reading matters, so let's make public library reader services awesome!
edited by Margaret E. Monroe
Madison: Library School of the University of Wisconsin, 1971.
The beauty of readers advisory practice is that while it has been around a long time, there are still opportunities for new developments and concepts. Also, because it has been around for a while there is a rich history of research and practice and practitioners underpinning the new paths we may forge. Professor Margaret E. Monroe (b. 1914, d. 2005) was Director of the University of Wisconsin’s Library School from 1963-1970. She was ‘nationally prominent in the field of public library adult services (and) received many honors and awards for her teaching, research, and service contributions’ (University of Wisconsin: History Project). There is an ALA award named in her honor which in 2012 was awarded to Neal Wyatt and in 2010 to Nancy Pearl.
This historical work is a selection of typewritten papers presented at a series of Adult Services Institutes at the University of Wisconsin from 1965-1968 and published in 1971. It includes two papers by Margaret E. Monroe and eight others.
The Art of Reading Guidance by Helen Huguenor Lyman contains a six step process for creating a reading list which remains current for today when we’re talking about creating visually appealing reading maps: ‘make the final selection with the specific readers in mind… write annotations that will appeal to the reader… print the final list in as attractive a format as possible with careful attention to proof reading, design and layout…’ (Lyman, in Monroe, page 26).
Lyman further discusses keeping a reader interest file and notification service – now we have catalogue alerts and Goodreads.
Mildred T. Moody’s Bold New Approach covers reading in hospital and institution libraries. For those interested in the history of shared reading or social bibliotherapy, Moody notes that ‘group reading is used in the treatment of alcoholism, and in therapy programs in halfway houses…’ (Moody, in Monroe, page 35).
Margaret C. Hannigan notes in Counselling and Bibliotherapy for the General Reader that ‘Alice I. Bryan in 1939 wrote two articles in which she described the role of the readers’ advisor in guiding readers toward improved mental health.’ (Hannigan, in Monroe, page 47). Now The Reading Agency has Mood Boosting Books and there are many books-on-prescription programs (see earlier post).
This collection concludes with an interview with ‘Mark’ where An Inmate Tells about Library Service (pages 71-76). Mark was an inmate in a Wisconsin reformatory for armed robbery and burglary. He talks about his need to read because he likes to read, but also to combat the institutionalisation, and to help reform inmates. Mark said, ‘Now I’m trying to clean up my act. When I get outside I want to have something. If you’re wondering just what you people think you can do to help us out, you can keep us on the receiving end… Have the books there. Once a book is really mellow it gets around. And people will grab it up. There was a book at the library having to do with Freud and his interpretations of dreams. Another guy who had schooling beyond high school read it and told me “This is something else.” The next day I had that book and it kept me going for a month. I passed it on to someone else and a lot of guys got it.’
Reading Guidance was a worthwhile read, leading as it did to further discovery about a leader in our profession and the provenance of various concepts that are in practice today.