In over 16 years of working in rural public libraries, my favorite type of patron service has always been (and continues to be) providing Reader’s Advisory Services – sometimes shortened by those in the library field to RA.
RA is a helpful service offered by libraries that many in the general public may not know exists. As this service is valuable to the library user and also fun for the library staff member to provide, I would like to encourage everyone to consider giving it a try, particularly if you enjoy reading fiction for pleasure.
What is Reader’s Advisory? Author Joyce Saricks describes RA as, “patron-oriented library service for adult fiction readers. A successful readers’ advisory service is one in which knowledgeable, nonjudgmental staff help fiction readers with their reading needs.”
Essentially, library staff members conduct an RA “interview” with a library user, gathering details about what that person enjoys reading, including particular titles and authors but also what sort of styles of writing the person prefers: heavy description, a strong sense of setting, deep character development, lots of action or dialogue – those types of data points. Using this information, as well as tools such as databases, such as NoveList and GoodReads and the Online Public Access Catalog, as guides, the library staff member or librarian then begins to determine which books, authors and series the patron will enjoy reading. The more forthcoming the patron is with the library staff member, and the better skilled the staff member is at RA, the more likely the suggestions will be spot-on.
Reader’s Advisory Services can be iterative, as well. If a librarian or other library staff member has suggested a title to you and it’s not a perfect fit, it is best to let that person know exactly how it isn’t right for you and the suggestions going forward can be tailored accordingly. It’s also very helpful to let the librarian or library staff member know when they have suggested something that is the right fit, because that will reinforce that they are on the right track with what you enjoy and future suggestions for you will continue to be excellent.
I encourage you to visit one of the five La Plata County public libraries (Durango Public, Ignacio Community, Pine River, Fort Lewis Mesa and Sunnyside) and give Reader’s Advisory Service a try. This summer, let us help you find your next perfect read!
Liz vonTauffkirchen is district director of Southwest La Plata Library District.