In today’s post, Jenny talks about the team work Indian Trails Public Library uses to provide exemplary RA Service. I love how R.U.C.K.U.S. allows the staff to come together, share the load, but still increase their service to leisure readers as a library. Well done raising a R.U.C.K.U.S.
Take it away Jenny....
Let’s Raise a R.U.C.K.U.S. in Readers’ Advisory
by Jenny Reid
Readers’ advisory has been more prevalent in professional articles and conversation as of late, and many of us owe thanks to Becky Spratford for creating a platform specifically focused on this library art. Connecting readers to awesome materials is one of the most important, and fun, responsibilities within the library profession. While working at the Indian Trails Public Library, I have had the pleasure to collaborate on a truly positive project that allows everyone in our Adult Services Department to be involved with innovative readers’ advisory services.
And what is this project? We’re creating a R.U.C.K.U.S. at the Indian Trails Public Library.
R.U.C.K.U.S., which stands for Readers Using Common Knowledge for Ultimate Service, is our readers’ advisory committee that came into being about a year ago. It is comprised of four staff members in Adult Services: Jenn Hovanec, Assistant Manager of Adult Services; Sarah Heimsoth, Teen Librarian; Carla Lasky, Adult Services Library Assistant; and myself, Jenny Reid, Community Engagement Librarian.
Jenn saw a need for this committee as two of our long-time readers’ advisory staff retired and their positions changed to part-time. It became necessary to spread the readers’ advisory wealth among our department, and such a committee could help in a twofold manner: first, to match up our community members with good reads and second, to help staff feel more comfortable with this service and with sharing their media opinions with each other. Over time, staff have become more confident and adept at developing these services among ourselves and for our community members, and below you will find the various projects implemented to help on both of these levels.
First, the committee works on projects to help suggest good reads to our members. One of the first projects that was implemented was monthly shelftalkers. Each person in the Adult Services Department creates two shelftalkers per month to be placed in the fiction and/or nonfiction areas. To best serve all types of readers in our community, we ask staff to vary their suggestions across genres and formats. The idea is to promote older titles and help members discover new books and authors. Sarah was pleased to report that this past January, 12 of the 26 shelftalker books were checked out. Our members have certainly been taking notice and appreciating the in-the-stacks suggestions.
Our department has also been working towards upping our display efforts. We now all rotate monthly display responsibilities. This way, everyone is given the opportunity to come up with an engaging theme, pull the appropriate media items, and create fun signage. Then, it’s up to the rest of the department to help keep the displays replenished during the month, thereby allowing each of us to look for media regarding topics that we may not be very familiar with. With these displays, we have brought advisory services to a new and visible level, moving from two displays to five separate display areas that span both floors of our library and are featured in several public areas and departments. We are moving out from behind the desk and into the community and with visible results. The displays have been popular, and we’re seeing materials go out that had previously been collecting dust.
These monthly displays also add a personal element to our readers’ advisory services, as one person each month is in charge of a Help a Staffer Out display. Staff pick three or four types of genres they like to read, which can be as simple or as complicated as they like (i.e. memoirs, romances featuring sizzling cowboys, etc.), and pull the initial display materials. Throughout the month, staff then fill it with their suggestions within these genres. Another creative and collaborative aspect to this display is the involvement of our Graphics Department. Our awesome designers created unique signage for this display using fun photos we took earlier in the year. Developing this type of display has been an entertaining way to promote different types of collections. We also hope that by seeing our approachable faces on the signage, our members will be encouraged to ask us about those sizzling cowboy romances while we are working at the service desk, thereby increasing our personal connections with our community’s readers.
Because our committee members are extra passionate about readers’ advisory, the four of us also have the awesome opportunity to create a special monthly display using fun props and decorations, which we have named our Prop Up Display. As this display project is done without a corresponding budget, we involve the entire department by putting a call out during the previous month for related props. Everyone has enjoyed looking through closets and finding unused items that can be put to work at the library. The same responsibilities as the regular displays then apply to these as well, with the added benefit of some extra pizzazz and flare.
In addition to shelftalkers and displays, Carla has also been working on revamping our Fan Club, the library’s automatic holds service for bestselling authors. She has been updating the list, adding more contemporary authors such as Jojo Moyes and Kyle Mills, and working on a way to make the process more user friendly for both community members and staff. She is hoping to roll out the new and improved version in the next few months, which will include an online form for members to place their requests.
Additionally, our group also helps staff to get more involved with advisory services. Our committee members initiate a weekly readers’ advisory email entitled Whatchya Recommendin’ Wednesday, in which staff can detail what they are currently reading, listening to, or watching. We have provided two general options for staff to follow while crafting these emails. First, we can describe a book, magazine, movie, tv show, etc. that we have enjoyed this week. For these recommendations, we suggest that staff list the title and author, upload the cover image, and write a short description of the item along with appeal terms and readalikes. While this is the prescribed format, staff do not have to follow it if they don’t want to. Second, we can discuss a readers’ advisory trend that we have noticed in our community. Overall, we ask that these weekly emails be a platform for conversation. We hope that staff will share what media they’re enjoying this week and also respond to each other’s suggestions with follow-up comments and/or questions. Staff are starting to become more engaged with the discussion, and we’re seeing growing weekly participation among the department. We also hope to see more staff using these emails as conversation starters with our members, thereby elevating our customer service level. For some highlighted examples of what staff have been writing, take a look at this linked document.
Overall, as a R.U.C.K.U.S. committee member, I have seen our readers’ advisory services grow very nicely this year, and I look forward to our future work. With many exciting things on the horizon, I hope to write a follow-up post, so stay tuned. In the meantime, go raise a readers’ advisory ruckus at your library!