Tag Archives: Readers Advisory Services

Reading Habits of Professionals

While enjoying a coffee with a friend and colleague, we happened upon the topic of books and what is on our personal bookshelves.  I confessed that anyone entering my home would see an overwhelming amount of romance novels bulging from overstuffed bookshelves.

In fact, at home, I’ve organized the bookcases in a way that might say a lot about how society is perceived to judge reading topics and those who read certain genres. The bookshelves closest to “foot traffic” house literary classics, and a variety of nonfiction titles (biographies, how-to books, child rearing, fitness, professional titles, etc.).  That way, at first glance, guests or acquaintances aren’t immediately introduced to the romance collection.  Why?

Going back to my coffee date, my colleague, a well-respected member of our profession who holds a PhD and various other degrees, expressed a wise sentiment; we have nothing to prove by what we read,  and our reading habits certainly don’t prove how intelligent we are. Eureka!  This is an idea that should be shouted from the tops of libraries, schools, bookstores and homes.  We choose our reading material to fit our needs at the moment.  Our favorite genres, like romance, continue to be read more frequently because they are familiar, comfortable, and strike a chord that resonates within us.  For example, when reading a romance in the summer months, I am always filled with a sense of nostalgia for my teenage years.  Having discovered Harlequin romance novels in my mid-teens, I’d spend hours reading on my grandma’s front porch, with the hum of lawn mowers and the singing of birds to keep my company. We all have stories like that.

So let’s revisit my bookshelves and their strategic placement in my home.  I’m not sure if the original plan was to organize in a way that biased or influenced guests’ opinions of my reading habits, but it certainly developed into a cognisant awareness.  This is where the reading habits of professionals enters the equation.  As a professional, should we feel defensive about our choice of reading?  Are there different expectations placed on professionals, such as doctors, lawyers, librarians and teachers, to read books that are considered higher-brow or more educational?  As a professional, am I expected to read a higher quantity of non-fiction for pleasure because it is expected?

Instead of a female librarian, let’s try this with a well-respected, world-renowned surgeon.  You are fortunate enough to be invited to his home and when you enter, you see bookshelves lining the walls full of…graphic novels and fantasy fiction? Or, biographies, medical texts and literary classic?  In your mind, what did you anticipate and expect? Why?  If there were two surgeons, one with shelves full of graphic novels and the other with literary classics, would you judge their professional abilities differently?

One last scenario to share with you. A cataloguer is responsible for the cataloguing of popular fiction, the majority being either romance or mystery.  When a romance novel that borders on Erotica or “mommy porn” crosses her desk, she always writes “SMUT” on the instructions for the processor. As a joke, of course.  While this comment never makes it into the record and is never indicated on the book, it does indicate her views on material that is not to her taste. And, in fact, while it is an ongoing joke, she has a true distaste for this genre.  It is not respected.  What if you are her colleague, supervisor or director and your greatest pleasure is to sit down with an erotica novel and enjoy the escape it give you?  Should you hide it? Apologize for it? Defend it?  If your enjoyment of these novels becomes public knowledge, will it impact how your staff and colleagues view your intellect and expertise as a librarian?

We often talk about reading as a social or personal experience.  The way we share our reading experiences and how we choose our genres are often based on life-experiences, interest and personality.  For example, I am not a very social reader and am almost never influenced by a bestsellers list or ratings list. Also, I find romance – lighthearted chic-lit and regency romance – especially enjoyable after reading professional articles and journals.  It’s a way to escape and relax.  Am I alone in this?  I highly doubt it.

Are professionals subject to more criticism and judgement when choosing their leisure reading? Are there biases within our society that impact or influence the reading habits of professionals or at least with whom they share those interests?  I think so.  However, I will go back to my friend’s words and emphasize, for all of us, that our reading preferences do not reflect our intellectual abilities and we have no need to apologize for what we choose to read.


Filed under Our Profession

Free Webinar: Are Books Your Brand? How Libraries Can Stay Relevant to Readers

Are you looking for something to do on Valentine’s day?  While this might not make the “Top 10 date list ideas” for V-day, this is definitely an event you might want to consider joining during the day (while looking forward to your date night!).

