Trott, B., & Tarulli, L. (2011). Readers’ services and the library catalog: Coming of age fiction? or non-fiction?. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 51(2), 115-118.
With the advancement in today’s technology, man questions are raised about the correlation between readers’ advisory services and the library catalog. Technology has made it so that many library patrons’ needs are met without entering the library; ebooks, self-check, remote access to databases, etc. The new direction offers libraries yet another tool in providing additional services to their patrons.
One thing Trott suggests is combining the skills of the readers’ advisors and the catalogers. He says, “We really do ourselves, the profession and our users, a disservice when we isolate RA work into one department or set of librarians or staff. We should aid for an organization-wide culture of RA, and the folks cataloguing, circulation, etc, need to be part of that.” His logic stems from the fact that while the staff uses RA tools to provide reading suggestions, the catalogers literally have their hands on every resource that comes into the library. Why would a library not want to take advantage of that knowledge? The cataloger’s expertise in their particular area of the collection could become a strong asset to the readers’ advisory team. “Collaborating can potentially provide us with new ways to utilize the skills of both disciplines and help not only those patrons who browse within our physical libraries, but also those who never step within our walls.” The more knowledge and skill that is brought to the RA team, the more effective the RA team will be.
It is also suggested that libraries can benefit from the use of RSS feeds, smart phones, and social networking. “Readers’ advisors are poised in a unique position to take advantage of the new technologies available to use to reach these remote readers.” Trott and Tarulli propose that libraries expanding the library websites to offering more than an “online catalog”. They recommend recordings of book club discussions lead but trained readers’ advisors. They also state that by inviting outside book clubs or avid readers to participate, they library can offer more advice and a wider range of opinions on books available. By having this information available online, those patrons that choose not to visit the library can still have access to the necessary information needed to help make their books choices. The patrons could also have the opportunity to contribute their thoughts and opinions on books currently being offered.
Smart phones and tablets are another advancement in technology that readers’ advisory can benefit from. “Software experts are casting their nets further and starting to look at library catalogs for mobile application development.” Because these devices are becoming so popular, many business and organizations have created apps to better serve customers; why should the library be any different? The library catalog could include recommendations from lists such as Novelist and Good Reads, links to allow patrons to participate in “live” book discussion taking place in the library, or chat and instant messaging capabilities. All of these technologies could enhance the library users experience by opening up a wider array of service options.
I found this article to be very interesting even though it wasn’t what I was expecting when I started reading it. I believe the library, just like any other organization that works with the public, will have to advance as the technologies advance. Simply walking in and getting a book isn’t always going to work especially when patrons have the opportunity to take care of so much online. I still like to visit the library. I am not as technological as a lot of people are but I still see the need to make changes to keep up with the advances that are happening every day. Patrons still want to feel they are being served when the contact the library. By combining the skills of all library staff and embracing the ever-changing technologies, libraries can continue to be a wealth of information.