"A library doesn't need windows. A library is a window." – Stewart Brand

Jul 3, 2009

Surprise, I CAN do readers' advisory!

I've been getting frustrated with my readers' advisory skills. The ref desk is upstairs and the RA books are downstairs, so when I get asked an RA question Novelist and whoever else happens to be on desk are pretty much the best resources I have to go on. With most questions I am immediately and acutely aware that I just don't know of any other books that fit the patron's preferences (and that's when I remember to elicit preferences in an interview instead of freezing up and automatically heading straight to Novelist, eep). Most people seem to be satisfied with Novelist's readalike suggestions for an author, but I really don't feel like I'm providing the best service. It's frustrating.

Today, however, I actually got through one RA interaction in a way that made me feel proud! It was a young gentleman who came up and said he liked historical, intense novels like The Wave. Using the handy local school summer reading list as a prop, I was able to suggest some authors who I'd read as a teen and others who had caught my eye as I was weeding YA books earlier this summer (yet another confirmation that it is absolutely vital for librarians to work with the books themselves!). He also found some books on the list that looked interesting. Unfortunately they were all out!

But then the darling boy (and I really do adore him for this) mentioned Narnia. He had only read The Magician's Nephew (and I am restraining myself, with great difficulty, from repeating my mini-lecture (which he took in good humor) about the correct order in which to read the Chronicles of Narnia). The Narnia books are among some of my fondest memories (I still own my box set!). We popped on down to the teen room, found most of the books right on the shelf, and he asked me for my thoughts on the order he should read the books in, which I happily gave. Interspersed with all of this was some very pleasant chitchat about books in general and the Chronicles of Narnia in particular. He left happy, and I felt like I really had helped someone looking for readers' advisory for once.

It was a badly needed confidence boost. Now I feel that I am indeed capable; it's just that I need a wider knowledge base and better familiarity with the resources available to help with RA.

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