August 27, 2019

Readers’ advisory is a team sport

Last year, librarians at NYPL made national news for tracking down titles of books from only the faintest descriptions. How thrilling to see the work librarians do every day recognized by people outside of the profession! What struck me most about the librarians described in the article was that they were all gathered together in a room to do the work, even though much of what is described involved intense searching, a mostly solitary effort. 

It makes sense to me, though, that even though only one person was responsible for each correct discovery, having everyone in the room together was a vital part of the process. An intangible electricity comes from working with others towards a common goal and though I have never been what one would call athletic (I am much more likely to have a book in my hand rather than any sort of ball!) I suspect it’s like being on a sports team — a sense of being in it together, win or lose.

NoveList recently partnered with LibraryReads to provide read-alike recommendations for each of the titles on their monthly Top Ten lists. Four of us gather (either physically or virtually) for an hour or two to brainstorm suggestions and hash out what makes the best recommendation for each title. I don’t think I’m overstating it when I say that it’s the meeting we look forward to the MOST each month. There’s something exhilarating about trading ideas and finessing our recommendations to be the best they can possibly be. The variety of ways each of us approaches our search strategies helps make the process more robust. And I can guarantee that our recommendations turn out better than if we each individually thought of recommendations without any conversation.  

In fact, much of what NoveList does is based on this collaborative mentality. As you can imagine, we LOVE to think and talk about books all day long, and we are often running ideas by each other to get other perspectives, suggesting books to read, or sharing the latest book news. 

The work we do at NoveList is different but reminiscent of how my library approached readers’ advisory as a team sport. It wasn’t always possible for us to be in the same room together, but I knew I could count on my fantasy-loving colleague to help me out when a teen patron had finished Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone and needed something to hold her over until the sequel came out. 

And, of course, I can’t wrap up without suggesting a useful tool to help answer even the toughest readers’ advisory question, whether you’re by yourself five minutes before the library closes, or in a room full of librarians, cracking the internet’s most obscure reader questions.


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Halle Eisenman is the Content Development Manager at NoveList. She is currently reading The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory. 


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