Reader’s Advisory Tools/Resources

(This is a repeat of information I posted on Paulette Rothbauer’s course wiki.)

Could you suggest a good book? Now that is a question that most librarians are expected to answer. This, type of question is considered to be readers’ advisory in nature.
According to Joan M. Reitz, readers’ advisory is:

“Services provided by an experienced public services librarian who specializes in the reading needs of the patrons of a public library. A readers’ advisor recommends specific titles and/or authors, based on knowledge of the patron’s past reading preferences, and may also compile lists of recommended titles and serve as liaison to other education agencies in the community. The same type of information is provided by reference works such as Reader’s Adviser: A Layman’s Guide to Reading published by R.R. Bowker. For genre fiction, the standard guide is Genreflecting: A Guide to Reading Interests in Genre Fiction (Libraries Unlimited, 2000) by Diana Tixier Herald. For online readers’ advisory, try Find a Good Book: If You Like… from the Hennepin County Library, or Book Browser from Barnes & Noble. Readers’ advisory for juveniles is usually provided by a librarian specializing in services for children or young adults, based on the patron’s age, interests, and reading level. KidsReads.com is an example of a Web site that provides advisory services for children.” (Reitz, 2006)

When evaluating readers’ advisory guides:

Look at access points. Do they lead to books by author, subgenre, appeal (setting, size of the book, length of the book, speed of the book, is it narrative or illustrative fiction, etc.)?
Are there plot summaries? Often these are helpful in giving a more full picture of the appeal of a book.

Look at evaluative material given about the book such as characteristics of authors writing
Are there suggestions of where to start new readers?
Is it up to date?

What is the point of view from which it is written? (Saricks & Brown, 1997, p. 19)

Also, when readers’ advisory guides are online, one should consider evaluating them as web documents too. Here are some criteria that you could apply.

1. Content: Is it biased? Who writes/manages the site? Are they a credible and contactable authority? Is the contact accurate and useful?
2. Suitability for Audience: check advertisements/banners to determine who is hosting the website/how its paid for. Check for pseudogateways and broken links.
3. Timeliness: how often is the site updated? when was the site last updated? is it a current project?
4. Ease of Use: is it easy to figure out where you are and where you need to go? how many clicks to get to the information you are looking for? Are frames used – and if so, are they helpful in navigating the site? Is there a site map? Is site logically organized?
5. Presentation: is it uncluttered? do graphics load quickly? how large are the files? Appropriate use of white space?
6. Appropriate as web content?: would a print source better fit the information? is it translated well to a web document and does it take advantage of the unique features that the web has to offer such as search, links, etc.? Would the target audience use this as a web document or prefer a print source?
7. Other Considerations: what does it cost – or is it free? Is it more useful to have the information always available?
(Elkordy, 2000)

The Baker’s Dozen Bibliography of Readers’ Advisory Tools

Free Online Resources
if you ever run into a tough RA question Fiction_L is an invaluable resource since it is a listserv that brings together experts in the field from all over the world. This resource will no doubt prove to be invaluable to those of us who end up on the receiving end of a very vague RA question. Also, the idea of the Readers Robot is very unique and stands out as it is not a pre-prepared list of books. Instead, it caters to the appeal of readers and it is tough to find resources that deal with the appeal of books – most RA guides/tools look at genres and topics and this isn’t necessarily what a fiction reader is interested in knowing about. Often fiction readers want a hard-boiled fiction book… I’ll leave it to you to look this up if it has peaked your curiousity! (For your ease of reference, said answer can be found in the Online dictionary from library and information science.)

Chambers Theis, A. (2006). Overbooked. Retrieved November 21, 2006, from http://www.overbooked.org/
This is a website for ravenous readers. This site stands out since it provides information about literary & genre fiction as well as non-fiction. The site includes annotated lists of non-fiction, fiction and mystery books.

Hennekin County Library. (2006). If you like… fiction. Retrieved November 21, 2006, from http://www.hclib.org/pub/books/iyl/index.cfm
This site contains booklists, by subject, genre and subgenre. Also, you can do a search for an author and if the author is contained within one of the pre-generated lists, then it comes up and suggests that you might like books by other authors on that list. The problem with this is that you might like one book by that author, but not ALL books by that author. For instance, however, if for instance you like books by Nora Roberts, you can look her up and four lists come up, so hopefully the categories you find will be helpful in targeting the books you like to read. Every link I tried on the site was working, and the site contains recently released books. Also there is readers advisory advice for non-fiction readers, including topics such as Literary Gardening, the Native American Experience, Travel Writing, Sports, etc. However, these topics ought to be divided up further than what they are as if someone is interested in reading about sports, its not necessarily any sport.

Johnson, R. (2006). The Fiction_L Booklists. Morton Grove Public Library. Retrieved November 26, 2006, from http://www.webrary.org/rs/FLbklistmenu.html
This is a listserv for readers and readers’ advisors around the world. It is quite helpful since one can post questions and receive feedback – one librarian (and even all the librarians in a particular library system) may not know the title of a book a patron is looking for, but with the help of librarians around the world, it seems that answers are found to even the vaguest of queries.

Kent District Library. (2006). What’s Next Database. Retrieved November 23, 2006, from http://www.kdl.org/libcat/WhatsNextNEW.asp
“What’s Next” helps you search adult or children’s fiction in series. You can type in either an author, a title, or a series name and it will display all the titles in the series. For example, type in Goosebumps and you will find all the titles in this popular children’s series. Or type in Wagons West and you will find all the titles of this adult historical series. The “What’s Next” Database was developed and maintained by the Kent District Library (Michigan).

