During uncertain times that never stop being uncertain, I find myself wanting to curl up in the “comfort portions” of children’s librarianship. One of the aspects of my job that has not been altered drastically by COVID-19 is readers advisory and my speciality: advanced readers advisory. The kids are still reading, reading and reading. The kids are still coming in thinking they have read every book in the library and it is still my job to stump them. Here are “five of my back-pocket tricks” to win readers advisory.
- Classic Reference Interview. OK maybe this isn’t advanced, but it is a must. I like to ask, books recently or EVER read that were liked or disliked and then what was good or bad about said books. Also hobbies, the ultimate “what do you want to be when you grow up?” and what is a book you have read more than once? The key to success here is to make sure you are talking to the kid and ideally without siblings/ friends/ adults influencing the answers.
- Always have options. A lot of people disagree with me on this one, but I like to pull at least seven titles that are currently on the shelf. This gives the reader something to browse and make the decision for themself. I make sure to state that I won’t be offended if they don’t take them all, (or any)/ Also that staff does not mind putting away and they are welcome to write them down or take pictures of the titles.
- Choose a variety of formats. This is easier to succeed at if you have a variety of titles. You can sneak in a graphic novel, chapter book, or nonfiction book under the blanket umbrella of “they all fit the reading level and age group stated.” Worst case scenario, the child passes over it. Best case, you introduce them to something outside of their comfort zones.
- Ready to suggest. I always try to have four or five titles in my head that I am ready to book-talk and sell. Ideally, these are books that I read and can whole heartedly endorse. “Did you read the first Morrigan Crow?” I just read book three and it’s EVEN BETTER than the first two.” “Are you worried about going to a new classroom? Try Upside Down Magic where it’s a VERY different type of classroom.”
- Recent titles and (semi) older titles. I find a lot of times kids have read titles published in the past three years or sure because their friends are reading them and that their parents try to sell the classics. So, I pull from two categories: books published within the past twelve months that I’m excited about: Red, White and Whole and Starfish, or books that were popular when I first became a librarian Full of Beans, One Crazy Summer, Dead End in Norvelt.
What are your back-pocket reader’s advisory tricks? This is the fun part of being a librarian after all!
This post addresses ALSC competency II. Reference and User Services
Love your advice about offering multiple choices – that was always my method. (And, especially with the dreaded parent-without-the-reluctant-reader who had no idea if their child had ever liked a book.) I would always remind them that they should give a book a fair chance – say, read the first chapter – but then put it aside if they didn’t like it and try one of the others.
Thanks to your insightful training, I often deploy tip #2. It’s a very disarming tactic that alleviates any concern the young reader may have about “pleasing” the librarian. It reinforces that the library staff is here to serve the reader, encourages discussion and hopefully empowers younger customers to utilize library staff even more!