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Readers' advisory is defined as “Services provided by an experienced public services librarian specializing in the reading needs of public library patrons” (Reitz 2006). A successful readers' advisory service is one where knowledgeable, non-judgmental staff help readers with their leisure-reading needs. Because the library can often be confusing in their organization and layout, readers' advisers are crucial in providing the library’s leisure-reading material to the reader. Readers’ advisers should endeavor to be “knowledgeable about both fiction and nonfiction—particularly what is popular in their libraries” (Dilevko and Magowan 2007:23).
History and resurgence
Readers’ Advisory services have experienced many ups and downs throughout its history in libraries. Initially, Readers’ Advisory was seen as a way to improve the reading habits of adults through directed readings in a form of adult education. Interest in the service waned during and after WWII because it was thought that any librarian could perform the service and leisure time was lacking for many (May, Olesh, et al. 2000:40). In recent years, readers' advisory has experienced a resurgence in popularity due to librarians reformatting the services in order to regain personal contact with the patron, something that had been lost over the years. Librarians in the past thought of themselves as educators and today's librarians (since 1980s) consider themselves 'links' between patrons and materials. (Dilevki and Magowan 2007:24).
Suggestions for success
For many librarians, reading outside their favorite genre is easier said than done. In order to become more familiar with what patrons favor and to keep up with ever-changing trends in publishing and writing, librarians should venture out and read different genres of books (Saricks 2006:36). Joyce Saricks, a well known authority on readers' advisory, suggests discussing the new book/author with coworkers and fellow readers to get an even better feel for the genre (Saricks 2006:36)
Maintaining a Staff Recommendations display is another way to improve a library’s readers’ advisory service. Since many readers are browsers, staff recommendations make it easier to select a book (Nottingham 2002: 338). In their article "Reader's Advisory: Matching Mood and Material", Ross and Chelton (2001) recommend placing books in four areas of the library in order to make the most of merchandising. These four areas are the entrance, the ends of stacks, high traffic areas, and the circulation desk (34). Placing the display in these areas ensure that patrons will see and, hopefully, utilize the books on display. Ross and Chelton also note that books, not posters and announcements, should be here because merchandised titles will circulate very quickly (35).
Reading and/or maintaining a readers’ advisory blog for a library can be beneficial for both patrons and librarians. Patrons gain access to book reviews and recommendations and librarians stay current on new releases and improve their readers’ advisory skills (Cords 2005). Two examples of RA blogs out on the web now are:
- Readers' Advisor Online blog from Libraries Unlimited
- Readers' Advisory for All blog
In addition to readers’ advisory blogs, there are many resources available to help the readers’ advisor in their mission of providing just the right book for a patron.
- http://www.jackflannel.org/ra.html --The Readers Advisory Link Farm is exactly what it sounds like—it’s a lot of links. This site gives you links to everything anyone needs to know about readers’ advisory and reading guides. Resources are arranged by genre.
- http://www.complete-review.com/ --really neat site that compiles thousands of book reviews into an easy to use index. It also provides a helpful guide to recommended books.
- http://www.webrary.org/rs/FLbklistmenu.html --Fiction_L listserv and archives. Compiled booklists from discussions on Fiction_L are available on the website. Arranged by genre, author, character, setting, and more. Maintained by Morton Grove Public Library.
- http://www.whatshouldireadnext.com/books/search --What Should I Read Next? Database that allows a user to enter a title and receive suggestions of books based on other user’s favorite books.
- NoveList/NoveList Plus -- http://www.ebscohost.com/novelist/ -- EBSCO databases for readers' advisory. NoveList is a fiction-only resource. NoveList Plus covers for fiction and narrative nonfiction.
- What Do I Read Next -- http://gale.cengage.com/pdf/navguide/wdirn_nvg.pdf -- a Thomson/Gale database where one can find over 115,000 titles, 62,000 plot summaries, many author biographies, and reading lists. Subscription necessary.
- http://fictionfinder.oclc.org/ -OCLC's Fiction Finder. provides access to 2.8 million works of fiction found in the OCLC WorldCat database. A user can search by genre, fictional character, imaginary place or setting, and subject, as well as title, author, etc.
- http://www.genreflecting.com/Adpage.html --extremely helpful resource guide classified by genre.
- http://txla.org/groups/tba/advisory.html --Readers' Advisory Information from the Texas Bluebonnet Committee
- http://www.mcpl.lib.mo.us/readers/ --Readers' Advisory Information from Mid-Continent Public Library
- http://lu.com/ranews/ --Readers' Advisor News from Libraries Unlimited
- http://ww2.kdl.org/libcat/whatsnext.asp --Kent District Library's What's Next Database. Allows you to search by series name, book title or name of the author to discover the book order of a particular series.
- http://www.openingthebook.com/whichbook/ --Whichbook uses sliding scales based on appeal factors to retrieve results. Can also be limited by format.
- Cords, Sarah Statz. “Readers' Advisory in the Blogosphere.” Reader’s Advisor News, December 2005. http://lu.com/ranews/dec2005/cords.cfm (accessed 21 October 2007).
- Dilevko, Juris and Candace F.C. Magowan. Readers' Advisory Service in North American Public Libraries, 1870-2005. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc, 2007.
- May, Anne K., Elizabeth Olesh, Anne Weinlich Miltenberg, and Catherine Patricia Lackne. "A Look at Reader's Advisory Services." Library Journal 125 (15): 40-3.
- Nottingham, Julie. “Doing It Right: A Reader’s Advisory Program.” Reference and User Services Quarterly 41(4):335-9.
- Reitz, Joan. “Readers’ Advisory” in Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science. http://lu.com/odlis/odlis_r.cfm#readersadvisory (accessed 21 October 2007).
- Saricks, Joyce. “Struggling with the Unknown.” Booklist, October 1, 2006.