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Monday, May 16, 2016

RA for All: Call to Action-- Reader's Advisor Online Calls you to Action

After my week of BEA related programs, I came home with many notes and a lot of thoughts and feelings, thoughts that WILL BE challenging and hard for some library workers out there.

Instead of posting everything right away, I got my thoughts down and sat on them over the weekend. While letting these feelings steep,  I also thought about WHY so many bubbled up now, WHY this week, WHY because of this conference?

I am not sure how long this series of posts is going to be, but I am going to use the tag Call to Action, to categorize them all.  I foresee a time when someone out there, myself included, might need to bring up all of these posts together.  I will also index them into a single page when I am done.

But back to those WHYs; here is my assessment of them:

  1. These are feelings I have had for a while, feelings about how we as a profession are failing our patrons when it comes to RA Service, feelings about how I cannot and do not want to be one of the only voices for RA Service out there. The conference only heighten my underlying thoughts and made them surface.
  2. The unique nature of my week put the entire issue into focus. On Monday, I was the co- organizer of a very successful RA training program. On Wednesday I was an attendee at a library worker only event, and on Thursday I was both an attendee AND a presenter at a book industry focused conference.  This unique combination of similar experiences but each with a different and distinct focus, all in a 4 day span, was eye opening [and exhausting]. I will have an entire post on the BEA experience which goes into more detail on this point as part of this Call to Action series.
  3. Back in February, Heather Booth and I sat down and discussed some of the biggest issues in RA right now as we began to craft our ILA Conference program. We are calling it RA Rethink because we feel like both libraries and patrons are losing their way when it comes to RA Service. The basics are known, but it has stalled at many libraries. That conference program will cover RA for YS, Teen, and Adult so I will only have 15 minutes for my part,  but I am expanding this idea of the RA Rethink into a full 90 minute keynote for the MA Library System this June. So everything I did, saw, and felt last week, I also processed it all as-- how will this fit into my new presentation. I was looking at the entire week of programs and conferences with more critical and analytical eyes than I normally do.
  4. Although I knew this was coming for awhile, the shutting down of the Reader's Advisor Online blog, one of my favorite resources as I discussed here, brought many of these issues to the forefront.
Speaking of number 4 and the Reader's Advisor Online Blog, that is what I want to focus today's Call to Action on. Cindy Orr, the long time editor of the blog posted her own Call to Action over the weekend in honor of the blog's last post. Reading it made me feel slightly better because much of what she says here is the same HARD TRUTH I was already preparing to share. But, I am also sad because if others know there is a problem, it is even bigger than I feared.

Normally, I would link you to her post to read it on their site, but since the entire blog will no longer be accessible after June 30th [ironically, my birthday], I am cutting and pasting the post in it's entirety [below] here on RA for All so that it can be preserved and included as part of my Call to Action series.

So hang on to your books this week-- we are getting ready to bring the truth and make some changes-- in service and in attitude.


A Parting Message: Pass It On!

Hi everyone,
Since this is our last day for the blog (see here if you didn’t get the word before), I’m going to take advantage of the bully pulpit to air my opinion, for what it’s worth, about the state of Readers’ Advisory service now and in the future.
Frankly, I’m worried, guys.
Follow along with me for a minute:

  • Surveys show that people believe that books are the library’s brand.
  • Readers often have trouble finding good books to read. If you don’t believe that’s important, ponder why Amazon paid big bucks for Goodreads and iBooks did the same for BookLamp, two recommendation services.
  • Librarians should be THE experts on helping library patrons find just the right books to read. After all, that’s our brand.
  • Suggesting good books to read is not just a knack that some people have. Readers’ advisory skills can absolutely be taught.

  • But:

  • Many library schools don’t even offer classes in readers’ advisory service.
  • Those that do usually use adjunct professors—practitioners like you—to teach the courses.
  • Tenure track library school professors have largely ignored the entire field. This includes reading research, which is usually done in other departments of the university, and is producing some really exciting finds about what reading does to the brain.
  • Many of the best known library readers’ advisors are retired now, or are approaching retirement age.
  • We definitely need younger librarians who will take the RA baton and carry it into the future.

  • The problem is not that there are not great readers’ advisors out there. I know there are. You know there are. They’re you. I’ve run into hundreds of you and have been impressed with your knowledge. But it seems like the same people are tapped to speak, write articles, and teach. If we want to keep the service going, we really need a wider range of librarians to step up and share their expertise publicly.
    And we really, really need library schools to step up and teach the subject. Since that hasn’t happened—in fact, most of the professors who used to teach the subject are also retired—I have a suggestion for a solution.
    If library directors across the nation would get together and sign a petition to library school deans demanding that they research, publish, and teach this topic to their students, because these are skills librarians need in order to be hired, I hope that it would make a difference. (I’m probably naive to suggest this. Oh well.)
    And, in the meantime, we practitioners need to continue to carry the torch. Please find some RA knowledge that you can share. You know you have the expertise. You just need a little courage. Here are some suggestions, but just share in whatever way makes you happy:

  • Do whatever you can to make sure your own library is dedicated to reader services at all levels, including learning to read and serving all ages and demographic groups of readers.
  • Use your personal power to make sure RA training happens in your library, even if you have to do it yourself—even if you don’t think you are an expert. The best way to learn a subject is to teach it. ABC-CLIO’s Genreflecting, Real Stories, and other series are great resources for genre and RA knowledge. NoveList has great training materials to get you started.
  • Propose RA programs to your state organization’s conferences.
  • Write articles on the subject. The Library Writer’s Blog might help you find an outlet for your pieces.
  • Start an RA blog, either at your library or by yourself, or with friends.
  • Propose a course to your local library school if they don’t already offer it.
  • Even if your local library school offers an RA class, propose an additional one with a different slant. These classes fill up, and adjunct professors are extremely cheap, so it’s in the school’s interests to offer them. The going rate, just so you know, is around $5,000 for a class, which is a lot of money for most practitioners, but incredibly cost effective for a university. If you don’t have a local library school, many schools offer their subjects online, so you could teach remotely.
  • Network. Find other librarians who are passionate about RA and correspond regularly. There’s Fiction_L, of course, and the community built around Early Word, but there are other places too. ALA has a committee—RUSA’s RA Research and Trends Committee. Volunteer to serve. You have to join RUSA, but this committee does its work remotely, so you wouldn’t have to travel. Or you could volunteer to serve on an awards committee like Notable Books or The Reading List, or many others.
  • Support other RA librarians. Some have blogs, like Lesa Holstine’s Book Critiques, Sarah Johnson’s Reading the Past, Becky Spratford’s RA for Alland RA for All: Horror, Citizen Reader, the nonfiction blog by Sarah Statz Cords, Megan McArdle’s Genrify, and Nancy Pearl, just to mention a few.
  • Keep track of what other libraries are doing. Here are just a few great library blogs: Shelf TalkBlogging for a Good Book, Biblio File.
  • Follow the industry sources that support RA, like Booklist, Library Journal, the RUSA Quarterly, and ALA Publishing’s and Libraries Unlimited’s RA series of books.
  • I know this seems like a lot to keep up with, but you can use an RSS feed aggregator to make it easier. It’s not difficult at all. Here’s how to use Feedly, for instance. And, honestly, since not so much has been written about the subject, this is one area where you could conceivably read everything there is and be a real expert.

  • So please pass it on, folks! We really do need your expertise!
    P.S. This site will be gone soon, so if you are interested in keeping any of the content, you’ll need to copy it right now. A few of our last posts will live on at Sarah Statz Cords’s blog Citizen Reader (check tomorrow for direct links), but this blog will be unavailable after June 30.

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