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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Stock Your RA Pantry: Get Busy on Goodreads

Every day this week I am going to have a post in a new series I am calling: Stock Your RA Pantry. All of these posts will use the label, "RA pantry," so that they can be gathered together. Later this week I will start a new page to gather them all, but for now, I just want to get this going.

Today I have something every single one of you should have already been doing, but now you have no excuse not to. 

Get a work Goodreads account and start entering titles.

Many of you have personal Goodreads and if you want to use that for work too, that's fine, but I would say set up a new account with your work email address. You want to use this shelf to only promote books to their best reader. This is not where you would go to chat with friends about books, give bad reviews, etc...

Now spend some of that work from home time adding books you have already read. Old favorites, recent loves, whatever you want. Just start adding content. Start with just titles and ratings. And just cut and paste NoveList appeal terms [with a statement that they are from NoveList] to get started. You don't need to write a trillion reviews ASAP. A little each day. But do it now because you finally. have some time. 

Here's the thing, every single staff member can be doing this. From pages to maintenance staff to the Director. Everyone! I talk about this in my general all staff training programs. In fact, this is where I begin, by reminding all staff who work in a library that your brand is books. The public expects everyone who works in a library to have a connection to books. The public thinks everyone who works in a library is a librarians. The public wants to know what you are reading.

We need to exploit this and couple it with the fact that we wish we had more time to talk about books and reading. We wish we could suggest books to readers more often. We wish we had time to share book recs with our fellow staff members.

Guess what, we can do this on Goodreads because now we do have more time. We always could. I go into libraries and say this all the time. Everyone should get a Goodreads shelf and the library should link them into a group. Staff can share what they are reading, rate the titles, provide appeal terms and short comments about why it is a  "good read." 

As a Trustee for a public library I know we are working with managers to figure out how to have meaningful work from home for clerical staff. Not because we are jerks and want them to justify being paid while stuck at home, rather because we don't want them to lose their connection to the team, the the organization, and to the community. This is a difficult time emotionally, especially for our frontline staff who are missing their regulars, who want to be doing something to help but don't know how. Creating Goodreads shelves and stocking them, is a wonderful way for staff to contribute to the library's mission no matter their job title. Feeling useful is important. Busy work is not useful, but creating a database of staff reviews and suggestions is one of the most useful things you can do together, now. Heck, I wanted you to do it before now, but I'll take now. And once you have started it, keeping up is much easier going forward. 

Exactly who should link up the shelves and how is something that your library has to figure out. Those logistics and conversations should be started now though. Figure out how to get your administration talking about this. Encourage all staff to use their work from home time to start a shelf and begin filling it up. This is meaningful work that every single staff member can do. How you will link it for staff and the public to access can come later.

Not only does this activity help you keep track of your personal reading,  but also, the compound interest of everyone doing it means that every staff member [and if you link everyone into a group as the "blank" public library staff, every patron too] has access to everyone's reviews.

Think about how much easier it is to suggest books to readers when you have reviews and comments compiled by all of the library staff. Think about how much more helpful you can be if you could easily, with a few clicks, draw on the expertise of staff from throughout your organization, who will all have a variety of interests, way more varied than relying on just yourself for your specific department staff. 

This is a very literally take on stocking the RA pantry because you are literally stocking the virtual shelves with book suggestions-- varied book suggestions, from across the leisure reading landscape. You can use the combined efforts of all of your staff to help readers online and when they come to the desk. This becomes your local book recommendation search engine. [Bonus, tell staff that if they give a book 5 stars it means that book is eligible to be on the overall "Staff Favs" display [in house and online]. Then sit back and watch how much easier creating "Staff Favorites" lists and displays get from now on, simply because you asked everyone to participate.]

Now take your imagination one step further. Imagine patrons encountering the library staff's group shelves. Because Goodreads is where your patrons go to get book recommendations, from friends and strangers, but not generally form their local library. This makes me sad and angry. We need to be there too, for the public to encounter as they use the site to identify their next good read. We are the experts and yet, we are always running to Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to suggest books to readers. We should instead double down on our efforts to be visible and available on Goodreads, for them to stumble over when they need us, in the place they went explicitly looking for a reading suggestion.

Use this time to get your own work shelf started. Add reviews and rating. Please only books for which you can say positive things. This work shelf is for suggesting books to their best readers, not for you to criticize. You are creating a resource here. A database of reviews that everyone can use to help readers. Who would most enjoy the book? Ask yourself that and share that answer. That's how this because a useful resource. 

You are also creating a team building experience where staff who don't normally interact with leisure readers can help with one of the library's missions. Don't underestimate how good this is for morale. I have seen it work wonders across library staffs big and small.

Also staff can shelve and review books that they normally wouldn't get to talk about in the regular line of work. In my travels around the country, when I bring this idea of staff Goodreads shelves up, I always do an informal poll. I ask the staff assembled, "Who works in Youth Services?" Hands go up. I then ask, "How many of you in YS love steamy romances?" At least one hand [if not more] goes up. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

People are always surprised. Why? They are adults and don't only read kids books. I mean even I don't only read horror. Well because YS staff cannot talk about steamy romances at the children's desk, no one hears then talking about those titles, but that doesn't mean they aren't reading them and loving them. If they had a staff Goodreads page, they could post their favorite romances and the staff helping romance readers would have access to useful RA information from one fan to pass on to another fan.

That is just but one example of how getting busy on Goodreads now can help your organization for years to come.

So get busy on Goodreads. Start your shelf and then communicate with your supervisor about this idea. Move it up the chain. Keep stocking your shelf while you wait. Share this post on your work Slack channels or however you are communicating virtually. Spread this idea. It will be a fun quarantine activity AND it will help your organization going forward, both in keeping a sense of teamwork going from afar AND in helping patrons. 

Click here for all of my RA Pantry posts. While this will be a very regular series during these days of quarantine, I do plan to keep this going as a semi-regular series in the future, much like my Call to Action posts.


Andrea Larson said...

Thank you Becky! YES! And to support your post: We've been curating a staff-wide Goodreads account for our library and we've got almost 2500 titles in there! It's such a great resource - not just for our patrons, but for staff when doing RA. https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/13142847-cook-memorial-public-library

Unknown said...

Do you have any more examples of libraries who have done this successfully?

Becky said...

Des Moines Public Library is great example: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/1106061-dmpl-book-chat

Skokie Public Library: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/1071304-skokie-public-library

Huntsville-Madison County: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/60139-huntsville-madison-county-public-library

Search "public library" on Goodreads and then choose "Groups."

When you are in their account, choose bookshelf. You can see their entire bookshelf and sort by the library worker who added the title. Also you can click on each library worker "moderator" to see their shelf.