Tuesday, February 3, 2009

How Not to Be A Great Reader's Advisor

Check out this blog post by Carlie Webber at Librarilly Blonde.

She's talking specifically about email RA--like when people ask their colleagues on a listserv for help with finding books for a patron, or when we get requests via services such our email reference. But the post also serves as a quick reminder of the types of questions we should be asking our walk-in or phone-in patrons when they need recommendations.

What are your favorite "fishing" questions that you use to find out more about the patron, or the patron's children, to help zone in on the books they might like? What bugs you about reader's advisory? What do you love about it?


Alyson said...

I think the blogger griped too much! Sure it would be great if every RA interview consisted of the perfect questions and the perfect answers, but there are lots of reasons why that does not always happen.

On email or online RA often the best we can do is anticipate what those questions/answers would be. For example I tried to put books about romance and girls in fantasy settings on the Stephenie Meyer readalikes as well as books about vampires. With the Percy Jackson readalikes we created two lists one aimed at kids, one aimed at teens since the book is a crossover.

Jill Corrente said...

How often do you talk to someone in person who absolutely cannot verbalize why they liked something? Online RA doesn't change that--that's why great RA (in person or virtual) is about: read this if you liked that about a book and read this one if you liked something else about that book (or read this one because it is my absolute favorite and has nothing to do with your book :-)).

My gripe about "in person" RA is that it's too fast--RA is often a thoughtful, consultative process for me AND I hate when people make a face at the book I've just pulled off the shelf without knowing anything about it (did I just gripe more than the blogger?)!

Allison said...

WOW interesting article Melissa. I agree with what both Alyson, Jill and even the author of the article said in that Reader's Advisory takes time.

As most of you know I am still in school getting my teaching (elementary) degree along with English. I am learning in my class how important it is to interview my future students as to what books, genres and authors they like. Not only this but how important it is to know more about your students -- what are their interests and hobbies....If we as library people were able to conduct an interview like this to each child that came in we would be able to provide them with the 'perfect' book every time.

The questions that I like to ask when trying to gain more information are most often the simple: Is this for school? or fun? then if it is for school it may need to be a certain amount of pages or a certain genre.

Good things to think about! Thanks for posting this!

Elizabeth A said...

I liked the blog post, because its how I sometimes feel. I am often handed the Teen and Children's RA questions at our branch, and I get a little annoyed when I'm the 2nd or 3rd person a child or teen has talked to and no one has bothered to ask them what they like to read.

Here are some questions I ask when conducting an RA interview:
Is this for fun or for a school project?
What have you been reading recently? Did you like that? What was your favorite part?
What was the last book you read that you loved?
You don't like to read? What else do you like to do? What TV shows do you like? What hobbies do you have?
Do you like reading stories that are close to real life or do you enjoy more mystical/fantasy based?

Melissa said...

I am loving this conversation! Alyson, I agree we don't always get what we want, but I liked the reminder that RA is not a cookie cutter endeavor.

Jill, I feel the same way about people judging the book (or the booktalker!) by the cover and not giving us some breathing space. I wish we could come up with a great way to display books, especially J and YA books, that would allow young readers a chance to do a "directed browse" and discover interesting titles on their own. I almost never see actual kids at our chapter book display at Koelbel and I don't know why--is it in a bad place? Are we not giving them enough information? Are the covers too boring? Is the display theme too lame???

Allison and Elizabeth, thanks for the reminder to ask about hobbies--this is something I usually ask a grown up who is looking for something to bring home to their kid, but I often forget to ask it of the kids themselves when I'm working with them.

Elizabeth, I am stealing your idea to ask about a reader's favorite part of a book. I think this is an excellent way to try to get them to put their finger on what was enticing to them, even if, like Jill said, they are pretty lousy at verbalizing it if we ask!