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

Public library reader services

Beyond Chocolat booktalk and reading map

Beyond Chocolat booktalk and reading map

Reader services is one part of the whole of library services. It’s about people and communities and recognising the value of reading.
As a professional practice in Australian, New Zealand and US public libraries it is known as ‘readers advisory’, and in the UK as ‘reader development’. I find these labels restrictive so I used the term ‘readers engagement’. ‘Readers engagement’ describes a holistic, contextual, embedded, 360 degree service more than the librarian-dispensing-advice-on-books model still seen in practice. I’ve since started using ‘reader services’ though to really focus on who the service is for and why.

A readers’ service is one in which people* actively work with and for their community to connect members of the community with their reading needs, to support literacy, cultural and social development and all the other benefits of reading.

*people = public library staff, other libraries’ staff, bookstore staff, bookbloggers, and others connecting people with reading. It’s far broader and deeper than a librarian responding to a customer’s question of ‘what can I read next?’, or putting books on a display. I’ve started to learn that, and continue to explore how I can contribute to that.

This exploration was described by Sally Pewhairangi (2013) as interest-driven learning. In her presentation ‘Library staff professional development needs a makeover’* at the North Island Children’s and Teens’ Librarians’ Conference in Rotorua Sally said, ‘I wanted to explore reading maps to learn if and how they could add value to what we already do in terms of bookmarks and readers’ advisory. As a result, I became highly motivated, curious and willing to experiment.’

That sort of thinking and working makes readers’ services work dynamic and a great place to be.

* Pewhairangi, S. (2013). Library staff professional development needs a makeover.  2013 North Island Children’s and Teens’ Librarians’ Conference: Manaakitanga: Empowering Our Youth, Rotorua, New Zealand, 1-2 August.

My readers services ethic revolves around the National Year of Reading’s literacy goals (with my additions in italics!)

Goal 1 For all Australians (including library staff) to understand the benefits of reading as a life skill and catalyst for wellbeing
Goal 2 To promote a reading culture in every home (and library service)
Goal 3 To establish an aspirational goal of sharing a book (or other reading material) with your child every day (or weekly with your partner, friend, family member, colleague, etc).

I like the Love2Read Unified National Network Statement but it needs the addition of professional skills as a foundation (mine in italics)

We want anyone who sees a Love2Read logo out there – whether at a library, business, school, pre-school organization, or community centre – to instantly know they will find something to read, somewhere to read, or simply people who share a love of and belief in the importance of reading, and people with skills to help them find something to read.

Read more for inspiration…


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