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Monday, October 30, 2017

How to Create a Culture of Booktalking at Your Library-- Becky’s Step-By-Step Guide

By far my most popular program is to present the RA for All Signature program followed by my Booktalking program. Both are a combination of training and pep talk; a how-to with a dose of "you can do it!”

These programs together make for the perfect morning of and in-service for all staff. Both programs also come with exercises to continue after I leave. But, while I have the directions for how to administer the Staff Reader Profile exercise clearly written out here on the blog, I don’t have the directions on how to start the booktalking competition at your library which I describe in my Booktalking program.

Today I fix that problem.

First, you need to refer to this post where I outline why you need to create a culture of booktalking at your library.

Second, it helps if your staff have had my training on how to book talk but here is the super short version-- All staff should simply booktalk their all time favorite reads or current favorites with a focus on why they like the book-- not focusing on what happens. When talking to a patron, you are not worried about whether or not that patron will like the book for themselves; the point of this booktalking is to start the conversation. Then when that staff person is done, he or she says to the patron, “That’s what I’ve been reading. What about you? Tell me about something you like.”

Third, although I say “books” all of the time please substitute anything your library checks out or allows streaming for leisure reading or viewing. So if the library checks it out-- a book, audiobook, graphic novel, TV series, movies, etc...that item can be “booktalked."

Now on the how to convince your staff to start doing this, especially if it is “not my job." Thankfully, I have a tried and true plan that uses incentives and creates a friendly competition which encourages them to practice and participate so that you can turn your library into a place where staff and patrons spontaneously share books with each other. Doesn’t that sound like a library fairy tale come true? It is and I can help you make it happen.

Here is the step by step guide:

  1. Get Caught Booktalking-- This is the name of your initiative. It plays off of the old, but still popular “Get Caught Reading” campaign by the ALA.
  2. Assign one staff member as the administrator. This person decides how the tallies are kept for how many book talks a person gives.
  3. Staff are encouraged to wander the building encountering patrons and striking up conversations about that they are reading. All staff-- from the Janitor to the Director; whether they work public service or behind the scenes can do this. 
  4. Another staff member must see you booktalking to a patron. That person gives you a mark for completing a booktalk. The administrator can be notified or there can be a shared document to keep track. How the marks for booktalking are tallied is up to the administrator.
  5. If you hit 5 booktalks in one calendar week the administrator enters you into a drawing for that week’s prize. Suggested weekly prize is 1 extra 15 minute break to be used in the next week.
  6. FYI-- Staff may book talk the same book to each patron they encounter, but as they get more experience, adding more books to the rotation is highly encouraged. 
  7. Continue every week- resetting the counter for each staff member to zero at the week’s start.
  8. Everyone who has been entered into a weekly prize is eligible for a monthly drawing. Suggested prize- extra time for 1 lunch break. I suggest doubling the current allowed time. 
  9. Every week is another entry, so that by the end of the year, at your staff day, you have many people with multiple entries into the pot for the grand prize-- a $50 gift card to somewhere.
  10. Results-- a library where booktalking is going on between staff and patrons all of the time.
As staff see others having fun running around the building talking to patrons about their favorite reads, and that people are actually winning prizes for all of this fun, you will get more and more people to join in. Yes I promise you, even the most stubborn and unfriendly members of your staff will eventually join in. I have seen it happen with my own eyes.

You may want to also consider trophies to be given out at the staff day for people who have the most booktalks, the person who was “most improved,” person with the most varied items talked [like if someone does a book from every genre], etc... The idea here is to have as many incentives to keep it going as possible. You can make these trophies fun and/or silly and pass them down to a new winner each year. The staff member can proudly showcase their trophy for a full year until the next staff day. And, if you keep it going, people will try even harder to win the next year, and the one after that, and so on.

As you can see, this “Get Caught Booktalking” initiative has many useful outcomes, including but not limited to:
  1. Showcasing your staff’s friendliness to patrons-- everyone is talking about what they are reading to each other. Isn’t that an awesome atmosphere to have in your building?
  2. Advertising that you care about what patrons want as well as what they need-- they know the things they HAVE to come to the library for but often patrons forget library staff can and want to help their with their leisure needs too.
  3. Serving as a team building exercise-- the friendly competition allows people who might not have known each other to get to know one and other better.
  4. Allowing staff who may be “bored” with their day to day responsibilities the chance to try something new that both reenergizes them and helps the entire organization.
  5. Allowing staff to talk about items the library has for checkout that may not be in their specific service section. Cross departmental advertising but also fun for staff to talk about things that they enjoy but do’t get to work with.
  6. Providing essential training for a very low cost-- $50!
Why not give this a try at your library? You have nothing to lose and what you gain is a reenergized staff who leave happy patrons in their wake.

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