Trend Watch: Discussing the Value of Reader’s Advisory and Creating an RA Menu
Like all librarians, I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to reach a wide variety of readers and helping them to connect with books. We often talk about how readers like to browse but the truth is, the way traditional libraries are set up are not designed for browsing because they can create browsing fatigue. It’s hard to look at row upon row of books and not get overwhelmed or, quite frankly, exhausted. That’s why librarians do things like displays, RA tools, face out shelving and dynamic shelving. You have to have a wide variety of ways to connect with a wide variety of users. We’ve talked about this before here at TLT, and I have another great idea to share with you below!
If you’ve spent any time on Twitter or Tik Tok, you’ve probably seen people sharing pictures of their super cool RA tools in a sort of flip menu. They first started coming across my timeline in May and have been chomping at the bit to see one live and in person. Today is that day!
According to Twitter, it is possible that the original idea was started earlier this year by Kristina Holzweiss in a Facebook group. Melissa Corey says that Elizabeth Hoskins clued her into the idea of using them for RA tools. Melissa Corey and Kelsey Bogan began tweeting about them and the idea picked up steam and I’ve seen so many great examples shared online. It really is genius.
If you do any type of visual RA, you probably have some RA tools that you have created that you can print. I use Canva, which has different levels of access. You can use the free level, though your access to graphics is more limited. You can also get a free educator account if you qualify.
Librarian Melissa Corey shares templates which you can Make a Copy of and then personalize at visualbooklists.wordpress.com. Although I printed a few that I had created myself for my example, I used the cover template she had created for the gallery you see above. The templates are quick and easy to personalize.
There is also a Facebook group called Graphic Design for Library Creators that you can join where they share templates, tips and more as well. That group can be found at https://www.facebook.com/groups/graphicdesignforlibrarycreators.
While we’re talking RA tools, I recommend putting them into a shared drive somewhere that the entire library staff can reach so that they can refer to them again while helping patrons. This can be a private, in-house shared drive or using something like Wakelet to upload them and keep them available to staff. At my day job, I actually email an RA tool a week out to staff to help them feel more knowledgeable about the collection or for them to use should they want for a display and then I upload them into a shared drive by categories and age groups so they know where to find them if they are doing one on one patron RA at our branches.
The ideas often tie into things like upcoming programs to support library programs or upcoming celebrations like Black History Month. I also focus, of course, on things like genres, tropes (YA romance tropes RA tools are great), and breaking the collection down into finer categories like hard sci fi, space operates, climate change, dystopian, etc. While creating the tools, it helps me get to know the collection better as well and it helps me to spot gaps in the collection. Doing RA isn’t just about patron service and circulation, though it does help those things, but it’s about taking a deep dive into the collection and figuring out where those gaps and needs are.
Creating RA tools is meaningful work. It’s about collection development. It’s about staff training and enrichment. It’s about patron service. It’s about circulation. And it’s about helping readers find the books that they want to read and coming back for more. So while you’re doing the meaningful work of RA, why not put those tools out in ways that patrons can actually utilize them. I love this idea! It’s another way to help our patrons find the books that they are looking for.
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About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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