LIB 5020 Reader’s Advisory: Matching Mood and Material

Ross, C., & Chelton, M. (2001). Reader’s advisory: matching mood and material. Library Journal, 126(2), 52-55.

The one question librarians hear the most, the one they feel the most unprepared to answer is, “Can you recommend a good book to read?”  Of course, librarians want to give a good answer but with so many different reading preferences, it’s a difficult task.  Many factors can go into the selection of a book but the bottom line is “what is the reader in the mood to read”? 

The process of choosing a book was broken down into five categories.  The first being “The reading experience wanted”.  The librarian simply questions, “What are you in the mood to read?”  What is driving the reader to a particular book; is there a specific genre the reader is interested in or do they want to venture into a new genre?  Do they have a certain author they like to read?  What type of setting do they want to read?  Is there a particular mood or emotion they want in the story?  These questions help the librarian begin to select or avoid different titles.

The second category is “Sources about new books”.  Many readers find book interests simply from browsing the library or the bookstore.  Displays and advertisements in libraries and bookstores generate many reading choices.  Recommendations are also made by friends and family that are readers.  Many selections are made from book review lists and book award winners.

The third reading choice category is “Responding to elements of the book”.  Many readers make their selections by the physical appearance of the book itself.  What is the size of the book; will it be a quick read or is it lengthy?  How does the book start?  Does the blurb on the back or the first few lines get the reader’s attention?  These are all aspects of choosing a book that only take a matter of seconds to do resulting in a decision to read or not to read.

The fourth category is “Responding to clues on the book itself”.  Many readers will gravitate to familiar authors and genres they are interested in.  Does the cover get the reader’s attention?  Does the title sound appealing or uninteresting?  The reader may also read the sample page and see how they like that.  The publisher may also be a factor in choosing a book.  All of these points can be addressed by looking at the cover and the title page of the book and like category three; they can all be checked in a matter of seconds.  

The final category is “Responding to the cost in time or money”.  Library patrons have expectations for each book they read.  One thing to consider is whether the book is worth the time and effort and emotion is will take to read the selection.  While for some readers, certain books are a most read; for some, the same book may not be worth the effort. 

All of these factors; in one way or another; go into selecting a book whether it is from the library or the bookstore.  Avid readers will say that picking a book is simple but it’s also a process.


I found this article to be particularly interesting.  It also sounded very familiar.  I found myself in quite a few of these categories.  I never put a tremendous amount of thought into what a librarian faces when asked about a book because I have never asked for a book for pleasure.  I have always picked them myself.  I have only questioned the librarian about research related resources.  I found it interesting that 15 years of research (more I’m sure) had gone into something as simple as picking a book.  I was surprised to see how such simple things as the book cover or the size of the book played such an important part in book selection.  Many of these things though are a bit difficult for a librarian to address without asking the right questions.  I would have to agree that starting out with “what are you in the mood to read?” seems the most logical place to start.

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