Last week, I lost control of a training I was conducting because I taught librarians how to do readers’ advisory—the art of recommending books. I could not get their attention back. The goal of that particular exercise was to have everyone in a small group (arranged by genres) give and receive a book recommendation. The activity started that way, but quickly turned into four book groups crammed into one room in which the members of each group took turns talking up books and the other members writing down almost every book mentioned. I should have just let them go. I think they could have talked books for the rest of the afternoon.
Tomorrow, I’ve got another reference training where I’m going to do roughly the same thing. I expect it’s going to go pretty much the same way, even if this group is quieter than last week’s.
Once librarians start talking about books, it takes a mayor’s gavel to get them to stop. I know this from experience.
Personally, I find readers’ advisory much more difficult and intimidating than my usual work answering questions at the reference desk. I can find you scholarly articles about just about anything, but finding the right book for a reader on the spot…that’s tough. Readers’ advisory, to me, has higher stakes for some reason. I worry that I might turn people off reading if I recommend a book they’ll hate. I love the readers who will let me fill their arms with books and just trust me—but I know I’m catering to some oddballs in that group. (Hi, guys!) But for someone who tells me that they want to get back into reading or they finally have time to read, I feel the stakes instantly rise.