…” or “If you like Dan Brown…” We’ve found these to be very successful.

    Recently, I’ve also been working on subject/genre headings that reflect appeals language and “buzz” words in RA work. If patrons are searching our catalogue but the language isn’t there, I want to know about it. Can I always add that information into the catalogue? No. But it is certainly helpful to know the trends and lingo being used. One of our most successful efforts in this regard is the implementation of narrative non-fiction genres.

    Please, don’t be in awe yet! I am very concerned about the length of my presentation – 24 slides (although some are simple image to keep it light). While there aren’t that many slides, there’s a lot of material to cover.

    I will certainly post my slides! In addition, our readers’ services team will be pulling this entire training session together and providing it as a manual, with slides and activities included, on the web. I’ll post this link here as well , and I think may help some libraries who are just venturing in to RA work.

    Also – the link I posted regarding NoveList Select is a link to their latest product. NoveList Select actually “sits” within your bib records and provides reading suggestions for the title you have currently searched. The neat thing is that, through an algorithm, it will only suggest titles within your collection – something that the NoveList database doesn’t. Definitely worth checking out.

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