Commitment to Client Group

Virtual Reader’s Advisory – Helping Readers at Home

I used to be good at Reader’s Advisory. A child or caregiver approached the desk, they asked me for book ideas, and I gave them great books. End of transaction. Everybody walks away happy. Now, with my library closed and our school district’s kids home at least through the summer, we’re working on a mix of old and new strategies to help kids and families find the right books for them.

Book Match

Book Match was a service my library system offered before the closure. Patrons can fill out a questionnaire online (or if they’re under thirteen, a grown-up can fill it out for them) about their reading interests, and a librarian writes them back with book suggestions from our collection. Shortly after our closure, we started advertising Book Match more heavily on our website and our social media channels, in order to help patrons find great e-books while our print collection is off-limits.

Of course, we used to primarily give recommendations for print books. Now I’ve learned a lot about the e-books we offer through different providers like Overdrive and Hoopla, especially our collections for kids and teens.

Stack of five books ready to be considered for virtual book talks
My pile of future book talking material awaits

Video Book Talks

Children’s librarians are masters of the book talk. We can boil down any book to a quick, minute or two description that yanks a potential reader in and makes them itching to find out what happens next. Since we already have these skills, why not take them online?

Virtual book talks are a service we’re still in the discussion stage for at my library system, but publishers have been doing this on social media channels like Instagram for years. Questions to consider before launching virtual book talks can include:

  • Is the book widely available on our e-book platforms?
  • Can the video include a link to e-book tutorials for patrons just getting started?
  • Has your library created any policy regarding copyright protections when reading excerpts from books in online video?
  • What platform do you want to use? If your library system has already taken storytimes onto Facebook Live, Youtube, or Zoom, then some of your patrons may already be familiar with the set-up.
  • Is your intended audience made up of kids or caregivers? Or both? I know I book talk differently to a classroom of fourth graders than I do to their grown-ups.

Reaching Patrons Behind the Digital Divide

Not all our patrons can be reached online. They may not have ready internet access, participate in social media, or have the ability to use e-books even if we could reach them online. What do we do to provide Reader’s Advisory to these patrons?

I’ll be honest: I don’t have a good answer to this question. With my library completely closed to both staff and the public, we can’t even answer phone calls right now. Until we can safely return to the branch, we’re going to have a hard time serving these patrons who really need us.

How is your library providing Virtual Reader’s Advisory? Have you figured out a way to reach your patrons without internet access? Let us know in the comments below. I’d like to shamelessly steal your ideas!

(Photo courtesy of guest blogger)


Head shot of Chelsey Roos, author of Virtual Reader's Advisory blogpost
Photo credit: Josh Lieu

Today’s guest blogger is Chelsey Roos. Chelsey is a member of ALSC’s Advocacy and Legislation committee and is currently a children’s librarian at the Castro Valley Branch of the Alameda County Library.


This blog relates to ALSC Core Competencies of I. Commitment to Client Group and II. Reference and User Services.

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