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Monday, November 27, 2017

Call to Action: RA Service is Just As Important as Reference

Today’s Call to Action is a reminder, for you, for your colleagues, or for the world at large. We may work with leisure readers-- people who are looking for items to fill their free time-- and we may deal in “popular materials," but that does not make the work we do any less important than our friends and colleagues over in reference.

This needs to be said out loud-- by me, by you who do this work, and by those who we work for. And it needs to be said to our entire profession.


Because I still get librarians coming to me to argue that what I do is nice and good for PR or customer service, but that it isn’t “important.”

Well, you’re wrong. It actually is very important. The public library is one of the only places in our world where everyone is accepted for who they are, and it is a place where we give people what they want to enrich their lives, lives that are sometimes harder than even those who work with these patrons can imagine. The work we do with popular materials does spread not only enrich the lives of our patrons, but it can teach them the skills they need to survive in today’s crazy world.

Leisure reading and viewing allows escape [everyone needs a break]. Leisure reading and viewing allows people to learn about the world around them in a non threatening way, and for many at a reading/comprehension level that is accessible to them too. Leisure reading and viewing opens the world up in a way many people would never be able to experience- be it by introducing them to people and places they would not be able to encounter or ideas and opinions they have never seen or heard. Leisure reading and viewing offer comfort to people. These are just a few of the ways our work with popular, leisure items IS important and vital to our patrons.

RA Service and the real world are colliding. People are turning to books and media to soothe, question, challenge, explore, or just look for answers in this crazy time we are all living through. What you are doing is important to your patrons’ daily existence. It is important to the mission of the institution of the Public Library, and it deserves the respect of all staff. This importance is becoming impossible for us to ignore any longer.

Recently, RUSA CODES hosted an email conversation that proved this point as library workers from all over the country gathered together to share how their work with readers is intersecting with other real world issues. I talked about it beforehand in this post.

Now that conversation’s main point have been gathered into notes that every single one of you can access here. 

What I noticed both by following the conversation AND looking over the notes now after the fact is how much we are all realizing that the work we do does have quite a bit of overlap with issues and discussions that used to be deemed as outside of our “popular materials” scope. We cannot and should not stay out of the fray anymore.

So the Call to Action today is two fold. First, as I said above, RA work is vital and important to the lives of our patrons. Scream it from the rooftops for everyone to hear--


I saw this in action each and every day I worked at the service desk and I see it each and every place I go to help other library workers provide the RA Service their communities’ deserve. But, we have to believe this ourselves before we can convince everyone else.

And second, read the RUSA CODES Convo notes to see how library workers are already bridging the divide between popular materials and serious real world issues. Get inspired. Think about what you are already doing. Think about what more you could be doing. And then, get to work.

For past Call to Action posts, click here.

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