Friday, February 22, 2013

Reader's Advisory: The Big Question

Earlier this week, I had a library patron ask for a particular title, but then she asked me what my favorite book was.  I said that was a hard question, and she then rephrased it to who my favorite author was.  Also a hard question, but I told her a few of my favorites and Maggie Stiefvater caught her attention.  She asked if there was a book by Maggie that I would recommend to her, and I immediately suggested The Scorpio Races since it is a standalone and a great book (in my humble opinion).  The patron was amazed by the brief description I gave of the story, and she took one of our copies, thanking me for making her day. 

While this is a good example of reader's advisory, I wanted to discuss the idea of reader's advisory in an unfamiliar area.  One of the main reasons I am a blogger is to stay in the know about various titles, but what happens if a patron is looking for a book suggestion in a genre I'm not familiar?  I do try to read in different genres so I can offer advice when patrons ask, but there are times I'm just at a loss on what to tell the patron.  Case in point, a patron came in and asked for a book suggestion.  I immediately pointed out the new bookshelves which had a copy of Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo front and center.  However, the patron said, "Oh, I don't like fantasy" at which point, I asked what genres she did enjoy.  Needless to say, the patron was not very forthcoming in what type of book(s) she wanted.  This might have been a specialized case, but they do happen on occasion.

Sometimes, I also find myself recommending books that I have heard good reviews but haven't had the chance to read it myself.  I usually prefer to recommend titles I've read, but there's only so much I can offer that others have yet to read as well.  When that happens, I will inform the patron that while I haven't read it, I have heard friends speak well of the title in question.  My main question is would you (a librarian) recommend only books that you have read or would you suggest unread titles that are within the same genre as what the patron is asking for?  And would you (a patron) prefer recommendations read by the librarian you're asking for book suggestions? 

How do you handle reader's advisory?


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