I can come to your library, book club meeting, or conference to talk about how to help your readers find their next good read. Click here for more information including RA for All's EDI Statement.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Monday Discussion: What Should I Read Next?

For today's Monday Discussion, I wanted to get more into the nitty gritty of how we help patrons.  Every day we librarians who are providing service to leisure readers are asked to help our patrons find their next good read.  My library has only been open for 1 hour and I have helped 3 different patrons in this manner already!

I know what resources I use to help patrons, but I want to know what you use when trying to match readers' tastes with a book in your vast holdings?

For me, I have a few go-to resources.  I always go to NoveList first.  On NoveList, I can pull up the book, reviews, its subject headings, often some appeal terms, and possible a list of read-alike options (for full disclosure, some of these are ones I have written).  I like how I can go with the read-alikes mentioned in the reviews or those provided by the NoveList content writers.  However, I just as frequently pull out a specific subject heading or appeal term and run a wider search.

My second favorite resource is Amazon.  I treasure the customer comments on Amazon as a vital resource.  Why? Because I see these comments as actual patrons, talking to me about the book.  I can see what real, average readers, not reviewers, felt about the book.  This information is priceless since a non-professional reader is who I am helping. It is also important to note that the most extreme views, both 1 and 5 stars, are the most helpful.  These point out what readers felt passionate about on either side of the debate.

I also often use Fantastic Fiction for its compilation of the books an author has recommended his or her fans read.  This info is at the bottom of most author entries.  I like All Readers for their detailed and frank delineation of sex and violence.  Click here for sex and/or here for violence and scroll down to the boxed descriptors, specifically under the heading of "Style" to see what I mean.

And finally, when my mind has gone blank, I show patrons the aqua browser maps of gnooks.  Here is the entry for Stephen King.  Sometimes, this computer generated list, gets both my brain and the patron's jump started and the ideas start flowing.

I think this last suggestion brings up an important point.  Matching readers with their next good read is a collaborative experience.  I do not use any of these resources in a vacuum.  I am constantly talking about what I find with the patrons, using that information to ask more questions, and then finally using the answers to do more searching.

Of course, there is also experience.  After 10.5 years of providing RA service, it sometimes comes down to the fact that there are books I have suggested to similar readers in the past and know they worked.  But using the resources is also of building that experience.

Now it is your turn.  What are your go-to resources for helping match readers with their next good read?

And remember, you can follow past Monday Discussions here.


Kathy at BPL said...

I too use Novelist and Fantastic Fiction a lot. They are probably my favorite overall. But more and more I find myself compiling all kinds of lists and documents that I use. For instance, past book club lists are great since I get so many different readers' opinions on those titles. I also use our genre lists quite a bit. Lately, I find myself using the Berwyn's RA blog - Browser's Corner - because I know that someone on staff read and enjoyed everything found on the site.

John BPL RA said...

I must also applaud Novelist and Amazon. I have found them both very helpful. One resource I use more than I thought I would is Google, particularly when a patron is looking for a specific book but cannot recall the title, author, genre or even much of the plot! People see books plugged on TV a lot and want to read them but don't know what they are. A Google search helps with that quite a bit. Another resource I use, for lack of a better explanation, is my reputation! Seriously! Over the years it seems I've established a connection with a certain demographic of patron. To generalize, I want to call them horror fans, but that really doesn't do them justice. It's horror but it is also some blend of sci fi, historical fiction and what I like to term "philosophical authors". These patrons seek me out for this stuff no matter how obscure. I even have them come up to me on the street or in restaurants to discuss it. Sometimes it includes graphic novels. They seem to open up to me more than other staff members and often add their own opinions and conjectures to the story at hand. Then when they return looking for a similar read, I know exactly where they're coming from and what they are looking for.