Good readers' advisory is difficult. It could be a patron that don't know, or someone who has very different tastes from you. Don't just tell them what you favourite book is or what the latest bestseller is. Don't assume that just because your patron is a teenage girl they will automatically want to read YA, or that an elderly woman will want to read romance. Every reader is different, so you need to find what will work for them. Start a conversation and use these five tips and tools below and your patrons will be very happy!
1) Read as much as you can:
The best tool is reading, reading and more reading. Read plenty of books and reviews. The more widely you read, the easier it will be to give recommendations. Make a point to familiarize yourself with different genres and if don't have time to read books in different genres, read reviews. Keep up-to-date with the new releases in different genres. A review in a magazine like Library Journal will often give you enough information to go on.
2) Conduct a readers' advisory interview:
If someone asks for a recommendation, don't just jump in and start throwing titles of bestsellers at them. First, ask some of these questions to learn about your patron and what they might like:
- What was the last thing you read that you liked?
- What did you like about it? (the characters, the pace, the mystery, the setting, etc.)
- What genres of books do you usually enjoy?
- Do you have any authors that you really enjoy? What is it you like about their writing?
If you're able to, start suggesting anything that comes to mind based on these books and gauge their reaction. If nothing seems to catch their fancy, keep trying.
3) Use NoveList:
This is a great resource that patrons can use on their own, or library staff can use it on their behalf. It's an EBSCO database that Peace Library System subscribes to (we subscribe to both the K-8 Edition and the Plus version). You can easily search a book title and find read-alikes or you can look at recommended reads by genre. You can even search by appeal factors (ie. pace, writing style, tone). There's really no limit to what you can find in here. Explore NoveList with your patron and together you can come up with something that should meet their needs.
NoveList also has some great training tools in their RA Toolbox. There are genre guides, articles about readers' advisory, display ideas, and more so it's worth reading it in your spare time!
4) Use Whichbook:
Whichbook is a fun, free online tool that can help you discover what to read next. You can search for a book by marking on a slider your desired level of certain moods and factors (ie. happy vs. sad, gentle vs. violent, optimistic vs. bleak). You can also search based on plot, character, and setting. Based on your choices, it gives you some suggestions, and from there you can find similar titles and further explore. There are lots of free online tools that give your patrons personalized suggestions (such as Goodreads), so you may want to suggest these as well!
5) Have fun with it!
Don't put pressure on yourself to find the "perfect book" because there isn't one. Suggest a range of titles and let your patron choose from there. Invite them to come back and let you know what they thought and keep the conversation going. Keep the atmosphere relaxed and inviting and your patrons will be more likely to ask for recommendations, and you'll be more likely to enjoy doing readers' advisory!