Monday, October 31, 2005

Resources for Nonfiction Reader's Advisory

Katie, of the Young Librarian, pointed to a series of handouts on Reader's Advisory from ALA-RUSA Reader's Advisory Committee. These are very well done, and I think I will be able to make use of them at some point. I am an academic librarian, so I don't do very much RA; however, I do have a high interest in it, and I keep up with various RA sources to stay in shape. The one RA I have done is for a Reading class we offer here on campus. The students usually come in looking for some nonfiction to read. The class is a skills building class, and they have to read various books throughout the year to help improve their reading skills. Since they get a choice, they just come in asking for a book to read. Sometimes they have a topic, sometimes they don't. This gives me a nice opportunity to find and suggest books for them. So the handouts are most welcome. I am sure other librarians out there will find them useful as well.

I read over the handouts, which I printed out for myself as well. The one on "Narrative Nonfiction Appeal Factors" has some good pieces of advice. For political nonfiction, it suggests for the advisor to exercise diplomacy when asking a reader about preferences. After all, no one wants to have a political debate at the RA desk. I like some of the suggested questions to use: "Do you want to explore our current political opinions or explore opposing beliefs?" and "Do you want to explore a particular political issue? From which viewpoint would you like to explore it?" I am sure a good reader's advisor would be able to have variants of these questions in mind when a reader looking for a political book comes in. A good reminder is the one about bias. Librarians are often taught to avoid bias and to always present all sides of an issue. However, when recommending political books, keep in mind that the bias may be a good thing. The handout states that "some readers may want their own beliefs explained and thus affirmed." In a simple way, you the librarian may not like a particular author or his work, but it may just be what the patron wants or needs. I suppose this is where an ability to evaluate a book objectively, well as objective as a human being can be, helps. It may also help if once in a while a librarian reads some of these, specially ones from the opposite side one espouses. I can tell you from having tried it myself that it may not be easy to read a book from a political point of view you do not find agreeable. However, it does help to get some exposure to other ideas. At least, I think so. And no, I am not telling readers which ones, that way I can at least keep a semblance of neutrality. More fun, I can keep readers guessing where I stand on the political fence for a while longer.

Overall, the handout makes for a good and quick overview of the types of nonfiction people read for recreation. The other two handouts on the link are book lists. A librarian can never have enough book lists.

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