Move the Reading Conversation Online

As summer approaches, readers' advisory (RA) programs are ramping up. At PLA 2014, one of the liveliest panel discussions I attended was on reader advisory and social media. 

While you probably already have your services and programming planned out, the librarians had some fantastic ideas on how to move the reading conversation online. 

The Importance of Readers' Advisory

Despite the popularity of automated recommendation engines, like GoodReads, Amazon, and others, RA is still a valued library service. 

Earlier this year, Library Journal conducted a survey on readers' advisory programs in libraries. Over 50 percent of the librarian respondents say RA increased in importance in the last three years. About 84 percent of respondents say RA is important or very important to the library’s mission already.

The librarians on the PLA panel supported this research.

They told tales of patrons asking for recommendations on Facebook, Twitter, in person, over the phone – you name it. One library director even recalled a patron walking into her office to ask for a book recommendation.

Know Your Medium

Just as you'd do with any new programming or service, you need to survey your community before you launch into an online RA service. If you're a young adult librarian, find out what social media sites or communities your patrons are using. They might not be using the obvious networks, like Facebook or Twitter! Once you pick a network, make sure you understand how your patrons are using it.

The panelists agreed that visual content works best, whether it's a meme with a beloved book character or a librarian holding up a recommended book.  When something is visual and interactive, people tend to respond to it.

The online space also provides an opportunity to reach people who might be too shy or hesitant to come into the library and ask for a book recommendation.

Here are a few other tips:

  • Keep separate accounts or pages for different groups of patrons. For example, you can have a Facebook group for adult patrons and a Tumblr account for Teens.
  • Don't be afraid to fail. Even if you get one like or retweet, you're still reaching people.
  • Draw inspiration from viral videos or images. What clicks with people?
  • Let patrons get in on the conversation. Encourage them to share their own book recommendations through your posts!
  • Incorporate online RA into your staff's daily workflow. You can split up the tasks among staff so the work isn't just on one person.

Vine, Tumblr, and Pinterest – Oh My!

Librarians are always willing to embrace new technologies, and social media is no different. Many of the panelists are using newer networks and sites to do RA and connect with readers of all ages.  

For example, one library is using the video-sharing network Vine to record book trailers. Vine only allows six second clips so librarians and patrons are challenged to come up with creative ideas: think stop motion video, holding up pictures or book covers, patrons reading favorite quotes, and so on.

Another cool idea is using Tumblr to reach out to teens. We've covered the power of Tumblr for promoting your library and services.  The Darian Public Library has a Tumblr account that features new additions to their collection and staff recommendations. The great thing about Tumblr is that it already has a built-in network of librarians and library enthusiasts. It is also widely used by teens.

Finally, I really love the idea of using Pinterest for RA; it's the perfect medium for it. You can create different boards for different book genres and pin photos of covers, illustrations, or quotes to the board.   

Does your library use social media for Reader Advisory? Chime in and let us know in the comments!