Author Archives: stephanieisyourfriend

How to RA on Instagram

I will be the first person to admit that I am a sucker for a well photographed “readers’ scene” on Instagram. You know that perfectly orchestrated cozy shot of a book next to a succulent or a mug of tea. It’s all about the aesthetic, and frankly for me, the more minimalist the better. And more often than not, I’ll give the photo a “like” and maybe save the image for future reference. (Can we take a minute to appreciate the save/bookmark feature on IG?!) To be honest, this is how I get most of my personal readers’ advisory done – Instagram. It certainly helps when someone comes in and asks “I’m looking for a book, it’s cover is green with a girl on it”.

So let’s talk about Instagram and how libraries are using it, but more importantly how it’s being used for readers’ advisory. Based off my extensive research aka. scrolling through my IG feed, most libraries use their accounts to promote their programs and services. And why not? It’s a great promotional tool and it’s a way to show your programs in action. But in terms of RA methods, various reading campaigns, such as Book Face Fridays (read this nice little piece in the New York Times), are popular ways to attract readers. Furthermore, campaigns provide consistency with a library’s IG content through its context, aesthetic, and schedule. A great example for consistent content is NYPL where almost every day basically has a scheduled theme.

In January, Surrey Libraries launched the #ReadersUnite campaign where staff members shared their current reads and encouraged patrons to also share their titles under the same hashtag. Another great example is when readers, libraries, publishers, and bookstores gathered together for Freedom to Read Week. Campaigns not only create participation amongst staff and patrons, but also connections to wider communities for larger causes.

 

But, one thing I’ve noticed that isn’t been as frequently used is the Instagram Stories function. While I will admit that I was initially skeptical of Snapchat’s copycat cousin, it has grown on me and frankly I think it’s better in terms of “business”. For one, your audience is already there, no need for a separate account. Two: it can reach a wider audience. Three: it has a hands free option! Four: it’s 15 seconds instead of 10! Currently, a few libraries including Surrey Libraries has been using IG Stories to provide branch tours or to show off some programs. But, why not use this opportunity to have staff members create quick little book chats/slams on their current favourite titles? Or reach out to your patrons and audience by maybe asking for recommendations. For example, if you’re setting up a display, ask them to send in their favourite titles. Let’s remember that RA can work both ways. If your library has a RA service like a book blog or a readers’ advisory request form, show it off using IG stories. Perhaps you have patrons who may not know of these services, so a quick live demo might attract some new users. 

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A sample of a saved IG story pic on the BCLA RAIG account

When you’re finally ready to post a story, use all the fun options such as filters, doodles, text, geotags (great for promoting branches!), stickers, and emojis. Also remember that stories are quick and take minimal time crafting, so no need to worry about creating that “perfect” IG photo. Make it fun and do you!

This week, we’ve been testing out some BCLA RAIG Book Chats on our IG account and hopefully it’s something we can continue. So check them out!

I hope that this post had some helpful tips on using Instagram for readers’ advisory. Try creating an IG story and chat about your latest reads. Share what’s been working for you and your library. 

Stephanie Hong, Casual Library Technician for Surrey Libraries and Vancouver Public Library

Free Reign RA – an anecdote

As a newly minted library technician in a public library system, I’ve spent the better half of my summer learning the ropes on how to provide reference services to a variety of patrons. It’s been a wonderful and continuous learning experience. But when it comes to readers’ advisory, a majority of the patrons that I’ve helped have been children, largely in part due to the Summer Reading Club. I should probably note that I LOVE recommending kids books, but I noticed that my experiences with recommending adult reads were few and rare.

Most often my adult patrons would ask for specific titles and authors they had in mind. As regular readers, they’re set in their ways and have done their research. But, one glorious evening, I had a patron who asked me to recommend some titles with basically zero guidelines. I was given FREE REIGN. She mentioned that she just recently got back into reading and the last titles she read were The Girl on the Train and the Hunger Games series. Aside from those books, she hasn’t done much leisure reading in the last ten years or so. I’m not going to lie, I was stoked, quite possibly overcome with so many titles, but also super nervous… What if the titles I recommended ended up being terrible and thus putting a damper on her reading experience or even her library experience? (I hope you’re picturing that scene in Spiderman where Uncle Ben tells Peter with great responsibility comes great power… But you know copyrights prevent me from inserting an image of said scene :D.)

