Implementing Reader’s Advisory in an Academic Library
When discussing reader’s advisory, academic libraries don’t generally come to mind. Most people associate academic libraries with non-fiction, reference, or text-books, many people tend to forget that academic libraries do contain works of fiction (not always a lot, but trust me it’s there!) and a staff of very knowledgeable librarians. Very little research has been done on the practicality, use, and effectiveness of implementing reader’s advisory in an academic library but I believe it deserves a look, because it is a largely untapped source of potential pleasure readers. Since I’ve been hired on at an academic library, Franklin College’s Hamilton Library, I have tried several different ways to promote reader’s advisory and our small but growing fiction collection. By examining how I’ve used Goodreads, library displays, and book clubs I hope to analyze the effectiveness and potential of reader’s advisory in academic libraries.
Students these days are more likely to spend time on social media sites then they are doing their homework or doing other “educational activities.” That being said, Goodreads is one of the fastest growing social media sites, right along with Pinterest (another great library tool!) and is becoming a favorite amongst college students. Using this social media platform is an excellent way to reel in this tech savvy generation. Currently, Goodreads is “… a social media site for finding and sharing titles that has 15 million members, is exploding in popularity and rivaling Amazon.com as a platform for promoting new books… [and is] the largest source of independent reviews on the Web, with 21 million and counting.” Goodreads is an excellent resource for collection developments (the most reliable customer reviews on the web) and reader’s advisory and can help connect librarians, patrons, and students in personalized group pages.
In the past year Goodreads has become quite popular in public libraries and is slowly starting to attract a few academic libraries. A quick search on the Goodread’s website yielded a few dozen academic library group pages as well as several hundred public library group pages. Members on these group pages varied from three to five hundred plus. The Franklin College – Hamilton Library Goodreads page currently has thirty-five members and is steadily growing. Some of the great features that can utilized on the group pages are: events, discussions, bookshelves, polls, photographs, links to other websites, and more. Franklin College has created several events, mainly for book clubs, and it’s a good way to spread the word, invite more people, and get RSVPs. The discussion board has also launched several good discussions ranging from Christmas Break reading lists, favorite book to movie adaptations, and Dr. Seuss books. Students, alumni, library staff, and faculty have participated in these discussions and it’s a good way to interact with the college community and get the library’s face out there. The bookshelves are also a good way to promote new books, fiction and nonfiction alike. Another great feature of the bookshelves is that the first reviews that pop up on featured books are reviews written by members of the group. It’s a good way to get your peers, friends, and faculty’s opinion on many different books.
I promoted Franklin College’s Goodreads page by creating flyers with QR codes and hanging them around campus. Several people have scanned the QR code and discovered the group’s page; others have joined by word of mouth, and some I personally invited because I knew they had existing Goodreads accounts. Overall, Hamilton Library may not have the largest library group on Goodreads but I think it is a step in the right direction. Connecting with patrons through social media is a no brainer these days, it has to happen. I’ve also noticed that books featured on the group’s virtual bookshelf tend to get checked out more frequently, the changes may be small, but they are definitely a step in the right direction.
Another reader’s advisory tactic I have been implementing with great success is creating displays. Before I was hired on, displays would be changed at most twice a year and they contained little to no creativity and featured nothing but academic books. In the eight months that I’ve been at the library I have had eleven different displays ranging from Graphic novels, Kurt Vonnegut, Motorcycle Gangs, banned books, book to movie adaptations, notable Franklin College alumni, and Dr. Seuss. My goal was to highlight interesting aspects of the collection that people probably weren’t aware we had. The end result was a jump in fiction circulation (especially books that were featured in displays) and patrons asking more questions about what we had in our collections. I was able to do the most reader’s advisory work when I had to the books to movies display; people were amazed we had so many in our collection and invariably wanted to know what else we had. It was hard keeping that display full!
One of the final things I’ve tried to do is promote the book club. On campus one of the professors runs an intercultural book club that meets four times a school year. I asked if the library could partner up and help promote it and they were more than grateful for the extra help. I created a small yearlong display that showcased all the books that were to be discussed in the upcoming year and provided information on the meeting dates and locations. I also made sure to place a campus wide announcement three weeks before each book club reminding people to attend, asking them to RSVP on Goodreads, and to check out the book at the library. I was also to promote interlibrary loans by telling people that I could obtain multiple copies for free. It was good being able to partner with a campus group and show the library’s interest in fiction and discussions. The turn out from the book clubs varies from about six to fifteen people.
Overall, none of the steps I have taken are very drastic but I believe that they are a push in the right direction. College students have leisure time and they are a key demographic in those who read for pleasure. It’s high time we found a good way to serve them with reader’s advisory. Some of the next steps I plan on taking at Franklin College are: adding signage to our fiction collection, most students don’t realize it’s tucked away in the 818.54s, getting a Facebook page (easier said than done, the director is terrified of it), and creating a staff picks section where the library staff show off what their top picks are. According to Libraries Unlimited, I’m on the right track, the article “Reader's Advisory in the Academic Library: Issues and Ideas” recommends book displays, events, and working with students. I’m making a difference one book display at time.
 Kaufman, Leslie. "Goodreads.com Is Growing as a Popular Book Site." The New York Times. 12 Feb. 2013.
 Cataldi, Erin. "Hamilton Library - Franklin College Group (35 Members)." Goodreads. Feb. 2013.
 Silins, Venta. "Reader's Advisory in the Academic Library: Issues and Ideas." Libraries Unlimited. July 2010.