Here’s the information:

EVENT TIME AND DATE: Thursday, February 14, 2013, 2:00-3:00 PM ET/11:00 AM – 12:00 PM PT
Are Books Your Brand? How Libraries Can Stay Relevant to Readers

The core mission of libraries – providing books for readers – is as relevant today as it was years ago. In fact, it’s what people overwhelmingly identify as THE reason for libraries. Formats might change, and library patrons might only visit the library virtually, but the library is still the place where readers go to find books.  Libraries should embrace this role in their communities – and become “Centers for Readers.” But how?
The panel will discuss:
  • Shifts in how people are using the library
  • Examples of successful library programs and services for readers
  • Strategies and tools for engaging communities of readers
Robin Nesbitt – Technical Services Director, Columbus Metropolitan Library 
Duncan Smith – Vice President, NoveList
Barry Trott – Digital Services Director, Williamsburg Regional Library 

Laurel Tarulli – Faculty of Management, Dalhousie University

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Readers’ Advisory Services in the Library Catalogue

Last week, I had the opportunity to speak at Dalhousie University’s School of Information Management. Speaking to a readers’ services centered class, I tailored my presentation around my theories regarding the perfect marriage between RA work and the library catalogue. Although this is an area only starting to be recognized, and still meeting resistance on many ends (RAs, Cataloguers, software shortcomings, etc.), I wanted to introduce the class to a new way of thinking about RA work, and collaboration outside of branch staff. For those of you who are interested, the presentation is below:

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Filed under future of cataloguing, Social catalogue, The Library Catalogue

You let a READER recommend a book??!!

“You let a reader recommend a book to another reader!?” asks the manager of a branch that provides RA services.

If you’re a readers’ advisor, have you ever caught yourself doubting the ability of an untrained RA to recommend a book or perform RA work? What, exactly, is the standard for being an RA? A high school degree? A master’s degree? Someone who enjoys reading?

I’ve overheard conversations where managers and other RAs were shocked, yes, SHOCKED, that anyone without at least a 4 year degree and formal RA training would be allowed to suggest books to readers and perform readers’ services tasks.

I’m asking this question today because many, if not most, cataloguing staff in public libraries are NOT considered RAs. I’m also asking this question in view of the fact that our new, next generation catalogues are inviting users to generate and share content. Naturally, this includes sharing reading ideas and collaborating within the social framework of our catalogues on what interests most users of the library – our collection. While this may not be limited to reading, but also recommending or commenting on movies and music, for the sake of this post (and in an attempt to keep it relatively short), I’m focusing specifically on reading and books because of the RA framework.

So, if the catalogue is or can be used by readers as a readers’ advisory tool but cataloguers aren’t considered or trained as RAs and patrons are supposed to collaborate and share reading ideas but aren’t trained RAs either, we’ve come up against a wall. A very big wall that, unfortunately, has been created by the traditional view that it is only librarians and certain “higher level” staff that have the knowledge in the library to tell (“suggest” or “tell”?) readers what they want. But is that the true spirit of readers’ services? Or, is it about putting the tools out their for everyone to use and examining how we can make all of our resources even better by expanding readers’ services in ways that we have not traditionally considered?

Wouldn’t it be exciting if, rather than just having author readings recorded and available on our websites, we provided recorded patron book discussions as well? Perhaps recordings of book club discussions and linked them to the books in the catalogue? What if these discussions were led by a trained readers’ advisor? Would that spark a great conversation within the catalogue around books and lead to further recommendations and suggestions by other avid readers? Would it make our readers stop and think about what, perhaps, attracted them to their last great read? Perhaps they’d realize it isn’t the mystery genre, but the descriptive language or the “tingly”, uncomfortable feeling they experienced anticipating yet another confrontation among the characters.

What about inviting book clubs outside of the library to comment on their latest reading choices or reading lists? Or, putting out a general invitation to our avid genre readers to create reviews for our catalogues? By taking advantage of these avid readers’ interests, we are inviting reader content within our catalogue in a community sense, rather than just from a select group of readers’ advisors who work within the library.

This should not be viewed as a way to undermine the knowledge and expertise of our existing RAs, but is a necessary progression of our services when we view the statistics regarding physical library visits and RA conversations versus our online and catalogue traffic, where users seek out their own “next good read”, without the benefit of remote RA tools. Remote access far exceeds the physical visits to our libraries.

Cataloguers, too, play a role in the future of readers’ services. With the growing use of our online presence as compared to our physical one, we need to explore how those users of the catalogue can also benefit from our readers’ advisory services. Because cataloguers are the primary creators of our catalogue content, it is important to teach them what readers’ services is and how readers look at the description of books and describe the experience of reading as a way to find books, rather than just a simply relying on author recognition or subject headings. Understanding the benefits of adding local additional content to bibliographic records to having cataloguers support the integration of RA tools within the catalogue (Chilifresh, NoveList, LibraryThing) can lead to strong allies and collaborative projects among staff and result in an even stronger readers’ advisory services library.