I did a little more investigation into what she was hoping to find and here was her criteria:

  • Something light/fast paced for the summer
  • Open to romance, but not have it be the prime focus
  • Something that might captivate her as a reader

Again, so much room to explore and so many possible book recommendations! But what I noticed with my initial suggestions (the ones that jumped to mind instantly) was that none were actually available in the library at the time. So instead of mindlessly searching the cataloguing for books that were available, I took a walk through fiction with my patron.

I found that being able to physically scan the shelves and pick up books helped build a better relationship. I saw titles I read and/or recognized and I was able to give her a variety of options. But I also convinced her to put holds on several other titles that I thought would be meaningful to her reading journey such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half the Yellow Sun. By the end of our encounter, she left with three books and holds on three more.
I’d like to consider this to be my first real form of adult RA-ing in a library and it genuinely was a rewarding and memorable experience.  So what do you do when you’re asked for open-ended recommendations? What do you do when your go-to titles aren’t readily available? What are some other challenges or tips that you’d like to share?

 

Stephanie Hong is an Information Services Technician at Surrey Libraries

What is Readers’ Advisory? The Musings and Challenges as a Lib Tech Student

Seven months ago, if you had asked me what “readers’ advisory” meant, I would have given you an ever so slightly confused look and awkwardly tried to fake an answer. It wasn’t until I was introduced to this group that I gained some much needed knowledge and professional insight around the topic. After learning what RA is all about, the terminology almost seems too obvious and it warrants an “Ohhhhh! Duh!” response. It’s so prevalent in my daily life that I can’t fathom how it took me so long to get acquainted with a formal definition. I constantly make recommendations in the bookstore I work at, review novels on Goodreads, reblog book images on Tumblr, rave about new reads to friends, and share shelfies on Instagram. But what does this all mean to my studies and my professional development? And why did it take me so long to get familiar with a term that embodies one of the aspects I’m most passionate about in the library field?

With my second year at Langara’s Lib Tech program on the horizon, there’s still so much to learn, and I do wonder how much (or how little) of it will be readers’ advisory related. More importantly, how can I help foster a stronger interest for it within my program so we can be equipped with the knowledge and skills to be resourceful and insightful with our advising. As the program’s namesake implies, much of the learning is focused on the technical aspects of the field. One of the primary benefits of the program is the emphasis on practical experience via the coursework and practicums. And while many of my peers have aspirations to work in areas outside of public libraries, I would like to think that we all enjoy reading and discussing books to a certain extent. I was fortunate enough to spend my first year practicum at VPL’s Information Services department where I was able to get some hands on experience developing my RA skills. As a result, I have to consider my peers who did not have similar opportunities and how can we tailor a shared interest in reading into a professional skill set?

In first year, we did cover some of the digital tools utilized for RA via an introduction to library 2.0 (but without explicitly discussing RA as a whole). Moreover, I know that readers’ advisory is briefly covered in a second year reference services course. But I feel like that’s not quite enough. Whenever I have mentioned readers’ advisory as a concept or in relation to this interest group, the aforementioned slightly confused face is a popular reaction. So how I do combat that reaction and build a stronger interest in the topic?

One of the main challenges that I’ve come across is how to get my peers interested in attending RA in a Day, especially if they may be unfamiliar with RA in its technical terminology. While it’s something that I plan to heavily advertise as the school year kicks off, I want to ensure that my instructors are also promoting it as an opportunity for professional development. Perhaps, I can organize an information session to get students interested, especially those in their first year of the program so their interest can build earlier on. Or maybe the program can sponsor some student attendees. I am also floating around the possibility of trying to host a department-based club/group or reading round table of sorts to get my peers discussing books and practicing our skill sets in a fun (a.k.a. non-academic pressure filled) environment.  

While this blog post may have been filled with questions I don’t quite know how to answer, it’s allowed me to think about the goals I want to set up to help build a better foundation and appreciation for readers’ advisory within the lib tech program. Any tips and tricks are greatly appreciated and more importantly, how did you get familiar with/interested in readers’ advisory while attending school?

Stephanie Hong is a second year student at Langara’s Library and Information Technology Program