Morton Grove Public Library. (2006). Webrary. Retrieved November 21, 2006, from www.webrary.org
Morton Grove Library in Illinois created Webrary to help link readers with books. This site is aimed at fiction readers. It links readers to over 400 other sites devoted to guiding readers to good books. It is divided up into seniors, adults, kids and teens. It is an excellent source of information about recreational reading generally.

Scieszka, J. (2006). Guys Read. Retrieved November 21, 2006, from http://www.guysread.com/
This is a tool by a male teacher and author to encourage boys to read. There are recommended reading lists and you can search for books on a particular topic. I found this a really interesting idea, however, it was linked right into Amazon.com and I think that libraries should pick up on this and create something like that that links to a library catalog instead… or is there an issue that I missed with boys not wanting to read books from the library?

Thompson Nicola Regional District Library System. (2006). Readers robot. Retrieved November 25, 2006, from http://www.tnrdlib.bc.ca/rr.html
This is a database where you can search a book by appeal and genre. Anyone can contribute book reviews and titles. So far, there are 7,332 book in 21 genres on the database and it is very up to date since content is added daily.

Williams, M. (2006). Readalike Booklists. Waterboro Library. Retrieved November 21, 2006, fromhttp://www.waterborolibrary.org/bklistif.htm.
This is helpful as you can look at specific books, genres, or themes and see what libraries have already created lists. It is a good starting point for readers’ advisors when generating a book list, however more work ought to be done to update the list and make it appealing to the patrons of your library.

Tools that Cost / Subscription Services:

Please note that NoveList and its counterpart for youth, NoveList K-8 are available to use at the TPL and also at any of the public libraries in Durham Region. If you have a library card at any of these libraries and have Internet access you can access the database from any computer with Internet access and do not necessarily have to be within the confines of the library and are therefore not limited to researching readers’ advisory guides during library hours. If you would like to see What do I read next? you can access this database through both TPL and the Pickering Public Library in the same way as you would access NoveList. If you want my opinion, I prefer NoveList to What do I read next? since it better allows you to search for books that would appeal to the reader with more subgenres to select from and preprepared lists too. All the public libraries I checked offered access to NoveList, but access to other RA databases was limited. (If you don’t have a TPL library card, you can get one by proving you are a UofT student with your T-Card, just go to the TPL and ask about it – the Lillian H. Smith branch is very close to FIS – just down the street on College – and its a really neat library with a wonder-filled archive too – I encourage you to check it out!)

Libraries Unlimited. The Reader’s Advisor Online. Retrieved November 26, 2006, from www.readersadvisoronline.com
This is the online version of Genreflecting. You may browse by genre, subgenre and appeal. There is a layered approach to searching for interesting titles in this database. However, the database is not linked to the library catalog. Moreover, it is a subscription product and is costly to purchase – anywhere from $295 per year for a small school library to $795 per year for a large academic or public library. A single bookstore, may get the product for $295 – the same price as a library pays.

EBSCO. NoveList. Retrieved November 26, 2006, from http://novelst3.epnet.com/NovApp/novelist/core.aspx?sid=1A509209-558E-47E6-AFEA-C47215BEBFFF%40sessionmgr2
NoveList has been available since 1994. It contains data on adult, children’s, and young adult titles from Hennepin County Public Library in Minnesota. Data comes from several sources including Booklist reviews, Anatomy of Wonder 4: a critical guide to science fiction, Genreflecting, and To Be Continued. The database contains extensive subject headings. Also, there are lists of award winning books and links to full descriptions of books and reviews within the data base. Furthermore, there are ready made booklists available that NoveList has created so users don’t need to take the time to do a search for books they want to read. One may search for books within the readers lexile rating and this makes this tool standout from others in the field.

EBSCO. NoveList K-8. Retrieved November 26, 2006, from http://novelst4.epnet.com/NovApp/novelistk8/core.aspx?sid=91DF1281-AF56-46DF-80BD-4E3B7F70193F%40sessionmgr7
One may also wish to look at NoveList K-8 for readers’ advisory for youth in grades Kindergarten to grade 8. This tool contains a lexile rating for books which is invaluable for finding books suited to the reading level of the youth.

Gale Group. What Do I Read Next? Retrieved November 26, 2006, from http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/WDIRN;jsessionid=AA2D32E8710BA749D37A911FD6837E44?locID=pick12457
This has been published in book form since 1990. However, in 1996 an electronic version was introduced. This version includes access to material for children and young adults, as well as for adults. The genres are fairly basic though and it doesn’t get into subgenres as well as NoveList.

Paper Guides:

There are several. I am only going to mention one here as it is focused on non- fiction reading interests, an area that most readers’ advisory guides ignore.

Cords, S. S. (2006). In Burgin R. (Ed.), The real story : A guide to nonfiction reading interests. Westport, Conn.: Libraries Unlimited.

References:

Elkordy, A. (2000). Cyberlibrarian’s rest stop: Evaluating web-based resources: a practical perspective. Retrieved November 26, 2006, from http://www.thelearningsite.net/cyberlibrarian/elibraries/eval.html

Reitz, J. M. (2004). Dictionary for library and information science. Westport, Conn.: Libraries Unlimited.

Saricks, J. G. (1997). In Brown N. (Ed.), Readers’ advisory service in the public library (2nd ed. ed.). Chicago, Ill.: American Library Association.

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