Readers’ Advisory—such an important facet of a school librarian’s job, yet one often neglected in the job description.
Just what is Readers’ Advisory? It is as simple as reversing the two words–advising readers (patrons) by suggesting titles in the collection that they will like based on a knowledge of the individual, his/her borrowing history and patterns, and an engaging interview to determine what it is he/she wants to read.
But, despite taking courses in the literature of children and young adults, when I studied for my Masters degree, there was no specific training on the process of advising, nor was it acknowledged as part of our role as School Library Media Specialist (still the official job title of many of us).
Let’s look at what the American Library Association (ALA) has to say.
On the ALA website, the heading of the Reader’s Advisory Wiki states, “Readers’ Advisory is a service provided by public libraries, typically.” Really, ALA? Have you spent time in a school library lately?
Information Power: Building Partnerships for Learning, published in 1998 by the American Library Association and still the bible for budding school librarians, outlines our four roles. They are:
• Information Specialist
• Instructional Partner
• Program Manager
No mention of Readers’ Advisory, the hook that catches the students and keeps them coming back for more. Putting a book in the hands of a child and knowing that I have played a role in instilling his/her love of literature, both fiction and nonfiction as well as libraries, both school and public, is one of the most rewarding parts of my job.
Readers’ Advisory is more important now than ever before. Competing media are drawing our children away from books. To keep them captivated we need to give them what they want.
This year I plan to focus my efforts on improving my advisory skill set. Looking at new releases with an eye on matching them up to a specific reader. Updating my “If you like…” bookmarks to reflect what my patrons are asking for now. (I’ll soon be creating one for “World According to Humphrey” fans. Can’t keep those books on the shelves.) Paying closer attention to what the students are recommending to each other. (The best Readers’ Advisory is often peer to peer.) Setting a book aside for a reader in anticipation of their next request. Networking with other school librarians to see what’s hot at their schools that I might be missing.
I’ll be looking at my circulation statistics at the end of the year to assess my success at this endeavor. Let’s see those books fly off the shelves!