A lot of readers’ advisory practice is geared toward the person-who-is-already-a-reader coming in to the library. Our role has been to respond to readers’ questions of ‘What do I read next?’. What is more challenging is to proactively strive toward achieving the goals set by National Year of Reading – addressing Australia’s low literacy levels, and raising the status and visibility of reading.
Do we want people to be reading from our collections, or do we want them to be reading?
If RA is about finding the right book for your reader, then is it much narrower than reader services which is about achieving those NYR goals? Do we respond to media hype or do we build relationships with people in our communities?
Check out the links at the end to Auckland Libraries’ programs.
An article on BookRiot today prompted me into this consideration of reader services being wider and deeper than I had originally thought.
What if we looked at our communities – not as members and non-members or potential members but as many different groups of people who we can reach in different ways. Yes, there was a rush on libraries and bookstores when Fifty Shades of Grey was published and promoted in the news. But then there was a lot of talk that the series got people ‘back into reading’. So libraries ordered in dozens of copies and if they were quick enough librarians compiled read-alike lists to help those readers discover authors who wrote like E.L. James.
Did anyone ask the Fifty Shades readers what they wanted next?
Like Sarah Rettger said, ‘Book people are making a mistake if we expect everyone to think about books the way we do. Those Category B customers? They don’t want to read a book. They want to read that book.‘
Note – I too am using Fifty Shades as a generalisation for the purpose of illustration.
Was any market research or evaluation done in libraries to see if the acquisition of twenty copies of this title led to a sustained increase in loans of similar titles? Or led to these borrowers increasing their borrowing? Maybe, rather than getting them ‘back into reading’, they’re already readers of different formats and their focus was not the reading but the social side of the phenomenon. The London Fire Department could tell you.
Libraries that bought dozens of copies in the hope of somehow satisfying reader demand in that initial flashpoint period will still have missed the masses of people who bought the book at ever-decreasing prices at the bookstore or online. Instead of thinking that Category Bs are potential Category As, we need to raise the status of reading by recognising it as something that all people do to varying degrees. We need to find ways to reach people with reading in a way that is right for them.
Two shining examples of libraries reaching people with reading come from Auckland Libraries.
For adults – Dark Night, also here where Tosca Waera talks about one aim of the festival being to develop the libraries’ relationship with its users.