Readers’ Advisory 2.0

I’ve already written about why I don’t like Readers’ Advisory here on this blog.  Yet I was still pleased to get a lot out of Jody Wurl and Michele McGraw’s presentation — “Readers’ Advisory 2.0” — at last week’s Library Technology Conference at Macalester College.

Wurl and McGraw kicked off by asking “why should Readers’ Advisors care about Web 2.0 anyway — what does the Internet have to do with books?”  Trick question!  On the Internet, Librarians can go where the readers are and connect with them there.  The Hennepin County Library system, where both Wurl and McGraw work, has developed an online presence called Bookspace (powered by Adobe’s ColdFusion software) where Librarians can do just that — and for popular titles, the conversation often starts before the book comes out, from the moment it’s been cataloged.  Here are some of the other tools they like:

Just search “book trailer” in YouTube, and you’ll find tons of videos made by readers in homage to their favorite books (see above!).  YouTube is also a great place for discovering author talks.

Use Flickr to post photos of books and reading-related activites.  The Clemens / Alcuin Libraries at College of St. Benediect and St. John’s University has an excellent Flickr photostream.

Libraries can use their FaceBook pages to advertise events and hold book clubs.  But they can also use FaceBook to connect with authors!  This is a great way to hear about upcoming projects before the “official” press release.

MySpace is useful for finding author and publisher pages, online book clubs, and groups for arts and literature.  But the presenters feel that teenagers don’t “friend” libraries on MySpace.  Thus, while it’s valuable to have a MySpace presence, they argued that it might not be a priority when developing your library’s Social Media Strategy.

LibraryThing is an online tool that you can use to keep tracks of what books you’ve read, including your ratings and reviews.  You can also find ratings and reviews from other readers.  Another great feature of LibraryThing is that it recommends books to you based on how you’ve rated other books.  You can post local book events on LibraryThing, too.

GoodReads and Shelfari:
Both GoodReads and Shelfari are similar to LibraryThing, but they’re arguably more powerful as “social” tools.  Both GoodReads and Shelfari allow you to embed your content on FaceBook, blogs, social sites, etc.  You can also connect with similar readers, set up book groups, and share reviews.

Twitter is a nascent Readers Advisory tool, too!  Use the hashtag #reading to tweet about the books you love.

Aggregators, RSS:
RSS lets library users know about new materials, as well as book reviews, author blogs, upcoming events and trends.  Check HCL’s RSS options to your aggregator so you can see what’s new.

Blogs, Wikis and more:
Print RA materials are out, RA blogs and wikis are in!  So say Wurl and McGraw — their suggested Readers’ Advisory blogs and wikis include: Reader’s Advisor Online, Book Lust, The Library Success Wiki, and BookSlut.

Wurl and McGraw closed by asking: what does the future hold for Readers’ Advisory?  Web 2.0 tools allow for increased reader-to-reader and reader-to-author connections, user-created content, niches, and micro-trends.  However, these tools can also make it more difficult for librarians to ‘stay current’ and meet all of their readers’ requests.

I do think the presenters missed an opportunity to discuss “reading” in alternate or electronic formats too (music, movies, mashups, videogames, blogs, etc.), but this is a gap in Readers’ Advisory education and practice in general.  With more Readers’ Advisors warming up to the idea of using Web 2.0 tools, perhaps this will create an opening for challenging “the book” as the public library’s primary artifact.

(click here to see more links for LibTech 2010)


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