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Thursday, September 18, 2014

BPL RA Staff Training Today

Later this afternoon, the BPL RA Dream Team is having a staff meeting.  At last month’s meeting we mostly tackled Summer Reading Wrap Up and One Book, One City pre-planning, but this month our fearless leader Kathy and I have some training exercises and instruction planned.  Both of us are quite excited.

Kathy is going to begin with a refresher on writing annotations using what the 2 of us learned by attending ARRT’s RA Summer Camp with Neal Wyatt.  You can click here for my recap.  Our staff is very active in writing annotations for our popular Browsers’ Corner, but Kathy and I felt like we got new energy from Neal’s talk and we want to pass that energy on.

After Kathy’s annotation pep talk, I will be introducing a “new" passive RA service at the BPL.  What is passive RA?  It is a way to provide RA service without direct interaction between a staff member and a patron. [If you are confused, it will become very clear in a moment].

I also need to qualify what I meant by “new.”  Two years ago, Kathy and I attended a program at ALA entitled Leading Readers to Water...Guerrilla Marketing for RA. Click on the title for my recap report.  But for today’s purposes, Kathy and I saw something specific that we loved in this program. From my report:
  • Put customized RA stickers with contact info in the books!  I LOVE THIS You suggest a readalike in the book and when they finish they know where to go next.  Have contact info so they know you did it.
For two years now we have wanted to start a service like this, but we needed to figure out HOW we would have everyone work on it together and TRAIN the staff to go from providing readalikes verbally to a person standing in front of them to crafting ones in writing that our patrons could discover at the end of a book.

Step one was achieved this past summer as we got the staff used to using our shared Google Drive account to manage the summer reading program.  This was a Google Form and Reports simple system that they were required to log into in order to check on a reader’s progress in the program or to note the awarding of prizes. The result-- everyone can now login, choose the right documents, and collaborate within the department Drive.

I know we are not alone at BPL RA in that the tech skills of our staff are all across the spectrum. By creating a fairly low stakes, but mandatory, application of this new tool, we had a fairly easy training experience.

Step two is my job. I set up 2 completed and formatted “stickers” in our Google Drive.  I also created a document which explains the required elements such as the bold opening with author and title and our contact info [samples at the bottom of this post]. In the meeting today, I will talk to them about writing readalikes in this shortened format.  They will be using their shelf talker annotation skills that they have been building for a few years now as a stepping stone.

Step three is coming next.  We are going to ask staff to pick a book they have enjoyed that is not brand new and put it into the proper folder on the Google Drive with at least 1 readalike and WHY you think it is a good readalike option in the style and fashion which I demonstrate today.

We want to encourage conversation and collaboration, so we are not expecting any one person to HAVE to do an entire readalike sticker themselves.  Although, I have done 2 [posted below] as examples, and we will not discourage anyone who wants to do an entire sticker, we do want to see collaboration on these individual docs because we hope to move onto Step 4....

Step four may take awhile, but our ultimate goal is once fluency in collaborating on Google Drive is achieved, we want to introduce a Form Based RA service.  Many libraries provide these services and most are modeled off of Williamsburg Regional Library’s version, but basically what it involves is creating a form that patrons can fill out listing their personal reading preferences, and then we, as a staff, work together to suggest 5 books they may enjoy. After a week to 10 days of collaboration, we hope to provide a list of five books they should try next.

It is important to note here that while our staff is very good at talking with patrons and using resources and experience to suggest excellent readalike options at the desk, as a group, we need to work on collaborating to provide RA for people who are not physically in front of us.  Some of the obstacles are because of technology training [which I think Kathy and I are addressing above] and the other is that we are not used to suggesting books together as a group.  All of us still function 1-on-1 with patrons, unless someone else is at the desk and gets involved.  We not only want to be having a larger staff conversation about providing RA to patrons, but also we want our patrons to get suggestions from the BPL RA staff as a unit, not just 1 staff member.

I realize this is a lot, but since Kathy and I have put a great deal of time and effort into this process, I thought it was worth sharing. Feel free to borrow away or contact me with questions.  Heck we borrowed the stickers and form based RA ideas from others already.  Why not keep the sharing train running down the tracks?

Finally, I have attached the first 2 stickers I have created for our new service.  It should be noted that they are not formatted here for our stickers.  Also, once we have a dozen books with stickers in the back, we plan to put out a small display with the books and a flyer explaining the service to promote it.  But what we really can’t wait for is for people to simply start encountering our staff suggestions as they turn the last page of a random book.

To start, I chose two books that I have hand sold to many patrons with great success.

Did you enjoy reading Prayers for the Stolen by Jennifer Clement? You may also enjoy these other titles from our collection. 
Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea has a similar setting and features a strong female character in a gritty and haunting story with uplifting ending. 
Canada by Richard Ford is also a moving story with a coming of age theme, a border setting, and a storyline that is haunting, character driven and heartbreakingly beautiful. 
The young narrator of Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka, June, is similar to Ladydi. Both are curious, strong young women forced into very adult situations, but they are able to learn and blossom as a result. 
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini is another gritty, haunting, and lyrical story with female characters facing impossible choices at its center. Although here, instead of Mexico, the setting is Afghanistan.
Want more reading suggestions? Stop by the RA desk or contact us @ 708.795.8000 x3005 or ra@berwylibrary.org. 
Did you enjoy reading The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker? You may also enjoy these other titles from our collection. Forever by Pete Hamill also uses a mixture of fiction and fantasy to tell a moving immigrant story set in New York City. Forever spans centuries with an immortal protagonist and The Golem and the Jinni is set in 1899, but both stories invoke the mythology of "the old country." For those who want another tale of magical realism with awe inspiring world building, fluid storytelling, and a tone which, while darker is infused with an overwhelming sense of hope, try Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. The People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks is a good choice for readers who want another novel featuring Jews and Arabs working together to save something precious. Brooks’ tale alternates between the past and the present, but features a similar magical tone and a look into the customs, traditions, and ways of those who came before us.
Want more reading suggestions? Stop by the RA desk or contact us @ 708.795.8000 x3005 or ra@berwylibrary.org.  


Molly Moss said...

Love this idea! Do you have a picture of the stickers?

Becky said...

Molly, as soon as we have enough to print, I will post pictures. Still training now.

Unknown said...

Thank you!