The first step that needs to be taken in leading RA services out of the physical branch and into the catalogue starts with our existing RAs’ mindsets. Rather than exclaim in shock that a fellow staff member (but not an RA) or a patron were suggesting books, look at these conversations as opportunities to grow our readers’ services. Book discussions are happening everywhere – and most happen without a trained readers’ advisor. Understanding that the few of us trained as RAs don’t own this expertise will help us to embrace the conversations and opportunities all around us – and to look for ways to grow readers’ services and go where the readers’ are. And, right now, they are in our library catalogues and on our websites.


Filed under The Cataloguer, The Library Catalogue

Discover! Library Catalogues and RA Services

This morning, I gave a presentation in our library to new readers’ advisors. While my topic was short compared to the rest of the RA training for the day (but maybe this will change down the road!), I thought I’d share my presentation with all of you.

Unlike in past years, this year I focused on our new catalogue – AquaBrowser, which we are calling “Discover“. With the launch of our new catalogue looming in the near future, I felt it important to show the possibilities these new catalogues hold for RAs and Readers’ Services. With only a half hour to present, I had to fit a lot of content in – and leave out a lot too. If I could have presented everything on my wishlist, I would have addressed the following:

1. Theory behind using the catalogue and its benefits
2. Future directions with using the catalogue – especially with the direction next generation catalogues are heading and the integration of tools like NoveList Select.
3. How to use the catalogue today as an RA tool and the benefits of collaboration.
4 A hands on exercise for staff to attempt to use the catalogue in an RA conversation or to add RA content into the catalogue.

Alas, I only had time to present on number 3 – and only in the most superficial capacity. However, as always, I’m grateful to have the opportunity to present and to expose staff every year to the possibilities of the library catalogue – beyond that of the traditional, static inventory model that focuses on Boolean searching.


Filed under Social catalogue, The Library Catalogue

The Catalogue IS an RA Tool: NoveList Complete

I’ve been saying it for a while, talking to skeptics, faced eye-rolling, sighing and excitement too and now, NoveList Complete has accomplished as a vendor, what I’ve been promoting in cataloguing departments and readers’ services teams for the past several years: The Catalogue IS an RA tool!

I’m excited about this product because I was able to assist in its development. As they have in the past, NoveList seeks to work with professionals who are active in the field, so the product works for us (readers and librarians), rather than just looking new and shiny. With a great group of creative, innovative and passionate professionals (and readers!), it isn’t a surprise that NoveList Complete addresses many of the needs that readers have expressed and that cataloguers have recognized – that the library catalogue is an essential element in the reading experience and that’s another place our RA services need to be.

If you haven’t been able to make it to any of NoveList’s presentations on NoveList Complete, they are currently giving free webinars to introduce the features of this new tool. And, if you’re on Twitter, I recommend following them @NoveListRA


Filed under The Library Catalogue

Success Story: In-House RA Reading Lists in the Library Catalogue

In March, I gave a presentation on how to enhance readers’ advisory services by creating opportunities for RA in the library catalogue. by collaborating with frontline staff. On March 22, I wrote a blog post reflecting on the presentation and trying to add some additional examples and ideas on the material that I presented.

One of the suggestions that I proposed included implementation of existing, or new, RA read-alike lists into the catalogue. This makes them linkable within the catalogue, and also offers a degree of discoverability, if a reader happens upon a title on an RA list. Even library catalogues that are considered legacy catalogues (traditional text-based v. next generation or “social” catalogues) can take advantage of linkable RA lists.

In a SirsiDynix Horizon ILS, cataloguers can take advantage of the 449 MARC tag to create these linkable lists. However, a colleague of mine from Ohio, Lynne Welch, indicated her interest in creating linkable RA lists, but found herself hindered by the ILS her library is using (They weren’t able to use the 449 tag as a linkable MARC tag because it wasn’t allowed by the ILS). Lynne and I started talking about how she could make it work for her library and, just this month, I received some great news –Herrick Memorial Library is now able to offer linkable RA lists within their catalogue. Not only did Lynne put a lot of energy into making this happen (great job!!), but the vendor of the library’s ILS was also interested it making it work – which just proves that vendors can and will collaborate with us, if we ask!

This is what Lynne had to say:

We wanted a quick and easy way to offer our readers timely and topical lists within the framework of our current PAC. [Your] March 22, 2010 blog entry on Halifax Public Libraries’ innovative use of the 449 field spurred us to experiment with our own catalog, and with some assistance from our vendor we achieved a very workable process using the 411 field. …without your post we’d still be wishin’ and dreamin’ without a solution.

