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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Interactive RA: Featuring a List of Fun SF and FSY Books Via io9

I am loving a current discussion on the SF/FSY site io9 so much that I wanted to share it with all of you.

They asked readers to share “Which Science Fiction or Fantasy Book Was So Much Fun You Couldn’t Stand It?

There are currently over 400 responses!

Which Science Fiction or Fantasy Book Was So Much Fun You Couldn't Stand It?
If you use this picture in your display
please use this credit.
How does this help you, the RA librarian? Well let’s start with the most obvious-- this post is an easy display; the book list is there in the comments and you can use their awesome graphic (with credit).

Also, I love the title. You don't normally see the word "fun" used to describe SF and FSY, but it can be so much fun as the large and positive responses illustrate.

Speaking of positive responses, in general, I actively advocate for using five star and one star reviews of books as a way to see what patrons actually think about a book.  No they are not your patrons, but they are someone's patrons; they are actual readers sharing their honest reactions to a book. But I also know that there are a lot of negative and mean spirited people on the Internet leaving nasty comments. However, io9 has created such a fun discussion, and they have worked hard to cultivate a model Internet community over the years, where there is more respect than not, that overall, you will see mostly a positive discussion focusing on the "fun" here.  It is a wonderful example of framing an internet discussion question in a way that encourages positivity.

Which leads me to my final, and main point of this post. This question: "Which Science Fiction or Fantasy Book Was So Much Fun You Couldn't Stand It?"begs for you to answer it.  It feeds off of readers' enthusiasm for the books they love. It is a question people feel a NEED to answer.

Social media and fan community's like io9 put forth questions like this a lot. People answer in droves. So why aren't we doing this in our library buildings? Yes, many libraries post or retweet these links to encourage conversation in the virtual world, but very few library's try to have this kind of interactive RA action in their buildings.

Why not?

We want to focus on being the place where the community discovers new books. We want to be a place that people think is fun to come to.  We are focusing on things like maker spaces and digital media labs to make us look relevant.  I am all for these things too, but once they are here for the "new," we also need to remind them how relevant we are when it comes to our main business-- reading!

So I suggest a new interactive RA idea as inspired by io9's discussion. Why can't we post questions like this in our buildings and online?

Try it.  Every 2 weeks have a library question.  Yes post it on your various social media places, but also at every service desk. Post the question with slips of paper and a box to drop answers in AND offer the info about posting it to Facebook or create a hashtag for Twitter.  For example, my local library's initials are LGPL; they could use #LGPLAsks.

When you ask at the Adult, AV, Circ, Youth, Teen, etc... all of the different desks, you get a range of answers, you encourage the entire library using public to participate, and, most importantly, you start a conversation about reading. By posting it online too, you let the rest of your community know that you care about what they like. And, by getting the staff from across the entire building involved you spread the work of coming up with the questions around to a larger pool of people AND you have created a cross library team building exercise as a result. [Win, Win]

These questions can be about any leisure mediums, and should be. Ask about TV shows, movies, audiobooks, etc... as well. You can take your cue from other online polls or discussions as long as you give them credit for the idea.

The point here is, you are starting the RA conversation with your patrons at their comfort level. They can talk to you about their answer, leave a slip in a box, or simply interact with you digitally. But the conversation has begun. You have asked for their opinion on their leisure "reading," and have given them a choice in how to respond.

And as I have found, once you make a connection with a patron through RA service, they start to come back for more.

This post doesn't even consider the massive amount of data you can collect about your community's reading and viewing habits by engaging in this activity. [That line is for the administrator who doesn't want you clogging up desk space with questions and answer boxes-- these are worth it for collection development.]

Try it out and let me know how it goes.

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