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Rev up your Reader Advisory August 5, 2007

Posted by sneaks in BCPL best practices, display topics, great ideas, recommended by.

How do you decide what to read? We may follow certain authors, take clues from book covers, or even read reviews… but personal recommendation is still one of the strongest factors in selecting a book. Outside the library, people get recommendations from friends and colleagues, and from Amazon’s extensive web of cross-references, like the “Other people who bought this book also bought…” feature. Inside the library, we get to recommend books face-to-face.

If you maintain a Staff Recommends display, with the staff member’s name attached to each book, you are in effect creating brands specific to your library. Ruth Brown in Pikesville is a brand – there are people who will read books she recommends, no questions asked. This is priceless added value, something that most bookstores cannot match, and it’s in our best interest to promote this service with staff and the public alike.

Here’s how they do it in Hereford, according to Jo Blankenburg:

Melissa Gotsch started this up here. It’s very simple: everyone on the staff–volunteers, teen CAs, part-time, full-time– EAGERLY writes their name on the Staff Recommends bookmarks and sticks them in a handful of their choices. We have devoted a full section of shelving at the end of our New Fiction area to these staff selections (in ALL formats). It has become so popular with customers and staff alike (and so congested with recommendations) that in July we also devoted our portable round unit on wheels to an auxilliary display at the entrance of the branch. I’ve been astounded at the turnover of these materials!

When the “Picks” are checked out, the bookmarks are (aggressively) collected and tallied at the end of each month on a spreadsheet at one of the computers at our combined desk. The full list of staff members and their monthly totals are posted in the office. Just last month, I started rewarding the top three “producers” with cheezy cheap prizes.

Many branches do a variation of this, but I’ve never been in a place where the staff enthusiasm was so great that it is an constant feature in the branch, and the materials on view was so varied. Many staff members have developed their own groupies; “Sam” is always #1– one of our customers was shocked to hear that Sam was the woman who had just helped her at the Information Desk….

What do you do to show off this service?



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