reading matters, so let's make public library reader services awesome!

24 The Book Lover’s Journal: My Personal Reading Record by Rene J. Smith

The Book Lover's Journal by Rene J. Smith24
The Book Lover’s Journal: My Personal Reading Record by Rene J. Smith
Peter Pauper Press, NY. 2011

In 2011, in Logan, I met Paul Brown of Bestsellers at the QPLA Conference. Early the next year Paul delivered his Bestsellers Shareadvise readers advisory training at my library, kickstarting my (passionate, zealous)  interest in this vital public library service. Among the many ideas and practices I have learned from Paul, one of the first was, ‘show off the 3Rs – read, record and recommend.’

When I was growing up in Toowoomba, my mother would choose large print books from the library for my grandmother. My grandmother would make a small mark in the back of each book to indicate she’d read it. Strangely, she wasn’t alone in this practice. Most automated library systems can now indicate to the reader on borrowing that they have previously borrowed the book. The reader can also extract a rudimentary loan history. But what if your library system doesn’t offer the ‘you’ve borrowed this before’ function? First thing, you’ll discover just how many of your members really want that function! Then they will request a printout of their entire loan history which will run to thirty pages (and they don’t have email).

If you’re only borrowing two or three books because they’re heavy and you’re not a speed reader so they’ll last you a fortnight, you don’t want two of those books to be ones you’ve read before. If the system isn’t up to the task, it’s up to librarians to support readers’ needs. Three suggestions follow –

  • encourage people to make their own squiggly mark (doesn’t work for multiple copies of course. This is early readers engagement stuff – readers would recognise other readers’ marks and use that as a recommendation. I have had some aghast reactions when suggesting this which made me think the practice had died out. But hey, if my very proper grandmother did it then it is a completely acceptable practice).
  • sign people up to Goodreads or LibraryThing, get them to follow your library (because your library’s on Goodreads or LibraryThing) and they’ll be able to track their reading and get recommendations from others. Check out Eastern Regional Libraries staff picks on GR.
  • buy The Book Lover’s Journal: My Personal Reading Record in bulk and give them (sell them if you must) to your readers. This is more than a list, it’s a book of reflection.There are pages and pages for readers to record their latest book read, it’s genre or subject, where they read it, their experiences while reading, and a rating on various appeal characteristics from quality of writing, pace and characters to plot development, viewpoint and inclusion of illustrations. Readers can record great lines and ‘how this book made me feel or what it made me think.’
    They can note books they’d like to read (and who recommended them). The book includes an inspirational reads section (listing the winners of high profile awards, and best-of lists) and a notes section where readers can note their favourite books and authors, books that changed their life, literary places to visit, and favourite book-related publications, shows and online sites. It is a veritable literary feast. It’s a handy mobile size and would make a great gift for bookclub members also.
    When I use my journal I see the connections between different books and who I’ve had recommendations from. When I take the time to reflect on what I’ve read I become a better readers’ advisor. I read rather a lot of books, so having this as a memory jogger also helps me reconnect at a later date. I also read journals, blogs, comics and news, and I read about books and reading so The Book Lover’s Journal helps me keep track amidst this sea of literature.
    In the words of Molly Meldrum, ‘do yourself a favour’ and get a copy or several and share them around. Or in Paul’s words as he recommended this journal to me –   ‘show off the 3Rs – read, record and recommend.’

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