What is Readers’ Advisory?

On Friday the public service staff of the Cedar Rapids Public Library took the day off from serving patrons directly to receive special training in readers’ advisory. Readers’ advisory is a service which involves suggesting fiction and nonfiction titles to a reader through direct or indirect means. Essentially, we do readers’ advisory whenever a customer asks us to recommend a book.

Readers’ advisory sounds simple. Someone asks for help finding a book and a librarian directs them to one. Easy, right? Not so fast. There is serious work to being successful at readers’ advisory. How does a librarian know which book to recommend? Research. Readers’ advisors need to have extensive knowledge of popular materials. The continued development of this knowledge is essential to being a readers’ advisor.

A highly effective readers’ advisor can help develop personalized reading lists, lead discussion, do book talks, and even write bibliographies.

Simply knowing what is popular is not enough to be an effective readers’ advisor. To do it well, the person must see books in context and  understand that everyone is different. Each of us have unique life experiences that change the way we understand what we read. A good readers’ advisor will recognize a readers skill level and taste. He/she will also keep in mind that people may like a variety of genres, varying tastes and levels of difficulty.

The staff of the Cedar Rapids Public Library is skilled at readers’ advisory but also recognizes that to be excellent at it they must continually train themselves. Friday they were behind closed doors so that each day, when we open at 9:00 am, they are even better equipped to help you.

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