I’m reading … your email signature. What are you reading?

When I started my MLIS program, I adopted an email signature style that I had seen a lot of library professionals and fellow library school grad students using. You probably know the one:

I’m reading ____. What are you reading?

Although I was already participating in the BCLA Readers’ Advisory Interest Group, it took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that, actually, adding that signature to my email was a form of RA, too.

I first put it together in those precise terms when a friend struck up a conversation about the book in my email signature (Spirits Abroad by Zen Cho) in the midst of an email thread about scheduling. Not only did she ask me what about the book I liked, but she offered me a recommendation of a book she’d recently read (A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki) and asked me if I could suggest others, and I suddenly realized, oh wow, this is a readers’ advisory conversation.

It wasn’t the first time email correspondents had made reference to my signature. Other people had said they liked hearing what I was reading, or told me something along the lines of: “Cool signature!” But that moment felt especially thrilling to me, because even though I’d typed out the words What are you reading? with my very own fingers, for some reason, I didn’t think people would actually tell me. And even though I was regularly skimming email signatures of friends and colleagues for interesting titles, it hadn’t occurred to me to really engage with those people based on the information in their email signatures.

But suddenly I was aware of the potential for conversations about books and reading and RA to open up in the footnotes and margins of my day-to-day emails.

I realize that the email signature may not be everyone’s cup of tea. But I’ve found it to be an engaging and exciting way to experiment a bit with RA in my daily life. Here are a few of my reflections on how I’ve been using it and how I want to try to make it better:

      • Sometimes my email signature is a lie (shh, don’t tell!). Most often this happens when I devour an amazing book in a single day, and then deliberately leave it as my I’m reading … email signature for at least another week even though I’ve technically moved on to another book. I want more people to see it and talk to me about it!
      • Putting my reading history out there at the bottom of my emails means I spend some time interrogating my own reading habits, good and bad. For instance, I pay attention to the diversity of my reading.
      • My email signature is on my personal email, and I know a lot of professionals have it linked with their work emails. I don’t know how much that might change responses to the signature! I’d love to know more about the interactions (or lack of interactions) others have had using similar email signatures.
      • Linking to the catalogue title in your library in the signature. Some people I correspond with are very good at this! It could be an easy way for people to find out more about the book and connect to the library.
      • While I’ve generally been sticking with I’m reading … I absolutely love the people who say I’m watching … or I’m listening to … I want to make a point to do this more, and to integrate a greater variety of media into my email signatures.
      • I think it’s okay to take a break from it, and leave off the I’m reading … signature. There may be times when I don’t want to broadcast what I’m consuming.
      • I want to try to start more conversations when I see other people’s RA email signatures that interest me. So, if I start talking about reading, books, and other media when I email you, that’s probably why!

Thanks for following along with my meandering thoughts on this subject. I’d love to hear more of your ideas about and experiences with email signatures as a kind of RA.

Chloe Riley, UBC School of Library, Archival, and Information Studies

I’m reading The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth.
I’m listening to the Mystery Show podcast hosted by Starlee Kine.
I’m watching
The Great British Bake Off.
What are you reading/listening to/watching/experiencing?

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