Sunday, January 12, 2014

RA, RA, READ: Introduction

Welcome to a new special feature, focusing on readers' advisory and read-alikes.

I'm the only youth services librarian at my library. Technically, I'm a department head, but when your department is you and two teenagers, well...When I take tours around the library and stop at the children's desk, I tell the kids that this is where they can come to ask me questions. Then I ask them "how many of me do you see?" and of course they all yell "JUST YOU" (unless you've got some little wiseacre in the back) and I say "exactly, there's only one of me. sometimes I'm doing a program or visiting a school, or working on special projects in my office" and of course this is a lead-in to get them to go to the main information desk if I'm not available.

But what kind of service do they get there - or at the circulation desk, since our patrons generally can't tell the difference and younger kids are more likely to go there because they have a fighting chance to see over the top of it, if they jump - are we serving all our patrons?

At our staff development day in 2013, we had all the staff fill in big sheets of poster paper to see what areas we covered in reader's advisory. We're good on pretty much all genres of fiction, except horror, westerns, and political thrillers, and most of us knew enough titles to fill in there. We have several staff members who read young adult fiction and a few who read nonfiction. However, we have no one who reads elementary or middle grade and our sheet consisted of recommendations of classics and some random bestsellers. In the intervening years we've had a lot of staff turnover and aging of small children and now have several staff members with kids in the preschool/elementary/middle school age range, but there's a huge difference between "my kid likes Percy Jackson" and "here are books you will like if you like Percy Jackson."

I'm not at all averse to being the go-to person for readers' advisory. I obsessively love to recommend books - that's part of the reason I blog so much! But, like I tell the kids, sometimes I'm just not available. So, this is a resource not just for you, o great wide world that reads my blog, but also for our staff and for me - I'm not the perfect machine of memory when it comes to reader's advisory by any means.

If you have suggestions for this series - of themes or of individual books, don't hesitate to leave a comment and let me know!

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