Reader’s Advisory Tools

Reading is fun.

Reading is good for us.

Reading is one of our fundamental missions.

Basically, we are a profession of people who like to read, helping others to read!

And of course, that is more complex that it might sound. Because while we like books, professionally, and we hopefully(!) are in touch with the books in our collection – more exciting new books come out every day.

How do you know what to recommend? If someone comes to you for a book suggestion in an area you know nothing about, what do you say? Reader’s Advisory (RA) is your professional strategy.

Fortunately, we have a variety of tools to help you give great answers! Have you used other resources? Tell us in the comments, so we all get better at RA work!

Most of us are probably familiar with NoveList database. “NoveList has been helping readers find their next favorite book for more than 20 years, and continues to develop innovative solutions for connecting readers, books, and libraries. By helping libraries help readers, NoveList empowers libraries to engage and inspire their communities.”

From their website: “As a new librarian, Duncan Smith struggled with the fact that readers’ advisory services were only as good as the individual librarian’s memory and ability to read a wide range of genres. He thought there should be a database that would be a ‘secret weapon’ for keeping track of all the great books to recommend. In 1990, he talked Roger Rohweder and John Strickler into creating NoveList.

In 1994, they sold their first copy. NoveList was an immediate hit with librarians and launched with 20,000 titles and 1,200 reviews.

In 1999, EBSCO acquired NoveList from CARL. At that time, NoveList had just five employees.

Today, NoveList is a division of EBSCO with more than 50 employees. Over 20+ years, the NoveList team has continued to innovate and develop solutions for readers’ advisory, catalog enrichment, email newsletters, library marketing, and more. But, throughout it all, the core mission continues to be helping libraries help readers.”

While this database is powerful, there is a financial cost for using it. There are other resources that maybe available at no cost to your patrons. Check them out for yourself, and consider offering them to your patrons.

Goodreads. This site has become very popular with readers, and has been purchased by Amazon. There are lots of book lists, and recommendations for books you might like based on books you have read and rated. There are many book groups, on every possible subject. Have you joined the CMLE book groups? Do it!

Literature Map. This is a fun resource! You start by typing in the name of an author you like. You get a chart of authors that looks more like a star map than a traditional list of books. “The closer two writers are, the more likely someone will like both of them. Click on any name to travel along.” You can pass a surprising amount of time, just clicking on names to see the chart rearrange itself. (And, you can get good recommendations too!)

Whichbook is another fun book suggestion resource. They offer twelve different attributes you might want, or not want, in a book. You can set a slider along a scale of four of these attributes to get books that work for your personalized interests.

  • happy – sad
  • funny – serious
  • safe – disturbing
  • expected – unpredictable
  • larger than life – down to earth
  • beautiful – disgusting
  • gentle – violent
  • easy – demanding
  • no sex – sex
  • conventional – unusual
  • optimistic – bleak
  • short – long

Or you can click the button to set your search by character (Race, Age, Sexuality, Gender), Plots: Success against the odds, Conflict, Lots of twists and turns, Open, Quest, Revelations, or Generations. You can also choose a Setting, from any area of the world, including “Imaginary.”

Play around with these tools yourself so you get familiar with them (and find good books for yourself!), then put them on your website to make them available to your patrons!

Reading is FUNdamental – and should be fun for us all!!