Look, just about everyone who works at the library has made a list of their favorite books, movies, music, tv shows, etc.... for 2018 already. But here is the thing, people have favorites all of the time. Also since we work at the library, our favorites are not always the newest and shiniest things, sometimes we discover a great backlist gem in the stacks and find a new obsession.
The point I want to make here is that our staff members are a great ongoing resource for "best" ideas. However, for some reason we only ask, if at all, for their opinions at the end of the year.
Well in 2019 let's vow to put a stop to that, and I have a super easy way to create an ongoing, "best of the library" display that will not only get your staff excited about being a part of your organization's core mission, but also to help you to create a wider range of "best" options to suggest to every patron you serve all year long.
First credit to Goodreads who inspired this idea. On their blog, Goodreads asked their staffers for their top three reads of 2018. It didn't matter when the title was published, just that they read it in 2018. From that post:
As we wrap up our 2018 Reading Challenge, we decided to ask our Goodreads coworkers a simple yet tough question: What were the top three books you read this year?
Oh, the angst we caused among our well-read colleagues as they whittled down their lists to just their top few books! But hopefully our picks will inspire additions to your Want to Read Shelf.
You'll notice that our reading habits run the gamut. But if you look carefully, you can see some office favorites emerge, including multiple picks of the true-crime page-turner I'll Be Gone in the Dark; Naomi Novik's fantasy retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale, Spinning Silver; and Angie Thomas' bestselling young adult debut, The Hate U Give.Why can't we do the same type of thing with our staff? But let's move on from best of the year and start with our current favs.
Once a month, you should send out an email to all staff. Yup, everyone from Director to Maintenance. Part-time and full time. The more voices the better. In that email, ask for people to share three items that can be checked out from the library that were their best of the previous month. Make it clear that they do NOT need to pick items from the area in which they work. Also, I don't think it is necessary to identify who listed what as their favorites for this type of display, so make it clear their identity will be kept anonymous.
We want as many voices included here as possible in order to get the maximum number of uber-local "best" suggestions with the minimum effort.
Send this email every month. Do it the first Monday of the month [you can start now though] and tell people they can reply at any time. Resend every month as a reminder. Accept and archive suggestions all of the time. You can even create a Google Form which will put the answers into a spreadsheet for you.
What I have found from libraries who ask all staff to participate in sharing their favorites is that at first, only a few participate, but if you keep asking and everyone keeps seeing the books on display and patrons are checking them out.....more staff will want to join in. It's using peer pressure to positive results
You win because you have a never needing pipeline of "best" titles being submitted by staff. The patrons win because your displays will be more reflective of all staff opinions, not just your department's, and the entire organization wins because more staff are involved in your core mission-- putting materials into patrons' hands.
It is a "Best of [Fill in Library's Name Here]" display that can be constantly rotated. You can use items immediately, save them until you have space to fill, or even reuse popular titles anytime. And hopefully, it contains items from across your collections, showcasing the full breadth of your offerings to all patrons.
Patrons want to know what the staff are enjoying. That's why staff recommendation shelves are so popular, but many staff are uncomfortable putting their name on an item. Also, as I have seen from experience, rotating and organizing those displays often takes a lot of time. This display can serve the same purpose, but be more informal, hopefully more diverse since we are capturing more opinions, and ultimately more useful to patrons.
All it takes from you is an email asking people to share the opinions they already have. And what you have to gain ranges from better displays to a more engaged staff.
And you really have nothing to lose.