February 10, 2017

Lessons from my RUSA Reading List experience

My two years on the Reading List Council were great years from which I emerged better (I hope!) at RA and with my genre horizons forever broadened. In a not entirely unrelated occurrence, I also left the committee with a stack of new nonfiction. Gillian touted the Reading List and linked to this year’s list in a recent Book Squad email, but if you missed that email or don’t subscribe to Book Squad (*wink, nudge*), you will find the complete list here

Serving with the Reading List has been an amazing experience that required a significant time commitment and almost all my bookshelf space as ARCs rolled in. Leaving has given me the chance to share with you what I liked best about it and recommend this undertaking to anyone with a yen for readers’ advisory and a spare room shelf to fill.

The Reading List was an invitation to make lasting professional contacts by chatting about books and authors -- what could be better? With its focus on popular genres, the Reading List is where librarianship intersects with fandom's fun and fervor. Fan-feels energized conversations and helped me get into those books I wasn’t so fond of at the beginning. For example, romance had never appealed to me, but I was lucky to serve with several “passionate” bibliophiles who had all the answers to my romance-related queries. While the next Mills & Boon might not top my TBR pile, it’s definitely diversified, as I’ve learned a thing or two about reading, and respecting what I read, outside my comfort zone. Expanding that zone to include more kinds of fiction equipped me with knowledge necessary for the readers’ advisory aspects of my job.

Reading tastes weren’t the only ways the Reading List Council broadened my understanding of readers’ advisory. Committee makeup was representative of large and small collections, booksellers’ interests, and -- of course -- NoveList. This cross section of individuals helped universalize the final list, and gave each of us an insider’s look at the workings of related fields. Depending on where we were coming from, we'd wonder “Who could I hand this book to?” or “Would your library buy it?” or “What was the publisher thinking with this cover?!” Asking questions like these proved an interesting and informative comparison of our RA environments as well as a useful array of perspectives when deciding on winners -- though we did have to look past some really perplexing dust jackets to arrive at our final choices (sorry, booksellers).

The Reading List attracts all sorts, who, regardless of profession or genre preference, are an intelligent bunch. They welcome new members and work well with anyone as invested in recommending the right books for the right readers (since you’re reading this on the NoveList blog - I think that describes you). I’ll miss the challenge and the collegiality, though I am looking forward to catching up with Notables’ NF picks.

Think about applying -- you’ll hit all your reading goals for the year and then some.

Lauren Kage is a Metadata Librarian at NoveList. 

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