RA in a Day 2016

A sign stating "Welcome to RA in a Day 2916" behind a silhouette of a microphone

Welcome to RA in a Day 2016!

The BCLA Readers’ Advisory Interest Group is proud and grateful for the success of RA in a Day 2016! Our warmest appreciation and thanks to everyone who attended the event, or who followed along on social media (#RAinaDay16). We would also like to thank our supportive sponsor Library Bound.

This year the event was held on October 18, 2016 in the Vancouver Public Library’s Central Branch. The Readers’ Advisory Interest Group would like to acknowledge that this event took place on the ancestral, traditional and unceded Aboriginal territories of the Coast Salish Peoples.

RA and Cataloguing

Samuel Richmond & Anna Ferri, VPL

First thing in the morning, and Samuel and Anna had us talking about cataloguing! They led us through some small-group  workshopping about the connections between readers’ advisory and subject headings. Some of the important questions they asked us to consider included: In our RA interactions, when do we use the catalogue/Bibliocommons? When do we not use it? What shows up in the subject headings for books? What does not show up?

Our discussions revealed both the strengths and the challenges of our current catalogues when it comes to RA. For example, we tend to use the catalogue if the patron has a specific item in mind and we want to know if it’s in the library. The subject headings in the catalogue can help us point to items that take place in certain time periods or geographical areas. They also have information about relationships between characters (families, love triangles, etc.).  However, if the patron only has vague information about an item, or if the subject heading returns an overwhelming number of results for World War II fiction, then we tend to find the catalogue less useful. Moreover, it can be a struggle when patrons ask for recommendation based on atmosphere, pacing, characterization, or other appeal factors. While increasingly, there are tools (such as Novelist) and passive RA built into our OPACs (such as user reviews or lists), these are not generally in our control.

These challenges and discussions were thought-provoking, and they open up a lot of possibilities and opportunities to explore these connections.

Speed Dating Through the Genres

A perennial favourite! This year, we had a quick glance at the following genres:

  • Adventure Fiction with Tara Matsuzaki
  • Fiction in Translation: French-Canadian with Meghan Whyte & Ana Calabresi
  • Non-fiction Graphic Novels with Matthew Murray
  • Mindfulness with Fiona Hunt
  • LGBTQ+ and Crossover YA Fiction with Jenny Fry

These guides will be posted on this site soon! In the meantime, check out our past Genre Guides.


Can you do a booktalk in just 15 seconds? A big shout-out to the brave Bookslam participants who were willing to step up and test their skills against the clock!

Check out our full list of Bookslam Recommendations. We hope you enjoyed yourselves!

RA Genre Training

Genres! There’s always more to learn. This year, we set up five tables, each focused on a different genre, and invited the group to join in an open-ended discussion. Then we moved tables to learn about a different genre.

Here are this year’s five genres:

  • Cozy Mysteries with Shelley Wilson-Roberts
  • Historical Fiction with Claire Westlake
  • Paranormal Romance with Anna Ferri
  • Psychological Thrillers with Stephanie Hong
  • Standalone Fantasy with Chloe Riley

Some questions we pondered: What are characteristics of this genre? Why is this genre appealing? What are the classic titles or authors? New titles or authors? What are some pathways into this genre for new or reluctant readers? Where can we learn more about this genre? How can we market this genre to our patrons?

We learned a lot about these genres in these discussions, and we hope you did too!

RA and the Reading Experience

Catherine Sheldrick Ross

Our final event of the day was a thoughtful and insightful keynote from Catherine Sheldrick Ross, professor and former Dean in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at the University of Western Ontario. Her most recent book is called The Pleasures of Reading: A Booklover’s Alphabet.

In this keynote, Sheldrick Ross discussed the research she conducted for her book, including open-ended interviews with over 300 avid readers, to find out how readers choose or reject books, as well as what they find pleasurable about a book or what ruins a book for them. She shared the insights into the reading experience that she gleaned from this extensive research. For example, she pointed out that readers create their own book: they can remember a book in a particular way, they can skip over parts that are uninteresting to them, they can put importance on certain elements of a book and not others. In this way, their experience of the book is unique and highly personal. As she went on to point out, reading is situation dependent; the context and emotional state of the reader can have a huge affect on the experience.

One of the key takeaways from her interviews is that reading is pleasurable. This pleasure may not be restricted by genre or format, and some readers are interested in one big thing, while others are interested in many little things. Some take pleasure in the community of reading (reading is not only a solitary act), or in reading logs or reading journals.

Sheldrick Ross also discussed something she referred to as the reading paradox. People read to escape into a different world or experience, and they also read to connect, engage, or find a part of themselves in a book. Can one book or reading experience be both of these things? The reading paradox is that while these experiences may seem discrete, in the course of reading for escape, readers can find answers to situations in their lives, and likewise, readers searching for connection can find pleasure in escapism.

At the end of her insightful keynote, she offered these key tips for readers advisory:

  • read a lot and widely
  • listen to your readers
  • learn about genre
  • remember it’s all about pleasure

Thank you for joining us!

Thank you once again for joining us for RA in a Day 2016!

Catherine Sheldrick Ross mentioned that there are many different pathways to becoming a committed reader. Helping others find their pathways (and our own!) as well as really finding the pleasure of reading can be a challenging and rewarding task to take on. We hope to continue to spark the passion, inspiration, skills, and enthusiasm of RA champions like yourselves, both new and experienced.

Feel free to share your own experiences or questions about RA in a Day in the comments! We hope to see you again next year.

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