So far, Lynne’s created two RA lists: If you like Science Fiction Romance, and If you like Twilight. If you do a title search on “like Twilight”, you’ll get a list of titles that, if you go into the bib record, you’ll see are linkable across from the Readers Advisory tag. The screenshot below is an example of this.

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Slides: Social Catalogues and Readers’ Advisory Services

For those of you wondering why I haven’t posted in a couple of weeks, my husband and I were in Italy on vacation. Visiting family and touring around, it was a much needed break before the writing deadlines, conferences and Spring yardwork begin!

However, now that I’m back and well-rested (at least for now!), I thought I’d take the time to post my slides from the audio conference that I gave on March 17th.

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Filed under Access Issues, Social catalogue, The Library Catalogue

Reflections and Feedback: RA and the Library Catalogue Audio Conference

The relief that the audio conference is over is immense.  I like speaking in front of people, not through a phone where I can’t feed off their energy.  I also found it difficult because I did not know if the attendees had slides, or who my audience was.  Were they mainly cataloguers? RAs?  Without knowing who is attending, it is difficult to go beyond an introduction of ideas, to really just present the surface layer of a detailed and challenging topic.  Should I have delved further into the logistics, problems and actual steps to implement the ideas I was presenting on surrounding collaboration between frontline staff and catalogues (rather than just introducing this topic, exploring a bit into why I’m exploring it and some ideas as to how to do this)?  That’s hard to do in 45 minutes, not knowing if your attendees have access to your slides, or what area of librarianship they practice.

Despite the challenges and considerations that had to be made because of the unknown, I felt good about the presentation.  Would I do it again?  Yes, I think I would.   As for feedback about the presentation, there were several comments regarding the pace/style.  While the majority indicated pacing was good and they felt that the presentation was engaging, I had one comment indicate that it was clear I was reading from a script, and therefore it was a bit monotonous at times.  Good points, all.  I don’t mind constructive criticism and a lot has to do with the level of interest in the topic or personal preference.  But it is something I’m going to keep in mind for the future.

I also had several comments asking for specific examples that go along with my ideas, including libraries doing this.  So, I’m providing a list at the end of this post of library catalogues that should be explored for their use of social features and RA potential.

However, I would like to share a comment with you that, as cataloguers (and RAs too) I thought you’d be interested in:

“…we are familiar with social features for the online catalogue. I thought the discussion of changing expectations for RA service was good, but not the discussion of “community” – as if all library users have similar reading interests, or even want to “share”. Also, the idea of collaboration with cataloguers seemed a bit naive, given that MOST library cataloguing is outsourced or “copy cataloguing“. [Emphasis added]

Catalogues to check out:
Queen’s Borough Public Library
Streaming cover art, popular/recommended book lists seamlessly linked with their catalogue, AquaBrowser.  Examples of adding tags, reviews, or ratings as well as faceted navigation.

Oxford County Library
Example of library catalogue using NoveList Select, which provides recommended/suggested titles within bibliographic records. Try a search on the popular book title Shutter Island.

Halifax Public Libraries
Use of Narrative Nonfiction subject heading sub-genres – memoirs, true adventure, reporting, microhistory and so on.

Use of annotated summaries created by RAs (see the link below, If you like Christopher Moore…)

Use of linkable lists within the catalogue created by RAs.  For example, “If you like Christopher Moore…”

Use of linked live author readings and talks in the catalogue.  Try What they wanted, by Donna Morrisey, or No great mischief by Alistair MacLeod.

Halifax Public Libraries, The Reader Blog
Example of books linking back into the library catalogue


Filed under Access Issues, future of cataloguing, The Library Catalogue

Today is the day: Audio Conference Countdown

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  I’m wearing green in honour of the Irish, and hoping a wee bit of the luck rubs off on me.

This afternoon is my Audio Conference: Social Catalogues and Readers’ Advisory Services: Building trust, promoting community and enhancing RA services outside the physical library.

I’m excited.  In the process of preparing, I really found myself in a position of asking questions, anticipating concerns from attendees and trying to make my ideas clear.  Unlike a webinar, attendees may or may not have access to my slides, so the challenge is to make my ideas clear, to include my energy and excitement on the topic, and not bog the entire presentation down in details. 

Ideas and concepts + exploration + collaboration = what I hope to be, a successful audio conference.

For those of you attending, I would very much like to hear your feedback – during or after the conference by email or phone.

For those of you interested in attending but haven’t signed up yet – it isn’t too late.  You can visit the Education Institute (Canada) to sign up, or the Neal-Schuman Professional Education Network (USA).

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Filed under Discovery tool platforms, Social catalogue, The Library Catalogue